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Spanafrican Adventures's Blog

The latest news on Spanafrican Adventures operations.

2017 Poorts and Passes: George to Patensie Cycle Tour

2017 Poorts and Passes: George to Patensie Cycle Tour

Our friend Julia Colvin is organising a cycle tour. We are going to joing her. Why don't you join us too?

12 day self-supported cycle tour through the magical Karoo and Baviaanskloof worldheritage site

Inclusive of meals, transfers, escort through the reserve, and comfortable accommodation

50-94km cycling per day on carefully selected routes through a unique and inaccessible region of South Africa

October 21st - November 1st

R9,300pp

Contact Julia Colvin on 0768190615 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

www.facebook.com/PoortsandPasses/

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2016 Poorts & Passes Cycle Tour by Julia Colvin

2016 Poorts & Passes Cycle Tour by Julia Colvin

Text and pictures by Julia Colvin, tour organiser

Encompassing some of the most scenic parts of the country, this 600km, 12-day cycle tour is an absolute gem to suit your pocket and thirst for adventure. Staying in comfortable accommodation with hot showers and great food, this tour is a perfect blend of history, culture and wilderness

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2016 Poorts & Passes cycle tour by Jonathan Invernizzi

2016 Poorts & Passes cycle tour by Jonathan Invernizzi

​Writing a pictures by Jonathan Invernizzi. 2016 participant

The Karoo, a place I had first visited together with my family as a child, has always held a special place in my heart. A land of vastness, of sweet and succulent lamb and even sweeter jerepigo, of stark beauty, mysticism, colourful characters and star-filled night skies. Something I've long come to realise is a visit here is never one to be rushed. So when my girlfriend, Julia, suggested that I come along on a cycle tour through the Karoo and Baviaanskloof (an area I hadn't visited yet), I jumped at the chance. What better way to enjoy the Karoo than by the slow immersive meander that only bicycles can provide? My enthusiasm was tempered slightly when she went on to explain that this was going to be somewhat more of a working holiday. My duties were to include sharing the driving of the back-up vehicle, mechanical support for the bicycles and chef for some of the evening's meals among other tasks. No free ride for me it seemed…

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What I do at lunchtime

The favourite view of the valley. I usually ride the 14km loop along the main access road into the reserve and then skipping down onto the single track 'dwarfs dawdle' that runs along the top of a dolerite cliff.

This years winter has been particularly freezing, the coldest in 20 years so they say. And I believe them. Daily, Anisa and I have to cope with more than just work issues but keeping warm in an office that faces north and feels like a fridge to any visitor. We have blankets, drink bottles of boiling water, use hot water bottles and reluctantly turn the heater on (yes, being the environmentalists we are ;-)) when we border on hypothermia. Lunchtime is my one opportunity to finally warm up - so its either a 9km run or 15km mtb ride in our lovely Umgeni Valley reserve. It takes exactly the full lunch hour for me to finally feel my toes... but there are the other benefits of course.

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Dusty days: Mt Gilboa and Lebanon descent

A steep climb out of Mbona reserve brought us to the burned grassland and forested approach to Mt Gilboa (1800m) offering unsurpassed views of the midlands

Sunday morning rides are a fixed event on most of our calendars, and is usually the day we choose to explore and check out more of the seemingly endless cycle route options we have right at our doorstep in the KZN Midlands. This day we decided to explore the back end of the Karkloof venturing out from Mbona reserve and up the back of Mt Gilboa - a fair climb and good training ride for our imminent trip to the Himalayas. An epic day it was. A fabulous mix of forestry roads, grassy tracks and slick pine forested trail descending Lebanon. Expecting to be back at midday we trundled in at 4pm exhausted and out of steam. A great day out none the less.

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Ringdahl Riders

Elaine (a dancer) came breezing up 'Greg's' track, stumps and roots did little to perturb her.

