Respect: Knysna to Port Elizabeth (via Prince Alfred and Baviaanskloof)

Most of the time we meet South Africans on the road, they aren’t shy to state that we must be extremely adventurous, or simply crazy. In many situations, it also starts a conversation that can uncover a place to go next, an offer of nightly accommodation, lunch, dinner, and camaraderie. Then again, sometimes we only get the word ‘respect’ accompanied by a fist to chest motion.

The most common icebreaker usually starts with an extremely friendly South African asking, with excited curiosity, “Wheh ya off to?” We usually reply that we are cycling across South Africa via gravel and dirt roads and with wavering decisiveness hint at the next major destination. After the initial response of “sho sho” (which Gin takes as the equivalent of a good ole Southern “Lordy Jesus!”) the typical response goes something like “Oh, you should definitely go through the [whatever pass or old dirt road]! Do you have a map?! Let me show you…” Countless people have offered suggestions, which has lead to a web of highlighter lines on our map, sometimes on areas that aren’t even printed in the faintest of dotted ink.

Although this usually leads to some very beautiful places, it commonly causes confusion. There is not a single perfect route through South Africa. In fact, there are many incredible routes that have to be picked and chosen, a lot of times having to dismiss another that sounds great as a result. There are also a lot of differing perspectives. We have found it best to ask the opinions of as many people as possible, do a bit of research on our own, and, then, try to find the middle ground.

The best example of our route conundrums was when we were forced to choose a path toward the coast. We discussed all of the opinions we were given along the way, describing each by the person’s name or description of where we met them and what they looked like, adding hints of credibility in the process. In this particular instance it went something like this: “Nicholas said we should take the ‘old pass’ through here…”, moving a finger across lines on the map, “…and he is a mountain biker. And the scraggly Keith Richards lookalike, motorcycle guy told us to take the ‘old pass’ as well; but the photographer lady from Kenya said we should take the Prince Alfred Pass into Knysna, through the forest. She said that was amazing… and so did the motorcycling couple in Franschhoek.” We made our decision to take the ‘old pass’ (photos in the last post), but then, after we realized that the coast was pretty much a holiday-maker madhouse, we decided to retreat via the other route and zig back up the Prince Alfred Pass and into the charm and beauty of the Klein Karoo. So, to Virginia’s delight, we crossed what seemed like pretty much all of the mountain passes in the area, with the reward being even more encounters with wonderful people.

One of several great acts of kindness we’ve received was near the gated entrance to the section of Baviaanskloof where there is a game reserve. We had intended on entering the reserve the next morning, but we went a little too far on the rough sandy track and had to turn around to find a camping area. Clive and Jeneane were pulling out of the dirt road to their ‘bush camp’ and he rolled down his window and exclaimed, “NO WAYS!! You guys just rode that??!!” (Did I mention that it was 41 or 42 degrees C at this point?) “Come to our house for tea, right up the road here…” Our meeting led to being invited to stay in their family farm guest cottage, and later to their bush camp for a braai and our first “kloofing” experience (rock scrambling mixed with, wading, a little swimming in the amazing and, thankfully, shaded crevace that is formed between 2 towering mountain walls).

Are the kindness and generosity we’ve consistently received unusual? Would just any tourist or foreign stranger experience this degree of hospitality? I can’t say, but I am inclined to think that our chosen mode of transportation has played a part in the benefits we have received. Traveling via bicycle leads you to places where foreign tourists aren’t typically seen. It leads you to genuinely kind people who have a little respect for someone working hard to see their country. And, luckily, those same people often take pity on a couple of weary cyclists who look like they might drop dead from heatstroke.

Bike Touring South Africa - Watching the bikes
Keeping an eye on me, keeping an eye on the bikes at a Checkers grocery store; Gin always gets to do all of the shopping.
Bike Touring South Africa - Surly Troll - Guard Dog
This little girl is insane. We were invited to stay in the guest room of the head of forestry in the Buffelsnek forest and this rat terrier is his pride and joy. We got exhausted watching her leap into a pond, chase frogs, dig holes, chase horses, etc. She also saw us out the next morning and proceeded to run about a kilometer, then darted up a mountainside and disappeared. We’re convinced that we’ll be on a ferry in Lake Malawi and she’ll come swimming by.
Bike Touring South Africa - Motorcycles
We often pass off-road motorcyclists on some of the routes. Donned in their full leathers and chest protectors, we jokingly and sarcastically refer to them as sissies (but secretly we are slightly envious).
Bike Touring South Africa - Dirt Roads
On one side, the somewhat controversial forestry plantation and the other side the ‘felt’ of the Karoo.
Bike Touring South Africa - Surly Troll - Guard Dog
Gin pausing for a pose.
Bike Touring South Africa - Surly Troll

