Situated on the foothills of Bainskloof, the Bain’s MTB trails – also known as Welvanpas MTB trails – begin on the Welvanpas farm in Wellington. This region is known for producing Safari dried fruit, some fine wine, whisky and now magical riding.
It was a grey day when we explored the Bains MTB trails at Welvanpas, our riding accompanied by an almost constant drizzle. Misty clouds wafted over the mountains, swirling around the hills, giving the whole place an otherworldy feel. Here we wouldn’t have been surprised if we’d bumped into Rip van Winkle or the strange little men that played bowls in the mountains, while he drank their intoxicating brew. We were cycling on the white route of Bain’s MTB Trails at Welvanspas, a 29km trail of almost exclusive singletrack. The sign near the parking lot advises that “advanced technical skills and high fitness level required”.Although the trail is certainly not for beginners and you need to be fit, it’s not overly technical. If this appears too daunting, there is a shorter 15km blue route that cuts out the trickier sections of the white route. (The yellow and black route have been closed.)
During the course of the ride we came across three steep drops but except for the first one, which is clearly visible, the other two have clear warnings signs before you approach. There is also a downhill section, which could be tricky especially in the wet, where the trailbuilders have placed concrete pavers over the soft soil that disintegrates easily when too many riders brake in the corners. However, by far the majority of the trail is uncomplicated. The white route starts with a climb that meanders up a hill without much in the way of trees, until the singletrack leads you up to a line of blue gums that soon give way to pine forest. Cycling high on precipitously narrow trail, we could make out the hills beneath us and the Groenberg mountain opposite through the veil of precipitation. At times, we had no idea where we were in relation to where we’d started because of the cloudy and misty conditions and the continual looping round and up and down over hill and vale. However, the trail was well marked in most parts.
We rode through pine forest, were the needles held back the gently falling rain, to open sections of fynbos that were fragrant in the wet. Cycling next to the Kromrivier, in a section of forest named ‘Lord of the Rings’, it felt as if we’d been transported to England for a moment. Just before Tolkien’s signpost we came across the ‘Skywalk’, which would have been better named Skyride. This semi-circular bridge lurches off the side of the trail and back again so that you can cycle over the river. What fun! We did it twice. I felt sheltered under my helmet as the rain droplets collected and dripped off the edge of my peak, almost like someone standing under the eaves of a roof unaffected by the constant drizzle. About half -way through the ride, after continuous ascending and descending, you again find yourself on the valley floor as you pass by the entrance to Doolhof Wine Estate, which is nestled between the Groenberg and Hawekwa mountains. You then wind your way up on singletrack and continue to meander, crunching the kilometres as you go. Shortly after passing some paddocks for the second time on an out-and-back section, you’ll find yourself facing the route marker displaying the words, ‘True Grit’. I was getting tired and groaned inwardly as I suspected that we were going to be heading straight up the Hawekwa mountain towards Bainskloof.
Fortunately, the trail seems to derive its name from the riverine sand in this area (coarse and crunchy under your tyres) and not from your ability to ascend vertically. Littered with rocks, you’ll need to concentrate on your line here. The last few kilometres take you through some more trees and then up through rows of recently burnt-out protea bushes and leafless, ebony gumtree trunks that reach to the sky with their eerie black fingers. Passing by the blackened branches, we reached the last section of singletrack, known as ‘Blazing Saddles’. Although not overly technical, you need to hug the left side and keep your eyes firmly on the trail ahead as there is an almost sheer drop to the right. This is not a spot to take a tumble. Finally some jeep track between the vineyards takes you down the short stretch leading to the farm house and Die Ou Meul coffee shop, where a well-deserved cuppa and delicious carrot cake are a perfect way to round off the ride.
Grub (for the grubby)
Die Ou Meul
Right at the start and end of the Bains MTB Trails on Welvanspas, Die Ou Meul serves toasted sandwiches, hot and cooldrinks and the most delicious carrot cake.
The Stone Kitchen Bistro on Dunstone Wine Estate
A family-friendly bistro and winery around the corner from Welvanspas. They offer the Dunstone burger, homemade pies and quiches, aromatic curries, filled baguettes and vineyard platters. We rate the lamb burger as the best you’ll ever taste!
Plan your ride
Sunrise to sunset
R60 – at Die Ou Meul coffee shop on Welvanpas farm (closed on Mondays) Tel: 021 864 1239
R600 – these can be purchased from Adventure Cycles, 26 Church St, Wellington. Tel: 021 873 7434
From Wellington, drive out of town on Church Street, towards the Bainskloof Pass. Turn left into Hill Street, just after Bovlei Cellar. Turn immediately right into Bovlei Road. Turn right at the next T-junction. The road will become gravel and after 2km you’ll enter the Welvanpas gates. Parking on your left.
Blue 15km, moderate skill and fitness level; highest point: 360m at 7km (total ascent:250m)
White 29km, highest point: 410m at 24.5km (total ascent: 900m)
Yellow closed. Black: closed. Both the Yellow and Black trails have been closed indefinitely, possibly permanently because of issues with the land owner. However, according to the Bains MTB Facebook page, there is work being done to build new trails on Welvanspas.
Spring and autumn provide the best riding weather, as summers are generally extremely hot in Wellington. Winter can be wet but the trails are said to drain well and if the sun has been out for a couple of days, all the better.
These trails are fairly remote, so make sure you take a buddy with you. It can be lonely: we rode Welvanpas on a Saturday; there were only two other cars in the parking lot and we saw only one other rider briefly.
Text: Elise Kirsten Photos: Stephen and Elise Kirsten