Digging deep at Tokai and Silvermines

One of the first rides Jeanne-Louise Wiese wanted to try out with her newly built GT Mountain Bike (courtesy of her hubby) was the challenging trails of Tokai forest.  And she didn’t remember much other than the pain in her legs for two days afterwards. But now that her Lowveld legs have recovered she can reflect on the spectacular views fondly.

I’ll happily endure that burn more often to ride those exhilarating singletracks and downhills, in an environment of such beauty. These forests are accessible to anyone, novice or experienced, for mountain biking and trail running. Tokai Forest is part of the well-known Cape Floristic Region, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but also host pine, blue gum and eucalyptus trees which add some much appreciated shade during the hot summer months. Since 1998 these forests have formed part of the Table Mountain National Park.

Access to these forests are gained through the Tokai Forest Arboretum which is managed by South African National Parks (SANParks) and offer route maps and valuable information about the area as well.  There are entrance fees for those who do not own an Activity Card, but it is definitely worth spending the few bucks for a blast! But don’t forget about the Silvermine section of the nature reserve to the South East of Tokai, where the carpets of Fynbos are often covered in mist in winter and light up by warm sunlight in summer. The steep slopes that characterise the Constantiaberg and Silvermine Nature Reserve create some fantastic mountain biking opportunities with excellent views of the Constantia vineyards, Noordhoek, Hout Bay and Table Mountain.

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The Silvermine name originated from mining activities which sprung up during 1675 when it was believed that these mountains contained silver. Fortunately no silver was found and today we can enjoy the unspoilt beauty of this area on our trusty steeds. On 17 June 1992, fire destroyed about 675 hectares of vegetation and plantations in the Reserve and increased the risk of serious flooding in the lower Fish Hoek and Clovelly area during the rainy season. Extensive housing and road development projects in the area have contributed to higher water flow volumes in the Silvermine River, since these areas had previously acted as sponges which absorbed a lot of the water from heavy rains. These increases in flood risks led to the establishment of the Silvermine River Flood Management and Wetland Scheme, through which local knowledge of residents in the area was used to determine solutions to flooding problems.Current management of these wetlands and the nature reserve as an ecological asset remains a challenge and requires all citizens to do what they can to contribute to the preservation of this sensitive area.

The reserve is divided into two sections by OuKaapseweg and boasts over 900 species of Fynbos, including proteas, ericas and restios.  Both the east and west side of the reserve offer hiking and trail running trails while mountain biking trails can only be found on the western side. This is due to the establishment of a protected area to preserve the wetland systems and protect the habitat of the endangered Western Leopard Toad. A water reservoir was built at Silvermine in 1898 with the aim of supplying water to the lower lying settlements and has become a favoured picnic spot and habitat for Egyptian geese, many fish and the occasional swimmer.The trails in these areas offer some white-knuckle riding as you crank up the hills and rail down the trails with a devilish smile on your face as you breathe in fresh mountain air.

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