Looking to step out of your comfort zone and tackle a micro adventure this summer? The Garden Route, or ‘Eden District’ as it has become known is a verdant coastal region offering adventurers everything from beautiful mountain trails and remote streams to world-class surf spots. Read on
Many other routes are marked with red signage, but walk into any coffee-shop cycling conversation and mention ‘the Red Route’ and there’d be no qualification necessary: the understanding – and this transcends region and geography – is that you’re referring to the Red Route at Harkerville. The Red Route was the first proclaimed cycle trail in South Africa and the 24km coastal loop remains one of the most iconic in the land. The route is a challenging 3-5hr loop of Garden Route forest singletrack, forestry roads and fynbos trails. Under tyre, expect rooty sections in the forest and gum plantation, and then hardpack (muddy in the rainy season) as you enter the fynbos. These high-density fynbos pockets are as much a feature of the trail as the forest and sea cliffs. The climbs are short and steep (the toughest are back up from the coast) and certain descents are gravelly and can become washed out. Read more about great rides in the Garden Route, here.
Kloofing – negotiating your way down the canyons and waterfalls by rock hopping, cliff jumping, abseiling and swimming is one of the most exhilarating ways to see a remote river. It’s also not for the faint of heart – once down the first waterfall, there’s no turning back. The crew at Eden Adventures are the best in the business and the Garden Route rivers they traverse are simply spectacular.
JUMP: Bungy Bloukrans
The 216m jump off the Bloukrans Bridge on the Garden Route used to be the highest commercial bungy in the world. Today it is the 4th, but it remains one of the most iconic. Run by the very professional outfit, Face Adrenalin, you can either do the old-school bungee, the much scarier Flying Fox, or if you prefer not jumping, a guided walk onto the arch of Africa’s largest bridge.
SURF: The Point, Mossel Bay
There are two main breaks at the area known as the ‘the point’. Outer Pool works on a low, incoming tide. It offers an easy take-off, before bending onto the reef and turning steep and hollow. This Garden Route break is for experienced surfers only. Inner Pool is better on a higher-tide wave and is usually a lot more forgiving and fun. The take-off and paddle-out can be hairy and the inside can get shallow. There is also a rather unfriendly rock mid-break known as ‘peanut’, but, ask one of the friendly locals to point it out and you’ll be fine. It breaks best in small to medium south to southwest swell and light offshore (northwest to southwest) wind.
JUMP: Tandem Skydive
After a 15-minute briefing, the highly qualified and experienced instructors of Skydive Mossel Bay will strap you in a harness and join you for the bumpy plane ride to 10,000 feet. (There are special views of the bay and Garden Route beyond on the way up, if you can pull yourself together enough to notice.) Then they’ll clip you onto them and dangle your feet out the window. From there, freedom! Besides tandems, they also offer first-jump and free-fall progression courses.
SANDBOARD: Dragon Dune
Dragon Dune outside Vleesbaai is the steep, groomed (by the predominant southwesterly winds) 300-metre-high adult version of a backyard sandbox. And it’s on private land. Guide Leon ‘Bugs’ Billeon and his crew of experienced guides mix patient coaching and informative banter in the relaxed manner that comes only after years of working with clients. Go on a misty morning or the day after rain; not only will the dunes run faster, but you’ll get to read all manner of animal signs in the sand.
DRIVE: Seven Passes
Detour off the N2 and dodge the July holiday traffic by going via the Seven Passes dirt road route from George to Knysna. You’ll cross seven rivers (including the Swart, Hoogekraal, Homtini, and Kaaimans) and pass through places with ‘what-the-hell-happens-there’ names such as Karatara. It’s Daleen Matthee country (remember ‘Kringe in ’n bos’ from high school) and a favourite attraction on the route is Millwood, one of the early gold-rush towns in the Outeniqua Mountains.