In the heart of Mpumalanga and at the foot of the escarpment near Nelspruit, Mankele is a mountain biker’s paradise. Trails weave along the Drakensberg foothills through indigenous and pine forests and rocky rivers, but you needn’t to be a racing snake to enjoy this area.
Mankele trails for beginners
The orange, pink and blue routes are perfect for beginners, although the faster you go the more technical they become. Orange and pink both include a tough climb before leading into the Snakes and Ladders Section. The blue route is fun to mess about on: bridges, berms, river crossings and table tops add up to great excitement.
Technical fun on the Mankele trails
The green route offers 20 kilometres of delight. The first climb feels like it will never end, but the single-track that follows is well worth the effort, with steep, fast sections and long, flat, twisty pieces. The district road climb calms the pace down a little. From here, there are two ways back to Mankele: the technical Bush Tunnel, which isn’t for the faint-hearted, or a longer but less technical option.
Expect to spend more time in the saddle than the average 20-kilometre route due to the big climb and the large dose of single-track.
Challenge yourself on the Mankele trails
Clichéd perhaps, but the locals refer to the red route as 30 kilometres of real mountain biking. The first section of single-track will prepare you for the unforgiving five-kilometre dirt climb, which leads straight into the plantation above the Sudwala Caves and its fast, flowing single-track.
Most of the hard work (read climbing) is over within the first 12 kilometres. Once you reach the top of Mount Carmel you can see Nelspruit, Rocky’s Drift and even the Malelane Gorge on a clear day. From the tower, it’s all downhill back to Mankele, 12 kilometres of pine forest singletrack, bush tunnels, rock gardens and boardwalks. The climbs and technical riding makes it tough and, as with the green route, it’s bound to take longer to ride than the average 30-kilometre trail. Take plenty of water.
Accommodation options on the Mankele trails
Camping, log cabins and permanent tents start from R70 a person a night.
Contact Mankele trails
GPS: S25° 23´ 19.45”, E30° 42´ 43.36
Words and photography by Tim Brink, editor of Ride magazine.