The first descent of the day.
Bike Touring South Africa - Prince Alfred Pass
A long descent to the De Vlugt before starting the big ascent over the Prince Alfred Pass.
Bike Touring South Africa - Prince Alfred Pass
Hot Beer, Lousy Food, Bad Service.
Bike Touring South Africa - Prince Alfred Pass
This kind lady ran a wonderful tea garden in De Vlugt where we recharged before the big climb.
Bike Touring South Africa - Prince Alfred Pass
The beginning of the pass was a beautiful poort with several nice waterfalls.
Bike Touring South Africa - Prince Alfred Pass
Looking back on a long climb… only 1/4 of the way up.
Bike Touring South Africa - Baviaanskloof
Beginning our venture into Baviaanskloof, an extremely remote gorge that goes through some amazing farmlands and wilderness, then culminates with 60 KM of extremely rugged passes in the spectacular Baviaans mountains. This odd little restaurant/garden had very interesting decor.
Bike Touring South Africa - Baviaanskloof
Off to make camp, before noon. It got to 42C later that day. That’s ridiculously hot in fahrenheit.
Bike Touring South Africa - Baviaanskloof Bike Touring South Africa - Baviaanskloof
Bo-kloof. Coming down from our campsite to have a dinner of venison pie at the farm.
Weaver nest
A weaver captured feeding her young. We learner that the weaver male build the nest and if the female doesn’t like it, she tears it apart and the male has to start anew.
Bike Touring South Africa - Baviaanskloof
A farm worker’s stead in the kloof.
Bike Touring South Africa - Baviaanskloof
Weaving in and out of majestic cliffs that send the river in and over the road over 80 times throughout the 200 KM route.
Bike Touring South Africa - Baviaanskloof
Bike Touring South Africa - Baviaanskloof - Monkey
A vervet monkey peers down directly over me on the road.
Bike Touring South Africa - Baviaanskloof - Surly ECR
Two odd vehicles.
Bike Touring South Africa - Baviaanskloof
Cape buffalo are quite dangerous.
Bike Touring South Africa - Baviaanskloof
Heading to the bush camp.
Bike Touring South Africa - Baviaanskloof - Bush Camp
Clive and Jeanine’s off-the-grid bush camp.
Off to the Kloof on their property. This canyon goes way up through amazing cliffs and pools to a waterfall.

Our first Kloofing experience.
Rooster bread
Rooster bread (my spelling is probably way off) is really good braai bread.
Bike Touring South Africa - Baviaanskloof - Bush Camp
Twiggy watching for eagles.
Bike Touring South Africa - Baviaanskloof
Family photo the next morning before we ventured into the reserve.
Bike Touring South Africa - Baviaanskloof - Surly ECR
Ultimately we learned that they no longer allow bikes through the 60 KM gated preserve portion of the route (unless you have a support vehicle). A man was gored here a couple of years ago by a Cape Buffalo. The route happens to harbor some of the most ruggedly beautiful and hair-raising dirt track I have ever seen. We waited at the gate for several hours trying to talk a few drivers into going slowly as a support vehicle, but I don’t think anyone wanted the liability. We ended up having to catch a ride in a pickup from a ranger. I was pretty sad about this.
Bike Touring South Africa - Dirt Roads
The next day brought the first significant rain of our trip and Gin had a nice mud spray.
Bike Touring South Africa - Dirt Roads
Cresting a climb with the faint view of the Baviaans behind us.
Jeffries Bay
AN odd set of windows in Jeffries Bay had these buck graphics centered on each pane.
Bike Touring South Africa - Bridge
Seeing the N2 from a side road enroute to Port Elizabeth.
Port Elizabeth, South Africa

For more information on this route, including GPS and logistics, click here. Also, check out our growing list of bikepacking and dirt road touring routes.



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