Apart from the sections at the beginning and end, the route will follow the Freedom Challenge Trail, which is an A to B type trail of approximately 2,400km in length.
The trail meanders through mountains and valleys, vast flat expanses, deserts and tropics, open roads, single-track, gravel road (in varying states of disrepair), dual track, nature reserves, private property, and a few tiny stretches of tarmac.
The trail will either be ridden or walked. There are several short lengths that are unrideable and will require the team to resort to portage. This will take place on foot.
The ride from Durban to the start of the Freedom Challenge Trail in Pietermaritzburg will follow the Umgeni River Valley, a section that is scheduled to take two days. The final section, from Paarl to Cape Town, will take three days and follow a largely off-road route through Perdeberg and Blaauwberg to Mouille Point.
The route is divided into 7 regions:
SISONKE (Region 1)
Day 1 to 6: Durban – Pietermaritzburg – Byrne – Hella Hella – Centacow – Ntsikeni – Swartberg – Little Umzimvubu
Follow the ‘Comrades Marathon’ route up From Durban until the R623 (about 70km). Then link up to Freedom trail at Bisley Nature Reserve (7.2km) at Pietermaritzburg.
From Pietermaritzburg, the route is dominated by climbs into and out of the valleys of the large rivers that run from the Maloti Drakensberg Mountains down to the sea. The trail heads out on a dirt road through the Bisley Nature Reserve. This is followed by a short section of tar down to Baynesfield Estate and then dirt road and forestry tracks that run up to the Minerva Nature Reserve on the watershed between the Umgeni and Umkomaas Rivers. A double-track descent into the village of Byrne is followed by forestry roads, through plantations and then the dirt road descent to the Hella Hella crossing over the Umkomaas River. From the Hella Hella crossing of the Umkomaas the gravel road climbs tortuously out of the valley before heading across towards McKenzie Club and the watershed between the Umkomaas and Umzimkulu catchments. The main route of the trail follows gravel roads and forestry tracks up to the village of Donnybrook and then through the indigenous forests and plantations of Nqumeni and Nkonzo before dropping down to the Centocow Mission on the banks of the Umzimkulu River. Leaving Centocow a forestry track runs over the watershed and down to cross the Ngwangwane River at Riverside Siding. The main trail then runs along gravel roads up alongside the Gungununu River before climbing steeply up to enter the Ntsikeni Nature Reserve. From there single tracks run out of the reserve and down behind the Swartberg before linking up with gravel roads that run down to the Little Umzimvubu River.
MALUTI (Region 2)
Day 7 to 18: Little Umzimvubu – Matatiele – Ongeluksnek – Tinana – Vuvu – Naude's Nek – Rhodes
Entering the communal lands of the Eastern Cape at the Little Umzimvubu River, a gravel road climbs up to Taylerville before the trail follows cattle tracks through to Masakala Village outside the town of Matatiele.?From Matatiele the trail passes through villages and bypasses mission stations as it follows cattle tracks and rutted dirt roads across the floodplains of the Knira River towards the Mariazell Mission Station at the foot of Ongeluksnek Pass. From Ongeluksnek the trail then continues in the shadow of the escarpment as it runs through to Tinana Mission, allowing for an optional but impressive detour to Black Fountain. Cattle tracks carry the trail through to the Tina River where it then climbs up to the village of Vuvu. From Vuvu it's a major climb up to the top of the Drakensberg escarpment in the Naude’s Nek area from where the trail descends on the dirt road into the small town of Rhodes.
