Rolling Into The Sun: Montague to Calitzdorp

The sun is the master here. It seems far more powerful than anywhere I’ve experienced. The darkness quickly fades at 5AM and the star of frenzied flame explodes into the sky at about 5:30.

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Shortly after rising, the sun quickly moves into a relentless combat position where it maintains the upper hand over everything under its gaze. There is little time lapse between the moment when its rays have erased the chill of the desert night and the instant which demands layers of clothing to be shed.

As we left late from Montague, we quickly realized dallying at camp was not something to be repeated. We were departing the mountains and being funneled between ranges into the furnace of the Klein Karoo, an arid inland landscape of scrubbish desert crisscrossed with jagged rocky slopes. After stumbling through its blinding heat, the Karoo proved itself a surreal and beautiful place where nothing becomes something, where fertile oases vibrantly burst in to being from the kiss of ‘fontains’, or springs, that cascade from mountainsides like spigots from the steep ridge walls. While the almighty Ra is the master of this realm, the fontains are its artisans. Meandering streams erupt with dazzling bouquets of strange and wonderful desert plants and floral sculptures that give the impression of floating through a coral reef within a sea of crystal blue skies.

Each day moving in this landscape, we began pedaling earlier in hopes of defying the sun, only to be defeated by lack of shade. However, we were equally rewarded with the beauty of each oasis and the friendly people who congregate around its waters and kindly offered respite and shade.

Montague Ibis

Ibis gathering adjacent to a large dam (lake) in Montague.
Bike Touring South Africa

A nice shady picnic spot.
Bike Touring South Africa

Gerrit and Anneli, fellow touring cyclists, very generously shared their home, dinner, wine and great conversation.
Bike Touring South Africa

Some freshly picked apricots for the ride.

Bike Touring South Africa

A beer truck lost it’s load on the roadway from Barrydale. A travesty indeed.

Bike Touring South Africa - Klein Karoo

Giant asparagus.

Bike Touring South Africa - Klein Karoo

Descending into the Klein Karoo.

Bike Touring South Africa - Klein Karoo

Not sure who was moving slower at this point.

Bike Touring South Africa - Klein Karoo

About 2PM, the sun was too much and we took shelter at a farm where we accessed a dam and an amazing campsite from a winding farm road.

Bike Touring South Africa - Vargo Titanium Stove

The Vargo titanium wood stove is working well as a windscreen and pot stand for the Trangia. The tinted blue alcohol that is sold here strangely puts out some very visible flame.

Bike Touring South Africa - Klein Karoo

The typical cheap and easy one-pot meal could very well be pasta, curried veggies and cashews. The Central American equivellant was pasta, pouch sauce, veg and eggs.

Bike Touring South Africa - Surly ECR

The ECR looking stoic at the campsite.

Bike Touring South Africa - Klein Karoo

Our fine campsite at sunset.
Bike Touring South Africa - Klein Karoo

A dung beetle at work.

Klein Karoo

The area seems to be carpeted with these floral balls.
Bike Touring South Africa - Klein Karoo

Not a cloud in sight and no need for the rain fly.
Bike Touring South Africa - Klein Karoo

Waking after a night of serenading from the barking frogs of the Karoo.

Bike Touring South Africa - Klein Karoo

Here it comes, get ready.
Bike Touring South Africa - Klein Karoo

A small band of Gemsbokke (I think).

Bike Touring South Africa - Klein Karoo

Bike Touring South Africa - Klein Karoo, Van Wyksdorp

Coming in to Van Wyksdorp, a quirky little art town only accessible from dirt roads, Gin is greeted by a small band of boys curious about her tattoo.

Bike Touring South Africa - Post-ride-beer

Post-ride beer: the Caslt Milk Stout. Pretty much the only non watery beer option… not bad, especially at $.80 a pop.
Bike Touring South Africa - Rooiberg Pass

Riding out at 6AM with escorts Nicholas and Nichole from Van Wyksdorp.

Bike Touring South Africa - Rooiberg Pass

Gin and Nicholas talking shop.
Bike Touring South Africa - Rooiberg Pass

A nice descent into a stream crossing, soon to be a hefty climb over the Rooiberg Pass.
Bike Touring South Africa - Rooiberg Pass

Up and down.

Bike Touring South Africa - Rooiberg Pass

Entering the Cape Floral region with amazing plant species diversity.

