Testimonial from one of our recent Adventurers – June 2017
Earlier this month in June 2017 I was lucky enough to join the Singletrack Adventures cross country mountain biking company and a group of 13 other riders on a four-day trip through the Transkei. Leading a group of 13 riders of varying skill and fitness levels is not an easy task, especially considering the logistics of traversing the rough and demanding terrain of the Wild Coast. However, guides Clint and Gareth’s extensive riding and traveling experience in the region was clear to see, and it made the journey for the group that much more enjoyable and rewarding.
We set out from the Wild Coast Sun at sunrise on Day 1, getting an early start as we had approximately 60km of cycling to do that day. After a few hours in the saddle, the weather system that had been battering Cape Town made its presence felt in the Transkei, leaving us to deal with 30-40 knot headwinds for the remainder of the day. A refreshing dip in the Mtentu River was followed by a lung-busting portage out of the valley, making those in the group who had opted for cleats over flat pedals question their decision! A demanding inland route took us south through the Mkambati Nature Reserve, bordered to the south by the Msikaba River. A spring high tide and storm surging ocean made this final river crossing of the day all the more challenging, but the tough end to the day was soon forgotten as the tired legs and sunburnt faces were soothed with a Milk Stout quart, a warm fire and a feast of braai meat at the first nights stop over – Vonn’s Rest.
Day 2 was remarkably less taxing than the previous day – other than a 15km climb to start the approximately 50km ride, it was smooth sailing as we made our way on district roads south from Msikaba, through the tea plantations of Magwa Estate and then passing the breath-taking Fraser Falls, to our accommodation at the Mboyti Community Camp site. This quick and easy riding was a welcome respite, given the hard task it was going to be traveling along coastal routes back to Vonn’s Rest in Msikaba on day 3, and then from there back to where it all started on the Wild Coast on day 4.
We set out from Mboyti soon after sunrise on day 3. While hugging the coast does afford you some amazing views and a chance to spot some ever-present whales, it does also require some mountaineering to cross some of the Transkei’s characteristic bluff and cliffs. An hour-long portage up the steep and rocky hill of Sugar Loaf just north of Mboyti was a tough start to what was going to be a challenging day in the saddle! We would then enjoy an undulating ride along a beautiful but challenging coastal route, with visits to Cathedral Rock, Waterfall Bluff, Luphuthana and Port Grosvenor. After a 45km ride, we reached our goal of Vonn’s Rest, and after rinsing and quickly servicing our hard-working bicycles, we got to work rehydrating and carbo-loading on Gareth’s amazing homemade pizza (in a pizza oven he himself built!), ideal preparations for the final day.
The final day of the trip started well, a brisk South Wester giving us our first tailwind of the trip! Hugging the coast as much as possible, we made our way north across the Msikaba river and then through the Mkambati Nature Reserve once again. Stunning waterfalls, plunge pools, and lookouts offer no shortage of vantage points for well-deserved breaks, including those at Horseshoe Falls and Mkambati Falls, one of only 12 waterfalls in the world that fall directly into the sea. At Sikombe (just south of Mtentu) we made our way onto the beach, timing our arrival for the low tide perfectly, with the last 22km of the 50km journey along the beach past the red desert and back to the Wild Coast Sun. Not without a few more river crossings of course!
From an organisational perspective, to be able to get off your bicycle after a solid day of pedaling in a place as beautiful and relaxing as the Transkei and have your bags, enough food to fuel 13 hungry and tired cyclists, and a few cold beers at hand makes every bit of difference to the experience. In a logistically challenging place like the Transkei, the efforts of the support crew and the general preparedness of the trip as a whole is what has resulted in an unforgettable experience for everyone involved.