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2017/10/09 4:46:56 PM - By Lee 'n Nita
Nita had never been to Clarens, so I figured; kill two birds with one stone.
We arrived Saturday at lunch, settled in for the weekend at our home away from home at Honeysuckle.


We paid a visit to the friendly staff at Clarens Xtreme to obtain a permit to make use of the mountain bike trail in the conservancy area just behind town. Standing in the queue outside their busy office, I was filled with excitement, eagerness & anticipation for all that was out there that I would discover on our ride the next day.

Monday morning; we were geared up - snacks, plenty of water & most importantly, the treasured Go Pro that would document the achievement of our very first trail in Clarens, Free State.

Once in the conservancy, it's a gentle slope up towards Kloof dam. We were in high spirits! First selfie stop of many...mountains and serene dam behind us.
Onwards and upwards! But before...a quick check of the map. We were on the right path, just needed to head on the path which curved to the right. We made a note of it as we made our way towards an awesome photo spot we could see a few hundred meters from us. We were experiencing our first...of many...uphills, but it was all worth it.

My old faithful with Nitas fatty standing side by side on a rocky sandstone outcrop, with a beautiful vista of mountains behind the bicycles. Selfie stop #2, done✔️

The Go Pro was repositioned and off we went to find the turn we needed to take according to the map we got given the day before. Keeping in mind that we had seen numerous paths, with no clear labels other than colour coded arrows, which was not on the map we had in hand, but part of the hiking trail map.

We weren't fazed, we knew which turn to take, or, so we thought...
After turning off, the trail was pleasant for a while, then we were hit with a very steep uphill. Only way up was to get off our trusty steeds and push the rest of the way.
Now being from Johannesburg, there are hills, but none like this.

Excellent opportunity for a photo shoot - low angles exaggerated the already steep ascent. Sun ahead of us incorporated into the shot. We were in our element. Nita, an avid Go Pro-er, and myself a liberated photographer.

I felt so liberated, that I proposed one of us should head down the sloping rock face on their bicycle, taking one for the team, breaking into the You Tube Mecca of uploaded "that ended badly" videos. For some reason, Nita wasn't as sold on the idea as I was.

The trail snaked around sharp corners and came to ledges where there was ice on one side, and a steep drop on the other. By this time we had come to the conclusion that we were no longer on the trail that was marked out on the map given to us, but somehow on one of the many hiking trails.
It was a first for us, not getting lost, we pretty good at that, but...cycling and having wheels touch ice, and having to navigate your way through melted ice and mud, while trying to stay on the trail and not take a blunder down the hill.

At this point, we decided we would stay the course and see where the trail would lead. The security of this trail was that all the while, we had a birds eye view of the town of Clarens below us.
Hence...not all who wander off the trail are lost.

All roads or paths will inevitably lead to a fork, a choice of two directions. We found ourselves at one of these. Left lead us on a relatively level path, seemingly an easier decent back to town, while right seemed to be heading to the end of the mountain we had found ourselves on.

So...we opted for the easy way down. It lead us into and through a herd of cows, and disturbingly further from town, be honest, in the total opposite direction. I believe in 6th sense, and mine was feeling uncomfortable at this stage, as was Nitas.
We stopped looked at the map, decided we needed to head back to that iconic fork in the road and opt for the path to the right, the one heading to the end of the mountain.

So back we went.

By this time the cows were already heading home, in itself is a troubling thing. We weren't prepared for an evening out with plummeting temperatures.

Not completely sure which of the many hiking trails we were on, we could begin to see town again, and it felt good.

This was definitely not a mountain bike friendly trail, pointed out earlier by a passing hiker, we had mountain bikes and were in the on with it.

Ourselves plus bikes had to pass under a wire fence, after was downhill all the way. This wasn't an easy amble down the mountain side, no-no. This was a put-your-bike-over-your-shoulder while clinging with elbows and knees and hope for the best, climb down the mountain.

And to remember to have a smile instead of a grimace when hikers passed you by on their way down, without extensive luggage.

After many, many grueling ..... minutes, which to us felt like hours, we eventually reached the town, we'd had a bird's eye view during most of the afternoon.

We had come to Clarens, we had rested, we had explored and were now quite ready for rejuvenation.

The thing is....

we would do it all again, exactly the same, even the way down, because...

not all who wander are lost
If you're thinking of visiting Clarens and trying out one of the scenic trails in the Clarens Conservancy, contact Clarens Xtreme for permits and check out the trails on the Trail Guide app - that way you won't get lost...!

Where to ride -

Who are Lee and Anita:
When not getting lost for Trail Guide, Lee is an eccentric photographer with a passion for the outdoors having been a game ranger & mountain guide, she and her artistic counterpart Anita ride for fun often with their low slung furry friends...

Lee - Full Resolution Photography
Nita - Noveltee Printing
Do it your own way, Explore in your own time.
Tel: +27 79 523 3069