The opening stage of the 2022 Glacier Cradle Traverse took riders from Avianto, west of Johannesburg, along the Crocodile River to a loop of the conservancy which surrounds the Cradle Moon Game Lodge. The 42 kilometre route featured 850 metres of elevation gain and was packed with singletracks. Though, great as the riding was, the highlight was undoubtedly the close big game encounters.
The first order of the day, after leaving Avianto, was crossing the Crocodile River. Fortunately, the toothy reptiles no longer lurk in the shallows of the creek which they provided the name for. Crossing the river still required dismounting though, as a deep section near the far bank made it unrideable.
Then it was uphill, climbing into the Cradle Moon. Despite the short distance there was a significant amount of meters of climbing per kilometre. This produced a punchy course which constantly alternated between downhill thrills and short sharp ascents.
Rising over the summit of the day’s first significant climb revealed the first wildlife sighting too. Hartebeest grazed in the yellowing grass. On the descent that followed springbok pronkked along the singletrack. Then, in a forest section, riders rounded a bend to be confronted with a journey of giraffes.
The majestic animals seemed unperturbed by their close proximity to the mountain bikers. They continued to feed and a juvenile even suckled from its mother. With the trails twisting around the Cradle Moon conservancy there were more giraffe sightings later in the stage too, after a ride along the banks of Lake Heritage, rumour has it a hippo still resides.
On the home-bound route the trails led through a haunted house and then back towards Avianto, where a delicious lunch awaited. As did Biogen Recovergen and Elecrolite Zero Sugar Hydrator, before cooling dips in the pool accompanied by Beer and Barrel Belgian beers. Then it was time for afternoon naps ahead of an evening of reminiscing about the day’s adventures.