Klein Karoo, coastal, wet rivers, dry rivers, passes and views views views. Steven shares a gem of a bikepacking loop through the Garden Route and Klein Karoo.

4 DAYS | ⇔ 273 km | + 3018m | ≡ Tar/ Gravel

Words and photographs by Steven Burnett

A mix of terrain, views and vegetation this route makes a superb 3 to 5 day round trip through the Garden Route and Klein Karoo. The proverbial 1 day FKT is of course there for sillynillys too. We took on the 4 day option which works well with a weekend and even tested the shortcut option on our final day to cover all bases.

The route skirts two sides of a major mountain range, goes down rivers and along the coast – it has a little bit of everything. Most notably we started under the imposing Sleeping Beauty mountain that looks down onto Riversdale, and is the name given to a lot of places and activities in the area. Research very quickly got me to the good fairies from this classic tale – they are Flora, Fauna and Merryweather – seems like a very fitting description of what you’ll see along the way, although the last is more of a desire than a guarantee!


For most people Riversdale is a place you only drive past (or fill your car and/or stomach up at without even straying from the N2). It’s actually an incredible base to explore the area and we started just a little bit up the road from there, at the great gem that is the Korentepoort Dam Cottages. This is a no frills location with facilities that only tick the basic boxes of what’s required, but the Location! Location! Location! needle is maxed out. We met here on a Wednesday evening with both our ambitions and readymade lasagne to heat up to the right point.

Packed and cars locked we headed for the opening downhills of the 15km bumpy arterial road that gets you into the biggest dorpie of the trip (Riversdale) with a smile. For last minute repairs or spares, there is a bike shop (Riversdale Cycles) in town. Pick n Pay sorted out our picnic lunch and we headed on to scouting out the “looks like it will work” route through the racy part of town that will add some spice to your riding and crucially avoids the busy N2. A quick turn through the airstrip got us to coffee stop #1 at Bali Trading. Today was not going to be too taxing, but it was just too early in the trip and the day to wait it out for the wine tasting at Baleia Wines to open at 10am. The direct way here is straight through town and over the N2 onto the Vermaaklikheid Road, otherwise it’s east on the N2 from Baleia and through the Zoetmelks turnoff to rejoin the route.

While we never strayed far from the far too busy N2 and the equally bike unfriendly R305 the route took us far from any sort of traffic along and across the Goukou River Valley towards the ocean. The only vehicles we saw were moving livestock or gravel and the drivers flashed smiles to see us on their back roads. The Goukou low level bridge gave us a great lunch stop before we tackled the final windy gravel road that stretches to Stilbaai itself.

The western bank of this river is a not so secret hotspot of incredible getaway stops. Actually the hardest part of the planning was co-ordinating this as the 2 day minimum stay rule counts out a lot of the gems. As we had already set dates in the calendar I actually reversed our route to an anti-clockwise option to fit this section into a Thursday. This was to avoid the weekend traffic – both for beds and for the quieter roads.

Our evening stop at Waterryk Guest Farm gave a few options for dinner. With the “carry our own” left behind at Riversdale, we had either a 14km round trip ride to Stilbaai itself for a restaurant/shop or try our luck at the Wild Olive organic farmstall 3km before our finish. We turned down this farm path to see what was available and came back with a plan. 2 free range frozen chickens were pulled out from the freezer with enough organic veggies to make it gourmet. The lemon cordial was immediately trialed (and went down a treat with hipflask whiskey and ice once we were settled down at our pooldeck). I would totally prearrange some goods here the next time we do this, it’s a bit awkward lusting at a kilo of gorgeous frozen berries when you have to saddlebag it to the next stop!

Waterrryk Guest Farm was an awesome stop. It is totally tricked out with every luxury you want and more, with a relatively short day there was both some afternoon naps in one sleeping unit and live Spanish roadracing in the other. I even took one of the canoes for a spin downriver which is quite a treat on a bike trip. Needless to say our portugeuse connection totally kicked the chicken braai out the park.


We got this one slightly off to the wrong start. Eschewing a real breakfast and waving the tasty but late rising frying pans of Stilbaai a wave we got going on the road for the only spot available on the Eastern side of the river. Putting too much faith in Google opening times on a late March, Friday morning meant we sat in the parking lot for ten minutes before realizing there was going to be no poached eggs for us today. Tragically we were coincidentally in the adjacent Inverocche gin distillery parking lot, for a second day running, an hour before the 10am opening.

Heading east we tackled the clearly not busy Melkhoutfontein Road that was quite enjoyable riding. This area is low rainfall, hard limestone coastal scrub with the odd optimistic farming activity, distant sea view and mildly ostentatious Buffalo ranch to keep everything relatively normal in perspective. It was a long while till we saw another vehicle, in fact the first engine we heard for a while was actually two guys up a hillside with their chainsaws doing some commercial firewood chopping. Regrouping at a junction stop, the decision was made that we had done enough snack eating to upgrade from the Albertinia garage roosterkoek lunch option to the full on hotel dining. It was actually just one more hill and the familiar N2 was there before us, with a backroute taking us into the town itself. We even passed a group of cyclists at the Pienk Stoep before locating the seen some big things in the day Albertinia Hotel. Our unannounced arrival got the staff on their toes and we settled into draught beers, aggressive pub lunch specials and place settings for 4/5 courses. The third beer would have been rude on the legs, and we had some resupply to do at the USave. We took shifts and the crowd hanging in the parking lot who go from SASSA card payout to drankwinkel and back were eager to chat and try get some lubrication for their efforts, we chose not to follow their navigational advice.

