The Cederberg is one of my favourite, if not my favourite place in South Africa. It is one of those places that creates magical memories each time I visit it; its remoteness, its unique mountains and rock formations, its charm and of course its wine! I’ve cycled, run, hiked, swum and spent hours with friends next to a fire with lots of Cederberg wine! This is what made the Cederberg 100 Miler 2 day Trek so appealing to me! Think bikes, majestic scenery, camping, bonfires, wine and friends- both new and old! 100 miles through the Cederberg in 1 day? What on earth for if there is an opportunity to make 2 days of it!
It was a no brainer that I entered the 2017 edition of the Trek, despite the logistics and the fact that I didn’t know anyone at the time who would be riding. I just couldn’t miss out on this! Before I knew it, I arrived at my Friday night’s accommodation which was a cottage at Boskloof Swemgat just outside Clanwilliam. I fell in love with this place immediately and wished I had more time to enjoy its beauty. I floated in the swimming hole on a tube provided by them and watched the sun set behind the mountain with a glass of wine! Then it was off to register and enjoyed dinner provided by the event in the company of Pieter du Plessis (one of the race organisers) and some Cederberg wine!
Saturday morning dawned a perfect day for cycling, crisp and clear and no wind. The usual nervous banter was enjoyed in the bunch before we set off on this adventure! I had found out that one of my great friends Jackie, would be there supporting her boyfriend and she took all my bags etc and would meet us at Nuwerus. My car would be driven to the finish in Kaleo on the Sunday and so with all the logistics taken car of I excitedly set off from Clanwilliam!
The major challenge of the day would be Uitkyk Pass, which is about a 5km climb that seems to go on forever! It would haunt some people but the undulating terrain of the first 30km to Algeria and the 1st waterpoint would calm the nerves and get the heart beating! From Algeria there was a steady climb as we headed towards Uitkyk Pass and I had the company of a few guys as we chatted our way to the base of the pass. As we began winding our way up, the chatting subsided as we all put our heads down to find a good rhythm. I loved riding this pass… the rugged beauty of the Cederberg all around me and the views spectacular. It’s a steady climb, and although challenging it’s completely rideable and enjoyable, if you look around and appreciate its awesomeness!
Once we crested the climb, we were about halfway in and up on the plateau… but don’t be deceived it is by no means flat up there! The waterpoint at Driehoek was a very welcomed sight, they put in a lot of effort and I wish I could’ve stayed longer to eat and drink more! It’s after Driehoek towards Sanddrif that the real Cederberg terrain shows itself… long, sandy and corrugated roads that make you work for each and every kilometer! I was hoping to find a wine tasting stop as we passed Cederberg Wines, but alas, I had to keep pedaling on towards Nuwerust. The section between Sanddrif and Krom Rivier has in my mind some of the worst corrugations to contend with and so I was relieved to begin the smoother descent into Krom Rivier, where another great waterpoint awaited. I knew this section well, and was happy to have it behind me!
The home stretch to Nuwerust is a very beautiful one… but a challenging one! There are a few unexpected steep, sandy climbs which are not fun 70 odd km’s into a race in the Cederberg! It was therefore a relief to get to Oasis and their big “free beer” sign which enticed the riders! Not being a fan of beer, I opted to push on to the finish at Nuwerust where I could enjoy and ice cold Savanna and relax! I was not disappointed with the awesome race village at Nuwerust… the beautiful campsite under the trees, the bar area and swimming pool creating the perfect Cederberg experience! Jackie had unpacked our bags into our tents, but before I could even think of a shower I enjoyed a few drinks with fellow cyclists before jumping into the very cold pool! I don’t think I even napped that afternoon…. I was having such a great time with friends, new and old!
The evening was such a highlight for me as we watched the sunset over the flames of a massive bonfire, glass of wine in hand! We enjoyed a delicious meal with freshly made roosterkoek over lots of laughs before making our way back to the tents. What a first day it was and I went to sleep tired but oh so content!
We woke up to another beautiful Cederberg day and after a good breakfast we were almost on our way. I knew that the day started with a big climb over a pass before Mount Cedar. I don’t remember it’s name but I have ridden it before and I knew that on cold legs with Day 1’s kilometers in them it would be a tough one… and it was! Fortunately we were in the shadow of the mountain which kept things cool as I concentrated on ‘just keep pedaling’! It gets really steep near the top and many riders weaved across the road to try and take some of the sting off! The plunge down to Mount Cedar goes by in a blur, with a few tricky corners to watch out for. The first challenge of the day was behind… but it certainly wouldn’t be the last!
You know you’re in for some suffering when you ride past a sign that reads “Ribbokspoort 11.5km 580m ascent!” It was long but fortunately not so steep and I could find a comfortable rhythm. There were a few small places to recover which helped… and certainly kept the sense of humor in tact! It is also a spectacular pass, one I have driven many times and I looked around once again in awe of this incredible beauty!
We were once again up on a plateau and the kilometers that followed were hard. Just hard. I wished I had a 29er as my 27,5 wheels just couldn’t keep up with the group that had formed. Yes, I’m sticking with the wheel size story, it had nothing to do with my legs! 😉 Fortunately a guy Gerhard and I stuck together along the long flat sections that seemed to go on for eternity! I am not the best flat road rider and so I found this section a long hard slog and I was grateful when we eventually turned off in the direction of Kaleo! We still had some riding to do though and the final waterpoint was a life saver! There were a few moments of despair when I looked down at my watch which said 80km’s and Kaleo was still nowhere in sight! Eventually, 84km’s later we rode onto the lush green lawn and up to the finish line! I see this year Day 2 is listed as 84km’s so there will be no surprises! 🙂
I was extremely grateful and elated to cross that finish line… the Masgcor Cederberg 100miler had been an extremely special experience and I was sad it was over! We enjoyed lunch on the lawn as we watched the winners of the 1 day (crazy people) crossing the finish line! After greeting new friends made it was time to head home… tired and happy with my adventure cup full of amazing memories! This really is a special and unique event, one which I imagine will be extremely popular in the years to come! It was an unexpected bonus that I finished as the 3rd female rider after the 2 days. Thank you to everyone who makes this event as unique and special as it is and allows us to enjoy this area on bikes!
Do yourself a favor and enter the 2 day trek, you won’t be disappointed: http://www.cederberg100miler.co.za Will you see me there again? Absolutely!! I don’t ever want to miss this event; it is well organsised, the food is good, the route great and the atmosphere unbeatable! See you there!