A steep route with various permutations set within the Marloth Nature Reserve adjoining the town of Swellendam. Much of the riding is along gravel forestry roads traversing the pine plantations along the slopes of the Langeberg range. Short singletrack sections link these jeep tracks, and here and there erosion makes the riding moderately technical.
The views are gorgeous, and the dense canopy overhead makes for cool riding, even on those hot summer days. Steep climbs and sweet downhills are the order of the day. [div2 class="highlight1"]
On your bike
Marloth Reserve Circuit
Swellendam is the type of town where you can ride right from your doorstep. (If you don’t have a place to stay, the Swellendam Backpackers offer no frills accommodation right at the foot of the mountains). Head up Lichtenstein Street for 200m, then turn right down Berg for 600m before turning right again. Look out for a slip road left (Van Oudtshoorn at 1.2 km) and keep going for another 400m until the road turns to gravel.
At 2.7 km, there is a sign to Marloth at the crossroads, and you turn right here towards the gate. Just on 500m of gentle ascent will get you to the entrance (where you get your permit). Options from here are wide open, but if you feel like a circular, a good option is to bomb down the steep road to the left of the gate.
Turn sharp left after 300 m, and look out for the little section of singletrack along the irrigation furrow to your right. Follow this to the dam wall and cross over this to your right and into the plantation. This is where things can get rather hazy; I dropped down sharply to the left, and then had to knuckle down into a sweaty granny gear climb all the way back up in a loop to the dam wall (5.1 km).
Continue along the left hand side of the dam for 500m until you reach a strip of singletrack dog-legging left and follow this back to the jeep-track. Turn left and keep going until you can look out over The Hermitage farms below (6.5 km) and then follow the tracks in a zig-zag direction towards the mountain until you hit a road with a fence (7.7 km).
There are a number of routes that can get you to The Hermitage, but if you get lost head left along the Langeberg foothills towards a giant gash in the mountains. If you did get to the fence, turn left and blast down 200m to a grid and turn right. Continue another 300m and follow a fork right until you get to The Hermitage gate (9 km). Sadly this has been locked until further notice by Nature Conservation (lack of funds, or whatever the excuse may be).
So backtrack 1.2 km to where you hit the fence and continue for another 200m before going right at the Y-junction (10.4 km). (I went left here along a single track section, but it was too narrow to ride in between the saplings). Around 200m later, turn right and head up steeply along a fence to a green gate (10.9 km) and pass through it. After 400m, you will reach the Blue MTB Route; turn left and continue for 700m to an overgrown track to your right (12 km).
Now you’re into full-on 4x4 territory. Track gets moer rough as you climb steeply for 200m to a three-way fork. Stick left here for another 200m and then turn left along an ever rougher track. It is very eroded and overgrown, but stick to it until you cross a stream after 500m. Turn right at a T-junction 250m later and then left when you re-connect with the Blue MTB route (13.5 km).
One km later you will reach a dozen wooden chalets and turn left after you pass them. A steep downhill will loop you around and then uphill to a fork left and then another 350m or so onto Die Plaat (16 km). You can explore further along the escarpment from here, or bomb right for 250m along a death wish downhill and then 200m left along a singletrack trail to the Kolonies-bos trail sign (16.5 km). (BTW, just after the wooden chalets left turn, you could go right along the Blue MTB route to add a couple of kays to your ride – I missed out on this because I did not trust the route markings).
This is a 2 km, looped there and back trail to the picnic site, and once you’re back at the sign, you could either re-trace your steps to Marloth Main gate, or head left. Pass the Two Feathers Horse Farm (19.3 km) and continue tracking right into Berg Street, then Lichtensteain and to the Backpackers to finish a ripping ride (20.6 km).[/div2]
Off the bike
Marloth Nature Reserve is primarily a hikers' paradise with a comfortable guest house complete with microwave and overnight huts with 'field toilets". The Swellendam area brims with an awesome array of both leisure and adventure options. the six-day Swellendam Trail poses a formidable challenge to hikers while countless day hikes and trails will seduce walkers in search of a quick, fresh air fix, imposing kloofs, whitewater kayaking, an adrenalin-inducing zip-wire rocketing into the Buffeljags Dam, sunset booze cruises, bird-watching, youngberry liqueur tasting, renowned wine estates, fly-and saltwater fishing, the Malgas Pont ferry, secluded beaches, a fairy sanctuary, whale watching ... the list is endless.
You're in the heart of the Overberg, with the Bontebok National Park, Marloth Nature Reserve, Grootvadersbosch and the wineries of the Breede River Valley waiting to be discovered. If ever I have to move to a dorp, this is the one.
Telephone: +27 (0)28 514 1410
GPS: 33°58’4.08”S 20°24’1.08”E
Circular options – 17km or 39km
Pine plantations and stands of fynbos against the Langeberg slopes. Gravel road, jeep track, no purpose-built singletrack
From Marloth reception; trail marked
Permit upon paying
Ablution facilities and secure parking at entrance
Baboons and snakes; slippery conditions after rain