I love it when an MTB plan comes together, especially when there’s stacks of singletrack involved. Last week said plan came together in the most unlikely of places; I mean, who’d have thunk you’d find a kick-ass crank in the Yzerfontein hills? Photographs and words by Jacques Marais.
Bru, if it is endless beaches and secret breaks you’re looking for, then Yzers should top your list. But mountain biking… maybe not so much, hey? Yup, that’s what I thought up to a week or so ago when I discovered the !Khwa ttu San Trails, just a few kays inland from Yzerfontein. They rock, but let first talk ‘dorp’ for a wee while.
You get miles of unspoilt beach (in fact, at around 25km, this is the longest beach in SA) and an endless swathe of Big Blue, plus the whole shebang of associated ocean add-ons. Picturesque fishing boats chasing deep-water snoek, open-air crayfish restaurants, kief coffee shops… if you’re a hipsterish sea dog type, then this is a match made in heaven.
The West Coast climate is welcoming year round, though summer winds can be hurricane strength, while the icy Benguela Current necessitates a walrus-thick wetsuit. The wildlife loves it though and the area is a haven for birds and marine critters of all kinds. Explore the indigenous flora on terra firma along the Bokbaaivygie Trail, while watching whales and dolphins cavorting beyond the breakers.
Leisure options include fishing from the beach and rocks, collecting mussels or visiting historical sites such as the old Fish House and lime kilns. Superb marine birding can be had at Dassen Island, about 10km west of Yzerfontein, or go chill for sundowners at Pearl Bay Heights while your eyeballs soak up the beauty of Table Mountain at sunset.
The !Khwa ttu San Centre is situated on a low hill overlooking the Yzerfontein coast line and at first glance my MTB sensors did not kick into Amber Alert. Once you wander past the Reception and Restaurant area, things change when you notice the Trail Signage, and you soon realise that Michael Daiber has put in a massive effort here.
Kick off on a dippy little downhill with half a dozen cheeky kickers where the trail crosses old irrigation walls. Watch your air though, as the landing zone can be loose and gritty in places. Less than a kay in, you bang across a narrow wooden bridge, and then start slowly contouring upwards along a gentle ascent.
Best of all is that you are riding pure, purpose-built singletrack all the way with negligible sand, despite the hectic drought in the area. The trail-builder did a great job of using old agricultural contour walls, zigzagging you along them in long, loopy ess-bends to keep the ride edgy amidst the Renosterveld ridges.
Keep going clockwise around the hill until you summit at 5km, with a spectacular view over the scrub-covered plains unfolding towards the icy Atlantic Ocean. Drop down another kay and you reach the !Khwa ttu boma, where guided riders are sure to experience some good old-fashioned West Coast hospitality.
That singletrack will be calling your name though, so saddle up for a technical rock-drop into an old quarry; it is relatively tame, but you do have the option of a chicken run if the idea of a Moab-descent scares the bejesus out of you.
Fast-forward down into the valley and then knuckle down onto a final climb as you contour clockwise along the adjoining koppie. You pass a replica Bushman Village on the way, and if you keep your eyes open, chances are 99% that you’ll see zebra, eland, springbok, bat-eared fox and other game.
The last kilometre of downhill to !Khwa ttu is a play zone of note, with superb little jumps along a speedy trail section. The ride makes for a superb 10 kays out on the bike, but the good news is that you have another 30km waiting along the Red Route. All you need to do is bomb the fence stile, and two hours of wild cranking awaits along a combo of even more single-track and gravel roads.
How to Get There:
!Khwa ttu is exactly 70km from Cape Town city centre on the R27 (West Coast Road) on the right hand side 4km before the R315 intersection to Yzerfontein/Darling.
Sus the !Khwa ttu MTB Trails
Duration: 1 – 3 hours
Configuration: Circular options – 10/30km
Start point: !Khwa ttu reception
Terrain: Purpose-built singletrack; jeep track
Map: Map boards and superb signage
Entry Requirements: Permit upon paying – R30 entry fee
Facilities: Ablutions, restaurant, shop and secure parking
Cell Reception: Excellent
Beware of: Jumps with loose landing zones
More Info: Local MTB information: Michael – (082) 775 4879
GPS: 33°21’44.55” S / 18°16’14.12” E
Where Are We?
!Khwa ttu is a project dedicated to a San culture and education centre. It is run by a Non-Profit Company, jointly directed by the Swiss Ubuntu Foundation and San community, represented by WIMSA (Working Group for Indigenous Minorities in Southern Africa). You can visit !Khwa ttu to learn more about the San culture, history, folklore, visual arts, cosmology and language, or to enjoy a fantastic eland burger after riding the awesome trails.