Fraserburg eBiking - Awesome!

Some years ago while we were still living in KwaZulu Natal, we took a road trip through some of the more remote areas of South Africa and it was with great anticipation that we headed up into the vast, dry, remote Great Karoo. While planning the trip we’d come across the little town of Fraserburg with its rich history of ancient animals dating back 250 million years to the Permian Period (we're talking pre dinosaur stuff here). The most notable of these are very well preserved Bradysaurus footprints in some rocks a little way out of town. We are keen on this sort of thing and had a fabulous few days in Fraserburg before moving on and completing an equally fabulous road trip.

Fast track to 2020. After a couple of successful multi-day rides under our belts we decided to set up another one - Fraserburg - Sutherland - Tankwa Karoo National Park and ending at Middelpos, one of our favourite micro-towns. Then came COVID and that took care of that! We arranged to have our bookings postponed and in the COVID lull (March 2021) we are experiencing at the moment decided to return to Fraserburg, do a few out and back rides in the area and then do the ride to Sutherland, leaving the rest of the trip we had planned for another time.

When it rains in Fraserburg it does so with passion. They had had good rains just before we visited.

When it rains in Fraserburg it does so with passion. They had had good rains just before we visited.

Day 1

In spite of not arranging a specific time, friends Bruce and Sharon (who’d been visiting family in Britstown) and Pat and I arrived at Die Tuishuis B&B from different directions within minutes of each other - strange how these things work…

Engela, owner, hostess and all time spectacular cook welcomed us warmly, showed us to our comfortable rooms and checked with us about the evening’s dinner arrangements. We couldn’t wait: Engela’s reputation is well known and we had high hopes.

In between sips of cold drinks under the shady trees in the back garden, we cleaned the layers of dust off the bikes that had collected after the long gravel road drives from Sutherland and Britstown respectively. Once dried we gave the chains a quick shot of Squirt eBike Chain Lube in readiness for a short ride we’d agreed on for the afternoon - nothing too demanding as it had been quite a drive getting there. We’d noticed a windmill on the side of the road about 10km from town - ideal for sundowners. Yes?

Riding off into the sunset - such joy!

Riding off into the sunset - such joy!

Yes! But before we headed out to the windmill on the Sutherland road we made a quick turn at the cemetery just down the way from Die Tuishuis. A somber start to the riding I know, but it is a very interesting place. The first thing that strikes you as you ride in, is the sheer number of tiny graves at the entrance to the cemetery - as a result of the flu pandemic of 1918. The simple head stones, some with phonetic spelling, give you some idea of those affected by the disease. It must have been a terrible time.

Interestingly, Olive Schreiner's sister Alice is buried here, her grave alongside a memorial to 6 of her children who died very young. Their deaths are not related to the flu pandemic as they all passed away in the late 1800's. Clearly a tragic story that unfolded so many years ago! 

The Fraserburg Cemetery - so many children's graves - the result of the flu pandemic in 1918.

The Fraserburg Cemetery - so many children's graves - the result of the flu pandemic in 1918.

The main road to Sutherland is pretty good gravel and it was a delight riding in the Karoo again, the countryside dry and dusty. A slight westerly breeze limited speeds a little but who cared? No one was racing and besides, it was great company, the weather was warm and we were riding! And sundowners were wonderful, a great ball of a sun sinking into the earth behind the windmill and the herbaceous smell of Karoo bossies strong on the wind. All was well…

My Giant Stance E+ Pro 29 in its happy place.

My Giant Stance E+ Pro 29 in its happy place.

The ride home in the gathering darkness didn’t take long, the wind now behind us. Thank heavens we’d remembered to fit our front and rear lights, as in the darkness they were essential. It’s difficult to describe what I felt on the ride back, the lights of Fraserburg twinkling in the distance - Peace? Yes certainly, but more… Happiness? That too. Bliss? That’s getting closer… But whatever it was, that rather short ride will stay with me for a while yet.

Sundowners in the wonderful Karoo veld - precious moments.

Sundowners in the wonderful Karoo veld - precious moments.

Engela did not disappoint. Not even close. Roast leg of lamb (we were in the Karoo after all), rice, potatoes, soet pampoen, vegetable pie and lashings of gravy, followed by a melktert topped malva pudding and ice cream. Good grief, It was delicious. We retired to bed happy.

