Skipping out of the office early on Friday, we quickly packed our bikes and jumped on the train to Stellenbosch. From there we would cycle a 70km route through the scenic Cape Winelands, taking on two mountain passes to reach our destination for the night – a rustic campsite on the banks of Theewaterskloof dam.
STELLENBOSCH to FRANSCHHOEK
After missing the earlier train and a few delays on the line, we only arrived in Stellenbosch in the late afternoon. A true cycling mecca, Stellenbosch is a great base to start an adventure from, with loads of bike shops and stores to pick up last minute supplies or gear. From Stellenbosch, the route to Franschhoek took us through the scenic Helshoogte Pass. As one of the oldest passes in the Cape, Helshoogte is loved by cyclists and tourists for its beautiful views of the surrounding Winelands.
Arriving in Franschhoek we made a beeline for our favourite watering hole – Tuk Tuk Microbrewery. Franschhoek is renowned for her food and wine but unfortunately we had limited time to explore her gastronomic delights. After a quick beer we picked up some treats at De Villiers Chocolate Cafe and pressed on to make our campsite before dark!
FRANSCHHOEK to THEEWATERSKLOOF
Leaving the town centre, we soon began the second, more challenging climb of our adventure – Franschhoek Pass. Also known as Lambrechts Road, this spectacular pass took us high above the Franschhoek Valley with sweeping views of the surrounding landscape. Near the summit we stopped at a roadside spring to drink fresh mountain water. From here we followed a series of exhilarating, flowing switch-backs all the way down to the Franschhoek River.
Crossing the old Jan Joubertsgat bridge, the route flattened out as it descended to Theewaterskloof Dam. With the sun beginning to set, a gentle breeze blew across the vast flood plain and I was taken by the serenity of this vital landscape. The largest dam in the Western Cape (responsible for 40% of Cape Town’s water storage) Theewaterskloof was hard hit in the recent drought. Seeing it back up to 60% capacity, was a welcome sight and also a stark reminder that we still need to conserve this precious resource.
Chasing the last few hour of daylight, we only made it to the campsite just after closing, but luckily the manager was still on duty to let us in. Located on a peninsula stretching into the Theewaterskloof Dam, surrounded by farmlands and majestic mountains, the rustic campsite at Theewater Sports Club is the perfect summer camping spot, providing ample opportunities for swimming, fishing and water sports.
We set up camp on a large grassy area near the water’s edge, under some trees. Soon we had a fire going and were huddled up drinking wine and eating chocolate under the stars. Even in summer the night temperatures can drop pretty low and with the wind picking up, only one brave soul managed to go for night dip in the dam! The rest of us would save our swimming for the next day…
- Scenic tarred roads & mountain passes with challenging climbs.
- Lots of opportunities for swimming – dam and rivers.
- Great camping site on the edge of the Theewaterskloof Dam.
- Must Stop Spots: Stellenbosch or Franschhoek (coffee/lunch)
- Best time to go: September – April if you enjoy warmer swimming weather. If you prefer your camping quieter, go during the week and avoid the December holiday season rush.
- Bookings & location: The campsite at Theewater Sports Club works on a first come first served basis. But there are 19 electric sites, which are the only ones that can be reserved. Book here.
- Taking the train: Catch the train to Stellenbosch or Klapmuts (alternative route). Choose your departure time carefully, as bikes aren’t allowed on the train during peak hours. Factor in potential delays on the line. To shorten the distance cycled and travel time drive or take a shuttle to Franscchoek and cycle from there (distance to campsite 35km).
- Bike shops: The closest bike shops are in Franschhoek or Stellenbosch
- Supplies and food: The last shops to stock up on drinks and food can be found in Franschhoek. For the glampers there is a Clubhouse at the campsite with bar and cafeteria serving snacks and home-made meals as well as basic necessities, including braai grids and firewood.
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