Last weekend we had the pleasure of having my niece, Elaine and nephew, Royd to stay for 3 days during their holidays. Coming from Jozies, there aren't many opportunities to cycle safely, let alone ramp along winding shoelace-like single track. They had already resigned themselves to the fact that sooner or later their uncle and aunt would insist on getting them onto a bicycle. I knew it wouldn't take much coaxing to get Royd enthused, but Elaine needed a little more convincing.... happy to say that without any prompting after the 2hour loop, she said it was much more fun than she expected, so much so, that she was keen for another ride the next day!

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Umbumbulu valley

Sweeping views over the Umbumbulu conservancy. Vaughan and Karen followed a fabulous track which snuggly followed the edge of the gorge.( Unfortunately I forgot my camera, but my cellphone didnt do too badly).

What I love about KZN is that there is no shortage of great riding topography. Besides having some of the best single track literally out my back door, which keeps us all entertained year round, sometimes we do venture a little further afield. A short 45min drive took us to Virginia Farm in the Umbumbulu valley. 45km of sumptuous single track adorn this sugarcane farm and conservancy. Cycling in sugarcane can be dead boring but thankfully the Stainbank farmers are environmentally inclined and have left large pockets of subtropical forest crammed with palms and aloes in many of the ravines while grassland slopes intersperse the cane fields. A clover-leaf of trails criss-cross this beautiful farm overlooking the Beaumont-Eston valley.

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First time riders

Timi, just freshly one day out of school, kitted up on her 2nd hand Trek, 2nd hand panniers (from my first Asian trip)

 

Most school leavers in SA head off for a week of drunken debauchery at the seaside town of Ballito or Margate. Not Timia. Just yesterday she finished her final exam of her school career and today at 5:30 am together with friends Keegan and Daniel, they set off on an pedal powered adventure to Cape Town. A trip that will no doubt have a profound impact on the way they see the world from now on, well at least that is how it was for me.  With a hodge-podge of second hand and make-shift panniers, I was impressed by their half empty bags indicative of a minimalist approach . I admire the courage and spirit of Timia, even more so that she only started to ride about 2mths ago.  She set herself a challenge and she's stuck to her plan, still leaving Howick as planned, even though it was a drizzly damp summer day. I joined them for the first 45min and was very tempted to just keep going...

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A Ride on the Wild side

Our beautiful Wild Coast. For the last 2 years Sarah has been organising bike trips along the wildcoast. This year she very generously offered to take her friends! see www.active-escapes.co.za for more info about Sarah's tours

South Africa’s ‘wild coast’ is one of the last stretches of unspoiled coastline along our 3000km of beach. The roughly 280km stretch, starts from at the Kei River mouth and ends at the Umtavuma gorge marking the boundary between the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal Provinces. While far it is far from wild, in the true sense, it is simply the fact that the area has remained mostly untouched relative to the natal north and south coast, which are blotted with garish developments, strip malls, sugar monoculture,  pseudo Tuscan holiday homes and the high rise hotels. By contrast it is pristine, and is characterized by sweeping grasslands, wide-open empty beaches, dazzling estuaries, deep gorges, thick swathes of indigenous forest and waterfalls that cascade into the sea. Rolling hills provide the backdrop and are dotted with homesteads of the traditional Xhosa huts that have been there for centuries.

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Day 1: Kei Mouth – Xhora River

We shared the ride with a pack of friendly vagrant dogs that were quite familiar with the ferry procedure and a some local fishermen
 
Day 1: 46km 4hr20 ride time: Starting from the great Kei River mouth and the boundary of the former 'homeland' of the Transkei we headed north for 220km to Port St Johns. Never could I have imagined how spectacular and unspoiled this coastline really is, just goes to show what we expect as 'normal' . Sun-kissed and inspired, I lapped up all the details, the landscapes and the sweat  in a blissful but tough 5 days of fun and fabulous riding.
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Day 2: Xhora River – The Haven

Bay after bay, they were all beautiful.

