Trailblazing in the battlefields (Tugela River)

Typical geology of these eastern highlands: sandstone buttresses sculptered into curious castles by the wind and rain .

Kwazulu-Natal is reknowned for having some of the most superb trails and mtb-ing routes in the country. The best part is that many of them are right at my doorstep or not too far afield and keep me more than satisified during the ‘in between the long distance bike trips’ . Last weekend 18 of us headed up to fabulous bushveld trails at the threshold of the Drakensberg and delighted in exploring over 100km of sweeping descents, rocky climbs, tussocky ambles that end up dropping from the escarpment to the Tugela river. The area is also steeped in history.Some of the most famous Anglo-Boer battles in history unfolded here. Following these fabulous trails through the most challenging and rugged african bushveld,  it is hard not to appreciate what the poor British and Boers went through.

We started just below Sterkfontein Dam and relished the first section of the "Berg n Bush Descent" race, that took us skirting along the edge of a sandstone cliffs.
The recent rains had transformed this prized grassland area into a flush of illuminating green.
Sweeping views of the Drakensberg - a deceiving cliff edge to the right
Mike, Sarah and Carlos and the Drakensberg panorama
The descent begins dropping off the KZN escarpment that forms the border between the Free State and Kwazulu-Natal. We followed 6kms of sensational cattle track.
A biodiversity hotspot of note: the grassland was sprinkled with the most exquisite flowers and interspersed with protea 'forests'.
While most of our group couldnt contain themselves on the super slick singletrack. Sarah and I took it relatively slowly taking time to savour the exquisite scenary and take a few snaps.
We descended approximately 1900m over the 74 odd km that we cycled
Certainly some of the sweetest single track ever.
Sarah sailing through protea 'plantations' visited by exquisite little sugar birds.
A handsome herd.
More than satisfied, a quick snack and then back to the track.
More sweeping descents through the signature bushveld of Acacia flat-tops.Access is a key issue, much of the route lies on private land, luckily our friend Mike Frost is a local!
Cheerful gate keepers
The sweetest faces
and the most endearing smile!
A typical bushveld homestead: neatly kept compound with traditional mud brick huts, the quaint beehive hut (and the essential goal posts).
The few stretches of district road were a welcome relief. High humidity and soaring temperatures: thunderheads typically develop every afternoon.
An Acacia provides a spot of shade.
Frazzled.
Our speedster, Julia kept the pressure on for the male contigent. My excuse for not keeping up: taking photos
Aloe-ah, Sarah laps up the river trails.
Rock n roll, please dodge the shongololos - never seen so many!
and some decent dolops of mud left us all feeling not too amused. Unusual in this normally earth-baked terrain.
Thanks to Mike and son Hilton for leading the way and sharing their back garden with us. The Frosts live in nearby Winterton and have been exploring this incredible terrain over the past 20 years.
More rewards .... Tugela river lodge! Great having friends like Rene and Beth!
Tranquil view over the Tugela from the cottages. Hard to believe that Spionkop in the background was the site of one of the most fearsome and bloodiest battles in the Anglo-Boer war.

Bridget Ringdahl

Pedaling has been natural to me since the tender age of three. Cycling is practical, fun, it gets you to the corner café, across countries, continents, keeps you fit and is by far the most efficient and environmentally friendly transport option around, being virtually carbon neutral.

I live in Howick, KwaZulu-Natal which is great cycling country, within 10 minutes I can be bouncing along some of the finest single tracks in the province.

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2 thoughts on “Trailblazing in the battlefields (Tugela River)
  • julia

    Wow bridg, Thanks for the most amazing photo's. A good and a brand new camera.What a fun weekend, I was sad to leave.

  • Nicky

    Stunning photos . Thanks for staying at the Tugela River Lodge.

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