Things To Do in RhodesRhodes MTB Trail
Where? Rhodes, north east of Barkly East, near Tiffendell Ski Resort
How much? Free
Where: Rhodes, north east of Barkly East, near Tiffendell Ski Resort
Level: difficult (the climbs are gruelling); the route is long
Type of route: mostly gravel and dirt road; 81 km circular route
Best: Rhodes is cold during winter and snowfalls attract skiers and snowboarders to this part of the country; the snow makes this route tricky and slippery. Summers are beautiful.
The hardest part of MTB rides around Rhodes is getting there. Rhodes is not on the way to anywhere in particular. It is more of an end destination in its own right, for it is a popular weekend adventure spot. It lies just south of the country's border with Lesotho on the gravel R396 connecting it to Dordrecht.
Town lies at the foot of the Eastern Cape Highlands, near Mount Ben MacDhui, alongside the Bell River; a quaint collection of architectural styles that give credit to Rhodes' status as a national monument.
The cycle route is unmarked. Start at the Rhodes Hotel in the village and head up the public gravel road (R396) to the top of Naude's Nek. This is a steep and difficult climb up the highest pass in the country.
You may want to catch your breath at the top for the views are spectacular. This is not the highest point on the route, however.
Take the left branch from the top of the pass that continues alongside the Bell River parallel to the escarpment above Maclear and Mount Fletcher. The path passes the Cairntoul Police Station and then whips left to head west along the border with Lesotho past Tenahead Mountain Reserve.
Take the jeep track to Lesotho View. This is the toughest part of the ride; a gruelling cycle for which your thighs will not thank you the following morning.
From the summit head down onto the Ben MacDhui Flats (can get muddy if it's rained) to join Carlisleshoek Road below Tiffindell Ski Resort, still in a westerly direction. From here the route heads south down the punishing Carlisleshoek Pass, an extreme pass that descends more than 573 metres over 6.16 kilometres. Because it is the main access road to Tiffendel, it is well maintained and the worst sections have been concreted.
The hairpin bends, the gradient and the speed combine to make this what Jacques Marais terms, 'one of the hairiest MTB experiences in Africa'.
Two further hairpin bends and a river crossing, and you are back in Rhodes.