There is a particular magic triangle that exists in South Africa, created by tar roads that join the South Coast, the Wild Coast and the Southern Berg. Somewhere in the middle of this green and fertile triangle, we find the farming town of Kokstad. Most South Africans know Kokstad because it’s a convenient pit stop when driving long distances, but Kathryn Fourie bets a fair amount that you didn’t know the area is riddled with fresh single track. Say whaaat?
Yebo, just 15 minutes from Kokstad, along the R56 towards Harding, the trail fairies have been slaving away cutting some magical lines deep into the indigenous Weza-Ngele forests that edge the main road on the way to Port Shepstone. On a recent weekend trip to visit the Ingeli Forest Lodge, I was gobsmacked to realise that you barely have to turn off the road to park your car safely, suit up and hit a 15km premium loop of South African trail riding.
Ingeli Forest Lodge, as I mentioned, is set just off the R56. Recently revamped, with super friendly staff and a kitchen that serves excellent affordable chow, Ingeli Forest Lodge has been in the Armour family since 1992. Clinton Armour was our host for the weekend, and you know you’re bound to enjoy the trails when the owner is a psyched rider! Understanding the investments needed to create good, safe trails; Clint procured the services of Karkloof’s Hylton Turvey to design and build the handcrafted sections of single track.
Heading off from Ingeli Forest Lodge, most of the shorter trails start from the back end of the establishment and are well sign posted. Our group of friends joined a posse of local timber and cattle farmers, and headed off along the 10km loop, tracking our way through a little bit of forestry that soon merged into the loamy depths of indigenous forest. Not far into the ride one comes across perhaps the most premium feature of the trails, cutely dubbed ‘Commercial Suicide’. There are super fun green lines, so you don’t need to take the roller coaster ride of bridges that arc back and forth down the steep sides of the valley – but for most intermediate riders these bridges and turns alone would be worth planning a ride at Ingeli!
The logging history of the area is evident everywhere, with logging pits visible from the seat of your bike en route. The pits, Hylton tells me when we head up to try and take photos at Commercial Suicide, were the only way to saw up the huge trees in the forests to remove them. The trunk would be laid across the pit, with the ‘under dog’ sitting in the pit beneath the trunk, and the ‘top dog’ would stand above. Using an old school blade saw, the two ‘dogs’ would saw the trunks into manageable planks to carry them out of the dense forests. Hylton adds that the under dog would suffer terribly, with the incredibly fine saw dust eventually blinding them.
With that charming information safely stored in my brain to haunt me later in the evening, our ride pops us out on a gorgeous little dam with birdlife galore. Picnic tables and road access make this a magic spot for chilling out, and it’s hard not to imagine a sundowner…even though it’s three in the afternoon. Most of the climbing up in the area is done on forestry roads, and there is a fair amount of climbing, as the region is hilly. But every descent is tucked into the forests, Cruising through high redwoods with sunlight just blinking through onto your knuckles, dappling your world in a high speed blur, is special to be sure.
Again, one of the coolest things about the Ingeli trails are that many of the features you may like to ride multiple times are close to the Lodge, and so it was with the bermed, pump section that had everyone giggling wildly and pushing back up to ride again and again. That Turvey sure knows how to build a berm (berms you want to steal, if berms were stealable); and to have this glorious delight right at the end of the trail a hop and a skip from the main lodge is a real treat.
Aside from the shorter trails (15km, 10km and 7km), which can be combined in many different ways, a longer 30km loop extends out in a different direction utilising jeep track, forestry roads and single track. One of the prime features of this trail is a lovely floating bridge that crosses a dam, and not something I have seen at many MTB establishments.
Ingeli Forest Lodge is geared for riders; there is a high-pressure hose in the parking lot; showers and loos for day riders; and a brilliant pool in the chalet section at the back. Of course, a variety of accommodation options are also available and can be seen online. The restaurant is large and comfortable with a massive deck, and one gets a real feel for how mountain biking is taken seriously by the communities of Kokstad and Harding. If you are driving along the R56 during December, and you’ve got your bikes on the back, pull in and have look for yourself.
Sus the Ingeli Forest Lodge
Tel. +27(0)39 553 0600
Fax. +27(0)39 553 0609
GPS: 30 33′ 54″ S | 29 38′ 15” E