Vanwyksdorp is a quaint little town nestled amongst the koppies and foothills of the southern slopes of the Rooiberg Mountains in the Western Cape. To the south of the town is the Groot River, which is quite a feature of the area. The town was founded as a parish of the Dutch Reformed Church in 1904 and it’s tiny. If you didn’t know of its existence you’d never know to look for it. People comment about great riding spots all the time: “Hey, you’ve gotta ride Knysna”. “Have you ridden the Karkloof?”, “Have you tried the riding in Cape Town?” When last did you hear someone say, “You have to ride Vanwyksdorp?”
Well now you have! “You have to ride Vanyksdorp?”
We had first come across Vanwyksdorp a few months previously when friends, Dave and Joy, joined us on a ride from Calitzdorp to the top of Rooiberg Pass – a lovely, if a little daunting, 50km ride. While researching that route I’d come across this speck on my Tracks4Africa map – Vanwyksdorp – and considering the scarcity of roads in the area, wondered if it might be a good, out-of-the-way place for some dirt road riding.
A little while back we had occasion to travel from Ladismith to George on a route that took us right past the town so we stopped off, breakfasting at the Spekboom Restaurant. Owners Gerhardt and Doretta Oosthuizen patiently answered all manner of biking questions – roads, traffic, single track, sights etc, etc. They had a friend they said who was equally obsessed with mountain biking. They would get her to contact us.
So it was that Nicole Crisp called a little while later. Why not come and stay at Paddagaste and we’ll show you some rides? Well, why not indeed? Friends, Howard and Debbie, from Kwa-Zulu Natal joined us and a few magical days of riding ensued.
We arrived within minutes of each other on a Friday afternoon, Nicole suggesting that we meet up outside The Gallery (yes, Vanwyksdorp has a few art galleries!) at 3 o’clock and she and friend Ralph Tarr would take us on a short warm up ride.
The route took us around the back of the village, into the mountains. The place was deserted – just us ebikers on an undulating road with some hills that had us giving thanks that we were on ebikes, and then again some downhills that had us giggling in delight. After a few kilometres we turned off south along a rather bumpy track, stopping at a farm gate. “Who would like a sherry?” asked Ralph. It seemed churlish to refuse! 😇 We followed him through the gate and down a little farm road to Ralphies Tequila Shed where we promptly partook of the sweet beverage! Looking around it was obvious how the place got its name and, after reluctantly declining one of Mexico’s finest, we headed back to Vanwyksdorp and Paddagaste.
We slept rather well, after a delicious babotie and some good wine at the Spekboom Restaurant. The next morning Nicole and Ralph were once again waiting for us outside The Gallery. We headed south out of town on a route across the Groot River, towards the Langeberg Mountains in the distance. It was cold in the overcast weather that had moved in overnight but the riding was excellent and the views across the parched veld (the whole area is suffering from a huge drought) were just wonderful, wild flowers starting to appear. A flash of purple in a rocky outcrop on the side of the road caught my eye and it turned out to be, wait for it, a Gibbeaum dispar!
There is one more ride in the area worth mentioning. We didn’t have time to do it but it takes you from the village to the top of Rooiberg Pass (the same top of the Rooiberg we did from Calitzdorp). Nicole tells us that the road conditions are very much better than when riding from Calitzdorp and the beautiful views alone make it worthwhile doing. It’s on the cards for our next visit to Vanwyksdorp and we’ll write it up as a separate ride when we’ve done it. Make sure you subscribe to keep up-to-date with our updates.
Check out our mountain biking photographs.
Route length: 16km
Route Conditions: The public roads are good gravel – just made for long fast riding but the off-road sections and farm tracks can get a little gnarly. Nothing too crazy but just needing a little care. This area can get hectically hot in summer so, water, arm protectors and sunscreen are the order of the day. And ride earlier rather than later.
Vanwyksdorp: S33° 44.982′ E21° 27.590′
Vanwyksdorp to Rooiberg Pass (We have not ridden this – watch this space).