1.The Dome Conservancy
The dome Conservancy, just outside Parys, straddles both the Free State and North-West provinces. The Vaal River, a provincial boundary, runs through the middle of the dome conservancy. The Vredefort Dome is a unique circle of mountains formed by the deep impact of a prehistoric meteorite hitting the earth’s surface and destroying everything for a radius of 200 km.
On your bike
This route on the North-West province side of the river takes in stretches of technical singletrack, jeep track and district dirt roads. Beware of lightning strikes in summer – they are particularly bad in the late afternoons when the storm clouds gather.
You won’t find Venterskroon on any map. Established in 1889 as a gold mining town around the same time as another tiny hamlet called Johannesburg. Venterskroon consists of an old jail, a handful of houses, some cattle paddocks and a hostel. However, the hamlet is a well-known landmark in the area, and people meet at the Base Camp under the big tree next to the jail and the dirt road to access the rides described.
Leaving the Venterskroon Base Camp there is a warm-up of around 15 km, which includes a stint along the Potchefstroom road. The trail turns onto a jeep track which leads up to a national monument, the house of Totius, an Afrikaans writer and poet. The ascending jeep track then deteriorates to a barely discernable footpath, through some scratch bushveld. After every good climb, there’s an even better downhill, and this one is 2 km of singletrack heaven. For riders without the advantage of dual suspension, the next 6 km section to the Boplaas Camp via Schoemansdrift will be a welcome relief, as will a swim in the crystal clear reservoir and lunch. Riders an choose to overnight at this point or at the Bundu camp further up. The rest of the ride heading to Oudewerf and Base Camp is demanding both in terms and gradients and bike-handling skills. If you don’t like riding rocks … have a nice hike! If you’re a real mountain biker
2.Thabela Thabeng Mountain Retreat
Thabela Thabeng Mountain Retreat lies between the mountains and the Vaal River in the midst of the unique geological structures of the Vredefort Dome, a world heritage site only 100 kilometres from Johannesburg.
The 10-kilometre trail is a return ride, with plenty of portaging required. Thabela Thabeng means “be happy in the mountains”, so follow the advice and penetrate deep into the mountains by going up the kloof at Thabela Thabeng, where the National MTB Championship downhill of 1997 was held.
Catch your breath and admire the view. Then, what took you an hour to push and pedal up, flashes past in a radical downhill on rocks and rutted jeep tracks. In minutes, the downhill spits you out onto the Venterskroon road. The gradient eases off as you thread your way across the Vaal River’s flood plains, passing through verdant riverine forest down to the river, which forms the glittering centrepiece of the Dome Conservancy.