The Cape region with the wine country, plus Route 62 through the desert-like Little Karoo and even the Garden Route through the Tsitsikamma Mountains with an electric tailwind… does it work? Yes, very well indeed.
Our guest author Norbert Eisele-Hein tried it out for the readers of the current eMove360° magazinein german language.
Flowering gorse bushes and tousled pines sweep past us like a flip-book. Over a thousand other species of fynbos, that lush carpet of plants, and the salt water, which lashes against the jagged coastline with monstrous breakers, create a beguiling scent. A horde of baboons looks after us in amazement. Of course, they can’t know that all we have to do is press the turbo button in order to easily stand up to the sheer perpetual winds at the cape with our power-packed cars. The Portuguese navigator Bartholomeu Diaz christened this headland “Cabo das Tormentas” (Cape of Storms) after he was almost shipwrecked there in April 1488 in heavy seas. King John II later christened it Cape of Good Hope because he hoped that the discovery of the new sea route to India would lead to flourishing business, says our state-certified guide Thomas Mücke. The German has lived in Cape Town for almost 25 years and has a considerable knowledge of the country. Wow, for us, the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, which covers almost 8000 hectares, is first and foremost a great cycling area. We euphorically cycle along the picture-book beaches of Olifantsbos, McLear and Diaz. Of course, we also take our “we-were-here picture” at the southern tip, where it’s like a fairground. But with our bikes, we are back to ourselves in no time. Far away from the hustle and bustle, we can enjoy a sumptuous picnic on the beach. We can even swim in the tidal pool completely undisturbed while kiteboarders perform their daring tricks outside. The only thing to watch out for are the baboons. These savvy party-breakers have no sense of table manners and steal what they can without restraint.
But one thing at a time. The entire route from Cape Town via the entire Garden Route to Addo Elephant National Park would be almost 1000 kilometers. In the context of a twelve-day trip with numerous sightseeing tours, additional hikes, a boat tour and a safari to boot, this would be a sporting challenge even for a doped-up Lance Armstrong.
Fortunately, the tour operator Belvelo is not aiming for such a “Tortour” de France, with burning thighs and a constant eye on the heart rate monitor. No, this trip is all about pure cycling enjoyment. And this is how it works: on the busy main roads, which would be too dangerous for cyclists anyway, we make plenty of miles with the support vehicle. This leaves us plenty of time for the country and its people on the hand-picked, wonderfully low-traffic side roads. In short, we only pick out the cherries for cycling.
That’s why we don’t start pedaling like crazy after a long night flight. Cape Town – turning our backs on one of the most beautiful cities in the world. That would be a sacrilege. So to acclimatize, we take a stroll through the colourful Bo Kaap district. We stroll along the waterfront and have free time to visit the Zeitz-Mocaa Museum. In the evening, we deepen our introductions at the Bombay Bicycle Club, a trendy restaurant below the Kloof Neck, not far from our cozy Guesthouse Rosedene. After the first glass of red wine, things become official. Our illustrious conversations don’t revolve around altitude meters and hourly sections, but around culture, the upcoming tour up Table Mountain and, of course, the wildlife that awaits us along our route. This group is pleasure-oriented. That’s a good thing.
Table Mountain and township
The very next morning, we are already enjoying first-class views of Cape Town and the deep blue of the Atlantic Ocean from the panoramic gondola when long queues form at the ticket office. “It’s a good thing we’re at the start a little earlier, so we save a lot of time for our tour in Langa,” explains Thomas with a wink. After an extended tour of the summit, we float back down to the valley with a view of the Waterfront and Robben Island. Our tour bus takes us to Langa. In the huge township, we get on the saddles for the first time. But it’s more of a stop and go, because this slum, which is home to a good 50,000 people, has incredible stories for us at every turn. It constantly raises difficult questions. Our additional township guide Nathi shows us alternative workshops, pubs with home-brewed beer from the chemical barrel, graffiti with complex political messages, but also the desolate sewers. The contrast to the super-rich districts of Camps Bay or Clifton creates a rollercoaster of emotions. Over lunch, we also get talking to older residents who lived through the cruel apartheid regime. “A lot has already been achieved,” explains contemporary witness Vuthi, “now our hopes are pinned on Cyril Ramaphosa”. But many doubt whether the corruption in the state apparatus can ever be stopped.
Tour description: From Cape Town via some of the most beautiful panoramic routes in the world to the Cape of Good Hope, to historic wine estates near Stellenbosch, through the desert-like Little Karoo and along the Garden Route to the game parks in the Eastern Cape. Lots of animal encounters with penguins, elephants and co. included. Hand-picked cycling stages on very good road conditions also make the tour completely suitable for families. First-class lodges and fine cuisine – a dream route for connoisseurs.
Organizer: Belvelo, Kurfürstenstraße 112, 10787 Berlin, Tel. 030 786 000 124, www.belvelo.de, from 4890 Euro incl. flight, guide, rental bike, half board, entrance fees and parking fees. Accommodation is in mid-range and upmarket guesthouses, B&Bs and lodges. A very harmonious offer for pleasure-oriented cyclists of all abilities. The high-quality electric bikes make up for any differences in performance because they offer support in several stages.
Best time of year: November to April, temperatures often exceed 30 degrees on the Cape, but temperature differences are also common here due to changing winds.
General information: South African Tourism, www.southafrica.net/de/de/travel, free download of map and travel guide.