The Garden Route boasts a bounty of trails on which to go wild with your bike, with the recent Merrell Eden Duo once again taking me onto a selection of superb MTB routes. Think Saasveld, Pepsi Pools and Montagu Pass, for starters …
– Photographs & Copy: Jacques Marais
If it’s buzz you want, what goes down at the annual EDEN DUO has more zoom to it than your average nest of hornets. The region surrounding Wilderness and George kicks in with the whole shebang of natural attractions, from rugged mountains and tempestuous coast line to laid-back and magic forest. And through it all you will find enough single-track to keep your butt in the saddle from dusk to dawn.
The 150km Merrell Eden Duo is an adventure race, with approximately 70km of mountain biking making up half of the route. The beauty of it is that it ties together a range of riding options within the Eden region, in the process delivering a solid 3-4hr endurance riding for the weekend warrior in search of two-wheel therapy. Whack on a few stretches of tar, and all of a sudden you’re looking at 150-200km …
Let’s keep it simple though, with a focus on three of the main off-road riding destinations in the immediate region. Start off at Saasveld Campus for a rollicking rip along the 20km-odd single-track route (lovingly scaped and maintained by the local Hillbillies MTB Club – www.hillbillies.co.za). Crank it up past the scenic Pepsi Pools with a stiff climb to Garden Route Dam (+/- 15km), then meander past the higher-lying suburbs of George as you make your way into Witfontein plantation.
Flying descents, quick glimpses of tumbling waterfalls and giant tree ferns flash by on the gravel roads and jeep tracks networking through fragrant stands of pines. Keep right just before you T-bone onto the Oudtshoorn road (28km), sticking on the dirt road as you start climbing towards the hard core part of this ride.
Montagu Pass takes no prisoners, bru, and once you dip through the first downhill section, you’re in for a small-ring crank as you grin and bear it into the fynbos-covered ridges of the Outeniqua ranges. Dust, sweat and tears are on the cards (tears of joy when you top out (+/- 38km), and of wonderment maybe as you gaze upon the natural beauty that the Eden District delivers in such great, jaw-dropping vistas).
A further 4km takes you to the turn-off right to Herold Wines, with a quick2kay spin to this little hide-away winery nestled away from the hustle and bustle down below. Chill time … stack your bike up against a stone wall, laze on the grass and grab a coffee and a pancake.
From here, you could make your way onto the Rock Pedal Classic circuit if you wanted, or you could pin your ears back on a rambunctious pass descent back down Montagu. It’s up to you, as it should be, so Sayonara my china!
FAST FACTS: EDEN MTB Route
CONFIGURATION: One-Way or Return Ride – 44/88km
START POINT: Saasveld Campus
TERRAIN: Gravel road, jeep track and single-track
POST-RIDE BEER: Make it a vino at Herold Winery – www.heroldwines.co.za
MUST-DO EVENT: MERRELL Eden Duo – www.24-7adventure.com
ACCESS: Montagu Pass is Public Access; get permit info from www.hillbillies.co.za
CELL RECEPTION: Reasonable reception along route
ACCOMMODATION: Chalets or camping at Ebb & Flow Rest Camp www.sanparks.org LOCAL CONTACT: Hillbillies MTB Club – TEL: 044 / 874 1217
Traveling from Cape Town towards PE, take the 2nd off-ramp to George (Knysna Road) and then turn right onto Saasveld Road. This is the old ‘7 Passes Road’ – follow it for 7km until you see the entrance to NMU Saasveld Campus on your left.
GPS: 33°57’40.1”S / 22°32’02.0”E