Immediately out of town and we had the roads to ourselves again. The dry limestone surface alternates between slightly sandy and corrugatingly hard but before we could really get ground down we turned off towards the descent to Gouritz itself and the prize at the end, namely the Gourits River Guest Farm. I’m not sure when last the river itself was really known as a navigational hazard, but it’s quite a gorge in all the places we came across it (and you’ll know the old bungee location from the N2 bridge). This road ends at what was a drift in the olden days of travel by oxen and the running joke in the lead up to the trip was that we had a river crossing to negotiate (there was also a mooted swim across to Inveroche on the first afternoon, but that had property access issues), and now it lay before us. This stop had a prearranged shop order, with braai meat for Africa and cold beers in our fridge so we toasted our day’s activity from the deck under a lapa and contemplated the next morning’s first activity of forging a way across this expanse of water. Then a cattle egret waded across the only getting up to its knees and my stories of bravery required were exposed as nothing but a ruse. We had the luxury option of not just the guesthouse but also the glamping hut, which is really a smart cottage built around a caravan.

I went and found the other group of cyclists we’d seen earlier, they were a party from Pretoria busy with the Bike Camino, and their supported option of following vehicles with all sorts of camping gadgets provided all the luxury required to take on such an extended endeavour. We of course got down to route chats, and it turns out they were not doing the river crossing, but heading back up to the bigger road that goes the long way round. There was a chance we’d see them the next day as our paths crossed again, but we wished them luck incase we didn’t.


This was going to be our biggest day, but at just 80kms and 1600m climbing was not too much of a stretch. Finding the road once over the river proved an issue as it was really an island that had a dry oxbow lake now used for farming. Our interpretations of the rough directions took us through a recently ploughed field with the prewarning of thousands of duwweltjies being confirmed by my front wheel, so maybe we were on the right path. It was going to be a test of sealant for sure. We battled to find the best way onto the actual road now, as we were basically arriving in a cul de sac of a farming village type settlement Buysplaas (Google it to find the very quirky origin story) which had distributed homesteads with the collection of scroungy dogs, eager kids and babbelas afflicted adults. *We now have the best route for this section to keep it easy for you.

There’s a community type dairy here and the cows were numerous obstacles to avoid, but the other white liquid emanating from my freshly topped up tyre was concerning. By the end of the day, both my tyres had needed emergency filling and my arms were pumped from all the inflation. Late afternoon I got a sidewall cut right on the rim, which took some superglue and even duct-tape to remedy. The only bonus was that it remained tubeless. I only mention this to highlight how desperate a situation this could have been, with very little traffic here on a Saturday.

Some very slick blacktop greeted us as we turned onto the R327 to Herbertsdale, and even the Du Plessis Pass was quickly despatched as it must be one of the lowest elevation road to be given a “pass” descriptor around. We had the small option of a 12km out and back detour to Jakkalsvlei Wine Farm for 10am tasting but more importantly a very fancy looking meal. Given the remaining 50+ kms and the looming Cloete’s Pass we chose to put this one on the ‘to-do list’ and instead explored all there was at Herbertsdale’s “Bakgat Algemene Handelaar”.
This shop actually had way more than we expected, and the takeaway section got fired up as we had mid-morning toasted sarmies and steri stumpies. On the bench outside we got chatting to two ladies on slick looking TT bikes, turns out that Ironman has moved their half-distance event to Mossel Bay, and it has become a busy place to ride/train. Not sure if this will put Herbertsdale onto the actual map, with just a small shop, a small garage and a small church and seemingly nowhere to stay it will probably remain as it is for now.

For a while we had a bit of traffic, but a T-junction seemed to suck most of the cars away and we hit the pass itself for our big test of the day. It’s a decent gravel surface without getting that steep, with the tempting stop at Dwarsrivier Country Getaway and Pub an almost definite option even if it is tantalisingly three quarters of the way up the ascent. We pulled in to cold beers and macadamia (that’s what they farm here) everything. Highly recommend you arrange beforehand (or even stay here) as they will make meals on request/advance notice.
We dragged ourselves away before that third beer got nasty, only to find two Malawian guys on BMXes around the next bend. They were kitted up in suits, despite the hot weather, and looking forward to visiting their girlfriends for the night.

It’s a great downhill as we now descended into the Klein Karoo itself. The next mission became finding a decent lunch spot, and it seemed the Gouritz crossing would be it. There was a bit of water flowing through, but we scouted a viewpoint (Willie se uitkykpunt) halfway up the gorge that had views to match our cheese and salami rolls. A welcome tailwind blew us all the way to Klein Karoo Welgevonden, pretty much the only place available in this stretch but once again a brilliant stop for the night.