Day 2

We headed east out of Fraserburg on the road to Oukloof Pass. Initially tar, we soon turned off the R353 to Leeu-Gamka onto good gravel again. The road was quite busy, the cars (we think farmers' wives taking the kids to school in town) throwing up long plumes of dust that hung there in the chilly autumn morning air. We didn’t have a plan at all - just ride… If we got to the pass that would be great but it would have been a little long considering that we’d arranged brunch at 10:30 with Engela. (And, if dinner was anything to go by, we wouldn’t want to miss that, would we?). We paused often to shoot pics, chat or just marvel at the scenery and just over 20 km out, stopped for coffee and rusks before turning back.

Just after sunrise, on our way towards Oukloof Pass.

Just after sunrise, on our way towards Oukloof Pass.

Interestingly, we passed a large puff adder that had been run over. A few weeks prior, while riding in the Grabouw area I had very nearly ridden over one (read about it here) and a friend has just sent me a video clip of a huge one he came across while out riding. Be careful out there on the trails…

Always sad to see animals killed by vehicles.

Always sad to see animals killed by vehicles.

There’s nothing to stop you riding further along this road. We’d started to climb up into the mountains, which I think was a precursor to the pass itself, but go as far as you want and turn back. Or take a car to the other side of the pass and then ride to it, loading the bikes onto the bike rack for the return journey.

Brunch was as awesome as dinner and we spent the rest of the day lazing about Die Tuishuis.

Christoff explains all about the Bradysaurus footprints.

Christoff explains all about the Bradysaurus footprints.

Marthinus Kruger does wonderful dinosaur tours to the very interesting paleontological site a few kilometres outside town. Alas, he was not available so his son Christoff stood in for him. We took a ride out on the wide paved road and met him waiting at a farm gate, a narrow farm track providing a little fun en route to the site. The late afternoon was spent poking around amongst the rocks, Christoff speaking of pre-dinosaur creatures such as Pareiasaurs, Dinocephalians, Therapsids, and, of course, the Bradysaurus.

Water ripples in what was sand some 250 million years ago.

Water ripples in what was sand some 250 million years ago.

The Bradysaurus was a large, common pareiasaur that was about 2,5m long and weighed around 1000 kg. It was one of them that left the large footprint in the mud, now turned to rock, that can be seen in the Karoo veld. Marthinus (or Christoff) will tell you more but we spent a fascinating afternoon there looking at footprints, worm trails, water ripples and enjoying Christoff’s sense of humour.

This area is not open to the public and if you’d like to visit the site please book a tour with Marthinus who will arrange the various permissions.

The pace quickened a little as we headed towards a dam for sundowners.

The pace quickened a little as we headed towards a dam for sundowners.

The ride back on tar was not in the same league as the one the previous evening but still, fantastic! Engela’s dinner the night before was definitely no fluke, as tonight’s was a feast that involved chicken pie and, our favourite, babotie. Oh, and Bruce had the very good sense to bring along a couple of Beaumont wines - a red and a white - that complimented the meal superbly. 

Such a pleasure out on the road in the evening, Fraserburg's twinkling lights in the distance.

Such a pleasure out on the road in the evening, Fraserburg's twinkling lights in the distance.

Sharon, Bruce and the sunset.

Sharon, Bruce and the sunset.

Day 3.

Up again early to get the 4x4s packed and ready for our trip on the Rante Route (the scenic route) to Sutherland. Bruce and I would ride first, Pat and Sharon driving the Pajero and the Landy and then we'd swap over later. "Head out for 15 minutes",  I said, "and wait for us and we’ll see if all’s OK". Well, I was thinking 15 mins on a bike not in a car and so it was that Bruce and I had it lucky - we met up with the vehicles parked on the side of the road some 15km later! At one point en route I had stopped for pics and Bruce rode on, separating us by a good kilometre or so. How sublime it was to be cycling, all alone, along a deserted gravel road in the  Karoo!

