54. Giba Gorge MTB Park

Is this South Africa’s most daunt­ing MTB park? Okay, maybe that de­scrip­tion is a lit­tle on the ex­treme side; but Giba Gorge is un­doubt­edly one of the coun­try’s more tech­ni­cal trails.

Bicycling WOW Rides - - Contents -

It’s easy to see why some of the most adept riders in South Africa hail from Kwazulu-natal – the type of rid­ing on of­fer here is sim­ply mind-blow­ing, and will force you ei­ther to leave your com­fort zone or die try­ing. Or change sports. World-class ath­letes such as Greg Min­naar, Alan Hatherly and the late Burry Stander are cases in point.

Luck­ily, we have lo­cal pro and ac­com­plished moun­tain biker An­drew Hill to show us around Giba Gorge, which ap­pears to be a pretty in­tense trail at first glance. I’m al­most cer­tain our re­mains (that’s Des­mond’s and mine) would for­ever go undis­cov­ered if we ex­plored this place alone.

The story be­hind Giba Gorge is a fas­ci­nat­ing one, and clearly demon­strates the pro­gres­sion the sport of cy­cling has made in our coun­try in such a short space of time. What started out as a hobby back in 2007, when Chris and Steve Har­burn took own­er­ship of the Stockville Quarry, has since grown into the com­pre­hen­sive trail park and world-class BMX track fa­cil­ity you see in these pic­tures.

And there’s some­thing for ev­ery­one, not just cy­clists. Yep, hik­ers too are able to tra­verse the sin­gle trails; and then there’s the ma­jes­tic wa­ter­fall and stream that cuts through the val­ley basin – ideal for photo ops and pic­nics. Be­cause the ecosys­tem here is so trop­i­cal, the veg­e­ta­tion as well as the nat­u­ral ter­rain means the scene is con­stantly shapeshift­ing – one mo­ment you’re ne­go­ti­at­ing steep, rocky slabs, and the next you’re plum­met­ing down a forested sin­gle­track mi­ne­shaft at full tilt.

And while it’s easy to make a mis­take, there are loads of dif­fer­ent line op­tions to

suit all lev­els of skill and fit­ness; and you’ll leave here a bet­ter rider as a re­sult. But we’re just a few kilo­me­tres in, and the myr­iad board­walks, ramps and jumps are al­ready in­tim­i­dat­ing me.

Vis­i­ble in the dis­tance is a large roadgap jump that stands sev­eral me­tres high. “No­body in their right mind jumps that, surely,” I think to my­self. But An­drew quickly quells that thought with an al­most tele­pathic re­tort. “Alan (Hatherly) jumped that on his hard­tail, hey. I’m sure you’ll ace it on the

Epic you’re rid­ing, bud,” he quips. I laugh, and sig­nal my dis­ap­proval with a mean­ing­ful swipe to the throat. “Not a chance, dude – I can al­ready pic­ture my­self wrapped up like a mummy in a full-body cast!”

There’s a lot to take in, but the gen­eral vibe is like some­thing out of the Ama­zon jun­gle… It cer­tainly feels like it (and sounds like it, for that mat­ter), and we try and avoid think­ing about what sort of creepy-crawlies might be lurk­ing in the nearby fo­liage. Their pres­ence, how­ever, is un­avoid­able... The thrum­ming, melodic chant of ci­cadas adds to the drama and trans­ports us deep into what feels like un­known ter­ri­tory. The veg­e­ta­tion grows freely here but the trails re­main in an im­pec­ca­ble rid­ing con­di­tion – a bout of rain prior to our ar­rival giv­ing spawn to hero dirt.

Speak­ing of crit­ters, leg­end has it there’s a size­able mamba that lives in these parts. In fact, it’s made the old ruin deep in the for­est its home. The same ruin we just rode through and spent sev­eral min­utes shoot­ing in... An­drew fails to men­tion this im­por­tant piece of in­for­ma­tion to Des­mond and me be­fore we com­plete a cou­ple of pan­ning shots. But what’s a ven­omous snakebite be­tween friends, right?

We’re just glad we got through un­scathed. Be­fore head­ing back to the trail­head for a hard-earned cof­fee and pas­try, An­drew sug­gests we take a small de­tour to the fa­mous Giba wa­ter­fall, to bank a few ex­tra shots and take in the in­cred­i­ble vis­tas. He’s quite right. This con­trast­ing set­ting is truly spec­tac­u­lar; and like so many of the lo­ca­tions we’ve vis­ited in this se­ries al­ready, it points to the ever-in­creas­ing (and hugely im­por­tant) re­la­tion­ship be­tween man and na­ture – it’s up to us to keep things clean and un­spoiled. And Giba uses the nat­u­ral to­pog­ra­phy to max­i­mum ef­fect, as the trails in­cor­po­rate rocks, boul­ders, dips and drops, which means the grad­ing ranges from be­gin­ner to ad­vanced.

The net­work fea­tures nu­mer­ous link-ups that al­low you to join trails, es­sen­tially cre­at­ing a dif­fer­ent rid­ing ex­pe­ri­ence on every out­ing. If you ride all of the marked trails as they ap­pear, you should reg­is­ter around 35-38km – which can be ex­tended by us­ing the link-ups. The main lines are con­ve­niently colour-coded for ease of use: pur­ple for kids and novices; green for eas­ier climbs and flow trails; and blue, which in­cor­po­rates steeper climbs and tight switch­backs, for fit­ter riders.

There are also two short down­hill/ en­duro trails, fes­tooned with jumps and ramps, for more ex­pe­ri­enced, sea­soned riders. Des­mond con­tem­plates a run or two, but de­cides against it on the grounds of still hav­ing a shoot to fin­ish. Good man, Des­mond, we can’t lose you just yet...

In terms of rid­ing, Giba Gorge is very much the com­plete pack­age. It caters for all skill sets, and raises your con­fi­dence and abil­ity every time you ride here. While we didn’t sam­ple the BMX track, hav­ing such a fa­cil­ity on site goes to show just how se­ri­ous KZN is about de­vel­op­ing and nur­tur­ing fu­ture tal­ent.

With such di­ver­sity in terms of rid­ing on of­fer, you can only progress as a rider – we feel other prov­inces could take a leaf out of Giba’s multi-chap­tered book on skill devel­op­ment. Noth­ing here feels like an af­ter­thought; ev­ery­thing is in­cor­po­rated into a well-struc­tured, flow­ing net­work of awe­some­ness. Where you go and what you at­tempt is your choice; the fact re­mains you’ll leave Giba a bet­ter – read: more com­plete – rider.

The trail we ex­plored at Giba was a mix­ture of dif­fer­ent set routes, link­ing up some of the best views and flow­ing trails. The net­work is so big, I have yet to ride all the trails pos­si­ble in the park.– AN­DREW HILL

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.