Things To Do in WillowmoreBaviaanskloof MTB Route
Where? The Baviaanskloof World Heritage Site, Eastern Cape.
The untarred R332 stretches for 180 km from Patensie in the east to Willowmore in the west.
When? Best during daylight hours.
How much? Free
Where: The Baviaanskloof World Heritage Site
Level: difficult, the routes are long and can be gruelling
Type of route: gravel roads, tricky river crossings, dense wooded areas, uphills and heart-stopping downhills
Best: summer is incredible, even winter days can soar to 28 degrees, although the evenings and early mornings are really chilly
The Baviaanskloof is a long ravine 35 km north of the Langkloof; a kloof through which the Baviaans River runs, flanked by the mountains of the Kouga, to the south, and Baviaanskloof, to the north.
The Baviaans starts in the Little Karoo, melting its way through mountain crevices eastwards, where it finally ends at the confluence with the Kouga River. Both the river and the kloof get their name from the Khoikhoi i Ncwama which, when translated, means 'baboon'.
The Baviaanskloof is one of the most incredible and remote environments through which to cycle, accessible only along the R332 that runs parallal to the Baviaans River. A dirt road comparable with the Tsitsikamma forest road, it was built by Thomas Bain - one of the longest roads and mountain passes he was to design.
Cycling it is an endurance test along rough, eroded gravel roads, over numerous river crossings, and through dense woods. It is best done with the aid of a support vehicle (cell reception is, at best, intermittent). Be aware that there are stray baboons, and leopards live in the kloof, although they are seldom sighted.
You can remain on the R332, or design alternative routes (various farms allow thoroughfare), staying overnight at camping sites (Geelhoutsbos or Rooihoek (a wilderness campsite) come recommended) or self-catering farm cottages.
You may start from either end of the kloof, but the Trans Baviaans (the toughest single stage MTB event in the world) starts in Willowmore, following a farm road through Poortjies to the Baviaanskloof turn-off 4 km outside town.
The route then climbs the Nuwekloof Pass and drops into the Baviaanskloof for 80 km, passing through farms like Rietrivier, the town of Studtis, via the Sandvlakte, before entering the Baviaanskloof wilderness area.
The route reaches Geelhoutbos via a long descent roughly 110 km from Willowmore. From now it gets strenuous, and more difficult to negotiate along the narrow gravel road. The road ascends up to Bergplaas, from which it drops into the Cambria Valley and the Komdomo campsite.
From Komdomo the route heads straight to Patensie. The Trans Baviaans deviates here and heads to Jeffreys Bay.
Whilst they do it in 24 hours, you can take as long as you like.
The ride is tough, but the beauty and the remoteness are second to none.