I’ve mountain biked in the UK, States, South America and Europe, but I can proudly (and confidently) state that Karkloof rates right up there with some of the best trails in the world. But don’t believe me; go ride it and see for yourself. Photographs and words by Jacques Marais.
The Midlands Meander is one of South Africa’s true countryside treasures. This constantly evolving travel experience allows you to wind your merry away through the green heart of KZN, taking in the art galleries, artisanal craft shops, mom-and-pops farm stalls, country eateries, coffee roasters, indigenous forest, canopy tours, bush pubs, exclusive getaways, rustic farm cottages and other hidden tourism gems here in the so-called ‘Last Outpost’. So, do come and explore to your heart’s content, but make sure you bring your mountain bike, because many of these spots are linked by seriously addictive single-track…
There are many access points onto the Karkloof Trail System, but the way to do this is the legal way, and that means you need to head to the Karkloof Country Club. This is where you need to sign your indemnity form and pay for your permit before you crank off on what I promise will be one of the best rides of your life.
There are three permanent routes to choose from, and they are all extremely well sign-posted. Before you leave, check out the map board at the club, and take a photo with your cell phone for reference purposes. Emergency numbers can be found on the back of your indemnity form/permit, so it is all pretty well organised.
The Blue 30km option offers a pearler of a ride, so head out of the club gates, over the gravel road and onto the pine forest trails which double back along the district road. Dip beneath the main tar strip before zooting through a grassland section until you get to the ‘Benno Boy’ sign (just on 5km) for a sharp left across the river over a wooden bridge.
You once again need to cross the district road, so hop the gate and continue up the trail on the other side, with a solid ascent along ‘Bubble & Skweek’ and into ‘Zille’, where you will pass through to the timber loading zone – just shy of 10km. Now the real fun starts on the ‘Fawlty Towers’ single-track section, which joins a forestry road after the stream crossing. Keep left at ‘Mattison’s’ (look out for the homestead) and then follow the route markers onto ‘Sam’s Slide’ (around 15km).
If your adrenal glands have not gone into overdrive just yet, the mojo flow of the superb ‘Brusier’s Burn’ stretch is sure to make them kick in. Continue into a short climb onto the SAPPI/Shafton road, before ascending to your right towards the Curry’s Post tar road. Just before the tarmac starts, hit a left onto ‘Bernies Bundle’ and the ‘Carnival’, and let your inner kid free.
‘Back of Beyond’ is next up (just on 21km) before you blast into ‘No Balls’, the penultimate section of single-track near the top of the airstrip. Pin your ears back as you hit ‘Flatters’, taking care as you cross the tar road for the final pedal back to the club. Or you could keep going along the marked 20km route to extend your ride.
For more information and a complete set of map downloads, speak to the Club Chairman Derek Turvey, or check out their web site www.karkloofmtb.co.za for more info.
Take the Howick off-ramp from the N3 and continue onto the Main Street; turn left onto the Karkloof Road and continue for 12km until you see the signage for Karkloof Country Club to your right (this is the D406 district road).
Sus the Stats:
Configuration: Circular Ride – 30km
Start Point: Karkloof Country Club
Terrain: Superb single-track most of the way
Beware: SAPPI Rules and Regulations apply – all riders MUST familiarise themselves with these before setting off on a ride.
Post-Ride Beer: Karkloof Country Club (082) 878 7251
Must Do Event: SAPPI Trail Blazer or Karkloof Classic – www.karkloofmtb.co.za
Access: Day permits at club costs R35
Cell Reception: Reasonable reception along most of route
Local Contact: Hylton Turvey (082) 878 7251