There are easier ways to traverse a region, but besides hiking there isn’t a way that immerses yourself in the landscape quite like cycling. Now throw everything you need on your bike and you’re bikepacking. Seamus Allardice did just that, when he joined Zane Schmahl for the extended Bikamino recce in the most sparsely populated but exceptionally hospitable region of South Africa – the Namaqualand.


The Bikamino is a project proposed by Open Africa, a tourism development network which helps small local businesses establish rural tourism routes, and conceived by mountain event organisers, EcoBound. The plan is for the Namaqua Bikamino to offer a twelve day bikepacking route through the Namaqua Coastal Region all year round. Riders will be able to take on the journey entirely self-supported, organise their own support crew, or utilize the accredited network of guides to make the trip a little easier. Apart from in the coastal stretch of the Namaqua National Park formal accommodation and meals are an option throughout the route; but you can also choose the Spartan option and camp every night.

Fully loaded, bikepacking style. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

If riding for so long sounds a bit hectic for you but you’d like to experience the Namaqualand by bicycle there’s better news. The Bikamino will kick off with a three day stage ride next year. In the ride the competitive among you can race the total distance in one go, while those looking to soak up the scenery and culture, as we did, can enjoy a far more sedate pace, three race villages and Namaqua hospitality at its best.

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Namaqua overview. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

Bikepacking Gear

Zane’s plan from the start was for him and I to carry all the gear we would have to have on us, if we were camping every night; to check if the route was bikepacking friendly. This meant bikes loaded up with saddle and handlebar bags plus backpacks on our backs throughout. With the camera crew joining on the evening of day two it was very tempting to hand over gear, but somehow we resisted.

Everything you need you have to carry, so you become very weight conscious. Photo by Zane Schmahl.

So what did we carry? You can download the full check list here, but these are the basics:

The sleeping essentials by First Ascent. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

Splitting up the Starlight II tent. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

Zane rolling up the fly sheet to put in his bar bag. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

All the gear, packed up and ready to roll. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

Thanks to FIRST ASCENT for kitting us out in style for the Bikamino. We'll post a full break down of all the kit over the next few days, but for now here are the videographic cliff notes.

Posted by Diverge on Sunday, 24 June 2018


Day 1: O’Kiep to Nigramoep | 48km with 830m of climbing

Here's a little run down of what Zane Schmahl and Seamus Allardice are up to in the Namaqualand for the Bikamino.

Posted by Diverge on Sunday, 24 June 2018


Seamus and Zane ready to roll out of the O’Kiep Country Hotel. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

Having started out initial Bikamino recce in O’Kiep a month and a half earlier I was already familiar with the O’Kiep Country Hotel and more importantly their amazing food. So I knew Zane and I wouldn’t be starting our journey on empty bellies. After a hearty breakfast we braved the cold and packed what we wouldn’t need into one side of the vehicle – which would be staying in the hotel parking area – and the essentials (read: surf boards and wetsuits) which we would need later in the trip into the other, for photographer Jacques Marais to collect on his way past. Then we got cracking on the media work. Nearly an hour, about twelve videos and countless photos later, we rolled out of the hotel parking area – turned away from our intended destination and made our way to the only ATM in the village to draw cash.

Zane wrapped up against the cold. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

Eventually, at 10am we actually departed O’Kiep. And that set the tone for the Bikamino, regardless of how early we tried to hit the road we never managed to depart before 08:50. But we soon discovered that, especially in winter, there’s no point in rushing when bikepacking. Taking your time is part of the charm.

O’Kiep provided a cold start to the Bikamino. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

The morning in O’Kiep was the coldest of my seven days on the recce and I was happy to be bundled up in First Ascent’s Magneeto jacket, casquette and buff. When saving weight, because every item you want is an item you have to carry, is one of your primary concerns a jacket with sleeve which zip off is a real bonus. Rather than having to pack a gilet and a wind breaker the Magneeto jacket performed the role of both.

We crossed the N7 highway just outside O’Kiep and made our way towards Nababeep along a jeep track which cuts through the granite koppies. Spectacular quiver trees dot the hills and occasionally one would be dramatically silhouetted against the crisp blue sky.

Maa’s cafe in Nababeep. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

Passing through the once booming, now slowly dying, copper mining town of Nababeep we looked for a café for a coffee stop. But, it being a Sunday morning we were out of luck so we stopped on the first hill outside town for a roadside coffee instead.

