What a great morning’s riding. Woke up at 4:30am and spent 45 mins fuffing around, getting bike, clothes, fluids and other gear ready. Camera check; cellphone power cell, check; there was something else I forgot this morning, but what was it? Oh, I remember now, it was breakfast. No matter, there’ll be plenty of places on the way right?

So I’m driving my Nissan pickup truck (in manual, on the wrong side of the road) and the sun is just coming up and the highway is empty and I’m stressing on my gps coordinates (what else is new) and flipping between google maps and iphone map and trying to see on a tiny screen that keeps sliding out of view or graying out on me, and I’m making hostile noises and gestures, which is good, because nobody is going to attempt any car-jacking on me this morning.

I am sensing signs of hunger, so I look for somewhere to eat, but it’s empty, closed, few stores, oh hallelujah, there’s a 24 hour McDonalds. I pull in to the parking lot after executing a strange midnight LeMans involving going the wrong way and then backtracking up the right way down the wrong lane against the traffic and jumping three lights in the process. Man’s gotta eat.

Then I have a surreal experience at the drive-through – call it language barrier, but I swear the lady tells me no food, and breakfast is served in 15 minutes at 6am. OK no problem, I have to eat and I have time before meeting Sally, so what the hell. I pull up in the parking lot, and a few minutes as I’m waiting see another couple next to me pull up and then a guy comes running out of McDonalds with two bags and coffee and serve them. Oh the look on my face! I wind down the window and sputter, point, grunt at their food to learn that yes, there is food served all day and night – just the “normal” menu. So back round I go, get my big mac with extra lettuce, and coffee and stuff it in my face like a furtive badger and share the droppings with a little bird friend, and head off again happy as can be into the early morning to find the trail head.

Durbanville, it turns out is wine country – wide, open hillside with long grasses half flattened by the 40km/hr wind buffeting my little pickup. It’s a beautiful view and the valley stretches on for miles in all directions seemingly. Lots of transplanted Australian trees and palm groves around some of the farms and vineyard buildings give the place an exotic feel.

Sally arrives at our meeting time, and she is completely prepared, with a killer itinerary – about three hours and 40km to ride, and after a brief discussion we’re off climbing the cobwebs away and spinning happily chatting and riding. The trails are not super technical, but the wind and the vista and the solitude of it all are breath-taking – kind of reminds me of some of the riding in Portugal, but with the added beauty of Table Top mountain on the horizon, and planes weaving their way through the gusts to land in Cape Town.

We have a distinctive three-part ride, each section broken into lots of single track technical climbing, followed by technical and then flowing downhill. The miles pass by quickly,  and soon enough we’re stopping for a quick coffee and a snack for the big diesel boy (that be my pasta) and a chat with the guys at the vineyard, which happens to be the last stop on the Cape Epic race.

What a great spot, resist the urge to wine taste, and we’re off on another loop up into the hills again. We pass a few other riders, but mostly we’re on our own, enjoying the perfect conditions.

My bike is running well, the fatter tires suiting me (Nobby Nic) and the lighter pressure works well here too (2 bar). I have one mechanical issues with my seat post yanking 30 degrees on me, but 60 seconds with an allan key fixes that issue. Overall the hard tail is no problem on the ride, although if I could get a dual suspension for the same weight and money I would be all over it.

I’m loving being out here, and the trail keeps us moving for longer than planned. We end up doing a 51.65km route over 4 hours, with about 1100 metres elevation (thanks Sally!) and it was worth every km. Looking forward to planning my next ride with AWOL Tours and seeing what other routes are out there to explore.

Big thank you again to Sally at AWOL Tours for a great day!