A few years ago, friends Bruce, Angus, Ian and I headed into the Roggeveld on our motorbikes in search of new back roads to explore. Angus seemed to know what he was doing and just when we got to the point of spending more time standing up than sitting down we rolled into the tiny settlement of Middelpos in the Northern Cape. It was 4 very dusty, weary riders that trooped into the pub and demanded ice cold beers, a demand answered by a smiling Koos, the owner of the Middelpos Hotel. What a lovely place – everything you would imagine an out-of-the-way, backwater hotel would be. A year or so later I went back there with Pat and she was equally smitten so, when we were looking for an overnight stop en route to the Namaqualand flowers, Middelpos was a natural choice… And Bruce and Angus (from the motorbiking trip) and their wives Sharon and Cindy, would be joining us.
Middelpos had its beginnings as a trading store established in 1860 by one Daniel Tomlinson, on a portion of the farm Stinkkuil. It became a successful business, servicing the needs of the community as far afield as the Tankwa Karoo, Sutherland, Calvinia and Williston. The store still exists today and remains, along with the Middelpos Hotel, the epicentre of the tiny town. The hotel is the only accommodation there, although there are ‘farm stays’ available in the surrounding area.
This remote little village is located in the Hantam Roggeveld area in the south western corner of the Great Karoo. The arid vastness of this region seemingly stretches beyond the horizon in every direction, the spectacular Gannaga and Ouberg Passes bisecting the Roggeveld Mountains and offering spectacular views over the Tankwa Karoo National Park.
It’s lovely ebiking territory this. The rather deserted gravel roads go on for miles and miles and there are a number to choose from. We decided that coffee at Gannaga Lodge, some 30km away at the top of the Gannaga Pass, was in order so, after a scrumptious breakfast, we saddled up and headed out on the ebikes. We hacked into a cold southerly wind, grateful for the added power of the crank motor. There was no rush, no schedule to make, so we stopped often taking in the vistas, flowers and a rather odd monument on the side of the road. ‘Aan God’ was all it said… We pondered this a while. What was the monument about? Who built it and why…?
The corrugations that we experienced as we left Middelpos had, thank heavens, all but vanished and the going was sooth save for the odd puddle, a remnant of the previous night’s rain. The riding was delightful, the occasional pale chanting goshawk staring balefully at us as we cruised past. This, at 60km there and back, would be Sharon’s longest ride to date and she seemed to be having much fun on her hard tail Trek and Pat too seemed at one with her Haibike.
Gannaga Lodge is perched on tope of a mountain at the top of the similarly named pass that takes you down into the Tankwa National Park. This would make for a beaut ride on the ebikes, but not today. Farming in this region goes way back – all the way to the end of the 18th century it seems and the lodge is situated on one of the original farms, some of the rooms converted stables built in the 1930s. Our mission though was roostekoek en moerkoffie and we laid into it because the journey back to Middelpos and supper was long and arduous, and we needed to keep our strength up. Also, it was delicious! The same friendly cat I remembered from the motorbike trip joined us and purred and snoozed on my lap as we munched our way through the fare.
Dinner was as expected. Plaaskos really… And ample quantities, washed down with one of the wines we had brought along. Sleep came quickly that night.
This was the only ride we did while staying at middlepos but there are a bunch more to do. Ask Hannes, Koos or Helena at the hotel – they’ll point you in the right direction!
There’s another ride to be done: Time constraints prevented us riding it but we drove it as we left Middelpos en route to Calvinia and Loeriesfontein. Check it out here.
See more of our mountain biking photographs.
Route length: 60km
Route Conditions: These public roads are good gravel – just made for long fast riding. Sometimes there are sections of corrugations but you can escape the worst parts by choosing your track. It can get incredibly hot in this area so ride earlier rather than later.
Middelpos Hotel: S31° 54.347′ E20° 13.837′
Gannaga Lodge: S32° 06.625′ E20° 07.310′