Road side coffee stop. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

With caffeine coursing through our veins we descended for nearly ten kilometres into the Schaaprivier Canyon. (The Schaaprivier will be hosting an ultra-trail run in the flower season, this August, too if you’re keen on exploring the area by foot.) Our designation, Nigramoep, was on the far side of the canyon however so after the thrilling descent came the toil, up a climb of nearly equal length.

Zane and Seamus stopping for a photo above the Schaaprivier Canyon. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

The climb out of the Schaaprivier Canyon is pretty brutal. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

From the top of the climb we picked out way past a defunct copper mine and into the Nigramoep valley. Cresting the final rise of the day we were amazed by what lay nestled ahead of us. Strikingly green with clusters of white washed buildings Nigramoep was not the farmstead we were expecting, but a mountain hamlet. Before urbanisation robbed the Namaqualand of the majority of its rural inhabitants Nigramoep had boasted a primary school, hostel and three shops. Now, half a century after those busy days, it is home to four permanent households and a quaint collection of guest houses.

Zane checking the directions to Nigramoep on Suzette’s voice note. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

The view over the Nigramoep Valley. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

There we were welcomed into the home of Suzette and André Louw. They are both Namaqualanders who moved away but who couldn’t resist the call of the landscapes of their childhoods and returned to the area upon retirement. Suzette is the soul of Namaqua hospitality and kept plying us with food while André held court, regaling Zane and I with story upon story.

Suzette and Andre’s home in Nigramoep. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

Photo by Zane Schmahl.

Suzette Louw is the epitome of Namaqua hospitality. Photo by Zane Schmahl.

Andre holding court. Photo by Zane Schmahl.

Andre is a story teller of note, in the proud Namaqua tradition. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

Simple but tasty lunch. Photo by Zane Schmahl.

Lunch O’clock in Nigramoep. Photo by Zane Schmahl.

The couple’s decision to retire to the silences and unspoilt wilderness of Namaqualand seemed a remarkable one to me. The attraction of their lifestyle is undeniable but the apparent self-imposed isolation made me question if I would be able to live like they do.

Nigramoep sunset. Photo by Zane Schmahl.

Socializing in the Louw’s voorkamer. Photo by Zane Schmahl.

Seamus enjoying Suzette’s delicious dinner. Photo by Zane Schmahl.

Day 2: Nigramoep to Naries | 43km with 865m of climbing

Good morning from Nigramoep, in the mountains of Namaqualand. Take a look at what Zane Schmahl and Seamus Allardice made of the first day of their Bikamino journey. And find out a bit more about the amazing Nigramoep Valley.

Posted by Diverge on Sunday, 24 June 2018


One of the Nigramoep guest houses. Photo by Zane Schmahl.

Leaving Nigramoep took some time and admittedly quite a bit of willpower. After thinking the Louws were isolated initially, we discovered the opposite was actually true. They are the heart of a vibrant and tight-knit community.

I could have happily spent the week there but that would have meant not seeing the rest of the remarkably diverse Namaqualand. After another hearty breakfast, Suzette took us around the guest houses; which are all being renovated from the old school opstal and will be open for business in time for the spring flower season.

Zane pedalling his way out of the Nigramoep Valley. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

Back on the bike for day two. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

Eventually, with André’s hand-drawn map in hand, we departed Nigramoep for Naries. The two locations are probably less than 30km apart as the crow flies, but we had a significant dog’s leg to ride as we wanted to check out the Kastelsberg Pass. The riding, along the mountain jeep tracks, was great; especially on fresh legs and after a day of getting used to the added weight on my bike and back. The mountain meadows, which characterised the early part of the day, soon became my favourite landscapes of the trip, as they are markedly more fertile than the surrounding peaks or Sandveld plains.

Zane pointing to Kleinzee in the distance. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

Crossing into the unknown. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

At the top of the Kastelsberg Pass we stopped to fire off a few social media posts and Zane responded to emails before descending towards the R355.

The Kastelsberg Pass. Photo by Zane Schmahl.

Video time above the Kastelsberg Pass. Photo by Zane Schmahl.

