Mountain Biking along the Garden Route
If you’re looking for a getaway that is filled with the adventure of mountain biking, the Garden Route is the place to be. Eager to discover what the region had to offer, we packed our moun- tain bikes onto the back of our never-say-die Ford Ranger FX4 and set out to explore the best spots on the Garden Route to play.
Tsala Treetop Lodge
Nestled among the trees 10km from Plettenberg Bay and 22km from Knysna, Tsala Treetop Lodge is a magical place. Encapsulated by an age-old indigenous forest, these treehouse hideaways are knitted together by an extensive network of walkways which guide their way through the lush greenery and extend to views over rolling valleys and distant hills on the horizon.
Mornings had us spoilt for choice. We would start the day off with coffee on the dining deck, as we indulged in an exquisite selection of croissants, cheeses and fruits from the continental breakfast bar, before fuelling up for the day from the hot menu with a unique selec- tion of gourmet egg dishes.
Tsala proved to be one of the best locations to base ourselves for the first few days of riding, with a choice of trails in almost any direction. We were able to ride from the lodge and be on a mountain bike trail within minutes.
The Harkerville Red Route, now reopened after fires decimated much of this coastline and trail in 2017, is once again in splendid condition and takes riders through lush forest single track and along rocky paths that weave their way along coastal contours and provide spectacular views. Those lucky enough might spot some hump-back whales or even the infamous great white sharks from the safety of the high cliffs.
Not far from here is Cairnbrogie farm which boasts some wonderful coastal single-track and a great coffee stop. It is well worth incor- porating this into a longer ride or talking the family for a fun morning out.
Back at the lodge, after a long day on the saddle, we could think of nothing better than enjoying a few cold drinks as we retired to our private pool on the deck of our treehouse. We enjoying gazing at the winter sun, which gave way to some spectacular sunsets, before the evening chill coaxed us back inside towards the warmth of a cosy fireplace to get ready for dinner.
The twists and turns of Tsala’s boardwalk lead you to Zinzi restaurant for dinner where you can pick and choose what you want to refuel for the next day's adventures.
If the architecture and internal design do not blow you away, the vibrancy of both local and international flavours certainly will.
For a change of scenery and some different riding experiences, we moved further along the Garden Route to be greeted by the old-world charm of Kurland Hotel.
With lounges, libraries, studies, dining rooms and an honesty bar, you might be forgiven for think- ing you have walked into a game of Cluedo. However, this family-orientated establishment provides far more entertainment than the murder mystery board game.
We were excited to see a chain of mountain bikes upon arrival, an activity Kurland encourages from the doorstep of its hotel, and a good indication that we might find some more epic riding trails.
We weren’t disappointed as we spent hours navigating our way through the forestry areas run by MTO Forestry. A favourite was a ride that takes you up to the mast, traversing steep and rocky terrain until you reach exquisite views which extend back towards Plettenberg Bay.
After covering many kilometres on our mountain bikes, we were grateful to have the opportunity to exchange our steeds for the four-wheeled motorised version (or quad bikes) to further explore the 700-hectare private estate.
While our visit did not coincide with the polo season (December to April), as we ventured beyond the homely feel of the verandah and pool area, it was clear that perhaps another sport could capture our imagination, when the stables are full and the horses are eager to gallop.