Photo Story: Cross Cape - Plettenberg Bay to Stellenbosch

The Cross Cape is a 750km bicycle friendly route from Plettenberg Bay to Stellenbosch. With just over 10 000m of climbing it truly is a gem of a ride. Now it doesn’t just head straight up the N2, but rather takes in some of the best gravel roads and mountain passes that the Garden Route and lower Karoo offer.

 

Earlier this month Rae Trew-Browne went to a solo mission to discover what the Cross Cape route has to offer. If you're following Bike Hub on Instagram or Facebook you'd have seen some snippets of his daily adventures.

 

Here is a photo filled recap of Rae's trip.

Day 1:

 

A good first day covering 172km from Plett to George with 2700m elevation gain. After some pastries in Knysna it was time to hit the infamous 7 Passes road. Not the longest of climbs but they start to add up eventually. A great, albeit super tough, day on the bike. In hindsight I probably should have stopped over in Knysna and then done the bit to George the next day. It felt quite rushed trying to do so much in one day, you miss out on seeing the sites and taking in the fun stuff that can be done along the way. Knysna has some great attractions so I would have liked to spend some more time exploring Knysna.

 

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Day 2:

 

After yesterday’s climb fest it was great to have a more “chilled” day of just over 120km and 1300m elevation gain. After Montagu Pass the Langkloof is largely rolling hills. It was quite a contrast hitting the Karoo after being in the Garden Route with it’s thick forests. The Karoo has a special beauty though, I guess that is one of the things I love most about bikpacking, you get to watch the terrain change as you ride. Calitzdorp was a great stop over point with some fantastic restaurants and B&B’s to rest in. If you stop over in Calitzdorp, wine tasting at De Krans wines is an absolute must!

 

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Day 3:

 

Today’s plan was roughly 170km with 2600m elevation gain but it turns out the best plan to have on the Cross Cape is no plan at all. I made it 50km before deciding to stop over at Rooiberg Lodge for the night. Body felt great after the 1000m of climbing over Rooiberg Pass but this stop over is an absolute gem and I couldn’t resist lounging by the pool for the afternoon. The hospitality at Rooiberg Lodge was fantastic, the food was amazing and having the chance to watch wildlife at the watering hole at sunset while eating supper was pretty special.

 

That’s the beauty of the Cross Cape Route, there are so many accommodation options you really can ride this route your way. Sometimes slowing down to enjoy the sights is best.

 

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Day 4:

 

Today was a good day, super tough but so so so good! Gravel roads were a mix of smooth rolling and rutted corrugations, the tar section up and over Garcia’s Pass was a welcome break from the rougher sections.

 

It got good though after Riversdale with some very steep, loose, rocky climbs that just didn’t want to end. I had to dig a bit deeper today on the steeper climbs but it was worth it. The actual route doesn’t head down to Heidelberg but it had the best accommodation options for me. I stayed at this great place called the Lemon Tree Cottage, Derek the owner was super helpful and friendly.

 

All in all, a great day on the bike with some mentally tough sections but I must say this was probably one of my favourite parts of the route.

 

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Day 5:

 

Admittedly I was quite nervous for this one, I wasn’t sure how the body would hold up and the unknown of the road quality was weighing in on me but it ended up being an incredible day on the bike.

 

The gravel roads were rough, farm road rough, with very little smooth line but it all seemed to tick by so quickly. The rain set in hard for the last 40k which lifted the spirits a lot (I love riding in the wet).

 

Ou Meul pies and a coke in Riviersonderend was a treat! It was just what I needed to get amped on the final push to Greyton.

 

All in all a 164km day ended up feeling like a 16km day. The Cross Cape Route is like a fine wine, it gets better as the days go by.

 

Greyton is an amazing little town, with a world class brewery (Old Potter’s Inn) that makes an incredible amber ale. It’s definitely a great option as a sleep over spot which leaves you with around 100km for the final day to Stellenbosch.

 

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Day 6:

 

I left Greyton under some thick cloud cover, lots of threatening to rain but in the end the rain didn’t come. The tar section out of town was a nice warm up before getting back on to the gravel and the climb up to the Theewaterskloof Dam. I wasn’t expecting the climb up to be so long but the views were amazing once the climb was done.

 

The short sections of gravel were in the process of being graded so there was a lot of wonderfully smooth gravel which was a welcome treat!

 

Franschhoek Pass thankfully was quiet as it was a Monday, there are the odd 18 wheeler container trucks coming over the pass which is quite hair-raising but other than that, it’s a great climb from the Villiersdorp side. Probably better than the Franschhoek side.

 

I arrived in Stellies with mixed feelings, sads that this ride was over but relieved to be able to chill for a day or two. It’s really so hard to put into words what a trip like does in you.

 

It breaks you, it heals you, it changes you forever. No matter whether you try ride it fast like I did or whether you ride 50km a day, this route will test you in ways you never thought possible but you will come out the other side wanting to do it all over again.

 

I hope in some small way this trip inspired you get out there, adventure is waiting 🙌

 

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13 Comments

Baracuda, Mar 26 2021 02:53

Deeply impressive, looks like an amazing ride. Great photos.

W Smith, Mar 26 2021 03:10

Looks like a great ride. Amazing how gravel bikes have taken off .When they appeared on the scene they were slated as just another  sales gimmick destined to follow the same route as fatbikes..

FondTF2, Mar 26 2021 03:23

Awesome pics. Could be a definite bucket list item

RABUBI, Mar 29 2021 08:52

is this fairly safe to do on your own?

johan@getwine.co.za, Mar 29 2021 03:32

Thanks for sharing - great images!

eddy, Mar 29 2021 08:38

is this fairly safe to do on your own?


Yes

Kranswurm, Apr 02 2021 04:52

Flippen unreal.What a trip.

J∆kk∆ls, Apr 05 2021 09:39

E.  P.  I.  C!!!

Maniax, Apr 06 2021 07:23

wow stunning. definitely one for the bucket list.

just one pet peave confession.... I got a slight tick in my neck every foto with his bike lying on the ground.

StevieG, Apr 06 2021 08:42

Amazing trip man, and really beautiful photos. So much to see on our doorstep. Bucket list, check

BP, Apr 06 2021 09:31

Wow, this should be marked NSFW :') getting very jealous looking at these pics from the office chair on a Tuesday morning! 

Shebeen, Apr 06 2021 10:02

wow stunning. definitely one for the bucket list.

just one pet peave confession.... I got a slight tick in my neck every foto with his bike lying on the ground.

i think there's a hardline distinction between bikepacking and cycletouring - having a kickstand.

 

kickstands are AWESOME for loaded bikes(until they fall over), but it's pretty frowned upon by the velominati type.

 

what you will see is that he knows what he is doing, every single bike on its side is driveside up. ALWAYS driveside up.

Maniax, Apr 06 2021 11:04

i think there's a hardline distinction between bikepacking and cycletouring - having a kickstand.
 
kickstands are AWESOME for loaded bikes(until they fall over), but it's pretty frowned upon by the velominati type.
 
what you will see is that he knows what he is doing, every single bike on its side is driveside up. ALWAYS driveside up.


Saw that yes. Kudos to him.