Jeanne-Louise Wiese: Karoo to Coast

without spotting a ghost…

The great thing about this sport, writes Jeanne-Louise Wiese, is the fact that people tend to jump on board, pick up the free newspaper, buy the gear, enter for all the local races and convince their friends at a Friday braai to down their low self-esteems and embrace the life in spandex…

To make you understand why MTB racing is such a big deal, you have to realise that in no other sport would they allow 4 000 participants to travel through a protected area. How lucky are we, to be able to ride through nature reserves which are to be enlarged to be included in the Garden Route National Park in the near future? It’s almost like the old Tour-de-Kruger taking in so much conservation land. And, of course, the upside to the Garden Route is the absence of predators mistaking your slick cycling physique for an antelope. So for those who entered the K2C with me, keep in mind that that whole area which surrounded you is protected and that large laser beam would have shot you down if you tossed a wrapper to the ground… (Okay not really… maybe by 2050… SANParks is working on it!)

Karoo to Coast Riders
Lowinda, Mari, Janine and Jeanne-Louise proclaiming themselves as queens of the mountain

The route starts from Uniondale which is a small, Little Karoo town along the R62, which was established in 1856 by the merging of two townships called Hopedale and Lyon. The town’s primary claim to fame is the ghost story of the Uniondale hitchhiker and that fact that it is home to seven national monuments. As you head out of town for the start of the race, you ride to the north where you can see the Kamanassie and Kouga Mountains which silently watch over the Kammanasie River Valley.

Jeanne-Louise Wiese
Jeanne-Louise Wiese is a Senior Environmental Practitioner for engineering, management and specialist technical services giant Aurecon. As an avid MTBer she has the good fortune of consulting on the Provincial Department of Transport to upgrade and maintenance programme for gravel roads, so she gets to visit secluded areas and take her bike along.

From here you are directed to the well-known “Ou wa pad” which was built in 1865 to connect Uniondale with Avontuur. It’s an uphill battle along a rocky sandstone road with regular groups of bicycle pushers. If you get caught in the traffi c jam, take a quick peek over your shoulder into the valley where you’ll see three fl at-topped hills dominating the landscape. These are called “mesas” and are erosion remnants of a onetime widespread plain which gently slopes down along the Kammanasie River. Once you eventually overcome the track which many people have crossed by ox wagon (without the benefit of full suspension), you ride down into a valley through a farming community called Avontuur and then up the mountain to the top of Prince Alfred’s pass.

I doubt whether Thomas Bain knew what he was getting himself into when he agreed to build this pass between 1860 and 1867 for a mere £11 000. This spectacular 88km mountain pass presents the traveller with four biomes which provide the perfect habitat to an abundance of indigenous fauna and fl ora. It is also home of the Middle Keurbooms Conservancy. Landowners concerned with the conservation value of the land started this 30 000 hectare conservancy in June 2006, protecting indigenous fauna and fl ora and participating in

various eco-tourism and eco-farming activities. It is estimated that around 2 352 plant species can be found in this area, together with at least 70 species with medicinal value. The area also forms part of the Garden Route National Park which encompasses the world renowned Tsitsikamma and Wilderness sections, the Knysna Lake section, a variety of mountain catchment, Southern Cape indigenous forest and associated Fynbos areas.

Proof has recently been found of a small group of Knysna elephants still roaming this 121 000 hectare forest, making them the only unfenced elephant group in South Africa. Although no cyclist would even notice an elephant standing next to the road since you start to lose all sense of reality from around 30km into the race. I am still not sure if it’s because of the beauty of the forests, or the muscle munching uphills. The picturesque town of Knysna was established in 1882 and is famous tidal lagoon and open estuary, which is home to the threatened African Black Oystercatcher and the Knysna Seahorse. Getting a whiff of the fresh ocean air when you head into town was the refreshment I needed to make me realise that the K2C will become an annual event for me and one I’d suggest you don’t miss it either.

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