Issue 7 – January 2021
Regular readers of The Dal Times who also have excellent short-term memory (are there any of us above sixty?) may recall that the last issue was devoted to the test run of the long-planned Three Walks Weekend.
No sooner did the news of the walks get out, then Ebikers extraordinaire Roger and Pat de la Harpe (www.ebiketouring.co.za) were on the Editor’s doorstep, reconnoitering the landscape for suitable Ebike routes. This inspired the Editor and his Trusty EScout Johan van Zyl (see picture above) to saddle up again and sally forth to re-test the cycle routes in the area. The objective? To design a fun weekend for Ebikers which offers 3 different rides from Heilfontein that include some sightseeing, wine-tasting and light-lunching, not to mention some sensible exercise too. For simplicity, this we will call The Three Rides Weekend. Now for the detail…
The Tesselaarsdal Loop – 11km – 45min
We view this as a Friday afternoon “pipe-opener”. It is probably the quickest and cheapest way to see a complete village in under an hour and be back for evening drinks. It is also an object lesson in the adage “no pain no gain”, as some 600m along the route there is a crossroad which offers the choice of either a moderate 2km climb and easy sailing thereafter, or a further 2km of gentle downhill but a murderous 500m climb as you exit the village. The common element to both routes is a flat 2km section which is very exposed to the wind. The Editor always makes his choice at the crossroads, by licking his finger and testing the wind – better a tailwind than a headwind! In this case, we will assume you took the latter route and enjoyed a supportive tailwind.
Opposite Solitaire Free Range Eggs, the turnoff right is marked Six Pence and goes along the old road to Tesselaarsdal, following the river. With only horses, pigs, cattle and sheep for company, this 2km section can be blissfully quiet and the Blue Cranes like to nest close to the track. Whoops – just before entering the village, there’s an exciting wooden bridge over a donga, which was built when the route was part of the Cape Epic in 2019. Pedal hard and don’t look down!
After another 400m of moderate uphill, you will find the quaint 1891 De Poskantoor Café building on your right and you will enjoy some 100m of tarred road – Tesselaarsdal is proud to have about 800m in total. If it is Friday afternoon, it’s a good place to stop for a refreshing G&T with Sonia & Brendan and to compose yourself, before you turn right and get murdered by the hill….
Once you crest this, it’s a 3km downhill burn home. However, en route you will pass Lekkerdroom on your left and be offered the opportunity to participate in our local game drive experience – springbok, zebra, camels and llamas almost at touching distance on the road.
Back to the crossroads and the end point is in sight – 1km away. A refreshing swim in the river and a drink await you.
Pass the Buck – 35km – 4hrs
This route is best done early as it can be sweaty – it’s 90% on good gravel and 10% on the tarred R320. Fortunately, the real climb is on the tarred portion up Shaw’s Mountain Pass over the Steenboksberg – hence the name. It is a wonderful way of seeing the views from both sides of the mountain and most of the riding is on rolling contours of quiet gravel roads.
From Heilfontein, it’s an initial 3km gentle downhill to the crossroads at the old dairy. Then its left to Hermanus and 11.5km of low rolling hills to the tarred R320 in the Hemel & Aarde. Then it’s a mental re-group and right turn before the grind up Shaw’s Pass. You will know that you have beaten the monster when you pass “The One” sign on the left side. Pause, refresh and enjoy the views. Thereafter it’s a downhill cruise for 1km to the Morningview turnoff on the right.
This is a little-used public road which runs past Dr George de la Harpe’s beautiful olive farm Morningview with quaint corbelled gate posts and then close past Hans & Johlette Matthee’s vegetable farm Steenboksrivier – defended by a mighty Jack Russel Terrier.
Then one joins the slightly busier road to Tesselaarsdal past two of the biggest farms in the Overberg – the SA Barley Breeding Institute farm and Dunghye Park – home to Martin and Odette Eksteen. (The beautiful Friesian horses are the pride and joy of Martin Snr.)
Another 2km on a flat and windy road and you cross the Kleinrivier for a second time before climbing up to the tarred intersection which offers a puzzling choice – Stanford left or Hermanus right. Take the right fork and ignore the next turnoff left to Tesselaarsdal some 1.3km on, rather continue another 3km further and take the turnoff left to Tesselaarsdal at the old dairy. Confusing stuff but Tesselaarsdal is located on a loop off the road, so you get two chances to visit it!
Thereafter, you need to keep the river on your right and take the right fork 1.8km on, below Lekkerdroom. By this time, Heilfontein can be seen 1km away and refreshments beckon you! The rest of the day should be at leisure..
Witteklip Wander – 15km – 1.5hrs
This is like bathing in champagne in the morning. It is a ride that combines everything that makes MTB worthwhile – some good downhill coasts, steady climbs, quiet jeep tracks, some single track through pristine fynbos, a few water crossings and great views. It is exhilarating and all on our doorstep!
As it involves private property, owner permission is required and so there are no photos. Our thanks to Paul & Donne Descroizilles of Witteklip, Anna Kleynhans & Kerry Horsley of Kleinfontein and Pietersarel & Susanne de Bruyn of Elandsdraai/Goedgegewe.
After the initial 3km glide down to the T-junction at the dairy, it’s a left turn over the river and left again through the electric gate at the Shabach Horse Farm of Stephen and Naomi Muller some 300m later. Then it’s a steady climb through Sophia Farm (Ivo and Rumi Ivanov) and a right at the fork after 2,7km. After a 400m climb, the road levels and some 600m later one enters Witteklip Farm. That is the last level ground that one will experience for a while as you climb steadily past the homestead and the olive grove towards. It takes some skill to avoid the sandy sections but Johan van Zyl who had set out the route for the Cape Epic knew it well and kept them to a minimum.
At the last copse of gumtrees, we turn left and descended via a single track into the start of the Elandskloof River. This proved to be unexpected fun as there were patches of watercourse and interesting fynbos vegetation. We crossed the river and climbed out onto a contour path offering great views and running above the Steampunk Distillery. With lockdown, we resisted the temptation of alcoholic refreshments and pressed on with missionary zeal past the Goedgegewe homestead, surrounded by its beautiful lavender and rosemary fields.
From this plateau, we could see across the Caledon Ruens clearly to the Riviersonderend Mountains before we descended down the bucking gravel road to Heilfontein below. Champagne for the soul, another dip in the river and well in time for a hearty brunch!
Once we have ironed out the logistics, we also intend to offer the Three Rides Weekend on a monthly basis. In the meantime, one certainty that remains is that self-catering facilities which are appropriately socially distanced, are the sensible way to go. Heilfontein is open for bookings in the Lodge and Hermitage. Come and visit us and unwind in safety. You could have some fun too…