Namaqua vegetation atop the Kastelsberg. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

Zane doing some work while the cell phone signal was strong. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

If you, like me, have never been one for road names or numerical designations you probably don’t know that the R355 is the most infamous gravel road in the country. It is the longest uninterrupted gravel road between two towns in South Africa. Originating in the Warm Bokkeveld, north of Ceres, its famous gavel only stretch passes the AfrikaBurn campsite on its way to Calvinia. With a well-earned reputation as a tyre destroyer it has become a rite of passage for adventure motorcyclists. After Calvinia it continues on, heading North West to Springbok – where it briefly boasts an asphalt surface – before turning due West for Kleinzee.

The R355 up close and personal. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

We joined it mid-way between Springbok and Kleinzee, turned East and headed inland towards our base for the second night, Naries. Getting to Naries proved a little more interesting than we had expected though. Not due to any difficulties though, but rather a chance encounter with a fellow cyclist provided one of the most intriguing moments of the trip.

Zane grinding his way towards Naries on the R355. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

Seamus Allardice loaded up with all the bikepacking essentials. Photo by Zane Schmahl.

The R355 follows the Kleinzee water pipeline. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

Cresting a small rise we met a fellow bikepacker riding in the opposite direction. But unlike us this guy really knew what he was doing. Fully loaded, with what he estimated to be fifty kilograms of gear and food Davide Travelli made Zane and I feel very soft in comparison.

Davide Travelli has been on the road for three years already. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

Davide has spent three years on the road already; cycling through the Americas, from Alaska to Patagonia, before starting the next leg of his global circumnavigation in Cape Town. His plan is to head up Namibia’s coast before cutting across into Botswana and riding through Central Africa into North Africa and finishing the leg in Cairo. From Egypt he’ll be heading into the Middle East for his traverse of Asia. Talk about big plans!

Seamus, Davide Travelli and Zane stop for a photo. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

The long gravel road towards Naries in the mountains. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

At the bottom of Spektakel Pass while the spirits were still high. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

Zane taking a breather on the pass. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

Spektakel might not be steep but it’s pretty long. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

Inspired by Davide we set off again towards Naries, knowing we’d have to summit the nine kilometre long Spektakel Pass to reach our destination. Fortunately that particular climb is on asphalt, but it is still a doozy. Fully loaded and with a break at the view point it took us an hour and twenty minutes to complete; so we were very happy to reach the hospitality of Naries – where a pool too cold for more than dipping tired calf muscles in awaited, along with a hearty tomato soup lunch.

Day 2 of the Bikamino in the bag. 43km from Nigramoep, Northern Cape, South Africa to Naries Namakwa Retreat. Take a look at Zane Schmahl and Seamus Allardice's recap on the day.

Posted by Diverge on Monday, 25 June 2018


Zane and I were joined that evening by Frans and Karien Fourie, with a huge array of video equipment – including a massive camera and a lens which looked fit for star gazing. Frans would be documenting the trip in order to make a film to enter in adventure lifestyle film festivals and from there on out our time was not our own as him getting the shot became the priority.

Namaqua sunset from Naries. Photo by Zane Schmahl.

Day 3: Naries to Houthoop | 96km with 810m of climbing

Day 3 of the Bikamino. Today Zane Schmahl and Seamus Allardice are heading for the coast. 98km or so of downhill trending gravel road, after the chilly descent of the Spektakel Pass.

Posted by Diverge on Monday, 25 June 2018


The third day of the Bikamino extended recce started with the descent of Spektakel Pass. Zane and I had debated if the extra weight would counter the added wind resistance enough for us to top my fastest speed of seventy kilometres per hour, which I managed on my gravel bike on the previous trip. And as it turned out, it’s difficult to tuck with a backpack on, so I only managed to reach sixty four kilometres per hour, but after grinding up at less than ten kilometres per hour the previous afternoon freewheeling down at any speed was a massive improvement.

Chilling on the Kleinzee pipeline. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

The R355 is pretty quiet between Springbok and Kleinzee, but what traffic there is tends to be mining related. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

The view over the Sandveld towards the Atlantic Ocean was obstructed by the malmokie – a thick sea mist which brings vital moisture inland when the temperature inversion between land and sea sucks cold, moist, air onto the coastal plain. The malmokie made the first hour or so of the day’s ride pretty chilly too. Once it burnt off though the day was pleasantly warm and with no wind we made good time, ticking off the kilometres to Kleinzee.

The long road to the sea. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

Zane carrying on straight, as they would be riding past Komaggas the next day. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

All roads lead to Komaggas. Photo by Jacques Marais.

