All information on these pages is based in our personal experiences while cycling through the Karoo in South Africa in September and October 2008. This page describes the day to day route we followed.
We flew to Cape Town and followed a inland route through the Western and Eastern Cape provinces, including towns as Stellenbosch, Calitzdorp, Prince Albert, Beaufort West, Graaff Reinet, Steytlerville, Willowmore and did end our trip on the coast at Storms River near the Tsitsikamma National Park. We used the Bazbus to get back to Stellenbosch.
Stellenbosch – Montagu (185 km)
Just outside Stellenbosch is your first climb up to the Helshoogte pass. The first part of this road has a wide shoulder but it becomes narrower further on, after the descent. Turn right to Franschhoek, a small town with plenty of restaurants amidst endless wineries. Franschhoek has all services. The climb over the Franschhoek Hooogte is steep in the first part, then levels and has a final steeper section just before the top. A nice 5 km descent follows. Until Villiersdorp the road is more or less level.
Villiersdorp has all services. The road continues with a moderate climb and a similar moderate descent into the next valley. It’s possible to shortcut to Robertson taking the gravel road at the turn-off to Eilandia (signposted). We missed this one and finally hit the busy N15/R16 road leading from Worcester to Robertson. It is rather busy but has a good and wide shoulder. There are two long descents on this section. Robertson has all services.
From Robertson we followed a (locally recommended) detour along the R317. It’s a quiet and beautiful road leading through the wineries this area is famous for. At the Viljoensdrift Winery (sign for Ashton) turn left and after 3 km you’ll hit the main road to Robertson. The pass to Montagu is in fact a 10 km long gorge. The ride is scenic and right at the end of the gorge is sleepy Montagu.
Montagu – Anysberg Nature Reserve (90 km)
Just outside Montagu the gravel starts. The road is in good condition and the first 20 km are easy to bike. Initially follow the signposting for Ladismith. The climb up the Ouberg Pass is steep and takes about 5 kms followed by a gradual descent to the turn-off to Touwsrivier. Do not continue here to Ladismith (as we by mistake did) as you’ll end up on a very long and lonely road. A few kms in the direction of Touwsrivier is the Hoek van die Berg farm and the signposted turn-off to Allemorgensfontein (a farm).
When we passed here the gate was closed and a sign told the road was also closed. As we discovered much later this was because of the high water level in the Touws River at the end of this road. As an alternative you can pass Hoek van die Berg and turn right later to Anysberg Nature Reserve.
The road to Allemorgensfontein we followed was absolutely deserted and in very good condition. It was a beautiful ride. We passed through another farm gate and later through the gate of the Nature Reserve. There are no facilities at the reserve gate other than a sign telling you that the main officeand campsite are 26 km away.
We were lucky to find that the water level in the river was not too high. We could walk without any risk through the fast flowing river using the low level causeway. You can see the buildings of the Allemorgensfontein farm from this point.
The remaining kms to Anysberg campsite and main office are rough and very bumpy. The scenery is beautiful here; we enjoyed this part very much. At the main office the campsite offers a hot shower and toilets. Cottages are available but it seems to be necessary to book them ahead. There are no further facilities here.
Anysberg Nature Reserve – Calitzdorp (150 km)
Another day of riding on quiet gravel roads. Leaving the reserve we found the road in good condition. The main gate of the reserve is not much more than a plain farm gate. Back on the main road we turned north to bike towards the valley of the Seweweekspoort. The views were beautiful with snowcapped mountains in the distance. The gravel road ends on the tar road leading north through the Rooinek Pass to Laingsburg.
We continued south where the pavement quickly ended upon entering the Seweweekspoort valley. This rough and hilly road finally will bring you to the village of Vleiland. There are at least two places offering accommodation at the eastern side of Vleiland.
After passing Vleiland the roads steadily climbs for approx. 13 kms, after which it descents to the entrance of the Seweweekspoort gorge. This gravel road winds through this scenic and narrow gorge and exits on the R62 highway.
Calitzdorp is 25 kms away. You’ll have to climb a bit to the Huis Rivier pass followed by 10 kms of steep descent to the river itself. Climb out another 5 kms and the last 5 kms are a gentle downhill ride into Calitzdorp. All services.
Calitzdorp – Prince Albert / across the Swartberg Pass (90 km)
For the first 13 kms or so we took the R62 (quiet and with shoulder) in the direction of Oudtshoorn. Then turned north (left) towards the Buffelskloof and the Red Mountains. It’s a very nice and quiet gravel road winding though mountains and farmland. At the Kruisrivier junction (farm with accommodation) you can either turn left to return to Calitzdorp (road banned for heavy traffic and caravans) or turn right towards the Swartberg Pass and Cango Caves.
You’ll cycle along a extensive private reserve; where the reserve ends the pavement starts. Along this road, winding through farmland and with a view of the swartberg pass high above you, are two options to stay: the 33 degrees South B&B and the Swartberg Country Manor (both approx 5 kms from the junction with the Oudtshoorn – Swartberg Pass road).
From this junction the top of the pass is only 11 kms away, The first kms on the gravel are steep followed by a long section that follows some sort of plateau. At the signpost “Fonteintjie” the final climb starts. It’s only 3 kms to the top from here. Great views!! At the Prince Albert side of the pass the road descents through endless super hair pins. The final kms to Prince Albert are flat again on a excellent paved road.
