Cities (and sometimes towns) can have an icon that they are associated with: Johannesburg - gold mines and mine dumps. Paris - Art, the Eiffel Tower, the Mona Lisa and Notre Dame. London - Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and red busses. New York - The Big Apple, Wall Street, the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. Cape Town - Table mountain of course. And Loeriesfontein? Well, windmills! All 27 of them!
Loeriesfontein is a tiny town situated in the Hantam region of the Northern Cape in South Africa. It has its origins in the late 1800s and was established by one Fredrick Turner, a bible salesman (yes, really) at the location of his general store. Interestingly, the store still exists, now called the Turner and Haupt SPAR supermarket. The local museum, the Fred Turner Museum, was the only museum that responded to a request by a Dr Walton, a great windmill enthusiast, to start a windmill museum. They and other interested parties have sponsored and collected the 27 windmills in the outdoor display. We arrived on our ebikes, marvelled at the windmills, took in the excellent cultural museum, and partook of delicious Engelse tee en roostekoek at the pop-up outdoor restaurant. Alas, both the cultural museum and restaurant are open only during flower season - August, September and October.
We were staying at Rock Ridge Manor - comfortable, reasonably priced, self-catering accommodation on the edge of town. Owner, adventure biker, mountain biker and all round "nice guy," Chris Lombard, advised us on a couple of routes, and for our first ride, we decided to head back on the R357 towards the town of Nieuwoudtville and explore a route at Gannabos Quiver Tree Forest. We parked the 4x4s at a windmill at the entrance to the area, just off the main road.
We headed east, past quiver tree covered mountains to the south (the largest quiver tree forest in the world) and vast open plains to the north. There are thousands of these ancient trees covering the mountains. It's worth stopping and taking a short walk up the mountain to get a closer look. Quiver trees, which are also known as kokerbooms, occur naturally in the dry, western parts of the Northern Cape and Southern Namibia. Ancient hunter gatherer peoples used the hollowed out branches as quivers for their arrows (hence the name).
Being flower season we were in search of flowers, but aside from a few splashes of colour there were not many to see. The desolate landscapes were however vast and awesome, the stark beauty of the quiver trees more than making up for the lack of flowers.
The road meandered along the side of a dry river bed and we tapped along at merry pace, a slight tail wind helping with the speed. A sign to Gannabos Guest House tempted us and we popped in to have a look. A delightful, green oasis in the middle of a harsh and dry and brown land. We chatted to owner Nakkie van Wyk and a couple of recently arrived guests, all of whom found the ebikes interesting and appealing. Test rides were taken around the farmyard and a couple of converts were created. Nakkie was a great help in offering us advice on where to ride, saying "Come back if you need water" and "you must come and stay" as we pedalled off into the parched veld once more.
Back at the cars, much later, we hauled ice cold beers and wine from the Wild Coolers cool-box and chatted about the ride with Bruce and Sharon, friends from Kwa Zulu Natal who were on the search for flowers with us. From a riding point of view, the district road had little to brag about - it was easy, uneventful riding. The environment and plant life were an entirely different story and while they are not covered in lush green grass, these mountains and plains are lovely beyond any singing of it, to quote Alan Paton.
Dinner that night was at the Boesmanland Pub and Grill in Loeriesfontein, right next door to the Turner and Haupt SPAR. What it lacks in sophistication the pub more than makes up for in character, and quantity of food.
Check out the other ride we did while staying at Loeriesfontein.
Have a look at some more of our mountain biking and ebiking photographs.
Route Length: 35km out and back. You can keep going if you feel like it.
Route conditions: The district/farm roads are good quality gravel and the route, by and large, flat. Keep an eye open for the occasional 4X4 driving faster than is prudent (we had one pass us in a cloud of dust) and remember where you are, this place can get unbelievably hot. If you are going to be doing this at any time other than mid winter, ride early, ladle on the sunscreen, and take and drink plenty of water.
Gannabos Windmill Parking: S31° 13.608' E19° 13.495'
Rock Ridge Manor: S30° 57.580' E19° 26.489'
Boesmanland Pub and Grill: S30° 57.141' E19° 26.653'
Gannabos Guest House: S31° 14.556' E19° 19.154'