Over the weekend, the family dragged me off to one of my favorite riding spots, Riet river. As far as great mountain bike trails, there is not much in terms of classic singletrack. However, if you know the area well, you can ride yourself into a coma on the countless gravel roads in the area.
The trick is to spend as little time as possible on the R72, the coastal road between East London and Port Elizabeth. The road is extremely dangerous, with no shoulder and many potholes. If you cycle on this road, you must ride on the dirt verge and ride into oncoming traffic – its the only way to stay alive.
I started the ride on the Webb Family farm of Tharfield (you can view the full ride on Garmin connect). The farm dates back to the 1820’s when it was owned by the Bowkers, before being purchased by the Webbs in the 1920’s. The Webbs still live in the old Bowker homestead and still farm cattle the traditional old way. Jan Webb runs the 3 Sisters horse trails which is a must do institution in its own right.
Once on the dirt road there is a nice climb up past the Webb / Bowker homestead (for an overview of the historical farm look at the Bowker website), past Rocklands and the Nyala Valley game farm and up to the St Francis Health Centre which I can vouch for as a place that genuinely fixes health problems. Its run by Mrs Cowley (mom of Paul Cowley – the noted aquatic scientist), whose ability to diagnose is uncanny. However, there is a long waiting list so book well in advance.
The next turn to the right plunges you down into the West Kleinemonde Valley and then on up to Shaw Park, a classic Albany cricket club. From Shaw Park you take a right and follow the dirt road to the Lower Spanish Reeds turn which takes you through the Kap River and on to the Fish – Kap Nature Reserve. This is one of the true conservation gems, but, has been badly neglected of late. Twenty years ago, the conservation stalwart, Derek Landman, showed me the area and pointed to its potential for mountain biking. That potential is still there, and there is lots of it.
I dropped down onto the Fish River flood plain and from there up and out of the Reserve. The Kap river has one of the best canoe trails in the country for birding and it is well worth a visit. Currently the road is closed due to flood damage, but, you can slip in the back way on the route I have described.
From the Fish Kap, I went back up the hill along the R72, before going down to the coast at the Fish River Light House. From the Fish River lighthouse you can ride down onto the beach (you will have to push for a few hundred meters) and then its a 10km ride on the low tide back to Riet River.
Beach riding is great fun and training provided you (a) hit the beach one hour before low tide and (b) wash your bike straight afterwards.
A lovely ride and highly recommended! Enjoy!