Trails: Rooiberg Klein Karoo – April / May 2019

Words and Images by: Jacques Marais

Go klap a ride or two with your buddies – and a few cold beers – at one of my fave Klein Karoo getaways. Go ride it solo right now, or join the Transcape MTB Experience crew for eight days of fun over February every year …

The Karoo is not flat!

Local Buzz:

Rooiberg Lodge nestles in the foothills of the eponymous mountain range here in the Klein Karoo, stretching over approximately 14,000ha of nearpristine fynbos. La Vida is lekker local here in the vicinity of Ladysmith and Calitzdorp, with tiny Vanwyksdorp close by, and it rates as one of the great stop-overs during the annual Transcape MTB Experience.

Over the bars, you will be treated to diverse ecosystems, brimming with endemic flora and an abundance of animal and bird life. Rooiberg boasts a range of accommodation options, including The Loft (affordable, with a choice of single-, double- or group rooms. Premium options are provided in four star luxury chalets overlooking a nearby watering hole, with an excellent restaurant serving traditional South African cuisine on site.

More info on the area at


Trail Low Down:

The riding on the private game reserve may be limited in distance but offer lekker variety to keep you busy
for at least a day or two of dust, sweat and swearing (especially if you try to conquer the Ossewa Trail)! Rather crank off along an easy 15km of relatively flat riding for an hour or so on a pedal from the lodge
along a there-and-back cruise between the eastern and western gates into the reserve. These routes are basically the Rooiberg entrance and exit roads, so beware of the occasional 4×4 vehicle.

Several jeep-tracks trip into the dense thorn veldt off this main gravel drag, allowing you to hoick onto dual-track and the occasional game footpath if you’re fit and adventurous; unfortunately, there has been no
mountain bike trail development here, but there is loads of potential.

A proper test of character awaits along the tortuous Old Ox Wagon Route. This overgrown and extremely
rocky trail is only suitable to strong and experienced riders, as it sideswipes into the high ridges along the
northern border of the reserve. The surface is gritty and strewn with fist-sized rocks, so be ready for a physical test as you grind up to the plateau.

Fast and rocky downhill are part of the fun too.

The burgeoning #GRoad crowd will be chuffed to hear this area is officially rated as gravel bike heaven, with
quiet secondary roads tripping between Oudtshoorn, Riversdale and the rest of the region’s forgotten dorps. Get your game face on for an exhilarating ride up and over Rooiberg Pass, arguably one of the Klein Karoo’s most iconic gravel passes. Turn left as you exit the lodge from either of the gates, and just keep pedalling. You’ll climb for a gruelling 16km before zigging into the descent towards the Calitzdorp side, where views and headspace get a double thumbs-up.

The pass peaks at an altitude of 798m as it wends its way through Rooiberg Conservancy. Scenic views
abound along this historic road, originally built in 1928 and now offering a pleasant detour from the R62; you can access it just after Calitzdorp if you want to link to Vanwyksdorp. This is an ascent which will get your blood pumping and is definitely not for the faint of heart; some steep descents, serpentine twist and 180 degree corners are sure to test your mettle! A cairn at the summit see travellers – to this day – adding a stone as a token of gratitude for completing a safe journey.

Assorted calf-crusher climbs and dust-dervish flats spider-web from Vanwyksdorp as well, including a stunning ride past the local dam and through surrounding farmland. This is on a public road, but best you check with Rooiberg management before you attempt to trip into these moer-and-gone corners…

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