We had pre-arranged braai meat and beers again here, but it came with some unexpected extras. Charlotte had cooked up some tomato relish and after some carnivorous days we got to sample some of the salads and greens growing in their nursery. Accommodation was a 12 sleeper karoo farmhouse built a long time ago, but recently neatened up to add some comfort and accessories to complement the charm. Thick, soft green grass lawn to go with glittery starfilled sky and we felt like a million miles away (but yes, there was still wifi).


Final day was the shortest of our schedule, and an earlier start got us on the road armed with French toast for a stop along the way. We had the road to ourselves, a lone wine farm stood below a large dam, but it was mainly scarce farmland with folds and folds of imposing mountain that looked down on us. Before long we got to the tar turn off of R327 and the grand sight of the Muiskraal farm stall complex (closed on weekends).

The full route continues on through the Gysmanshoek pass. This is a real rough and rewarding track that follows a historical ox wagon route dating back to the mid 1700’s. With time pressures we chose the shorter option through the tarred Garcia pass (the full route although only about 10 extra kilometers longer, is a good extra 90 minutes time because of the terrain). Leaving the Karoo behind this is a brilliant descent; a wide quiet road with long sweeping corners will put a smile on any face. From Riversdale we joined back onto the original route. The corrugated downhill we enjoyed on the first morning, was now in reverse. This was an honest sting in the tail, and while we got back to the dam cottages without too much fuss, it was with enough steam that a swim in the dam was a no-brainer.

 After a quick lunchtime debrief in Heidelberg for a pie at Relish – the consensus was that this route had a mix of all terrain and views and some brilliant stops for a comfortable stay – highly recommend you follow our tracks!



  • Which direction? The route can be ridden in either direction. If you want a bit of fun off bike activities then clockwise gets you these stops in the afternoon and close to home. Avoid the Stilbaai area over the weekend if you want really quiet roads. Depending on your departure date, an anti-clockwise option may enable you to avoid the weekend traffic.
  • Bike Shops. Riversdale Cycles is the only bike shop on the route.
  • 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.
  • Lodging & Camping: There are a range of accommodation options in the region. See the map for suggestions.
  • 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 may not always mobile reception so you can’t rely on GPS navigation.
  • Road Conditions. You will be riding sometimes 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.


Terms of Use: As with each route guide published on BICYCLESOUTH.co.za, should you choose to cycle this route, do so at your own risk. Prior to setting out check current local weather and road conditions. Always ride responsibly. The information found herein is simply a planning resource to be used as a point of inspiration in conjunction with your own due-diligence. In spite of the fact that this route, associated GPS track (GPX and maps), and all route guidelines were prepared under diligent research by the specified contributor and/or contributors, the accuracy of such and judgement of the author is not guaranteed. Bicycle South, its partners, associates, and contributors are in no way liable for personal injury, damage to personal property, or any other such situation that might happen to individual riders cycling or following this route.

I’d currently describe myself as an Adventure Racer who is getting a bit fussy. I’ve always loved the idea of bicycles as the tool for adventure, and in 2004 I did some very low budget solo touring in British Columbia/ Yukon/ Alaska to confirm the theory was solid. I was about the 25th person to finish the Freedom Challenge, and am always wanting to repeat it with a bit more wisdom in me. Very excited that bike touring is becoming a thing in this country as the options are limitless.

    Klein Karoo, coastal, wet rivers, dry rivers, passes and views views views. Steven shares a gem of a bikepacking loop through the Garden Route and Klein Karoo.

    4 DAYS | ⇔ 273 km | + 3018m | ≡ Tar/ Gravel


    Steven and friends mix beer and bikepacking as they recce a beerpacking route through the Cape Overberg.

    4 DAYS | ⇔ 324 km | + 3971m | ≡ Tar/ Gravel

I’d currently describe myself as an Adventure Racer who is getting a bit fussy. I’ve always loved the idea of bicycles as the tool for adventure, and in 2004 I did some very low budget solo touring in British Columbia/ Yukon/ Alaska to confirm the theory was solid. I was about the 25th person to finish the Freedom Challenge, and am always wanting to repeat it with a bit more wisdom in me. Very excited that bike touring is becoming a thing in this country as the options are limitless.
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  1. This definitely sounds like an amazing trip! I love how you incorporated the classic story of Sleeping Beauty into it. What kind of terrain can one expect to find along the route?

  2. Thomas vdp

    We did this trip in October 2023. What a Beautiful route! We did it in 5 days, fully self reliant and packed with camping gear. With all that weight some of the climbs were real ball busters, but that made it all the more satisfying in the end. We started in Muiskraal and did it in reverse going to Herbertsdale first. Only thing we didn’t take into account was getting across the Gouritz river to the campsite as we arrived fairly late and didn’t realize we couldn’t cross it. Luckily the guys at the campsite helped us cross the morning after.
    We loved that it was 95% gravel roads with very minimal traffic. The Gysmanshoek pass was definitely a tough one, but incredibly beautiful.

    Thank you for sharing the route!

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