The 10th of February 2021 was an inauspicious day for most. To the best of my knowledge, not much of any importance took place. But for 8 complete strangers, meeting each other for the first time at Botterkloof Farm on the outskirts of Stillbaai, it marked the start of an incredible journey. A journey they would all leave as friends.
It was a bit of a mad scurry to get everyone there, with guests arriving from 3 different directions, but by 17:00 Wednesday, the 10th of February, everyone had safely arrived at Botterkloof, and, more importantly, their bikes had all arrived in one piece too. Once everyone had settled in, we headed on into Stilbaai and enjoyed one of the best restaurant meals I have had in at least 10 years. I tip my hat to the restaurateur at On the Rocks. The most incredible freshly caught Cob (kabeljou), expertly prepared and served in portions adequate to placate the most ferocious of appetites. The bar had certainly been set high for the rest of this journey.
Towards the end of dinner, as would become customary over the next week, a quick briefing of the riding for the day ahead was followed by a fib or two about the amount of climbing that would be done, and with that, it was off to bed to get our rest in.
The following morning, everyone wolfed down a rusk or two with their morning coffee, as we made our way into town, to enjoy a delicious breakfast at Coffee and Cream, who were kind enough to open early just to accommodate us. After breakfast, the ride proper commenced. Thursday (day 1 of riding) we rode just over 80km, taking the beautifully scenic route out of Stillbaai West, toward Jongensfontien, and then heading off onto the gravel road that leads to Vermaaklikheid (a Rhenish mission town, with beautiful whitewashed buildings). A big climb just before Vermaaklikheid greeted us and the view from the top presented us with a glimpse of the beachhead at Witsand, our destination for the day, before an exhilarating descent into the mission town. This was followed by a few punchy climbs on our way out of the village of Vermaaklikheid, and then a stop off for a swim in the Duiwelshok River before taking on the last 25 odd km into Witsand.
The Southwesterly was in full force as we joined the tar road for the last few km into Witsand and fighting the headwind really tested the grit of all the riders. We were all delighted to arrive at Barry’s Guest House (Witsand Poshpackers), where some ice-cold fruit juice and a lovely soft lawn awaited our tired bodies. Everyone was eager for a nice refreshing shower and then a bit of an afternoon nap. We then took a short walk through town, to the Anchorage, Witsand’s premier restaurant and bar, and a firm favourite of ours, where everyone again enjoyed a delicious seafood dinner, as well as a few cold ones, before retiring for the night.
The 2nd day of riding saw us getting an early start as we made our way up along the Breede river valley towards Malagas. Until recently, there was an age-old human-drawn ferry here to cart people and vehicles across the river, however, in their wisdom, the local municipality decided this needed to be upgraded to a massive diesel-powered ferry boat, without giving any real thought to the practicalities involved. As a result, the ferry is currently non-operational, but we knew this and had arranged with the Malagas Hotel to come to collect us with one of their boats and ferry the riders across the river. Our support vehicles, unfortunately, had to make the long drive around back to Swellendam before coming down the other side of the river to join us for breakfast at the hotel. From Malagas, we continued along gravel roads, spotting hundreds of ostriches and a good few blue cranes as we made our way towards Bredasdorp. The heat was intense, and we had to make use of the odd farmer’s crib to cool ourselves down along the way, but the scenery was sublime, and the ride was thoroughly enjoyed by all. When we reached the tar road linking Bredasdorp to L’Agulhas , we loaded the bikes onto the support vehicles and headed into Struisbaai, where we would be staying for two nights, enjoying a bit of a rest day.
Our home in Struisbaai had a lovely big “braai kamer”, and instead of eating out, tonight the entire crew would dine in. We did, however, get some pizzas to snack on while we got the fire going to enjoy a lekker braai.
