Wikipedia has not a vast amount to say about De Rust. This pretty much sums it up: "De Rust is a small village at the gateway to the Klein Karoo, South Africa." This doesn't do it justice at all! It seems that, in the 1850s the sheep farmers in the Great Karoo, to the north of the Swartberg Mountains, had problems getting their wool to the various export markets. Mossel Bay was the closest port but there was no known way through the mountains. It was one Petrus Johannes Meiring who, by following the Groot River, discovered the gorge through which it flowed and hence a route through the Swartberg. It became known as Meiringspoort and in 1858 a road was built, connecting the Great and Little Karoo.
For those trekking north, the area just to the south of the poort, close to a fresh water spring, became a popular place to outspan and rest the oxen before the push through the gorge. The place became known as De Rust (the rest). It's still a very popular place to take a rest from one's journey and grab a bite to eat at one of the town's restaurants. Or not!
It's also a wonderful place to do some ebiking. We had tackled a spectacular route to the Rust en Vrede Waterfall (part of the Gravel Grinder route) the previous day and, as we were heading home to attend a meeting, decided on a short, early ride on some of the farm roads to the south of De Rust. The route took us out of town past Ray's Coffee Shop (the place of wonderful hamburgers) and almost immediately into sheep country, with hundreds of them blocking the road ahead. We pulled to the side, and quietly waited for them to get used to us. It reminded us of those early accounts of Voortrekkers held in awe for days, as thousands of springbok migrated passed their wagons. Well, it wasn't days, but it was probably some 20 to 30 minutes, as the flock moved slowly down the road, the tiny new born lambs battling to keep up. There was much bleating as mothers called lost lambs and lost lambs looked for erring mothers.
We eventually managed to clear the woolly traffic jam, rode through a narrow little poort, and were soon into open farmlands with stunningly beautiful views to the north as well as of the Swartberg Mountains. A couple of low level river crossings later and we found ourselves heading for some red cave filled cliffs in the distance. These turned out to be Enon Conglomerate Rock Formations, not normally seen on the surface of the earth. In fact this is one of the few places in the world where you can see them. Wikipedia (again) has this to say: "The sedimentary rock of the Enon comprises several different types of coarse, clastic, poorly sorted pebble to cobble thickly-bedded conglomerate deposits. The clasts are usually pale or white quartzite, and the most common matrix is a gypsiferous (sometimes iron-oxide rich) sandy clay. At some places, clasts of various sizes are intermixed, with large amounts of sandy matrix; at others however, water-sorted clasts of similar size occur in layers, separated by infilled sandstone lenses". Well, yes, of course!
Whatever they are, they are interesting and, just before we crossed the Olifants River again and began the return part of the ride, there was a sort, very steep detour that enabled one to get a close look at this geological phenomenon. A good idea maybe to engage granny gear and nudge the power up to high to scale this rocky climb!
Back in De Rust at the Housemartin Guest Lodge we loaded the bikes onto the 4 X 4, stopped for a quick breakfast at the Red Donkey over the road, and headed home. But, wow, what a lovely little town. We'll be back for more riding in the area - there's so much we didn't get to ....
Route Distance: 20km round trip.
Route conditions: Good roads although they are a little narrow so keep an eye open for farmers in bakkies and others in 4 X 4s.
Housemartin Guest Lodge: S33° 29.328' E22° 32.201'