GE­ORGE, WESTERN CAPE

Runner's World South Africa - - Rave Run - Pho­to­graphs and words by… Jac­ques Marais

Run­ners…

Jac­ques Mou­ton, The­uns Botha, Ste­fan Oosthuizen, Frans-Erich Stre­icher and Zane Schmahl

GPS Lo­ca­tion

-33°57’53.4”S 22°29’48.9”E

Grad­ing

Ad­vanced

Du­ra­tion

Tierkop re­turn: 1.5-2 hours. Full route: one day.

Best Time To Run

Ex­pect lots of mud: the rainy sea­son in Ge­orge lasts for most of the year, be­cause of its close prox­im­ity to the coast. It’s gen­er­ally warm and pleas­ant in the sum­mer; but in win­ter, tem­per­a­tures are cold and it snows – es­pe­cially higher up, close to Ge­orge or Cradock Peaks.

Ter­rain

Forestry jeep tracks; berms; groomed MTB trails; tech­ni­cal, rocky trails

The Ex­pe­ri­ence

Ge­orge has long been con­sid­ered the poor, brush-cut cousin of funky towns like Wilder­ness and Knysna. But a re­cent boom in eco-tourism has changed this; thanks to the forestry in­dus­try, the in­land city is thriv­ing.

End­less gravel roads and foot­paths – many of them linked to the leg­endary Outeni­qua Hik­ing Trail sys­tem – now of­fer un­fet­tered ac­cess to the rugged sur­round­ing peaks, and to the indige­nous for­est that blan­kets the foothills. You can add to this a num­ber of Blue Flag beaches lit­er­ally just down the road, in­clud­ing the world-renowned surf break at Vic Bay. There are also dozens of fresh-wa­ter lakes, rivers and canyons.

Con­fig­u­ra­tion

The climb up to and be­yond

Tierkop Hut is in­fa­mous. Lo­cal run­ner Jac­ques Mou­ton led us onto the sin­gle­track be­yond the hut, which as­cends to­wards the base of Crad­dock Peak.

The Tierkop Trail is tra­di­tion­ally a pan-han­dle run, ac­cessed from ei­ther NMU’s Saasveld Cam­pus or the Gar­den Route Dam trail­head. Fol­low the Hill­bil­lies MTB Club sig­nage through lower forests and plan­ta­tions, to­wards the hut.

Con­tinue along the foot­path to the right of the hut in an east­erly di­rec­tion, un­til you reach a trail that leads clock­wise around Tierkop, and then links back to the road you took on the way up. From Saasveld, this makes for a 15km round trip.

There’s also a one-way run, all the way to Herold Wines on the other side of the moun­tain, and a cir­cu­lar route that tra­verses the en­tire range. Once at the hut, fol­low the sin­gle­track in a west­erly di­rec­tion – aim for the high peaks. At 16km, there’s a fork in the trail, which fol­lows af­ter the main trail forks at ap­prox­i­mately 9km.

Once you’re on the other side of the moun­tain, the veg­e­ta­tion changes to a mix­ture of dense river­ine wood­land, and there are fields of fyn­bos all the way down to Herold Wines (a fur­ther 5km). Should you choose to keep left, the route con­tours along the moun­tain, all the way to Mon­tagu Pass, where you can con­nect to Cradock Pass, and back over the moun­tain to Wit­fontein For­est Sta­tion. It’s not rec­om­mended you tackle this mon­ster ±30km run alone.

Re­fuel At

Krust Café (healthy break­fasts and good cof­fee, 044 887 0445); Robert­son Brew­ery (ice-cold IPA and gourmet burg­ers, 071 781 8521); The Bench Eatery & Bar (a hip­ster hang­out, 044 873 0566)

Get­ting There

Fly to Ge­orge air­port, or drive east from Cape Town on the N2 (ap­prox 4.5 hours). For more in­for­ma­tion, visit geor­ge­trails.org.za. The Ge­orge Trail Fes­ti­val cov­ers much of the route and takes place in De­cem­ber (ecobound.co.za).

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