The Trail Daze crew wrap up their 2017 KZN trip as they head out further along the N3 towards the quiet town of Howick for a dusty sunset session.
Having revisited the Jonkershoek trails recently, we decided to do so again with the similarly magical, and even more diverse, Karkloof trails. Since the 90’s, Karkloof resident and local trail builder Hylton Turvey, has been raking, digging, and building new lines and features to this ever-expanding trail network.
At the centre of the now 100+ km network lies the Karkloof Country club. From here you can access all the different trail sections, however, with local knowledge, certain sections can be accessed via some of the connecting gravel roads. It’s important to note that most of these trails run through private farms and Sappi land, and access via vehicle is prohibited.
Having sampled Rene's Rumble, Jewitt's Jive and Bat Outta Hell during our previous visit, we focused our attention on two new sections of this vast network, namely Netjie Shoes and Cleveland Express.
Netjie (named after Hylton's wife Dané) Shoes is a new trail to the network, running through a patch of skinny Bluegums. With typical Karkloof flow, it makes use of the natural erosion and lay of the land, and the trail carves along the gullies which are connected by wooden bridges.
In stark contrast to this, the Cleveland Express takes you through the wide open grass plains along cattle paths following the meandering Karkloof River. It is the type of trail with amazing scenery and that perfect gradient of up-and-down that every ride should finish on, with the last golden rays lighting the way and that feeling that you could pedal on forever...
Karkloof is home for me. I was born and raised here and still live here today. I can remember from a young age going on adventures into the mountains with my parents. Having that wide open space to explore with no real boundaries and living on our small farm played a huge part in the creative side of mountain biking for me. We didn't have a trail or features to ride so we had to build it or you rode something raw as it lay. My friend and I rode BMX and my dad helped us push some soil on the farm to build jumps. Every day after school we would be building and just as the sun sets we would ride as the jumps faced into the sunset, that went on for a few years. I'd still join my dad on some of his outrides into the mountains with no real purpose-built trail at the time just exploring on bikes.
I started frequenting the Karkloof trails back in 2010 with numerous trips from Joburg to the Midlands. Those trips have fortunately stopped as I have now made the Midlands my home and get to enjoy these trails on a day to day basis. The riding and trails in the Karkloof have always been pretty central in my progression as a rider and that progression has always been on tracks and obstacles that Hylt Turvey has put together and often with me following him into some new challenge. I've gone from just a rider visiting the area to a committee member and now the vice chairman of the club to try and give back in some way to the area and trails that have given me so much and to hopefully give other riders (and now trail runners) the same unique experience our trails offer.
One day I watched a North Shore MTB movie and I was fascinated. Before I knew it we were raking and digging trails through a forest on our farm. The features grew and so did our bikes and we soon traded in our BMXs for mountain bikes. My dad and his friend started an MTB event in 1993, called the Karkloof Classic. It was basically the community getting together to host the event. Trails weren't a known thing back then. Soon after discovering it, we were raking the first trail down a mountain for the event - no building, just raking. We continued building our trails in the forests - making more and more hand built features. Each year more trail would be added to the event and soon the event became known for its trails. That was the foundation of all the trails in Karkloof.
Karkloof Country Club GPS: 29°22'57.8"S 30°15'49.7"E
Riders : Mark Millar | Hylton Turvey
All images by Ewald Sadie