The Karoo to Coast is an epic MTB tour from Uniondale in the Klein Karoo to Knysna on the coast via the historic Prince Alfred’s Pass. The entire route is on good jeep track, farm road and forestry road.
We arrived in Uniondale later than planned on the Saturday evening. As darkness fell and the temperature plummeted, we rushed around getting registered before heading of to find the field where the tents had been set up. I had booked a tent on the school fields. We battled a bit to find the field, then battled to find someone in charge of the tents, and finally, when we returned from dinner, someone had taken the tent allocated to us, and we battled to find someone to help us. The tents are way too small: I would not have been comfortable even on my own, let alone with two of us.
Saturday morning early cyclists were efficiently lined up according to the seeded groups. The route saw us heading out of Uniondale North onto the N9 to skirt the town. I believe this was a slight change from previous years, and was to alleviate the congestion at the start. After a brief cruise down the tar, it was a sharp left into the outskirts of the town where we immediately hit dusty dirt road, headed past some houses and the locals cheering (ominously): “Hou bene, hou!” There was immediately a fairly significant climb which was tricky as the track was pretty crowded. This was followed by a steep, loose, rocky descent towards Avontuur. I took some bad lines as gravity swept me past some of the more timid cyclists, and paid for it with a slow puncture which I had to stop and fix on the uphill that followed. The long, slow incline saw us cross the R62 at Avontuur at about 18km into the race as we climbed up to the highest point in the route.
The descent into De Vlugt is definitely a highlight of this route: you sweep down the dramatic Prince Alfred’s Pass for 14 kilometres, dropping from the highest point of the tour at 1080m to 301m! Keep an eye open for Angie’s G-Spot [-33.81357, 23.17541] just after you pass over the drift over Keurboom’s River. And, because what goes down must come up, and there is no such thing as a free downhill, next was the long climb up to Buffelsnek.
The final 25-odd kilometres followed the end of the Knysna Marathon route, including the scaffolding under the bridge to safely route cyclists under the N2. You will pass through Diepwalle, Kom-se-Pad, and Gouna, finally taking the Gouna Road through the infamous “Mine Shaft”: the deep kloof formed by the Gouna River. It’s a hairy downhill with extremely tight corners so take it easy until you hit the drift that takes you across the deep brown waters of the Gouna River.
I love Knysna, and cycling down the hill and then along the lagoon to the finish was something very special. My time of over 6 hours confirms that my “I-finished-an-IronMan-this-will-be-easy” approach is deeply flawed, and I will have to start training again. I will be back in 2013 — the date has already been announced as 22 September 2013.
The route was well-marked and marshalled, with specific attention paid to any dangerous descents which were not only sign-posted, but attended by marshals where any real nastiness could have occurred. There was also plenty of medical staff and vehicles on duty. Water-points perfectly positioned, and manned by friendly men and women who took extra care: one lady actually checked my water bottles and asked me if I thought I had enough water.