The Richmond Loop
As we all know Richmond sits in the middle of the vast Great Karoo and is know for the beautiful countryside which extends around it in all directions. The drives from Richmond to Murraysburg to the south, Graaff Reinet to the east, Victoria West to the west and Deelfontein to the north are spectacular. The endless veld, with the rocky mesas and outcroppings are nothing short of awesome.
If you get out of the car and strike off into the veld the going can at times be not all that easy; the ground is cove red in loose rocks, screed, grass and the ever-present little bossies, each of which has its own unique and aromatic smell. It is these oils in the leaves and little branches which impart into the world-famous Karoo lamb the flavours which sets it aside from the bland meat produced in the other sheep growing regions of the world. Nothing produced in Australia, New Zealand, or Scotland can compare.
A walk in the Karoo veld is almost a spiritual experience just because the land is so pre-historic and unchanged, the plants, bossies and the succulents, small though they are ancient.
What started as a local effort with the kind help of other off-road mountain bike enthusiasts from the Cape; their rugby teams are in such rapid decline that they decided that they would have to export something other that fine wines, so they decided on cyclists. The Kaapie was a chap by the name of Bill Germishuys who worked with local retired teacher and woodworker, Piet Cilliers, who co-opted a local “make work” character by the name of “Spokes” who assembled a work crew which cleared the path and created a really world class trail…..and it was done all for the love of the work and the final product. Richmond and anyone who “does” the trail in whatever fashion, will salute this team of good men.
As a result, Richmond now boasts a fantastic cycle and walking trail leading from the west end (the Cape town end) of Loop Street, into and through the veld, hills and buffs. It is very well marked and a pretty easy walk and ride. If you push it on the bike or pick up the walking pace to a jog it is a bit more of a challenge. The whole trail is just over 11km. The south side only is about 5km long, known as “Spokes Corner”. Two local farmers, Gerrit Viljoen & Derick van Zyl, are hard at work extending the trail to 25km. If the present trail is anything to go by then the completed trail will be a huge draw card for the outdoorsy mense.
As it winds around the hills there are some great places to stop for a rest and to hang your feet over a cliff, the endless Karoo veld going on to the horizon.
The trail crosses over (or under if the river is dry) the N1 and traces just below a spot where shooters hid and sniped at British soldiers during the Boer War. The now lovely broad path tracks below the famous www.richmondnc.co.za on the hill facing the N1 and then takes a pretty hectic up hill grand finale to the water tower. This last bit is a bit of a burner so if you think that the trail was too easy, pick up the pace to a faster cadence and you will get more than your money’s worth. When at the water tower you will get a grand view of Vegkop with its flags and the Kerk steeple below.
A downhill amble gets you back in town and a cold barley pop all within a couple hours. Your exercise for the day, some colour in your cheeks, a done deal, you can now feel not too bad eating a few nicely cooked lamb choppies!