STORMBERG (Region 3)
Day 19 to 27: Rhodes – Bottlenek – Vaalhoek – Dordrecht – Pronskraal – Brosterlea – Hofmeyr
Heading out from Rhodes, the trail runs through the red grasslands and yellow sandstone cliffs of the Southern Drakensberg as it follows a dirt road that winds upwards before turning off and heading down into the valley of the Bokspruit River. Emerging from the valley, the trail continues up alongside the Sterkspruit River to Johnson's Leap before descending down through the Bottlenekspruit. This is followed by a gradual climb up the picturesque Rytjiesvlakte before a single track crossing of the Southern Drakensberg below the Kopshorn to the Vaalhoek Valley. The farm roads then join up with a gravel road that descends down the Vaalhoek to Clifford. From there it’s a rollercoaster of sharp climbs and steep descents through Swartnek and down to Rossouw before swinging off towards Moordenaarspoort and the small town of Dordrecht. From Dordrecht the trail follows gravel roads of varying quality as it runs up the valley of the Holspruit and then along a good but quiet dirt road to Brosterlea before heading off through farms to Stormberg Siding and then continuing on into Molteno. Beyond Molteno, a dramatic single-track crossing over the Bamboesberge is followed by a steep dirt road to finally drop off the Drakensberg escarpment into the Great Karoo where a good straight dirt road runs into the town of Hofmeyr.
KAROO (Region 4)
Day 27 to 31: Hofmeyr – Elandsberg – Fish River – Swaershoek – Pearston – Karoopoort – Darlington Dam – Kleinpoort – Groot River
From Hofmeyr the route follows disused public roads towards Cradock and the Great Fish River, from where double-track routes and gravel roads run through to the Garslandskloof. After climbing up the valley on jeep tracks to the Schurfteberg an exhilarating farm track descends down into the Swaershoek. The route then follows the gravel road that runs down alongside the Little Fish River before swinging westwards to then descend down the Buffelshoek to Pearston, although the team may elect to take on the very rough Struishoek descent instead. From Pearston the trail follows the gravel road down to Hoop van Afrika before swinging past Karoopoort and continuing down alongside the Voelrivier to the Darlington Dam section of the Addo Elephant National Park. Leaving the dam, a rough double track then takes us through the Gwaas Valley to Perdepoort. Then it's dirt roads that run through Kleinpoort and across the Springboklaktes that form part of the Steytlerville flats before reaching Bucklands which is located at the point where the Groot River meets the Baviaanskloof mountains. From Bucklands a choice of dirt road or farm track runs through Hottentotspoort to the foothills of the Baviaanskloof Mountains.
SWARTBERG (Region 5)
Day 32 to 38: Willowmore – Prince Albert – Vleiland – Anysberg
From Willowmore a good dirt road runs out in the direction of Klaarstroom before passing through the Strydomspoort to the northern side of the Droeberge. On the northern side of the mountains the trail follows an old public road that runs past Soetendalsvlei and past Rondawel, Zwartskraal and Klein Sleutelfontein to the town of Prince Albert. This is mostly flat and, in places, sandy riding. From Prince Albert the route runs up the Swartberg pass, through Gamkaskloof support station and then up The Ladder and a push through to the Bosluiskloof road where it continues westwards alongside the Swartberg to Vleiland settlement. Our route continues on the back road through Rouxpos before picking up the Ladismith road and then heading into Anysberg Nature Reserve through the disused road that runs past Spreeufontein.
BREEDE RIVER (Region 6)
Day 38 to 44: Anysberg – Montagu – MacGregor – Hammanshof – Rawsonville – Paarl – Cape Town
Continuing westwards through the Anysberg Nature Reserve and then southwards to Hoek-van-die-Berg, a long gradual downhill dirt road from the top of the Ouberg Pass will take the team into the town of Montagu. Continuing through the Coegmanskloof to Ashton, a combination of tar roads, farm tracks and dirt roads leads through to McGregor. Continuing through McGregor, the route picks up the old oxwagon route that runs on the northern side of the Riviersonderend Mountains to the farm Kasra. Dropping down and around the Brandvlei Dam the route runs into Rawsonville. From Rawsonville the trail heads up the Slanghoek Valley and then over the Bainskloof Pass to Wellington and Paarl. A secondary trail heads up to the Stettynskloof Dam. This is followed by the most testing part of the entire route. From the dam there is a 10 kilometre (and 8 to 10 hour) portage up the Stettyns Valley to emerge on to the Elandspad jeep track in the Du Toits Kloof Mountains. The track then emerges at the foot of the Du Toits Kloof Pass. The team will ride up the pass and down single track to Paarl. Phew! Then it's a relative cruise for any survivors over tarmac through to Cape Town!