Storms River Village is a crazy mix of tranquility and adventure, an intriguing blend of past and present.
Set in the heart of the forests in the foothills of the fabulous Tsitsikamma Mountains, it was once a place where elephants roamed, migrating between the dry lands to the northeast and the cool serenity of the coastal forest. South Africa’s first peoples, the San or Bushmen, also lived here, in harmony with the natural world around them.
After centuries of peaceful co-existence the area was discovered by early pioneers, adventurers and hunters. The forests soon rang with the sound of woodcutters felling huge old trees and hunters shooting elephants and other game.
In 1879 the famous master builder Thomas Bain was commissioned to survey the area to build a pass through the impenetrable forests and gorge and 5 years later the Storms River Pass was completed. Convicts were used as labour to build it and those that died in the course of this arduous task were buried on the outskirts of Storms River Village, some graves still visible to this day. In order to traverse the gorge Bain apparently often made use of the ancient trails worn by the elephants through the centuries.
Over many decades the exploitation of the forests and game began to take a heavy toll and in order to save what remained the Tsitsikamma National Park was proclaimed by the state in 1964, just south of Storms River Village. The village began to attract a new breed of traveller and adventurer and today it is considered the ideal spot to experience the many adrenalin sports in the area. Canopy tours, black water tubing, canoeing, hiking, Sedgeway tours and, of course, mountain biking.
As you ride down the Storms River Pass from Storms River Village, through lush, cool forests (one of us insists that they were freezing) into the Storms River Valley, its difficult to imagine that you’re on what was, the national road. It’s narrow, with sharp corners and switch backs, steep in places although, the gravel surface is good. Still. Imagine driving it (or riding actually, on your single speed dikwiel) in your brand new 1955 car. It must have been a real event and no wonder, in that year, they closed this torturous route in favour of the new N2 highway with its new, 100m long Paul Sauer Bridge, 120m above the river. And I’m pleased they did. There was no one else on the road – just the 2 of us… And the birds. Never have I heard such loud bird song. It was bordering on being a racket!
The river came up quickly enough – much of the ride to this point was coasting along. That all changed and we started the pull up the other side of the valley, very grateful that we were on ebikes and not conventional mountain bikes. As we crested the climb there was a sharp turn to the right and now we were in Cape Pine’s pine tree plantations, the self issued permit we obtained at the beginning of the ride still valid. The roads were now narrow, giving way to sections of very rideable single track, occasionally flooded by large pools of water (deeper than we thought! 😳) one of which was home to a (seemingly) friendly, dusky-bellied water snake. Every now and then we escaped from the plantations and peddled through patches of fynbos, just coming into glorious flower – proteas, pincushions, Pelargoniums, and so on. All rather wonderful!
Eventually the sea moved into view and then the cliffs dropping down into the wild ocean at Storms River Mouth. You have to spend time here taking in the stunningly beautiful views of the coastline to the west and the National Park below.
The forestry roads continue and eventually you pop out at the top of the pass again and ride it in reverse, back to the village. Marilyn’s 60s Diner (they have accommodation and craft beer available as well) is a must for cappuccinos, milkshakes, cheese cakes and hamburgers. It’s delightful – all decked out in 1960’s colours and decor and the service and food are excellent.
Route length: 23km
Route Conditions: By and large the whole route is very rideable. Occasionally one comes across a fallen tree or deep(ish) pool that, for the less technical riders means a dismount and a push but really, there’s nothing to be concerned about. About a kilometre from the village there’s a gate across the road but that’s to control cars and the like – just ride around it after signing the self issue permit that has a route map printed on the reverse side of it.
Marilyn’s 60’s Diner (start to the ride): S33° 58.434′ E23° 53.221′
Storms River Viewpoint: S34° 01.245′ E23° 54.572′