Seamus and Zane didn’t make it as far north as Port Nolloth this time. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

In Kleinzee we met up with Frans, Karien and Jeanene Jessnitz. Jeanene manages the Namaqua Coastal Route project for Open Africa and lives in Kleinzee so she was keen to take us to the best local spot – Die Blikbord. After a lazy lunch and with close on thirty kilometres still to ride we had a decision to make. Frans wanted a sunset shot of us riding on the beach, but there was about two hours to kill before we could get that shot. So rather than ride to Houthoop and then ride back almost straight away we went down to the beach and hid from the wind which had come up over the course of the late afternoon. Eventually the sun sank low enough; we fell around in the soft sand, decided that pushing our bikes was the only option and got – what we hope will prove to be some amazing footage – in the can. Thereafter we switched on our bike lights and braved the gathering cold for the final stretch to Houthoop. Fortunately dinner, including muscle soup, lamb stew and pumpkin fritters awaited us there – along with the effervescent photographer Jacques Marais and the unofficial president of Namaqualand, Oom Dudley Wessels.

Die Blikbord. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

A scruffy little Kleinzee mutt. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

Namaqualand is the region of the dog. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

Bikamino Day 3. Zane Schmahl and Seamus Allardice 15km from our final destination for the day, after another massive Namaqualand meal at Die Blikbord in Kleinzee. Here's why we're waiting for the sun to set…

Posted by Diverge on Tuesday, 26 June 2018


Karien directing proceedings for the Kleinzee film shoot. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

The things you have to do for a good video… Photo by Frans Fourie.

Seamus and Zane heading for Houthoop as the sun set on day three. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

The Houthoop cottages are quaint but comfy. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

Day 4: Houthoop to Luiperdskloof | 71km with 1 335m of climbing

Bikamino Day 4. Zane Schmahl and Seamus Allardice are on their way to the mountains. SAN Parks Namaqua National Park here we come.

Posted by Diverge on Thursday, 28 June 2018


Seamus and Zane clowning around in an ancient car at Houthoop. Photo by Jacques Marais.

Seamus and Zane rolling out of Houthoop to cross the Sandveld once more. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

Heading back inland, after a night spent near the coast was always going to include some climbing; especially as the day’s final destination was the Luiperdskloof cottage in the North Eastern mountains of the Namaqua National Park. But first we had the plains of the Sandveld to re-cross as Zane and I rode to Komaggas.

On the road to Komaggas. Photo by Jacques Marais.

The Sandveld isn’t my favourite sub-region in Namaqualand. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

At least the road surface was good on the road to Komaggas. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

Zane answering emails. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

The by now familiar sparse Sandveld vegetation is, I will admit, not my favourite of the Namaqua floral regions; so I was amazed and frankly delighted when the grey shrubs suddenly gave way to thorn trees and green grasses just before Komaggas. It was like cycling unexpectedly over a rise and into the bushveld.

Cresting the rise into the Bushveld. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

Zane taking the weight off under a thorn tree. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

We stopped under a tree for a bit, as by that stage both of us were looking for any excuse to get our backpacks off for a couple of minutes. The constant weight of a pack on your shoulders, regardless of how comfortable it might be, gets wearisome after three and a bit days on the bike…

Rolling into Komaggas. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

Big Vern, the self-appointed major of Komaggas kept the guys entertained over lunch. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

After our bushveld stop we made our way into Komaggas were we stopped for a lunch of Frito chips and a shared Black Label quart. It was hands down the least healthy meal we had on the trip, but at least we could ride it off. And the next section provided the opportunity to sweat out those calories pretty quickly as the route began to climb through a steppe like terrain into the foothills of the mountains. The climb to the Messelpad, which runs along the top of the mountain range, took us from two hundred meters above sea level to a shade over six hundred meters in eight kilometres. It was pretty steep in sections, but the amazing riding on the Messelpad and the views over the more Namaqua mountain meadows it provided more than made up for the exertion required.

