We head out to KZN and the greater Drakensberg area, to bring you an alternative take on ascending 1400 vertical metres, a world of off-piste trails and riding that will test the average man and his machine to their limits.
Get to the choppa! A line I've been thinking about for a while now, planning this rather unique trip up into the depths of the Drakensberg mountains. After a quick 15 minute flip in the helicopter, and a 1400 vertical metre ascend made short work of, you find yourself perched on top of a grassy plateau overlooking the rest of the world. Steep cliffs on the one side and cattle paths leading back down to the collection point, on the other. However, it's not as simple as letting go of the brakes and flowing down manicured trails without breaking a sweat... on the contrary, this is a mountain bike adventure, and its got everything from off-camber, boulder-filled gullies, to hike-a-bike sections that's only ridable for the most experienced of riders, and amazing open grassy plains stretching towards the horizon.
Mark Millar's Mancave #mmm really is something special. Dirt bikes, mountain bikes, and everything else in-between required to build up more two-wheeled toys. A quick check over of all our bikes, to make sure everything is set for the challenges the Drakensberg might throw at us in the morning.
But first, time to call it a day and get some sleep.
4:30am and some jet fuel for those in need of some caffeine to wake up properly.
Hydration packs and trail food are highly recommended, as the day could get pretty long out there.
N3 en route to the berg.
Pilot Greg, whipping out his toy, and commencing with the pre-flight checks.
Not the most high tech approach to shipping your bike to the top of a mountain, but it works a charm. Front wheels removed and a bit of fiddling later, you got yourself six bikes ready for action.
Some paperwork to make it official. Heli biking drop off is a go.
Scared | Excited
Hearing Tim's excitement over the headphones in the Bell Ranger may have been one of my highlights of the trip, "This is so flipping cool!" coming across the static and watching his face completely in awe of his first heli flip, like a kid at Christmas. It was an infectious excitement that carried us all the way down the mountain.
Successful drop off with a quick bike assembly to follow, before the pilot leaves you at the mercy of the mountain, some 2,000 metres above sea level.
Nothing to do now but ride. It's only about 20km...
A brilliant experience in a really phenomenal setting. It makes you feel like one of the pro riders you've seen being dumped at the top of a mountain in your favourite MTB film. That said you have to work for your descents and treat the day as an adventure with mates. The trails are rough, rugged and far from manicured which means having the right bike and a decent level of skill will make the trip more enjoyable.
So many line options - or none at all - depending on your level of skill.
These trails are unique in the way that they can only be accessed by helicopter or a full day hiking. Consisting of all natural cattle paths, they change a lot with the seasons, and the more we ride the more we find.
Kirk Hollis | Rockslide Heli Biking
Dropping into the first rocky chute, choked with boulders - I knew this wasn't going to be a flowy trail ride but a test of creativity and a willingness to engage with the rugged features on offer. I mean it's the Drakensberg, it's not called "the Barrier of Spears" for nothing, you have to work for your ride. Sometimes I came off second best, but stopping for a moment and taking in the view - it really brought home how remote and incredible the area is. At the end of the day, if you've got a big travel bike and a set of knee pads this is an incredible experience, and making the most of the rock features, gullies and ridge lines is all part of colouring in the memory you're actively making.
Tim Bentley is no stranger to going downhill on a bike, taking this washed out, eroded section in his stride. Chicken line towards the right.
Proper back country riding in the middle of nowhere, with the majestic Drakensberg behind you and thunder clouds gathering in the distance. Yes.
This was my first ever experience in a helicopter and no better place to have it than in the Drakensburg with my bicycle. Trails were raw and natural topped off with spectacular views. Definitely an amazing experience and fun day on the bike!
Back to civilization and a well deserved beer & burger to finish of an epic day.
This project is made possible by:
GPS: 29°01'06.9"S 29°26'12.7"E
For all information check out http://www.rockslidemtb.co.za/
All images by Ewald Sadie
Riders : Tim Bentley | Kathryn Fourie | Mark Millar | Kirk Hollis
Stay tuned to Bike Hub for more Trail Daze coming soon...