Bike Touring South Africa - Klein Karoo

A slow climb towards the steep final 6KMs of the Rooiberg

Bike Touring South Africa - Klein Karoo

Out of the saddle on some steeps.

Bike Touring South Africa - Klein Karoo

More of the Cape Floral bouquet.

Bike Touring South Africa - Surly ECR

The ECR at the rock pile atop the Rooiberg Pass. Passers by on this old wagon route carried a rock from the bottom and placed it in this pile once getting to the top. Review/impressions of the ECR next week.

Bike Touring South Africa - Klein Karoo

Gin just plopped her Troll down at the top after a nice 3,650 feet of climbing.

Bike Touring South Africa - Klein Karoo

A view from the top.

Bike Touring South Africa - Klein Karoo

Plenty of eyes on us as we made the descent.

Bike Touring South Africa - Klein Karoo

These guys seemed to be everywhere.

Bike Touring South Africa - Ostrich

Calitzdorp once boomed from ostrich farming and there are still farms scattered across the area with plenty of these strange mouth-breathing creatures..

Bike Touring South Africa - Klein Karoo

Gin playing fetch with Bertus’ and Christines dog, Kaiser.

Bike Touring South Africa - Klein Karoo

Bertus’ pot-belly pig, Snorky.

Bike Touring South Africa - Klein Karoo

Grapevine for the bey; our kind hosts, Bertus ands Christine, offered us a bed for the night and a Braai of boerewors and chicken, not to mention a breakfast of traditional porridge, pap. Thank you much!


Their plump chihuahua reminds us of our own Paco, who we just learned had a heart valve rupture and may not be with us much longer. :(

For more information on this route, including GPS and logistics, click here. Also, check out our growing list of bikepacking and dirt road touring routes.

  • larry

    Interesting scenery, reminds me of northern Arizona. Merry Christmas!

  • Michael Viglianco

    braai :)

  • Jim

    Nice photos!

  • DummyDiva

    Wonderful post. Been following your blog awhile. Sorry to hear about your dog.

  • Thanks for the compliments and your concern! Happy holidays

  • Thanks!

  • Autocorrection and lack of Internet… Picking up a rogue restaurant signal now.

  • Yeah, some of the landscape reminds me of the American west, but slightly more surreal. And the mountains are very different. Merry Christmas!

  • Amy

    Merry Christmas! Great photos. We are sending good thoughts/vibes/juju/whatnot to Paco. Safe travels

  • Abigail

    Hi Logan, the group of antelope you saw are Blesbokke… Hope you managed to conquer the Swartberg pass, good luck with the rest of the trip. Rgrds Abigail (Vanwyksdorp)

  • Cass

    Wonderful images!

    Try and get in touch with a friend of mine, Bridget Ringdahl ( She runs trips in the Himalayas, has ridden all over South America, and lives in South Africa – she’s probably there right now.

  • Alessandro

    Hi fellows!
    I need your help!… As far giving me tips and advises about my solo bicycle journey during May/15 in South Africa.
    I’m planning to ride my road bike from Cape Town to Pietermaritzburg (1700km) in 8 or 9 days them after I get in Pietermariztburg two days earlier I will run the Comrades Marathon from Durban back to the bike finish line.
    I’m planning to go thru these cities as my main itinerary: Cape Town > Stellenbosch > Franschhoek > Robertson > Montagu > Ladismith > Calitzdorp > Oudtshoorn > Willowmore > Aberdeen > Graaff-Reinet > Cradock > Tarkastad > Queenstown > Maclear > Kokstad > Pietermariztburg.

    I’m concern about going thru these roads and cities and would desperately would like to hear from someone who knows well this region in South Africa, not so much about places to eat, rest and get supplies along the way but mainly about the roads and “safety” for riding alone???…

    I deeply appreciate any input or help concerning my personal odyssey in South Africa!..

    Alessandro Alpha Muknicka
    2015 UltraMan Florida Finisher
    USA Licensed Massage Therapist

  • Hello. Well, we tried to stay off of main roads and mostly gravel or off road. Generally when we were on tarmac, the drivers seemed to be fairly respectful, save busses. I wish I could be of more help but my biggest recommendation woild be find the faintest lines on the map and follow them! Cheers

  • David Green

    Amazing photographs… make the already beautiful scenery look even better.
    Have driven most of the routes by car – need to do more of them on my bicycle.
    Thank you for sharing.

  • Thanks for the kind words David!

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