Day 3, which was officially a rest day, saw us leaving the bikes behind as we took a short drive to Arniston, to enjoy some more of the seafood delights this area is famous for. Unfortunately, Wileens, the almost world-famous fish and chip shop in the old part of the village, which used to serve arguably the best fish cakes in the world, has gone downhill somewhat, and although the fishcakes were still great, we decided to rather head on back to the hotel, where we had a great lunch and enjoyed some ice-cold draughts, whilst waiting for the tide to be just right, so we could go explore the cave at Waenhuiskraans, and enjoy a dip in the ocean, before heading back to Struisbaai. Late afternoon we took a short ride on the bikes to the Southern tip of Africa, and the Cape Agulhas lighthouse, where we took some group photos, before heading back along the beach to our house in Struisbaai for another delicious braai, accompanied by delicious freshly-baked bread and spreads, prepared by our very own photographer’s mother who lives in Bredasdorp. What a treat.
On day 4 we had another full day on the bikes, fortunately not that far this time, only just over 60km to cover. It’s a lovely, relatively flat ride from Cape Agulhas to the mission town Elim, as one rides along the edge of the Agulhas National Park, and through vlei-lands that are home to large numbers of rare and threatened bird species. Just before Elim, we detoured onto a “secret” little track that took us through the farms, out behind Black Oystercatcher wines, before rejoining the road a few kilos outside of Elim. On this detour, we were lucky enough to spot two massive eland bulls showing off their high jump skills as they graciously cleared 2-metre-high game fences.
After a quick coffee stop in Elim, we tackled the last 20 km into the eccentric and arty hamlet of Baardskeerdersbos (literally, ‘beard-shaver’s-bush – aka B’bos). The weather suddenly changed and we were soaked by some icy rain and wind in the last few kilometres, which made the shelter and hot pots of coffee waiting for us at Marietjies restaurant a real Valentines day treat. With our bellies full and our bodies thawed, we took our opportunity when the clouds opened for a short while and rode the last 5 km to our farm accommodation at Rusthof farm stay, just outside of B’bos, where everyone enjoyed a hot shower and an afternoon nap, followed by some hearty roast veggies, and another traditional braai, washed down with a few glasses of good red wine.
Day 5 was our last day on the bikes. The best way to sum this day up is that we truly did leave the best for last. Another relatively short 60km ride saw us leaving B’bos and making our way towards Stanford village. After a few quick km on tar, we turned off onto dirt again at Lomond Wines, and the farm looked like something out of a storybook in the early morning light. We then continued along the rolling hills of the Overberg, through dairy farms and pastures, then climbed up along the backside of the Salmonsdam Nature Reserve. At the top of the hill, with Stanford in our sights, we took a right turn, and headed down a long, winding, road, past Stanford Manor House, crossing over the Caledon tar road, and then dropped into the Klien River Valley. We crossed the river at a low water bridge, and then linked onto the local MTB trails network, cutting across Bluegum Estate, and stopped at their restaurant for arguably the best cup of coffee we had had the entire trip (Thanks, Roeter). From Bluegum, we continued along the Klien River, through Whitewater Farm, and then climbed up over Kotsbult, before dropping down past Stanford Hills and the Sir Robert Stanford wine estates, before finally arriving in Stanford village, where our first stop was Oumeul, for another coffee, and one of their delicious pies.
We then went to settle into our accommodation at Die Ruskamer and B’s Cottages, and enjoyed a bit of an afternoon nap, followed by a boat cruise on the tranquil waters of the Klien River Lagoon, rounded off with a feast fit for royalty, prepared for us by Paul at In The End, all prepared from fresh ingredients harvested from their garden, and meats sourced from local free-range suppliers. If one discounts the smoke from the pizza oven, this is probably one of the lowest carbon-footprint meals you will ever have.
This feast for all the senses was a fitting way to end off what was a truly incredible week of cycling, and when the time came to say our goodbyes after breakfast the next morning the 8 strangers from a week ago all left as bosom mates.
This kind of trip is the reason Adventure Cycles exists. We love riding bikes, but more than that, we love using bike riding as an excuse to explore, learn and meet like-minded friends we didn’t know we had. This is what being #adventureminded is all about.
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