A group of 10 friends from Hout Bay in the Western Cape can’t get enough of the peace and openness of the |Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park. They decided to return to the park for a third time, but this time they opted for a mountain bike tour.
The |Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park is known for its dramatic landscape: massive granite boulders, rugged mountains and open plains. It’s not everyone who would think of cycling through this starkly beautiful terrain. But Toby Adams and his friends are regular cyclists on mountain biking trails in the Western Cape and they are crazy about the Richtersveld.
Their party was made up of eight men and two women between the ages of 54 and 68. Two members of the party drove the support vehicles that carried 140 litres of drinking water, enough food to sustain the hungry cyclists and all the luggage, Toby explains.
“Our adventure started at Sendelingsdrif while the fish eagles were calling. We made our way over Halfmens Pass and saw the halfmens plants with their stems facing north. Then over the rough and rugged Akkedis Pass and down the Kook River bed to De Hoop where we camped for the night on the bank of the Orange River. The water cooled our weary bodies and at sunset the bats started feeding while the Namibian mountains on the opposite bank changed colour.
“The next day we continued over the Maerpoort Pass with its amazing views across the valley and all the way down to Richtersberg where we set up camp next to the Orange River once again.
“Upwards and onwards we continued past Die Toon – an iconic rock that looks like a toe. At Kokerboomkloof we camped amongst the trees and bold rock formations and watched dassies scurrying around in search of food. The early morning and late afternoon light produced many shades of purple, pink, lilac and blues on the distant mountains.
“We continued cycling to the comfortable stone cottages at Gannakouriep, within hiking distance of the high mountains bordering the park. We spotted kudus and klipspringers along the way.
“A slow and long climb awaited the next day up Helskloof Pass – followed by a steep decent to the main gate of the park and back to Sendelingsdrif. We covered a total distance of 220km in only five days.”
Toby says they are all experienced mountain biking cyclists. “This is not for novices! The moderate temperatures of spring and autumn are the best times to visit.”
“Cycling the sandy gravel roads and rocky mountain passes that grind their way through this isolated ancient mountain desert, soaking in the beautiful vistas of open spaces and distant mountains, and basking in this peaceful environment. It was amazing to cycle through the park while really getting to know the complete route. It was especially interesting to watch the expressions on the faces of other campers as we cycled into camp for our overnight stay.”
How to get there
All visitors should report to reception at Sendelingsdrif – the main South African entrance to the park. The town of Springbok (a 300km drive) is the closest commercial centre. A 4×4 vehicle is a necessity as sedans are not permitted.
Most common route: Drive north from Springbok on the N7 and turn left at Steinkopf (49km) onto the R382 to Port Nolloth (94km). From Port Nolloth head north for 84km to Alexander Bay where the tarmac road ends. From Alexander Bay drive inland for 90km to the park’s gate. Sendelingsdrif is also the border post for entry to the Namibian side of the park. Visitors will have to make use of a pont (open daily from 08:00 to 16:15) to cross the Orange (Gariep) River that separates South Africa and Namibia.