Garden Route exploration by bike or elephant

When Jeanne-Louise Wiese was growing up her family used to visit her grandparents in Klein Brak River near Mosselbay every December holiday. On rainy or windy (read non-beach) days the family would often go for drives in the Outeniqua Mountains, which planted the conservation seed for Full Sus’s resident conservation columnist.

I remember driving through forest covered hills, wishing I had my horse with me or was old enough to be allowed to take a bike and ride these winding roads. There was always something new to discover and the landscape transformed from forestry plantation to wide open grasslands to dense natural forests around every turn. As the years passed we acquired some brand spanking new bottom-of-the-range Giant bicycles to cater for everyone’s needs on holiday. Nobody else really got a chance to try it out though since I would be up before dawn and on a bike heading for the hills.

The road from Klein Brak heads over the N2 highway, and if you turn right at the T-junction, carry on past a dairy farm, cross the Klein Brak River and follow the signs to Botlierskop Private Game Reserve, from there your riding options are endless.

The area was recently hit by a succession of storms which caused immense flooding and damage to roads, bridges and other infrastructures. The road has been closed for several months, following such a flood but has recently been repaired and reinstated from the tar road along the Moordkuil River up to Botlierskop Reserve. The Eden District Municipality made a huge effort to prepare the roads in this area, following proper environmental authorisation processes and implementing preventative measures to prevent future floods damaging road infrastructures. This section of the gravel road is currently in such a good condition that you could ride a road bike up to the Reserve’s gate.

From there though, it’s a different story. The rest of the road is currently closed to normal traffic, except the occasional 4X4 enthusiast (and of course mountain bikers).  It crosses the Moordkuil River and then starts winding through a valley which leads to Yellowood’s Restaurant and wedding venue. I would suggest taking a local map along since the gravel roads in this area tend to twist and turn and head off in different directions. For the adventurers out there you can be assured that you will not get lost, eventually you will either end up in Great Brak River, George or Mosselbay. Along the way you can visit the Jonkersberg State Forest, Doringrivier Wilderness Area or the Ruitersbos Nature reserve, amongst others.

The area is protected and conservation efforts have resulted in large scale game reserves, conservancies and protected area expansion strategies being established throughout the Garden Route. It’s also blessed with vast and diverse botanical communities including coastal fynbos, mountain fynbos, renosterveld and woodlands, which creates ideal habitats for a rich diversity of bird species. Plant species include proteas, ericas, restios and gephytes that cover this mountain catchment area and contribute to the supply of clean water to the region.

San rock art can also be seen here, although sandstone is not the best substrate for rock art. In the Botlierskop Reserve there are paintings of over 2000 years old, preserved on the rock face.

Next time you are in the area, head out to Botlierskop and choose your mode of transport… be it trail shoes, mountain bike, a game viewing vehicle or one of the friendly elephants in the reserve and take a closer look. Personally I would opt for the bike…

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