Klaarstroom eBike and Mountain Bike Routes

A couple of rides that we’ve done stand out above others - those occasions when it all comes together - the bikes, the company, the route and the environment. And when you’re on those rides, you get the feeling that you could just keep going - keep pedalling forever - out into the wild places of South Africa where a sense of peace and adventure prevail. This happened twice recently and on both occasions it was while spending a few days in the tiny Western Cape hamlet of Klaarstroom.

Klaarstroom - not exactly a metropolis but what a setting! Meiringspoort in the background, just left of centre.

Klaarstroom lies some 60km north-east of Oudtshoorn at the northern entrance of Meiringspoort, that exquisite pass which follows the Meiring River through the formidable Swartberg Mountains. While the town was originally named Pietersburg it was changed many years ago to its present name of Klaarstroom, an Afrikaans word meaning “clear stream” -  probably in reference to the many springs and streams that flow down the Swartberg in this area. Farmers, en route to Mosselbay with their their bales of wool, used to stop here to wash the bales in the clear waters before completing the rest of their journey. Alas, the wool washing facilities are no longer, but the name has stuck and it's certainly worth spending a few days at the Klaarstroom Guest House to explore the wonderful scenery and riding in the area.

Heading out from Klaarstroom Guest House, a wonderful old Victorian house complete with a windpomp in the garden.

On a road trip to Mountain Zebra National Park and Middelburg (the Eastern Cape Middelburg) to do some photography and riding, we decided on a quick overnight stop at Klaarstroom to break the drive from the Overberg to Mountain Zebra - almost as an afterthought really. We’d previously stayed at De Rust on the south side of Meiringspoort (there is some fabulous riding there too) and had popped into Klaarstroom for a quick look. It looked interesting and we bookmarked it for sometime in the future, but little did we know…

First light on the Swartberg peaks and a road just made for exploring on bicycles.

Klaastroom Guest House, owned and managed by Jeremy and Sharon Witts-Hewinson, is one of those old Karoo homesteads - broekie lace verandahs, high ceilings and a windpomp in the back garden. The rooms are huge, comfortable and the fare very reasonably priced, the individual portions ... substantial.

We arrived in the early afternoon, dumped the kit in the rooms and set about readying the bikes for a pedal up into the foothills of the main Swartberg range. The ride would take us out on the N12 towards Prince Albert for about 6km before we reached a gravel road to the left that would loop around and bring us back out onto the N12 in Meiringspoort for 3km (the busy tarred sections at the start and end of the ride a small price to pay, but care is definitely needed.)

Off the N12 and onto some great gravel - what a pleasure!

Downhill for pretty much 10km, the Swartberg Mountains in the background.

Soon after leaving the tar the climbing began, in some places in earnest, taking us past picturesque farmhouses nestling in deep valleys, wonderful mountain scenery and clear blue skies, a layer of mist blanketing the mountain peaks above us. Sunbirds and their avian friends flitted about the flowering aloes while a quick nudge on the power setting mitigated the steep slopes. We reached a point where we looked down into the valleys, the towering Swartberg stretching into the distance in the east and a winding gravel road before us. The bikes seemed to get the bit between their teeth as it were and we took off, thoroughly enjoying what was pretty much 10km of downhill.

It was quite dark when we pedalled through the farm gate at the guest house, a warming fire burning in the grate and delicious smells emanating from the kitchen, where Jeremy and Sharon were cooking up a storm. They joined us for dinner and what a wonderful, gesellige evening we had - both of them marvellous raconteurs!

Post ride drinks, Karoo style - the chandelier an absolute winner!

The next morning we hit the road early so that we could reach Mountain Zebra National Park in time for an afternoon game drive, which we did. After a thoroughly pleasant time of photography there and then onwards to some great riding in the Middelburg area, it was time to head home. It was our intention to take a different route back, but as luck would have it circumstances would dictate another two nights in this intriguing town at the end of our sojourn in Middelburg.

Back in Klaarstroom, we decided to head out the next morning on the R407, the gravel road to Willowmore. Unlike the loop that we had ridden previously, this one would be an out and back ride - the nice thing about this sort of ride is that you can make the trip as long as you like…

Gentle climbing on the road to Willowmore - the climb goes on for a while - about 25km...

Climbing was once again the order of the day, although nothing like the previous ride. The slopes are pretty gentle and they continue for much of the 25km when we reached a point where we felt that tea was essential. We sat on the side of the road enjoying our sarmies and sipping scalding hot tea - no traffic at all save for 2 bakkies. Actually, it was the same person on both occasions, living on a nearby farm, who, as we were riding back to Klaarstroom, stopped and chatted for a minute or two. Only in the Karoo!

The gravel roads in the area are excellent with minimal traffic.

Tea on the side of the road - always a pleasure to stop a while to take in the views and surroundings.

The road heads east, tracking the Swartberg. A real district farm road with wonderful views of the mountains to the south. Not quite as splendid as the other loop we had ridden but still very worthwhile exploring. As I said we headed out for 25km but if you want more, just keep going. Nothing difficult or stressful - just good, Karoo gravel road riding!

Klaarstroom in the distance and the Swartberg Mountains. What a ride!

Route Distance:

Day 1 - 30km.

Day 2 - 51km although you can make this one as long as you wish.

Route conditions:

Day 1 - Quite busy paved (tar) roads at the start and end of this awesome ride, so take care and ride on the shoulder rather than on the tar. Once on gravel, conditions improve immeasurably. The road condition is excellent and although there are some steep climbs initially it’s nothing to get stressed about. Once the sun goes down in winter it can get really chilly in these parts,  so take a jacket along with you.

Day 2 - Easy riding on good gravel roads with long, fairly gentle climbing on the way out.

Klaarstroom Guest House.

GPS: S -33° 19.925' E 22° 32.216'

Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/aEUrzimWi4WwwhrAA

Download the GPS track for the 1st day’s ride here.

Download the GPS track fair the 2nd day’s ride here.