Friday, April 2, 2010

Road of Seven Passes

I am fortunate to spend my long Easter Weekend with my family in the Garden Route. Eversince I bought my bike I've been wanting to stay here for a couple of days to ride some of the gravel roads. One week will not be enough. Today I did a round trip of 270 kilometres and it took me 5 hours. And all I did was one of the popular gravel roads between George and Knysna. There are plenty, and the one more beautiful than the other. I ended up at Knysna, which is probably one of the prettiest towns around here. You can spend a whole year in this area and not have enough time to see and do everything. No wonder this is one of the most popular holiday destinations in South Africa.

I left this morning at 8am. My plan was to go to George and then from there to take the old road that linked George and Knysna before the highway was built. This road is also known as the Road of Seven Passes. It really snakes through the foothills of the Outeniqua Mountains and goes up and down through the valleys. The first section from George to Wilderness is tarred, but still a beautiful road going through some indigenous forests. You really have to be careful in the turns; they are so sharp if you go a little bit too fast then you stand the chance of overshooting your turn. The only other traffic I met this morning where a couple of mountain bikers and another biker on a GS 650. I stopped at the first bridge to take some pictures. It is so sad to see how people vandalize beautiful spots like these. Why do people always have to write their names on walls saing that they were there? Anyway, it is still a beautiful spot with the old bridge that was built in 1904.

The second bridge goes over the Silver River. It was here that another biker passed me. At the end of this tarred section I realized that my tank was nearly empty. So I left the road and went down to Wilderness to fill up. I took another gravel road back and started the first gravel section of the road I was supposed to be on. I didn't really count all the passes, but having crossed two bridges at the bottom of the two valleys already I assumed that I had done two of the seven already. My next stop was The Big Tree. I have heard about all the big trees in this area, but never really took the time to go check them out. So today I thought I might as well go and see what the tree looks like. I turned off and about 600 meters down a smaller gravel road, I took the little footpath that led me to the Big Tree. I have to say I was a bit diappointed when I saw in. In the middle of the forest it wasn't really impressive, but I think in my backyard at home it might've impressed a couple of friends. I guess the fact that it was over 800 years old was more impressive than its size, it is a wonder that a tree could last that long in a country where people still chop down everything for firewood. It has a circumference of 12 meters. If I compare that with the trees in my garden then it is quite a big tree. I have to say that the walk in the forest was quite relaxing and impressed me much more than the tree.

Further down the road I passed passes lik ethe Homtini Pass, Hoogekraal Pass and eventually the Phantom Pass that took me down to Knysna. I am sure I did two others to make it sevenl, but their names weren't indicated like some of the others. The gravel road was quite in a good conditions, but the Phantom Pass tested my newly acquired gravel riding skills to the maximum. I have to admit that I was quite chuffed with myself after a morning's ride on gravel with enough turns to make a person go sea sick. On the Phantom Pass I was also very fortunate to see a Knysna Loerie, a very shy bird which is often heard but not often seen. I stopped to take a picture but it didn't allow me to take any pictures. 

Knysna is a beautiful town, but I didn't stay long. The idea was to ride, not sit around having tea. So after a chocolate milkshake I got on my bike again and came home on the N2. The N2 was a bit boring after the morning's ride via Karatara, so I went back and did the section from Wilderness back to George on the old road again. From George I took another gravel back road that took me all the way to Reebok. In my backside I could feel that I just did another 5 hour ride in two days, but it was worth it.

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