Let’s Get Sweaty
By Shaun Engelbrecht
Now summer is in full swing and it is time to get that sweat on. After a busy winter a bit of an ankle injury, I felt it was about time to hit it and elevate that heart rate.
Hey! Focus and get your mind out of the gutter. I am talking about hitting the trail, on a unicycle. To get you in the mood, I have put together this report of yet another one of the Tygerberg MTB routes, Meerendal.
This is a great trial for the beginners and seasoned riders alike. Offering a number of route options and difficulty levels, all of which I am yet to try. I usually find myself properly stuffed, so much so that I am in no state to explore further. Instead of taking you through all eventualities of what you could find, I will share with you insights into a morning out on my route in this beautiful part of the Cape.
Starting as always in the parking lot, I make my way on the main route past the trees and fields towards the vineyards where the single track, fun and perspiration begins. As with all the Tygerberg routes, route markers are everywhere and it is pretty difficult even for the likes of me to get lost. At the top of the Jeep track, with the wine seedlings on the right I slip off left on a short single track which I take to get me in the swing of things. Alternatively you can turn right and continue on the jeep track heading to a pump track where the short single track joins up to later. From here I turn left and ride along a rocky ridge halfway up the valley. Approaching in the distance are two switchbacks and a steep, rocky and loose decent. “Gently on the breaks”, is all I repeat over in my head until I reach the bottom. I made it, self-five! Now the route begins to climb and just as I am out of breath it plateaus just enough, and then all hell breaks loose.
There is a sign marked Stairway to Heaven, what the sign fails to explain is that to get to heaven, one must first scale a climb from hell. This hill comprises for an unfathomable number of switchbacks ascending the hill side, and instead of a natural or manicured single track, some sadist decided to create a pathway made of submerged cinder-blocks. The sound of heavy breathing and tyres shredding can be heard for miles, until you reach the pearly gates, which in this case is actually a wooden bench where you can get your breath back. I know what you may be thinking this guy is dramatic. Well you know what, this is exactly how it feels at the time, but the odd occasion I have managed to reach the peak with no UPD’s and dismounts, the reward is equally euphoric and dramatic.
Air once again filling my lungs and I have some feeling returning to my legs, I continue forward to yet another hill to climb. However this time this hill is somewhat insurmountable by wheel (one wheel that is). This is where I practice the art of hiking, a skill I have honed and refined on said hill. This beast is a jeep track that comprises of steep climbs and large rocks making life impossible on the wheel. Don’t let this deter you, because once I reach the top I am rewarded by another conveniently placed bench and some sweet views of Durbanville, Blouberg and Table Mountain. This is also the part of the trail where the actual fun begins and gravity for a change is on your side. The single track begins to descend and winds its way down the very hill I was hiking and crying up earlier. The tears shed now while descending are tears of joy. Some sections have recently been graded and flattened though after the winter rains, which made them a bit boring, but I am sure this will be rectified once more wheels pass through. Reaching the bottom I am greeted by applause of gawking cyclists for my feat, as this section comes out at the bench where the stairway to heaven ends.
From here things get a bit easier as I hit a section named after a legend in the cycling fraternity, Burry Stander. A few climbing switchbacks takes you to the beginning of a fast and flowing sections where you can get some pace or alternatively take it slow and take in the views. At the bottom I am greeted by more vineyards and them cutting off into a winding forested section for a bit of last minute fun before ending at the parking lot.
Like mentioned there are other variants to be taken and easier routes on hand to help build up your skills and confidence. In summer now, I do recommend lots of water, sun block, a snack or two and try to get out and about earlier rather than later. The heat can be a bit much later on, and there is not all that much shelter from the African sun. So I look forward to seeing you there soon, showing up a cyclist or two.