Breakfast runs on the open road are great, but if you’re looking for true adventure motorcycling – the kind that involves risks, hazards, and life-changing undertakings – then take a turn off the highway to the tortuous mountain folds, wildflower flatlands, and rippling ochre dunes of the Northern Cape.
The contrasting landscapes of the Northern Cape’s vast wilderness expanse make it a challenging destination for adventure motorcycling. Also known as dual sport motorcycling, adventure motorcycling is a non-competitive, on- and off-road experience that can be harsh, but is always highly rewarding at the end of a hard day’s ride. Adventure motorcycling is about escapism, freedom, the appreciation of nature, and realising that the journey is sometimes even better than the destination.
The Northern Cape is the largest and least populated of South Africa’s provinces. With a widespread network of well-maintained dirt roads and some of the best tarred roads in the country, as well as long bouts of sunshine and very little rain, adventure motorcyclists can enjoy long hours journeying past wildlife, old mines, quarries, rivers, and curious desert flora.
The scorching heat, insatiable silence, and long open roads of the Northern Cape can be tough, especially when you can ride for an entire day without seeing another person, but the journey is worth every second. Listening to the stories of adventurers who have traversed these barren lands, it’s evident that this is the kind of adventure that can change a man. The geological wonders and perfectly functioning ecosystem give perspective on our place in the world, revealing an untouched universe that doesn’t revolve around us. It’s a place that is meant to be hidden and protected; only to be discovered by travellers with a passion for freedom and adventure.
Here are 3 adventure motorcycling routes in the Northern Cape, courtesy of Dualsport Africa:
1. Sutherland to Williston
A circular 2-day, 482km route from Sutherland, with an overnight stay in Williston. The track is 95% dirt road, with an easy going hard pack track for most of the way. Oupoort Pass and Quaggasfontein Poort Pass are incredibly scenic.
2. Sutherland to Calvinia
This 3-day, 613km route from Sutherland, with overnight stays in Williston and Calvinia, gives more opportunity to explore the spectacular landscape. The track is 95% gravel road with a hard pack that allows for easy riding along the way. A scenic highlight on this journey is the Ouberg Pass, between Grootfontein and Kanolfontein.
3. Karoo Adventure Deluxe
A 3 day, 1002km route that covers 15 mountain passes. It is 90% dirt track and easily accessible from several locations. This route is a popular adventure in both summer and winter, and is ideal for intermediate and expert riders. Beginners are advised to ride in a group with more experienced dual sport motorcyclists.
The route typically starts in Laingsburg, but you can also take it from Prince Albert or Calitzdorp. From Laingsburg, bikers venture through Moodenaarskaroo, up to Sutherland, into the Tankwa Karoo, up the rather treacherous Ganga Pass, through Middlepos, and on to Calvinia for the first overnight stop. Day 2 heads back south down the R357 to Sutherland, into the Klein Roggeveld, over the magnificent Rammelkop Pass, and along a short section of tar road into Prince Albert for the second overnight stay. The final leg of the journey heads through the Swartberg pass to the viewpoint at Die Hel. From there, bikers head back to Laingsburg.
What adventure motorcycling routes do you recommend?
Feature image credited to John Yavuz Can