We swapped over, Pat and Sharon on the bikes and Bruce and I in the cars. I was leading when some 10km down the road I spotted a farmer tending his merino sheep at the side of a dam (which had plenty of water in it, as they had recently had good rains and the veld was looking marvellous). I stopped to say hi and the next thing the four of us were sitting on his stoep drinking tea and munching the most delicious plaas gebakte biscuits, and ice-cold prickly pears - such incredible hospitality! Pieter and Maresa le Roux have a lovely farm cottage, Eselfontein Gasteplaas, which looked so comfortable and inviting that we decided then and there that on our next trip we would ride out to their farm, spend a night or two and then ride back to Fraserburg. 

The change over spot, time for Pat and Sharon to have fun.

The change over spot, time for Pat and Sharon to have fun.

Sometimes it's difficult to take it all in.

Sometimes it's difficult to take it all in.

The road was long, with many a winding turn and we pressed on. A strong westerly wind had sprung up and temperatures were rising. Bruce and Sharon rode a while and then Pat and I. We stopped for lunch and then Bruce and I set off, glugging water by the litre, trying to stay hydrated. 

At one point we decanted water from Sharon and Pat's packs and rode off again, finally reaching the top of an escarpment with the most magnificent views of the valley and mountains to the west. Next to the road is a solitary grave and monument to the 9 English soldiers killed in a skirmish with Boer forces in March 1902. It seems that they were part of a mounted patrol of the Marshall’s Horse, climbing up the steep track to Renostervlei when the incident happened. Alas, I cannot find the name of this stunning pass that drops into the valley below - apparently it simply has no name but man, is it worth riding!

A note or warning: The pass is very steep in places and one quickly builds up a fair rate of knots, so take it easy and be careful of some deepish ruts. The westerly wind I mentioned earlier was still pumping and a gust hit me, pushing me unsettlingly close to the unprotected edge of the road and a steep drop. I managed to get things under control again, but do take things carefully if you choose to ride this section.

An incredible ride down the escarpment into the valley below. Be careful though.

An incredible ride down the escarpment into the valley below. Be careful though.

At the entrance to Kromkolk Farm at the bottom of the 'Pass With No Name" a few kilometres later, we loaded the bikes onto the 4X4s for the remainder of the trip to Sutherland. We still had a fair way to go and, with our water supply depleted and the sun fast sinking into the horizon, it seemed the intelligent thing to do. I must say that the shower at Kambrokind B&B was most welcome after the heat and dust on the Rante Route.

An awesome few days of cycling. The Karoo really is a fabulous place to ride with its remote gravel roads and the friendliness and hospitality of the Karoo folk is heartwarming.

Info Centre

Route Distance: Various. Our shortest ride was 13km and the longest 42,5km but as all were out and back rides, make them as long as you like.

Route conditions: For the most part all the rides were on smooth, well maintained gravel roads. With the exception of the Pass With No Name on the Rante or Old Postal Route road, all were easy to ride. Be careful of the pass. As I discovered, you can quickly get into trouble on downhills like these.

Die Tuishuis, Fraserburg.

Web site: https://fraserburg.co.za

GPS: S -31° 54.950' E 21° 30.965'


Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/zEgc84Lvi1KQRZ1DA

Kambrokind, Sutherland

Website: https://www.sutherlandaccommodation.com/kambrokind-bed-and-breakfast.php

GPS: -32° 23.773' 20° 39.641'


Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/VrQfmx1eGq5PRzPU7

Sundowner Windmill: S -31° 55.902' E 21° 25.890'

The edge of the escarpment - unnamed pass: S -32° 27.172' E 21° 12.084'

Download the GPS track for the Sundowner Windmill Ride here.

Download the GPS track for the ride on the Oukloof Pass Road here.

Download the GPS track for the Dinasaur Windmill Ride ride here.

Download the GPS track for the beginning of the Rante Road Ride here.

Check out the Strava route for the Sundowner Windmill Ride ride here.

Check out the Strava route for the ride on the Oukloof Pass Road ride here.

Check out the Strava route for the Dinosaur Site ride here.

Check out the Strava route for the beginning of the Rante Road Ride here.


The various rides: Red - Ride towards Oukloof Pass. Green - Sundowner Windmill. Pink - Dinosaur Site. Blue - Start of the Rante Road.

The various rides: Red - Ride towards Oukloof Pass. Green - Sundowner Windmill. Pink - Dinosaur Site. Blue - Start of the Rante Road.