Here’s a four-letter word you want to add to your vocabulary, bru: GRTP. Confused? Don’t be, go ride the new Garden Route Trail Park, and you’ll understand my stoke. Photographs and words by Jacques Marais.
You may think you know the Garden Route, but I’ll take side bets not many of you have been up the Karatara/Ruigtevlei/Barrington Road. Here’s the thing though – the new Garden Route Trail Park is going to change this pretty quickly.
This rural corner immediately to the north of the N2 highway consists mainly of farmland and forestry plantations. Good news for mountain bikers heading this way, as more and more private landowners are creating trails to drive outdoor tourism. Even better if, as in the case of GRTP, the single-track links into nearby Farleigh Forest Trail Network, which allows you an additional 50km of riding, including some lung-buster climbs.
Sedgefield (15km) and Knysna (30km) is an easy drive away if you want to experience the beach thing, with exceptional sea kayaking, surf-skiing, snorkelling on offer. And the restaurants, pubs and delis rock if you need to feed that post-ride hunger.
Rumour has it that forest elephants still roam within the dense Farleigh bush, and I for one have seen their massive droppings amidst the bracken here. I doubt you’ll see them or the nocturnal leopards further down on the Garden Route Trail Park section, but there will be porcupines, touracos, lynx and the odd serval, for sure.
The guaranteed ‘wild life’ will be experienced from the saddle though, as you give it gas along fast and flowing trails designed by a mountain biker for mountain bikers. Start off from Reception (near the kick-ass Pump Track), immediately heading to the mountains along a gravel road by-passing the milking sheds.
Say goodbye to the cows and look out for a sign to your left onto the Yellow Trail (Forest Frenzy) just before the 2km mark. A few berms and jumps zig you into a thick, wooded area along a small stream, with a gentle ascent out into open terrain where I joined the Blue (Crazy Creek) Route around 4km.
An ess-bendy chute bangs you down towards the river, with some superb track built here within the shade of ancient trees. I think this proved to be my favourite part of the ride, with that ‘Lord of the Rings’ deep-forest feel you sort of expect when you visit this part of the Garden Route.
There’s a lot of criss-crossing and looping and dipping and diving as you switch from Blue onto the Red Route (Jungle Fever), but fortunately you get a map as part of your permit when you pay at Reception.
Although all the routes are rated as ‘Moderate’, there are moments on Jungle Fever when you’re at warp speed so you’re bound to be tested. I ploughed up a sizeable section on the downhill to the river, but it had been raining with quite a lot of clay build-up. Anyway, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it…
Once you run out of Red, jol back home on the Crazy Creek Blue Route: berms, bridges, kickers, it is all there, but the beauty of the GRTP routes are that you can ride within your capabilities all the time, irrespective of whether you’re a Rookie or Pro.
More information on what is undoubtedly one of the Cape’s top new trail park destinations, go on and visit www.gardenroutetrailpark.com.
From Knysna drive 20km towards George on the N2, turning right at the Ruigtevlei/Karatara sign. From George on the N2, look out for the Rugtevlei/Karatara sign on the left about 5km after Sedgefield. Cross the railway line and drive for 18km, then follow the sign to Barrington. At the T-junction turn right and look out for GRTP on your left.
Sus the Garden Route Trail Park
Grading: Intermediate (technical when wet)
Duration: 90minutes – 2hours
Configuration: Circular: 3 Loops totalling around 20km
Start Point: GRTP Reception near Barrington
Terrain: Purpose-built single-track
Post-Ride Beer: There’s a coffee shop on hand; and maybe Carmen will sneak you a beer!
Must-Do Event: TRAILMANIA is a virtual MTB Enduro Comp, held at GRTP
Access: Your R50 permit allows you a full day of riding
Cell Reception: Reasonable coverage on trail
Accommodation: Stunning self-catering chalets on the farm
Local Contact: Rob Dormehl – TEL: (082) 802 8103
GPS: S33.55.01 E22.51.46