A guide to mountain biking in the Green Kalahari

Posted by Jacques Marais on 6 June 2012

While desert cranks go hand in hand with seriously sandy tracks, a ride in the Green Kalahari promises to be easier than you think. Gravel roads, quad-bike tracks and footpaths generally run along rocky terrain, offering enough traction to keep wheels rolling without killing your calves. Here are a handful of trails in the region to try.

Green Kalahari rides

Khamkirri River Camp, about 23 kilometres from Kakamas along the Namibia-Riemvasmaak dirt road, epitomises everything that is mind-blowing about the Northern Cape. Nestled along the meandering course of the Gariep River (or the Orange, if you will), this adventure destination is one of those places you always find difficult to leave.

The extensive property isn’t primarily a mountain-biking destination, but the location makes it perfect for all levels of riders keen to test their two-wheel skills. If you’re after a little fun, seven kilometres of gravel roads and quad-bike tracks crisscrossing the rugged koppies along the river bank offer an amusing diversion for an hour or two.

However, if you’re keen to trip into Bear Grylls territory, saddle up and head northwest towards Riemvasmaak. This vast expanse of land, returned to the original Riemvasmaker settlers as part of a land claim by the government during the 1990s, encompasses the contorted ranges surrounding the course of the Molopo River.

A gritty, and sometimes sandy, 40-kilometre pedal takes you to the hot springs, where a welcome dip will restore your spirits. From here, head into the Riemvasmaak Community Development Trust territory to take on gruelling 4×4 routes or circle back to the camp via Augrabies Falls National Park. All in all, you’re looking at more than 100 kilometres on your bike, so be prepared with enough food, water and puncture-proofed inner tubes.

Another mountain-biking option in the region is at Vergelegen Guesthouse, just a few kilometres from Kakamas en route to Khamkirri. The owners are keen mountain bikers and have created a flowing cross-country course through the surrounding koppies. You’ll need to call the guesthouse to book this ride. Although it’s relatively short at about five kilometres, the plan is to add to the route to make it one of the Quiver Tree Tourism Route’s premier pedalling destinations.

Off the bike in the Green Kalahari

Khamkirri River Camp offers a range of other adventure activities, including rafting, horse riding and trail running. A paddle along the nine kilometres of river upstream from the camp includes a few interesting rapids, including the well-known Gawie Se Gat. If you have a full day, a trip along the river through the contorted rock formations of Neus Gorge is an indescribably beautiful float.

Getting to the Green Kalahari

Follow the N14 from Kakamas towards Upington; once you’ve crossed the Gariep River, turn immediately left onto the Namibia-Riemvasmaak road and follow the Khamkirri signs first right and then left. After 23 kilometres, you’ll see the entrance on your left.

Need to know about the Green Kalahari

It’s necessary to book all activities and accommodation before you drive through to Khamkirri – phone them to confirm your time of arrival.

Gear needed for the Green Kalahari

Water is a must when you’re out in the desert. When you’re on the bike, a lightweight hydration system such as the Black Diamond Flash (R559, www.rammountain.co.za) will keep you going. If you go on foot into the hills, pack one of the new, indestructible Kleen Kanteen drinking canteens (R160, www.capeunionmart.co.za). Made out of stainless steel, this container will keep your water clean, as it doesn’t absorb any impurities.

Green Kalahari route facts

Easy to extreme

45 minutes to eight hours

Khamkirri tracks (7 km) and Riemvasmaak return (120 km)

Start point:
Khamkirri River Camp

Gravel roads, quad-bike tracks and footpaths

Entry requirements:
The Riemvasmaak route is along public roads and can be ridden without previous arrangement. Call the camp to book to ride the Khamkirri tracks (you’ll be required to pay a day visitors’ fee).

Cell reception:
Reasonable coverage around Khamkirri.

GPS Co-ordinates:
S28º 33’ 45”, E20º 23’ 27”

Cell 082-790-1309, www.khamkirri.co.za.

For detailed information on mountain-biking trails across South Africa, go to www.mtbroutes.co.za.


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