Mountain Bike Magazine SANI - Autumn 2018 - Page 122

TRAVEL | namaqua Okiep THE SPOT: This quirky little dorp dozes to the east of the N7, about 10km past Springbok, and is a great stopover on the long drive between Cape Town and Namibia. Problem is, most people know bugger-all about this town and the outstanding Okiep Country Hotel, because they’re too busy flat-lining along the highway. Fantastic hospitality and proper country cuisine is a given, and the surrounding hills are alive with adventure. I was lucky enough to scout the area during a recent Open Africa recce, and joined forces with Ecobound to check out bike-packing and other MTB route options here. Over the next few days, we killed our legs as we rode roughshod amidst the imposing quiver trees and rugged rock outcrops of the Namaqua Coastal Route. Copper was discovered here in the 1850s and within a year, Okiep became the world’s largest copper mine. These days, Okiep’s treasures are found in nature, with the flower season as the main draw card. Personally, I prefer March to May, when the succulents are green and bulb plants are in full flower. No busses, and considerably fewer tourists, mean that you have all that fresh air and open space to yourself. THE RIDES: The endless plains and koppies around Okiep are made for off-piste mountain biking, with dozens of gravel roads, 4x4 routes and footpaths to lure the fat track tribe into the Sandveld surrounds. Some of the options below may require access permission, so double check your route with Malcolm at Okiep Country Hotel. There’s a quickie trail right from the front stoep if you want to do a short riding recce and only have a couple of hours play time. Crank due north out of town along the Concordia tar road, continuing for about 6km, then turn right on a sandy dual-track just at the top of the climb. The gritty track meanders amidst some rugged Northern Cape outcrops and passes through a couple of gates before eventually joining the “pipe-track”. It’s certainly not for beginners, as you can expect steep descents, sandy sections, loose gravel, errant rocks, plus a good few climbs. This circular route totals about 23km with a choice of tar for the last 5km back to the hotel. Otherwise, go big along the gravel-grinder back roads past Gamoep, Anegas and Bloupoort, surely some of the most scenic public roads in the Cape. And when I say “public”, I mean you may bump into a handful of farm vehicles on a busy day. This scenic route to the east of the N7 will ultimately deliver you to the somnambulant Kamieskroon, where a “packet cappuccino” from Kuiervreugde may prove to be the cherry on top. Or not. “it’s certainly not for beginners, as you can expect steep descents, sandy sections, loose gravel, errant rocks, plus a few good climbs.” Total ride distance Various, 23km – 70km Fitness/skills level Intermediate to advanced Duration 2hrs – 8hrs Start point Okiep Country Lodge 122 | MTB | rugged riding