Mountain Bike Magazine SANI - Autumn 2018 - Page 126

TRAVEL | namaqua Namaqua National Park THE SPOT: The Namaqua National Park is mostly known for its spectacular display of wildflowers in spring, but don’t give this stunning spot a cold shoulder during the rest of the year. It’s not a secret that the autumn “Green Season” kicks in from March through to May, and best of all is that you’ll have all the tranquillity and space mostly to yourself. This nearly 170 000ha national park brims with endless mountain biking opportunities, and it is safe and affordable, with legendary hospitality and excellent food to boot. There are no formal MTB trails, but visitors can crank more than 200km of roads and tracks open to the public, including the 180km Caracal Eco Trail. Note that the Coastal Section – stretching between Spoeg River and Groenrivier mouth – is too sandy for normal mountain biking, so best you bring a fat-bike if you want to ride here. Some superb (and very remote) camp spots perfect for bike-packing will allow you to camp along this tempestuous coastline, with only gulls and the occasional mongoose for company. THE RIDES: The well-marked Caracal 4x4 Eco Trail constitutes a solid 180km, mostly navigable by mountain bike. A good idea would be to focus on the section to the coastal town of Hondeklip Bay, around 84km from Skilpad Rest Camp. The Total ride distance Various, 52km – 180km Fitness/skills level Intermediate Duration 3hrs – two days Start point Skilpad Rest Camp sanparks.org/parks/ namaqua/ first part of the route follows the park roads to Soebatsfontein, before you turn right onto the well signposted Caracal Eco Trail. If this sounds like a long slog, opt for a return ride with serious altitude attitude! Exit Skilpad Rest Camp and turn right towards the coast, immediately pinning your ears back as the downhill kicks in. It’s a wild ride as you plummet from the escarpment onto the coastal plains and then cruise the gravel rollercoaster onwards to Soebatsfontein (26km), where you can grab a cold drink before cranking into the massive return climb. If you’re brave enough to loop right into the northern part of the park, you can add the breathtaking Wildeperdehoek Pass to your itinerary. This furthermore links onto the Messelpad Pass, an adjoining dirt ascent adding an additional dollop of grunt. Haul out the wide tyres if you plan on pedalling the Groen/Spoeg coastal section. This extension of the Caracal Eco Trail is mostly gravel, but you’ll have to duke it out with serious corrugations and stretches of soft sand. A fat- bike would be a perfect choice along this sandy route, making for an excellent bike-packing opportunity in an area with a real wilderness feel. Event organizers Ecobound are currently looking at organising a multi-day MTB challenge as well as a spiritual bike- packing journey along the Namaqua Coastal Route in conjunction with Open Africa. Both these options will include excellent mountain biking here along the Namaqua Coastal Route – check out ecobound.co.za and openafrica.org 126 | MTB | rugged riding