Zane riding into the Namaqua steppe. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

The road from Komaggas climbing through the steppe and into the mountains. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

Suffering in unison. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

Zane provided the excitement of the day on that section of the route when we rode through a flock of grazing goats, only to be chased by the Africanis dogs which were guarding the flock. Zane had been fiddling with his GoPro as we past the dogs, which had hardly batted an eyelid until we got between them and their flock – then they decided we were a threat and proceeded to give chase. Zane came flying past me as the barking started, but was too intent on not getting bitten to get a photo, despite having a camera in hand. Fortunately the pair of hounds were of a medium size, if one of the big Anatolian shepherds – which are so popular in the region – we would still be fleeing.

Keep the gate closed. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

Crossing into a mountain top farm. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

Look there’s signal… time to answer some emails. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

A few kilometres later we opened one of the Namaqua National Park’s unmanned gates, descended the top half of the Wildeperdehoek Pass and then started the agonising final ascent to Luiperdskloof. The final six kilometres of the day were filled with false summits, but eventually we reached the exquisitely secluded Luiperdskloof. It is definitely worth the climb and if you ride in on your own I’d suggest taking hiking gear and spending a couple of days off the bike exploring the mountains on foot to really soak up the remoteness of the location.

Decisions on the way to Luiperdskloof. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

Zane and Seamus celebrating arriving at Luiperdskloof. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

Bikamino Day 4 recap. After zero signal yesterday when Zane Schmahl and Seamus Allardice rode to the South African National Parks Namaqua National Park's Luiperd's Kloof camp. Here's what went down.

Posted by Diverge on Thursday, 28 June 2018


Namaqua star trails above the Luiperskloof cottage. Photo by Jacques Marais.

Day 5: Luiperdskloof to Hondeklipbaai | 72km with 586m of climbing

Bikamino Day 5 | Luiperd's Kloof to Hondeklipbaai. Now that's Zane Schmahl and Seamus Allardice are back in reception here's a look at what they expected from the half way point in terms of days in the Bikamino Recce.

Posted by Diverge on Thursday, 28 June 2018


Day five saw Zane and Seamus weave in and out of the Namaqua National Park multiple times. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

By the fifth day fatigue was starting to set in, in a big way. I was therefore not particularly sorry to hear Jacques’ plan that we reroute down the Wildeperdehoek Pass, which would cut ten rather mountainous kilometres from the day’s ride.

We set off, climbing and then descending out of the mountains around Luiperdskloof before regrouping with Jacques, Frans and Karien on the Wildeperdehoek Pass. We made roadside coffee while they took photos and video footage, before setting up to capture the panoramic vistas over the Namaqua grasslands which the Wildeperdehoek Pass offers.

With the cameras rolling we sped down the pass and set our sights on Hondeklipbaai, which required a third traverse of the Sandveld in as many days. I will confess to a serious sense of humour failure… The relentless corrugations were starting to fray at my nerves. Then when Jacques told me, erroneously, that there were only eighteen kilometres left in the day I could almost taste the fish and chips from the Rooi Spinnekop restaurant, in Hondeklipbaai. By the time eighteen kilometres had ticked away we were still at least fifteen kilometres from our destination… so I lost my cool and angry pedalled the remaining distance at the fastest pace I’d managed throughout the trip.

Suffering selfie. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

Zane grinding his way towards Hondeklipbaai. Photo by Jacques Marais.

Seamus in angry pedalling mode. Photo by Jacques Marais.

Fortunately double lunch and double servings of coffee cake were on hand to improve my mood. Along with the promise of a surf in the morning.

The Namaqua Coastal Route lists all the Open Africa accredited establishments. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

Zane and Seamus celebrate reaching the coast. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

Jacques and Zane chilling in Hondeklipbaai. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

Cake O’clock. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

Bikamino Day 5 recap. 70km in just under 3 hours, it was a high speed blast to the coast and Hondeklipbaai for Zane Schmahl and Seamus Allardice.

Posted by Diverge on Thursday, 28 June 2018


Day 6: Hondeklipbaai to Koringkorrel Baai

Bikamino Day 6… Surfs up. Surf now bicycle apocalypse later. Zane Schmahl and Seamus Allardice are heading out for a surf before hitting the road to Groenrivier Mond.

Posted by Diverge on Thursday, 28 June 2018


Pre-surf Namaqua Plat Snoek. The only way to ensure you enter the icy Weskus water warmed up. Photo by Frans Fourie.

Zane and Seamus checking the surf at Hondeklipbaai. Photo by Frans Fourie.

