Awesome Riding at Augrabies Falls National Park

It’s quite a drive from Hermanus (where we live) to Augrabies Falls National Park in the Northern Cape and rather than do it in one go we stopped off in Fraserberg, staying once again at the delightful Tuishuis, and once again enjoying the delicious plaaskos fare. We’ve been there previously, riding the delightful gravel roads in the area. (Check out these rides)

From there we took to the backroads (actually, just getting to Fraserberg means that you’re on back roads) enjoying some very remote and (after recent heavy rains) flood damaged travelling via Williston and Brandvlei, stopping off at Kenhardt to photograph a quiver tree forest.

The main falls at Augrabies Falls National Park can be spectacularly beautiful, particularly when the Orange River is in full spate.

The main falls at Augrabies Falls National Park can be spectacularly beautiful, particularly when the Orange River is in full spate.

But that’s all background… Augrabies Falls National Park was established in 1966. It covers an area of some 82 000 Ha and its main attraction is the awe-inspiring 60m high waterfall that plunges down into a canyon that runs for abut 18km and is 240m deep. Impressive doesn’t even begin to describe it, especially when the Orange River is in full spate. It wasn’t quite at its peak when we arrived a week or so later, which was fortunate as the Park had been pretty much closed because of the flooding. But even at about ⅓ of what it was, it was incredible to see about 1 500 cubic metres of water thundering down the falls every second.

Camping facilities are available as are air-conditioned chalets (to be recommended in the hot summer months), there’s a shop selling basic foodstuffs and a restaurant for those preferring not to self-cater, although there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a good old braai with friends under a million stars!

18km of gorge - the main falls and camp at the end of the gorge on the right.

18km of gorge - the main falls and camp at the end of the gorge on the right.

There are a variety of rides that you can do within the park (you can cycle all the public roads) but we elected to head off at sunrise one morning (it gets incredibly hot at Augrabies so ride early) and take in the magnificent views at Ararat, Oranjekom and Moon Rock.

We were only a kilometre or so out of camp on that lovely, fresh, cool morning when we came across the first drift and pedalled the ebikes through the swiftly flowing water, ensuring that we didn’t submerge the motors in any way. I had forgotten, thinking that there was only the one river crossing but there are actually four or five, one deep enough to warrant flipping the bikes onto their back wheels so that the water cleared the motor and another that was flowing so strongly that we decided to push the bikes across. We needed to take it carefully as the bikes tended to wash away and there was little grip from the cycling shoes I was wearing.

Keep an eye on those water levels - you don't want to drown the motor...

Keep an eye on those water levels - you don't want to drown the motor...

When cycling across moving water, be sure to pick a point ahead to cycle towards - if you look at the water you tend to follow it - not great at all!

When cycling across moving water, be sure to pick a point ahead to cycle towards - if you look at the water you tend to follow it - not great at all!

Mostly good gravel road riding - some sand, some corrugations but nothing to be concerned about.

Mostly good gravel road riding - some sand, some corrugations but nothing to be concerned about.

We cleared the drifts and marvelled at the spectacular scenery to the north, Moon Rock rising up from the bolder strewn plain. We saw several raptors, a few giraffe and a pair of Klipspringers along the way but the Park is really about the scenery, the huge gorge and the falls.

Our first stop was Ararat Viewpoint with its stunning views of the canyon and the strongly flowing Orange River, although from this height it looks like a tiny stream far, far below. After shooting a few pics we climbed back up the access road en route to Oranjekom a little further downstream. There is a shaded picnic site on the roof of the Gorge Cottage with spectacular views of the gorge and we broke out our flasks and snacks to replenish the calories burnt on the ride out.

The view site at Ararat - simply awe-inspiring.

The view site at Ararat - simply awe-inspiring.

On the way back to camp we stopped off at the 30m high Moon Rock, marvelling at the 360° views from the summit.

The heat was kicking in at this point so we scarpered, tackling the river crossings again, cycling fast with our thoughts on the blissfully cool air-conditioned chalets back at camp. Heaven!

It was a lovely ride and what is super nice is that there are many more available. There’s Echo Corner that’s certainly worth cycling to in spite of the long climb back from the river and then there are a lot more kilometres to explore to the west - just follow the game park roads and enjoy.

The view towards Ararat from the picnic area at Oranjekom.

The view towards Ararat from the picnic area at Oranjekom.

Keep your eyes peeled for klipspringers - there are quite a few about but they can be difficult to spot - they blend beautifully into their surrounds.

Keep your eyes peeled for klipspringers - there are quite a few about but they can be difficult to spot - they blend beautifully into their surrounds.

Info Centre

Route Conditions:

Generally you’re on good gravel roads - a little corrugated in place, a little sandy in others. Nothing to be concerned about at all though. There are the river crossings and a little common sense will help here but take care to not submerge the motors on ebikes. If you are unsure about things rather abort the ride. Remember, it gets unbelievably hot at Augrabies in summer, when it regularly reaches a sweltering 40°C, so be sure to head out early and get back to camp before it gets really hot. Take plenty of water and lather on the sunscreen.

Route distance: 26km

Augrabies Falls National Park Camp

GPS: -28° 35.594' 20° 20.247’

Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/DwAdseykc2gE9ZrX9

Download the Augrabes Ride GPS track here.

Route Map

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