Knysna on the Garden Route in the Western Cape in South Africa is a very popular mountain biking and holiday destination. The attractions abound: the Knysna lagoon and its associated boating, the exquisite Knysna Heads, delicious oysters, craft beer, hiking, birdwatching and yes, mountain biking. Everything from easy jeep tracks to scary, technical single tracks.
We visited Jubilee Creek Nature Reserve, part of the Garden Route National Park, with friends Howard and Debbie to try out some of their rides. While there are a couple of set routes, the maze of roads and tracks means that you can pretty much follow your nose – just don’t get lost. (A GPS with tracking features is recommended as well as the knowledge of how to use it).
We entered the nature reserve from the Seven Passes road near Rheenendal, paid our entrance fee and made our way to the Krisjan-Se-Nek Picnic Area where we set up the Haibikes.
It's worth having a look at the 880 year old Dalene Matthee Outeniqua Yellowwood Tree. Named after the renowned author of 13 books (Circles in the Forest and Fiela’s Child amongst others) it rises up some 40m, striving to maintain its head above the indigenous forest canopy.
The ride begins in earnest less than a kilometre down the road with a climb that will have you singing the praises of ebikes for weeks to come. As you crest the peak, the wonderful views and vistas over the mountains begin. The well maintained forestry roads, mildly rutted in places, some loose gravel in others, take you past the Millwood Goldfields Museum, Mother Holly’s Tea Garden (they were closed – pity a cup of tea and a scone would have been most welcome) and onwards past the old Bendigo Mine.
The road heads east past the mine, winding in and out of patches of cool, moist indigenous forest, climbing gently at this point. The views over the Outeniqua Mountains are just amazing and the riding easy, with the Knysna River deep in the valley to the south. This all changes some 8.5 km later as you begin the climb up towards Tait’s Kop Trail. The fynbos is particularly beautiful along this section – lush and wild, the deep pink and burgundy flowers set off against the dark khaki foliage. Some 210m of climbing over 5.5km takes you to about as high as it gets on this route and it’s pretty much downhill all the way home.
We’ll be back. There is much to explore and see. It’s quite deserted and beautiful.
Route distance: 32km
Route Conditions: Good, non technical riding. Some long steep climbs. This area is pretty remote so a good sense of direction, a GPS and the knowledge to use it, a mobile phone and a first aid kit are recommended. We suggest that you don’t ride alone. Be sure to take along adequate water and something to eat – energy bars, bananas etc.
Entrance to Jubilee Creek: S33° 55.726′ E22° 57.342′
Krisjan-Se-Nek Picnic Area: S33° 54.994′ E22° 57.485′
Alternate, shorter route. (We have ridden only part of the 19km (some say it’s actually 22km) Homtini Route and it’s lovely. A few hundred metres of easy single track, and a few steep climbs that will have you reaching for the power button.)