After a typically slow start to the morning, which had seen us get up an hour earlier than usual to hit the surf at sunrise, we eventually rolled out of Koingnaas where we had spent the night – after filling up with fuel and getting lost (no mean feat considering the town has about 12 streets). We did manage to have a surf though. I joined Zane for an hour before he left and Jacques took over in the water with me.

Seamus catching a wave at Hondeklipbaai. Photo by Jacques Marais.

Jacques about to have a post-surf Plat Snoek. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

Unfortunately the surf proved to be the final straw for me and I came out of the water feeling exceptionally nauseas. Zane meanwhile had decided to drive the first section of the day to save some time, as we were already running late. By the time Jacques and I caught up with the rest of the crew, post surf, Zane had been riding for about five kilometres and was off the main gravel road onto the jeep tracks towards the coastal campsites in the Namaqua National Park.

Zane riding solo towards Koringkorrel Baai. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

Zane catching a tow. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

I joined him briefly but only managed to ride five kilometres myself, before it became clear that riding was a bad idea. So I joined Jacques in the bakkie for the rest of the day.

Oom Dudley looks on while Zane refuels on plain carrot cake. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

The last mid-ride group selfie. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

I was disappointed not to be able to finish what would have been my final day on the Bikamino, on the bike. But it does leave me with unfinished business in the Namaqualand.

Riding into the coastal vegetation. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

That night we set up camp at Koringkorrel Baai; where in 1941, ex-South African Olympian turned Nazi agent, Robey Leibbrandt rowed ashore as he began what would ultimately prove to be an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Jan Smuts.

Zane celebrating reaching the ocean at Koringkorrel Baai. Photo by Jacques Marais.

Setting up the First Ascent Starlight II tent in Koringkorrel Baai. Photo by Jacques Marais.

Setting up the First Ascent Starlight II tent in Koringkorrel Baai. Photo by Jacques Marais.

Setting up the First Ascent Starlight II tent in Koringkorrel Baai. Photo by Jacques Marais.

After five days of carrying all the camping gear on our bikes it was great to get the chance to pitch the Starlight II tent. I’d used the Explorer sleeping bag a few times by then and so I knew I would be warm in it while camping, regardless of the weather blowing in from the North West.

Seamus and Zane trying the Starlight II tent out for size. For two grown men on hiking mattresses it provides comfortable, if not ample room. Photo by Jacques Marais.

At two in the morning I awoke to the sound of drizzle on the tent, a rarity for such a dry area – but also a hint of what was to come for poor Zane who would be carrying on alone from day seven onwards.

Bikamino Day 6 Recap: With Seamus Allardice falling ill Zane Schmahl soldiered on from Hondeklipbaai to Koringkorelbaai on his own. Here's how the day went down.

Posted by Diverge on Saturday, 30 June 2018


Nobody packed a braai grid so they cooked steaks and boerewors on hot rocks packed into the fire. Photo by Seamus Allardice.

Days 7 to 10 | Snowbound in Leliefontein

On the morning of the seventh day of the Bikamino recce we broke up camp at Koringkorrel Baai and set out towards Groenriviermond. The initial plan had been for the section between Hondeklipbaai and Groenriviermond to be undertaken in a single day, but fortunately Oom Dudley dissuaded Zane from that idea.

The road which links the Namaqua National Park’s seaside campsites, including Koringkorrel Baai and Groenriviermond, is very much a 4×4 only sandy track. Zane had jumped in Oom Dudley’s bakkie for the day, to get some much needed rest before attempting to ride the final three days, so he was not subjected to slogging it out through the sand. It rapidly became apparent that nobody would be riding that stretch; so when the event takes place or people attempt the Bikamino themselves the plan is to allow for an entire day to traverse the twenty four kilometres between Koringkorrel Baai and Groenriviermond. About fifteen of those kilometres will require pushing through the sand, but if riders depart early while the sand is hard with morning dew it should not be an unduly difficult hike.

From Groenriviermond, which offers exceptional bird watching for any cyclists with an ornithological interest, we drove inland to Garies. In Garies, Jacques and I said our farewells to the rest of the group and departed for Stellenbosch, meetings, and uninterrupted internet connectivity. With every kilometre we travelled South – as we took turns to drive so the other could write, edit and upload content – we missed Namaqualand more.

Seamus at the wheel of Jacques’ bakkie on the way home. Photo by Jacques Marais.

