Community Connect and Kaap Tours have published the Great Karoo Escape gravel trip, which promises to take riders to experience some of the best, quiet gravel roads in South Africa. The event comprises three chapters, with each chapter broken up into stages that play out over 10 days. The participants will be exploring the geographical region of Karoo, its wildlife and beautiful landscapes with local guides.
This trip is not for the faint-hearted, as the 640km route entails ten days of riding on mostly gravel surfaces and over 10,000 metres of climbing. Starting in the Eastern Cape, the trip kicks off with ‘the Prologue’, a small loop taking on a single track, jeep tracks and some tar - and plenty of opportunities to spot wildlife in Camdeboo National Park.
2022 Great Karoo Escape riding, by Julian Robinet
But the first day is merely a taster of what is to come. The first chapter's Stage 1 wakes up the legs with a 42km climb straight off the bat, heading northeast up to the Erasmus kloof. The rewarding 26km descent will take the riders through a game farm and finally, the route finishes at the biggest private fossil collection in South Africa.
2022 Great Karoo Escape valley of desolation, by Julian Robinet
The following days follow the same script, with the riding taking in plenty of the local highlights, including the National Monument Valley of Desolation, and also promoting the local conservation efforts. The first rest day is five days into the trip and focuses on visiting Samara Game Lodge, where wildlife, including indigenous species that would have gone extinct without the reserve, can be seen in their natural environment. Samara is known for their conservation efforts and for rehabilitating a large area of the Karoo back into a fully functioning ecosystem.
2022 Great Karoo Escape wildlife 2, by Julian Robinet
After Samara, Chapter 2 of the trip takes riders up the infamous Swartberg Pass - an hors categorie gravel climb that charts a path out of the small hamlet of Prince Albert and into Calitzdorp. While it looks like a brutal day on paper - 99.9km and 2112m of climbing - the finish promises amazing views and stargazing opportunities at the foot of the Swartberg mountains.
Chapter 3 is arguably the most scenic of the event. After another well-deserved rest day on the seventh day, the group rides from Greyton to Franschhoek, before moving into the picturesque roads of the Mother City for the final two stages on days nine and ten. While these two stages take in mostly tarmac, they ensure all riders get a taste of the world-famous Chapman's Peak peninsula loop as well as sample the trails in and around Kirstenbosch and Table Mountain.
The organisers offer adjustable routes for each day so you can choose one that suits your abilities and desires. Dinner and other meals throughout the day are included, as is a bike wash and re-lube service at the end of each day.
The rides are led by local expert guides, and in essence, all you need to really do yourself is book the flights and show up. You can even rent a bike if you don’t want to bring your own.
You can get further details of the tour by contacting Kaap Tours on their website.
[All photos by Julian Robinet]
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