EXPLORE THE UNTOUCHED BEAUTY OF THE CAPE.
Brought to you by Cape Cycle Routes, The Karoo Crossing takes you on a 358km journey that starts – or ends – in the iconic coastal town of Knysna, located on the edge of a vast estuary, which flows into the Indian Ocean.
The Karoo Crossing has its own unique charm, and every road sign that leads you to a town, whether it be by gravel or tarred road, will fill you with a deep sense of wanderlust. Journey through the Central and Klein Karoo, passing through historic towns boasting beautiful Victorian, Cape Dutch and Georgian architecture, and along winding mountain passes boasting fascinating legends. Appreciate the heritage of the Karoo told through historic rock art and engravings dating back thousands of years.
As the sun sets over the vast, open landscape, making way for the starry night sky, you will discover the Karoo is equally as beautiful at night as during the day. Exhale as you take in this magical place and meet some of the most welcoming locals.
THE GARDEN ROUTE
KNYSNA TO DE VLUGT: The ride begins in Knysna with a cycle via the challenging Simola and Gouna climbs, before settling into a peaceful rhythm of ups-and-downs through the lush indigenous sub-tropical Knysna forest – just beware of elephants. No, really, keep your eyes peeled, you might just be lucky enough to see one. Leaving Kom se Pad, the road opens up and the tree canopy makes way for African skies… and more climbing as you scale the first portion of Prince Alfred’s Pass – a Thomas Bain masterpiece – before a helter-skelter descent to De Vlugt.
DE VLUGT TO BUFFELSDRIF ROAD: Get ready for a 13km climb to open up the lungs, as you are taken through the start of your Karoo experience. Roads, fields and the Kamanassie mountains loom over you as you get closer to Uniondale and your last taste of ‘civilisation’ for a while. Make your way into the surprising beauty of the Kamanassie road, with its mixture of fertile farmlands and brutal veld. Kamanassie is an ancient Khoi-San word meaning “mountain of water”.
THE KLEIN KAROO
BUFFELSDRIF ROAD TO DE RUST: Be sure to leave early to avoid the inevitable heat that will hit as you leave the lush roads along the river for some big-sky country and the semi-desolation of the Central Karoo. Next, you will pass through the outskirts of Dysseldorp and into De Rust, via a picturesque farm road along the Olifants River.
THE CAPE KAROO
DE RUST TO PRINCE ALBERT: Meiringspoort is a bucket-list cycling road. It is tarred, and fairly busy, so keep left and single file, as it curves its way through 25 crossings of the Groot River. Stop halfway and take a short hike to the 60m-high waterfall, complete with swimmable rock pools ideal to cool off in summer. While the idea of mermaids in the Karoo may sound completely bizarre, it is firmly believed by locals that the legend of the Karoo Mermaid is true. A left turn at the top of the poort takes you onto the only gravel of the day, journeying into Prince Albert.
PRINCE ALBERT TO MATJIESRIVIER: Situated at the foot of the Swartberg Mountain range you will make your way into Prince Albert. Cycle through beautifully preserved Cape Dutch, Karoo and Victorian buildings – thirteen of which are listed as National Monuments. Stop at one of the many restaurants and taste the Karoo lamb. The region is also emerging as a quality wine-producing area. Pack some food and lots of water as you journey 22km from Prince Albert to the summit of the Swartberg Pass. But after the 1 000m climb, you will have conquered one of the legendary South African ascents. Matjiesrivier lies just on the other side of the pass.
THE SWARTBERG MOUNTAINS
MATJIESRIVIER TO CALITZDORP: Descend carefully to Kobus se Gat, thereafter joining the ever-changing scenery of the Groenfontein road into the historic Calitzdorp, a town snuggled between the Outeniqua, Swartberg and Rooiberg mountains. Ideally situated as a hub from which to partake in all that the region has to offer, including the majestic mountain passes, Cango Caves and unique Karoo architecture.
MUST KNOW & TRAIL NOTES.
- Skill level. Riding on a mix of tarred and gravel roads. There are some challenging gravel climbs and descents.
- Climate: The Klein Karoo region is known for temperate weather with wet winters (June – August) and glorious, hot summers (Dec-Feb) The autumn and spring months are perfect for cycling – not too hot, not too cold. In winter, snow can be expected on mountain-tops and higher lying inland areas. August-October is also prime whale watching season on the coast.
- Lodging & Camping: There are a range of accommodation options in the region. See the map for suggestions or explore accommodation listings.
- Water & Food. Take lots of water, especially when cycling through the more remote sections of the route. Food and supplies can be found at various shops and restaurants along the route, but stock up for the longer sections.
- Gear. Take warm clothes for the evenings and sun protection for the day. A loose long sleeve cotton top is a good way to keep the sun off in summer. Temperatures drop abruptly at night and can be cold even during summer.
- Navigation. Take a good printed map showing the area in detail. There is not always mobile reception so you can’t rely on GPS navigation.
- Road Conditions. You will be riding primarily on roads with no bike lanes and car and truck traffic. You should be comfortable riding in some amount of traffic. Please ride responsibly and stay alert. Most of the route is gravel or unpaved, road conditions can vary throughout the year.
A stunning 358km route between Knysna and Calitzdorp, that passes though some of the most beautiful and historic parts of the Western Cape – from lush coastal forest and winding mountain passes to the vast semi-desert of the interior.
4 – 6 DAYS | ⇔ 358 km | + 7, 212m | ≡ Tar/ Gravel
Ride the heart of the Cape… The Cross Cape is an epic cycle route across the Western Cape, taking cyclists from the coastal Garden Route to the arid Klein Karoo, through the Overberg and on to the Cape Winelands.
+7 Days | ⇔ 739 km | + 10 268 m | ≡ Tar/ Gravel