Zane meanwhile had more riding to do. Departing Garies the following morning he took a bit long to get going. Having wasted the perfect weather of the morning by indulging in a second breakfast he soon found himself cycling into a head wind. As the road climbed first gradually and then steeply towards Leliefontein it started to rain, and then sleet…

Zane Schmahl preparing to ride the last four days solo. Photo by Frans Fourie.

Coffee stop to warm up in a storm water drain. Photo by Zane Schmahl.

Zane Schmahl had to find somewhere to hide out during his assault on the Kamiesberg on the way from Garries to Leliefontein on Day 8 of the Bikamino today, when the rain finally came to the #NamaqualandCoastalRoute.

Posted by Diverge on Sunday, 1 July 2018


Zane riding through a storm on his way to Leliefontein. Photo by Zane Schmahl.

By the time he reached Leliefontein it was nearly dark and the temperature had plummeted to near freezing. But it would get significantly colder overnight still, and he awoke to snow on the ninth day of the trip. He, very, briefly considered riding on as planned to Kamieskroon – but sensibly settled to wait out the worst of the weather from the warmth of Vera’s Guest House in Leliefontein.

Rain in Leliefontein. Photo by Zane Schmahl.

Think you got cold last night? Spare a thought for Zane Schmahl who woke up to ice frozen to the inside of his windows. The Bikamino journey continues today as the weather improves slightly in the Kamiesberg.

Posted by Diverge on Monday, 2 July 2018


Zane had to hole up at Vera’s for the day when it became clear it wouldn’t be safe to ride on to Kamieskroon. Photo by Zane Schmahl.

The following day, with ice still covering the puddles on the rutted gravel road, Zane departed on the final leg of his journey. Again with weather interceding and now settled on the idea of marketing the Bikamino a twelve day, rather than a ten day, journey he decided not to complete the nearly one hundred kilometres from Leliefontein back to O’Kiep. He finished his ride in Kamieskroon instead and got a lift back to O’Kiep with Oom Dudley. While finishing in a vehicle was not exactly ideal; for Zane too the pressures of the outside world could not be held off for any longer. He could not afford to spend another day on the bike, out of email connectivity.

At least the snow melted. Photo by Zane Schmahl.

Icy puddles. Photo by Zane Schmahl.

One of the reasons an early start was tricky. Photo by Zane Schmahl.

More ice on the road. Photo by Zane Schmahl.

Chilly. Photo by Zane Schmahl.

And perhaps that will be the issue for many people wanting to ride the full twelve day Bikamino route. It’s a long time to be away from the demands of electronic communications. Yes, there is cell phone reception in all the little Namaqua towns and at seven of the eleven overnight spots; but after riding all day the last thing you are going to feel like is checking, and worse replying to, work emails. Uploading a few photos to Instagram and checking in with the family is probably going to be the extent of most people’s electronic engagement; and that’s the way it should be. Zane and I were far too focused on our phones, but that’s the nature of what we were on the Bikamino trip to do. For people simply coming to ride, the remoteness of the Namaqualand will seep into your soul and psyche. If you dip your toes in the shallow end, and start with the 3 day stage ride next year, the landscape and people will undoubtedly captivate you. It’ll draw you back to experience it in greater detail, to immerse yourself for a week. And then for two… You probably won’t be able to commit to twelve days off the bat, if you’re anything like me – life is just too busy to allow for so much time away – but the Namaqua Bikamino will inspire you to find a way to commit to a full twelve day journey.

Zane on arrival back at the O’Kiep Country Hotel. Photo by Zane Schmahl.

I’ve now done three and six days, so I’m getting there. Next up is the full ride… and then… Well who knows, there’s still the Richtersveld and the Knersvlakte to explore.

Take a look as Seamus Allardice caught up with Zane Schmahl in Wellington to reflect on the final 4 days of the Bikamino journey.

Posted by Diverge on Saturday, 7 July 2018


I arrived at Nigramoep wondering how, despite its beauty, Suzette and André could move from my hometown of Stellenbosch to a hamlet in the Namaqua Mountains. Now I think I know, but it’s not something I can articulate. So all I can do is advise you to experience it for yourself. Perhaps you can put it into words, but then again you too might struggle to pin-point the mystical hold the Namaqualand gains on your soul.

The Bikamino crew, minus Jacques. From left to right: Karien, Frans, Seamus, Zane and Oom Dudley. Photo by Jacques Marais.