Learning how to ride a bicycle in De Hoop Nature Reserve MzansiBride

Winona Griggs

How

My Adventure Learning to Ride a Bike at De Hoop Nature Reserve

I can’t believe my luck! Living in Cape Town means having access to numerous wildlife areas that are incredibly easy to reach. From the iconic Table Mountain National Park in the heart of the city to the stunning Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area in the Cederberg, there are endless opportunities for adventure. Last weekend, I decided to take a different path and explore the incredible De Hoop Nature Reserve in the Overberg region.

The journey from Cape Town to De Hoop Nature Reserve took me about three and a half hours. As I arrived, I was amazed by the reserve’s unique location. It stretches across the dunes, extending into the ocean as the captivating De Hoop Marine Protected Area. On the other side, it reaches into the veld, protecting the diverse fynbos plants that are native to the Cape Floral Region.

Did you know that De Hoop is more than just a tranquil sanctuary? It’s a place that offers excitement and adventure for those seeking an active getaway. Whether you’re a nature lover or a sports enthusiast, De Hoop has something for everyone.

When it comes to outdoor activities, De Hoop has got you covered. You’ll find an abundance of hiking and mountain biking trails that will take you on a journey through the stunning landscape. As you explore the trails, you might stumble upon hidden gems and breathtaking views that will leave you in awe.

For those who prefer a more competitive spirit, De Hoop boasts a tennis court where you can showcase your skills and enjoy a thrilling match with friends or family. It’s the perfect opportunity to challenge yourself and test your agility and strategy.

And let’s not forget the famous Whale Trail. This five-day hiking adventure will take you along the rugged coastline, allowing you to witness the majestic beauty of the ocean and its inhabitants. You might even catch a glimpse of the magnificent Southern Right Whales that frequent these waters.

So, whether you’re looking for a peaceful escape or an action-packed getaway, De Hoop has it all. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to immerse yourself in nature while indulging in exhilarating activities.

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At the De Hoop Collection, we’ve taken over the accommodations in De Hoop from Cape Nature. We want to make sure that there’s something for everyone, so we offer a wide variety of options.

If you’re into camping or caravanning, we have great spots for you in the Opstal area. For those who prefer a more comfortable stay, we have small self-catering cottages in the De Hoop Village. And if you’re looking for something romantic for just the two of you, our Vlei Rondawels are perfect.

But that’s not all! We also have some luxurious choices available. The Opstal Manor House, Shearing Studio, and Stable Suite offer catered or self-catering stays, so you can choose what works best for you. And if you want even more privacy, we have larger houses across the vlei from the Opstal area. These houses were originally part of one of the De Hoop farms and include the Melkkamer Manor House, Vlei Cottage, and Foreman’s Cottage.

No matter what kind of experience you’re looking for, the De Hoop Collection has got you covered. We can’t wait to welcome you to our wonderful accommodations in De Hoop!

My stay at the Melkamer Vlei Cottage was an incredible journey through time. This charming house, originally built in 1872, has been renovated inside, but still retains its old-world charm. Inside, you’ll find vintage paraffin lamps in each room, which create a cozy atmosphere once the sun goes down. There’s something truly magical about enjoying a meal by the warm glow of these lamps, accompanied by a delightful glass of wine.

Although the cottage doesn’t have electricity, you won’t be sacrificing modern comforts. The kitchen is well-equipped with a gas-powered oven, stove, fridge, freezer, and geyser. Outside, there’s a lovely braai area with a picnic table and bench, perfect for enjoying the crackling of the fire and observing the graceful pelicans while the sky transitions from vibrant blue to dusty purple. The Melkamer Vlei Cottage offers four bedrooms, each accommodating two people in either double or twin beds.

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As I soak in the warm afternoon sun, I can’t help but feel a strong urge to curl up with a cozy book and a steaming cup of hot chocolate. It’s a tempting option, no doubt. However, there’s something else that needs my attention, something that has been long overdue: I need to learn how to ride a bike.

I know, it may sound unbelievable, but it’s true. Despite being 27 years old, I have never been able to ride a bike for more than a measly 100 meters (and that too, in a terribly wobbly line). The mere thought of getting on a bicycle fills me with both excitement and anxiety. It’s a mix of emotions that’s hard to explain.

When we arrived at our accommodation, we were pleasantly surprised to find that two mountain bikes were included with the rental. To our delight, we could reserve the bikes ahead of time when making our booking. But as I laid eyes on the bold red bike, I couldn’t help but feel a bit skeptical. It seemed like a daunting challenge that lay ahead.

My partner, however, had a different perspective. He suggested we start on the grass, which seemed like a good idea to avoid any embarrassing tumbles. As I began my first pedal strokes, the sound of coots hooting in the background made me feel a bit self-conscious. And just as I had feared, my jeans quickly got caught on the spikey parts of the bike (I had clearly made the mistake of not dressing appropriately in Lycra).

But despite the initial challenges, I soon found my rhythm. Simon, my partner, gradually let go of my seat, giving me a sense of independence. I couldn’t help but let out a mix of shrieks and laughter as I cruised through the fynbos. Little did I know, venturing into the fynbos wasn’t the wisest choice in a reserve dedicated to preserving its natural beauty.

After giving it a few more tries, I finally started to figure it out – although I still couldn’t quite grasp how the gears worked. With a newfound confidence, we set off to explore the gravel roads. However, just as I was getting the hang of it, I encountered a young boy on his own bike. I panicked and lost my balance, nearly colliding with him as I swerved uncontrollably. Luckily, he was a skilled cyclist and managed to avoid me. He calmly reassured me, saying, “Don’t worry about it,” as I apologized profusely. He quickly rode away, leaving me a bit shaken but determined to continue.

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I couldn’t believe how quickly things started to get better. Before I knew it, I was confidently pedaling for a whole minute without having to stop. Of course, I did need a gentle reminder to take my eyes off the ground and appreciate the beautiful scenery around me, but that usually ended with me crashing into some bushes again. For someone more experienced, who can actually look away from the road and handlebars, De Hoop offers incredible views of the fynbos, vlei, and lots of antelope. The only downside was the bumpy gravel road that really took a toll on my butt – I guess real mountain bikers come prepared with padded seats, fancy Lycra gear, and bikes with better suspension.

After my little journey (if you can call it that) down the road, I was absolutely delighted with my three-kilometer ride. Delighted, but completely worn out – this pedaling thing is really exhausting for those of us who aren’t used to it. After a nice, hot shower, I snuggled up in my comfy bed, finally able to relax with a good book and a steaming mug of hot chocolate. While De Hoop has plenty more to offer – like guided walks by the sea, guided bike rides through the mountains, a top-notch restaurant, and more – at that moment, I was perfectly content to just unwind, listen to the coots (now cheering me on), and think about what tasty goodies to grill for dinner that evening.

Photos: Simon Capstick-Dale and De Hoop Collection.

Photos: Simon Capstick-Dale and De Hoop Collection.

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