Prince Albert – Beaufort West (150 km)
A very nice farm road leads east from Prince Albert towards the N12. Take the Pastoriestraat opposite the church in Prince Albert and keep on cycling. Almost no traffic here. This roads reaches the N12 approx. 8 kms south of the settlement of Seekoegat.
Seekoegat itself is another 2 kms from the main road. S. has not much to offer: a school, some farms, a small church and a deserted old hotel (built in 1902) where we slept one night. A local farmer invited us to sleep here.
After a good night sleep we continued another 80 kms north along the N12 to Beaufort West. Not much to do or see here. After 40 kms is the Skeurfontein farm shop (plaasstal in Afrikaans) and the Skeurfontein B&B. Further north is the 4-star Olive Grove Guestfarm.
When you see BW in the far distance take a right turn on a DR-numbered gravel road that leads direct to town and avoids a needless detour along the busy N1! BW is a busy town that even has traffic lights 😉
Beaufort West – Graaff-Reinet (205 km)
The road from Beaufort West to the first town (Aberdeen) is as flat as a pancake and goes straight east through endless featureless sheep country. There’s not much to see here. We had a monster tail wind blowing us all the 150 kms to Aberdeen. Otherwise we probably would have been camping on one of the sparse farms along this road.
The last 10 kms to Aberdeen are downhill and with this super tail wind we made around 50 kms per hour on this section! Aberdeen is a friendly little town with a shop, a guesthouse & pub and a few B&B ‘s.
The remaining 55 kms to Graaff Reinet are along main highway N9. The road is quiet and has a good shoulder to bike on. An alternative route on gravel from Aberdeen to Graaff Reinet is through Adendorp. 10 kms outside Aberdeen take the turn-off to Kendrew and follow local gravel roads to Adendorp 5 kms south of Graaff Reinet.
Graaff-Reinet – Willowmore (230 km)
The highway south to Jansenville is wide and in good shape for the first 25 kms or so. Beyond that point extensive road works are in progress and will be for the next years. For some parts we were able to ride on the new road; excellent gravel waiting to be paved in the near future.
Further south you’ll leave the flat Karoo countryside behind; slowly hills will start to appear making your biketrip more like a roller coaster ride. Climb up the 700 m high Ravels pass and descent 10 kms into Jansenville. Jansenville is a sleepy, dusty little town that has not much to offer. There are shops and several places to stay though.
The ride to Steytlerville is a nice one. Take the improved highway towards Klipplaat. Roadworks may be still in progress here. Then turn south at a signposted junction for Steytlerville. You’re on the gravel again. Almost no traffic here all the way to the village of Mount Stewart where the road crosses the railway.
The road gets rougher but the cycling is not too tough. Without much ups and downs the road crosses two mountain ranges by following several gorges. The last miles to Steytlerville are all on tar.
The first 50 kms to Willowmore are on a good and wide tar road. Then the famous cement road (the only one of it’s kind in South Africa) starts. This is a one-lane concrete strip in the middle of a gravel road. As there is not a lot of traffic on this road cyclists will only have to move to the gravel a few times. 45 kms outside Steytlerville is the Elands Guest farm offering a possibility to stay. The last miles into Willowmore are on the N9 highway.
Through the Baviaanskloof (100 km)
The junction for the Baviaanskloof area is a few kms south of Willowmore and signposted. The gravel road leads for about 15 kms through farm land with lot’s of long climbs. Another 15 kms further is the turn off to Uniondale and the start of the 10 kms descent into the Nuwekloof.
The Nuwekloof gorge is very narrow and winding. The rest of the road through the Baviaanskloof is relatively flat until you reach the Mega Reserve area at the eastern side of the kloof. In the area are several farms offering camping and b&b accommodation. The last place to stay before the wilderness area is at the Sandvlakte guest farm. The owners are very helpful and serve great meals!
Because we were running out of time we took a car ride through the Wilderness area of the Baviaanskloof. We did not regret this as this section of the road has numerous extremely steep parts, is very rough and you may encounter buffaloes and rhinos here. There are many unbridged streams to cross.
A good 4×4 car is required to do this trip. In a good 4×4 pickup truck we did not go much faster than 20 kms per hour. Along the road are a few basic campsites (drinking water from nearby streams) Unless you’re a tough mountain biker this stretch will take more than two days.
Outside the kloof we travelled south to Humansdorp, a small town on the busy N2. Not much to do or see here.
Humansdorp to Storms River (90 km)
On our last day we cycled west along the R102. The first part has some hills but it levels out later. On that day the view was less than 100 m and the rain came pouring down. Needless to say we didn’t see a lot of the countryside we passed through. At the turn off to Karedouw is a well equipped store and plaasstal. There is also a tourist information service here.
The R102 unfortunately ends on the busy N2 which in that time was undergoing major road works. No fun to ride this road with a endless stream of heavy trucks and cars. The last 4 kms to Storms River jct were one lane. We were able to use the good gravel of the new road (under construction). Later we discovered that there is an interesting alternative to avoid most of the N2 by leaving it before the junction with Storms River near the Tsitsikamma Lodge & Spa.
At Storms River there is the possibility to do an interesting 22 kms bike trail to a viewpoint high above the coast. Good views of the Tsitsikamma NP from there. Your local guesthouse will probably have a map and info on it.
At Storms River our cycling trip ended; we took the BazBus to Stellenbosch.