The Karkloof valley, situated in the heart of the Kwa-Zulu Natal Midlands, a place known for its relaxed atmosphere, breathtaking scenery and some of the best farm-style eateries in the country. The term “meandering” is one used to describe the activity of lazily snaking your way through the back roads of the midlands, stopping at the odd quaint coffee shop or, oh-so-South African, leather goods stores to outfit yourself with a new pair of vellies. Some of the best restaurants in the surrounding area are; Blueberry Café, Farmers Daughter, Terbodore (yes that is the place with the Great Danes and great coffee).
Trail Destination: The Karkloof
Howick, South Africa
Settled in the heart of the midlands and juxtaposed to the laid-back lifestyle of the residents and visitors, are the beautifully crafted Karkloof mountain bike trails, down which riders shred wearing smiles from ear to ear. The Karkloof is home to over 200km of beautifully manicured single track. In the past, there have been options for an easy 10km, easy 20km, a medium to hard Supa-20 and a medium to hard 30km route. These trails are not the only trails in the area and local riders will be able to point you in the direction of some mind-blowing hidden trail gems, yet to be linked to the regular network or fallen off an old network. It is hard to describe the feeling one gets, bombing down this system of well thought-out, expertly crafted trails. Names of trails you should ask for by name if you ever plan on a visit this mountain biking mecca: “The Bachelor”, “Boomslang”, “Subway”, “Bat Outa Hell”, “Rene’s Rumble” and “Jewitt’s Jive”.
Special mention must be made of one of the newest trails, painted into the Karkloof landscape with the skill of a master artist, a trail named “Richters Realm”. It starts up near the airfield and takes you down the valley in the direction of the club. The bermed descent throws you through the corners, leaving you feeling a lot like Greg Minnaar, letting it all hang out there!
Not included in the regular trail network, and not as carefully marked, are the outback trails. To get out to the top of one section involves a long 6km climb, but once at the top, the sweat (and possible tears as you realize you aren’t quite as fit as you thought) gives way to awe and excitement as you see the sweeping views on the Karkloof valley and the way back down snaking below you. The decent starts with a famous piece of single track, created a few years ago (and updated recently), named aptly: “Bat Outta Hell”. Check it out:
With the renowned Sappi Karkloof Classic Trail Festival coming up, news is we can expect an exciting change to the trail network. In conversation with club chairman, Nick Stubbs, has hinted at a big change in the way the club operates the trails. By the sounds of it, the club will be doing away with some of the “traditional” trails and switching over to a more dynamic trail network system. The intended result is that the club will be able to easily and regularly change the trail network to include new pieces of trail and change up the route options for riders who visit regularly. Additionally, the marking of the trails is going to be improved for those not so familiar with the trails. Nick has also hinted at some exciting new projects that will be implemented in months to come - stay tuned!
Credit for the building of much of the Karkloof trails must go to the legend Hylton Turvey. Hylton has made a name for himself across South Africa as one of the premiere trail builders and we are lucky enough to have him living on the trails of Karkloof (he has built a trail that literally runs to his door). Get to know him more:
Mention of another personality at the club must be made and that is Steve from Steve’s Bistro. Steve is the local chef and runs the restaurant and bar at the Karkloof club that provides riders with after ride treats. You can grab anything from a scrumptious egg and bacon roll, to a full Dagwood burger with twice fried potato chips (these are the best I’ve ever tasted). Steve would kill me if I didn’t mention his homemade ice-creams, these are the biggest treat after a few hours out on the bike.
Some of our favorite times on a bike have been in this valley. More often than not, lead by local experts - Sammy and Laurence Hancock. Something about this area has always been special to me and I am now lucky enough to live right on the doorstep of these beautiful trails with my wife, Georgie and our two trail honds! We're out exploring 3 to 4 times a week.
A day pass is R50 and the yearly membership is R640 or R430 for the remainder of 2019 from 1 July. Please make sure to pay your fee at the club, it all goes straight back into the development and maintenance of the area.
For the trails runners out there, there are 5, 10 and 20km clearly marked trails for you to enjoy too.
If you need any more info on the trails, how to get here or where to stay when you come, feel free to comment or send me a watsapp/email (contact details are on the website).
Otherwise, see you out there, and remember: say “Howsit”!
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