Day 2: 39km , 4hrs30 ride time:  Today we crossed the Xhora, Jajura, Ngadla, Xhixini, Ngabara and finally the Mbashe river mouths, all named so beautifully with the Xhosa click. Passing through the Dwesa forest reserve I was astounded by the size and the condition of this incredible pocket  of coastal forest, certainly one of the largest in South Africa.  We whizzed up and down excrutiatingly steep jeep tracks through Dwesa enjoying once more a completely different environment, to surface again in signature grasslands dotted with aloes. The final crossing was the Mbashe, strong currents were a little concerning. Just as well we only met the fisherman later that evening.  He had spotted a Zambezi or two while he had fished in the lagoon around about the same time we made our epic crossings. Photos of proud fisherman and their sharks on the walls of the pub at the Haven were another reminder that we were definetly in shark territory.

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Day 3: The Haven to Coffee Bay

Without doubt one of the most spectacular days. The tough 47km day was a perfect 'sample' of the wildcoast: wide open beaches, steep sugar-loaf hills, pockets of thick indigenous forest and the sprinklings of friendly villages along the way. Arriving at the landmark 'Hole in a Wall' was a highlight on the trip.

Day 3: 5hrs to pedal 47km,  This was without doubt one of the most spectacular days or riding (also one of the toughest), encompassing every element of the wildcoast: Wide open sandy beaches, headlands jutting out to sea, the last remaining pockets of coastal forest on our eastern shores, exquisite estuaries, quaint villages, relentlessly steep hills, sweeping grasslands and views enough to make you want to ride off the edge...

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Day 4: Coffee Bay – Mpande

Crossing the murky (very possibly shark-infested) Umtata river mouth.

Day 4: 46 km, 7hrs.   Coffee bay will remain with me as being ironically the most disappointing coffee experience of my life (not a decent cup in sight and the barely acceptable instant we found at the backpackers came at a hefty price !) . Apparently it was named after a ship carry coffee beans ran aground in the late 1800s, although a few beans seeded themselves the conditions proved too harsh for the plants to survive. Nowdays its a grubby little rubbish strewn village in a beautiful setting where lots of travellers end up smoking up the rest of their travel budgets.

Glad to leave we were welcomed with more excrutiating sharp climbs through rondavel hamlets scattered across the hillsides that dropped down once more to the most exquisite estuaries.

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Day 5: Mpande to Port St. Johns

 
View from Mpande where we spent our last night
 
Day 5:  32km in 8hrs. Deceivingly easy to start with, we enjoyed graded road rolling up and over the hills clocking up our best average time to date : some 20 odd km in as little as 2hrs. However once that ended some serious bundu-bashing and sandy tracks brought us back to the wildcoast ( so appropriately named) It took us another 5 hrs to complete the final 15km which brought us to our finishing point at 2nd beach Port St. Johns. 
 
An incredible 210km trip along a spectacular coastline. Definetly rates as one of my top rides ever!
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Brunsvigia Bonanza by Bike

The Brunsvigia is an indigenous bulb of South Africa found typically in grassland areas in the Kwazulu-Natal Midlands. This year the Brunsvigias blossomed like they never have before. The grassland slopes in the small Umgeni valley reserve just 1km from my home were sprinkled with these beautiful pink 'tumbleweeds'.

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The Bell Traverse – Drakensberg – last minute training?

Heading toward Organ pipes pass, a long hard slog!

Heading toward Organ pipes pass, a long hard slog!

Last week 9 of us headed for the hills to enjoy one of the best seasons in the Drakensberg - winter. This usually means clear cloudless skys, freezing nights, possible snow, but definetly no rain and great views despite the haze from the pyromaniac tendencies that all landowners  seem to have during the winter season.

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A ride in our back garden

Karen, me and Cath. Photo: Vaughan

 

We always seem to stick to our immediate back door rides so today we decided to start our ride out a little further away from home (10km). Starting off at the Karkloof Polo Club things were a tad bit nippy even though it was 9am, just above 0 degrees to be precise as frost iced the way. But hey what could we complain about with winters like this – blue skies all round and none of us riding in winter kit. We chose to combine some of the Karkloof Classic bike race route so that we could re-ride some of the fabulous single track. This together with undulating jeep tracks and secondary roads passing through grasslands, plantation and indigenous forest ensured we got all the best scenery in. Enjoying crystal clear views of the Drakensberg and the rolling midlands, what more could we ask for.

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