Trail Review – Bottelary Hills, Kuils River, Western Cape

Let’s Get Wet

By Shaun Engelbrecht

So I think it is about time for the second edition of my trail reports. I have been riding mostly in the Tygerberg area with one disappointing ride at Jonkershoek due to all of the single track sections being closed still.

My idea was to give some insights into another of the Tygerberg routes (Meerendal), as I have become rather accustomed to what is has to offer. However Donna (further to be referred to as Uni Mom) and I missioned to Bottelary Hills one recently rainy and wet Friday. Let it not be said that unicyclists are scared of a bit of bad weather, or so we thought…

Bottelary Hills

Let me start with the actual trails and what you can expect to find if you decide to give one of the numerous routes in the area a try. There are about 5 main routes which all seem to interlink giving you almost endless option to explore, and to get lost, but more on the getting lost later.

For those still getting acquainted with the wonderful world of Muni and UPD’s (unplanned dismounts), these trails are a brilliant place to start. Why, you ask? Well, although extensive, the routes are mostly based on the Jeep tracks that cut through the vineyards covering the hills. This means climbs are, for the most part, steady and not very technical and greater distances can be covered in a shorter period of time due to the less technical nature of the tracks. There were a few sections of single track with a rocky section here or there, but nothing that would give you much trouble, unless like us you chose to ride on a day that even sent the duck running for cover.

This is ultimately the reason why this write up, not nearly as detailed with regards to the description of the route, when comparing it to my previous report. The weather was so bad, we were unable to see 10m in front of our noses, let alone the route we were riding.

And this Muni friends, is where the actual story of our mini adventure begins…

So there we were, Uni Mom and I had a rough idea of where we needed to go. There are a number of places you can start your ride, and a number of places to buy your permit, but after driving between farms and security villages, we finally found where to buy permits and where to park at Zevenwacht.

We began our climb to the top of a hill, with the wind at our backs. I would imagine you could get the same effect by offering children sweets if they gave you a push. Luckily we had the wind because I don’t like sharing my sweets and trail snacks. The fun did not last when the route starts cutting back and forth between the vines. Once at the top, we were being attacked from all sides, by the wind, which had now covered the hilltop in mist. It was like riding in an extremely angry cloud. This also limited visibility to about 10m. I must say there is something magical when shadowy trees and landscape begins to appear through the fog as you approach.

Once we found some of the single track, we began to descend from the cloud / mist where the rain now became our biggest problem. As I mentioned previously, the trails are not overly challenging, BUT with the gusting wind and relentless rain I would not have liked to have been on a more demanding trail.

A common saying goes “what goes up must come down”, and one thing I have learnt is the opposite is also true when out on a ride. Once we made our way to the bottom on the switch backed single track, we found ourselves climbing once more through vineyards. By now we had been riding for what felt like hours, we were drenched and cold, my shoes we carrying more water than my hydration pack, but we thought it best to keep warm and continued riding. The mood up to this point had been good, laughing while being blow sideways, as well as when I decided to wring out my sponge socks.

Shaun in the Wind

I am sure Donna, sorry I mean Uni Mom, will agree with me that there was a bit of worry once we reached the top of another long climb which we mostly walked due to fatigue, and on reaching the top was directed by the signage that the green route we were on goes both to the left and right! With the thick fog and heavy rain, we had no sense of direction. I said right, Uni Mom said left, but who knew? A signboard did not offer any reassurance, as it was impossible to decipher where we were in relation to the start / finish spot and whether we should go left or right. There was no civilisation in sight; we had not seen any other riders the entire day. It could be argued for a change that the cyclists (the guys with the training wheels) were doing the right thing by staying on their indoor trainers.

So, short of drawing straws or playing a quick round of rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock (Google it), we had to trust some technology. Out came the smart phones! Uni Mom’s iPhone was pap, so this was the moment for my CAT brick to shine, full battery, waterproof, drop proof and idiot proof. All the boxes ticked to get us out of here, but no wet finger touch screen functionality. The only thing we had to dry the screen was a bandage from the first aid bag, everything else we had was stupidly drenched. Google maps, satellite view, compass orientation, landmarks found! Expert map reader is something I have recently added to my CV.

We have a way out, and by the way it was right, yes the way I suggested. See children, mom is not always right. With a new found energy we missioned down the trail, back on some of the single track we had followed earlier that day. Things began to look familiar, and the prospect of dry clothes and a hot beverage helped us to press on. We made our way down the misty hill and to the parking lot, threw the uni’s in the car and headed straight to the restaurant where there was a warm fire and a rest room to change and dry off.

This was one of those occasions when at the time, I had thoughts of “Why the hell do I do this to myself?”, but once some time has passed you say, “Well I think I would like to do that again sometime”. Like mentioned previously, the trails are not all that technical, but throw in low temperatures, gusting winds and some horizontal rain and you have one hell of a Muni ride in store on any route. So come people (well those in the Cape at least), the rain is here, time to get out there and get wet.

For more information on what Bottelary Hills MTB has to offer, check out their website for all the info: