Sutherland, Cederberg, Tankwa Karoo – 3 days (gravel)

Near Cederberg Oasis.

View sutherland 6 in a larger map

1. Total distance of route?

+- 800km

2. How long did it take to complete? Were you going fast or travelling leisurely?

Three days. But we took our time and made lots of stops along the way. The weather was crazy on day one. A lot of rain and intense cold. That made the roads for the rest of the trip quite slippery and kept the speed down.

Gannaga Pass.

3. Why are you recommending this route? What’s special about it?

This is an amazing circle route around Sutherland, which is close enough for the Cape Town bikers to do over a long weekend. Otherwise it will also be worthwhile to come down from wherever and spent your time on this route. It’s a challenging, but beautiful piece of riding. All of it is dirt and some stretches real off road stuff. The Ouberg en Gannaga passes is two of the greatest gravel passes in the country. Furthermore the Cederberg always takes your breath away. And the Biedouw valley is always full of surprises as you never know if you’ll pass the Doring river. The Tanka Karoo will make you fall in love with its complete silence and forever open spaces. In Spring time this area is usually dressed up with all kinds of flowers.

Desmond (left) and Willem.

4. Please tell us how the route runs.

Just outside Sutherland, towards Matjiesfontein, you turn off on a gravel road that will take you down to Ouberg pass. About 57km on this road you will see the marked turn off for Ouberg to your left. You will go down Ouberg into the Tankwa Karoo. About 20km further on you will get to a small T-junction where you have to turn left. You will go through the Tankwa river and just after that turn right, towards Onder Wadrif. At the next T-junction turn left again. This road will take you to the R355 between Ceres and Calvinia. When at the R355 turn left towards Ceres. After about 40km there will be a nice farm stall on your left. Just pass that a smaller gravel road turns off to your right. It should indicate, Klein Cederberg. This road goes up the Peerboom pass and then twist through the Klein Cederberg area as a single track road. You will later go down Katbakkies pass all the way to Oppi Berg. 20km outside Oppi Berg you will have the choice to go to Oppi Berg (where you can fill up and get some groceries at the local Spar) or turn right towards the Cederberg mountains, Clanwilliam, Wupperthal and an overnight place, Cederberg oasis. After you filled up in Oppi Berg you should go back that 20km to take the gravel again towards Clanwilliam/Cederberg Oasis. You could stay on the main gravel road and go straight to Clanwilliam, or take the route via Eselbank to Wupperthal. A few km’s after you’ve passed Cederberg Oasis you will get to a sharp bend to the left where the single track to Eselbank turns off. This is a 4×4 track and a bit technical in places. This road will take you through the mountains and Eselbank all the way down again to Wupperthal. Splendid scenery. From Wupperthal there is only one way out to Clanwilliam. You could go from Wupperthal into the Biedouw Valley and from there to Middelpos or Calvinia. But you will have to cross the Doring river which is in flood some times. Usually in winter. 20km outside Clanwilliam you can choose to go into town or turn right on the R364. You have to take the R364 towards Calvinia. This road takes you up the Botterkloof pass. From Botterkloof the next turn off is about 20km. There’s a cross and the road to the left goes to Niewoudtville. You have to turn right here. Keep straight until a T-junction where you can turn right to Die Bos. This will take you back to the R355 again. At the R355 turn left towards Calvinia. After about 20km you will get a smaller gravel road to your right that goes into the Tankwa Karoo National Park. 45km down this road the road to Gannaga pass and Middelpos turns to your left. From Middelpos you take the R354 back to Sutherland.

Biedouw Valley.

5. What kind of motorcycle is the route suitable for?

We did this on a BMW 650 Sertao and 800GS. This is a great trip for any adventure bike and also bigger enduro bikes like a 450WR Yammie or 511 Husqy.

6.  Please name significant POIs (Points Of Interest) along the way, e.g. eateries, supermarkets, accommodation.

Sutherland itself is a lovely little Karoo town with some nice places to stay and eat. Look out for the Jupiter restaurant and accommodation. It welcomes bikers. The local hotel is also great. We stayed there. The Tankwa Karoo National Park has some great camp sites and chalets. We stayed over at the Cederberg Oasis between Oppi Berg and Wupperthal. Great atmosphere and great steaks. Give them a call at 027 482 2819 or mail at Down in the Biedouw Valley we stayed at Enjo Life Guestfarm. Awesome place. Friendly people. Tel. 027 482 2869. Mail. Clanwilliam is a great town to stop and have a break. Nice little shops and restaurants. And Wupperthal is a must see.

7. Are there petrol stations along the way? Do you know of any motorcycle repair shops along the route or in the area?

There are garages in Sutherland, Oppi Berg, Clanwilliam. The one in Middelpos is not open through the night and not open whole day on Sunday or Saturday. Give the Middelpos Hotel a call to make sure, 027 341 2507 or if you are in trouble. Clanwilliam is quite a big town and you could find somebody there to help with some minor repairs if it’s necessary. In Sutherland you could call Rudi for help. He has some bike spares and tyres and tubes, 082 739 0018.

8. Are there any dangers along the route, e.g. loose gravel, potholes, sharp bends, regular oil spills, wild animals or angry locals?

Ouberg and Gannaga passes are gravel passes so be careful. Ouberg is very steep and Gannaga has some sharp bends. In winter this region could get some heavy rainfalls and then every little ditch and river becomes flooded. Especially the ones in the Cederberg and Biedouw Valley. Walk through to make sure it is not too deep and that the flow is not too strong. The 4×4 track over Eselbank to Wupperthal is the most difficult part, but there’s no big dangers on that stretch. Take it easy if you are not an experienced rider.

Near Eselbank.

9. What did the trip cost in fuel, meals and accommodation?

About R1700 per person, everything included.

10. Did you use any special gear, e.g. fuel bags, that made your journey possible, easier or more enjoyable?

No special gear. The other rider did have a waterproof pant and jersey on over the rest of his clothing which helped a lot in the rain. Warm kit is essential in that area in winter. And some good knobbly tyres. And be prepared as this is the unbeaten track. Take some tools and a tyre repair kit with you.

11.  Any must-do activities on the route?

Stop in Wupperthal and have a look around. There is a shoe factory which makes some good leather vellies. You could check out the big SALT telescope outside Sutherland.

Biedouw Valley.

12. Did anything funny happen that you’d like to share?

We laughed at each other’s falls in the muddy conditions…

13. Do you have any other comments or advice about the route?

Don’t go and race through this area. It’s beautiful and there’s a lot of other tracks to check out and try. Give yourself enough time to enjoy every day.

14. Are there any doctors and/or hospitals in the area that you know of?

The biggest town you will go through on this trip is Clanwilliam. Medics are going to be a problem. Have a medical kit handy and your medical scheme’s number.

The riders, Willem van der Berg and Desmond Louw.

Special thanks to BMW Motorrad South Africa for the long term G 650 GS Sertao. Sovereign BMW in Bloemfontein for the F 800 GS.
A Tom Tom GPS helped us on our way.

Posted in Northern Cape, Routes, Western Cape.