I like to combine a camping trip with a Mountain Biking excursion if at all possible.
In early July we camped at the Bontle camp site at Marakele and I went out the one morning on a Mountain Biking ride starting outside the main gate, off into the mountains nearby, i.e. cycling north east from Thabazimbi.
I thought I should at least share the experience in case others also wish to combine their camping trips with some offroad adventure in the Marakele region ?
A Google Earth pic of the route I took can be found here :
http://www.chezwallis.com/mtb/Marakele_ ... -07-05.pdf
I cycled north east from the gate, after 2 kms the tar ends and you go straight across the 4 way stop onto a dirt road, this leads to the old gate to the main part of Marakele.
The dirt road to this old gate is currently seriously corrugated, almost impossible but only for a couple of kms ... as soon as you pass the old gate it smooths out and you get to climb a 400 metre mountain pass ... just remember to keep your lungs in your chest at this point :-)
I was looking for a 60 km route and soon realised there were no side roads for me to take and hence at 27.7 km I turned around and backtracked, not ideal but I managed a 55 km cycle through some of the most beautiful terrain the Waterberg has to offer.
At one point as I was nearing the top of the pass on my way back I realised I was being circled up above by 2 vultures ... maybe they knew something I didn't ?!
If I had continued on my route and looked for a circular route I would have reached Rankins Pass and then retunred to Marakele some 100-120 km later, not quite my distance so I was relieved I did in fact have the sense to turn around ! Maybe someone with decent GPS software can tell me how far the full circular route would have been ?
In terms of how things look in the real world, here are some pics :
(1) View from outside Marakele's main gate at 8.00 in the morning ... it was 2 degC. You can see the flat area in the immediate viscinity (1000m above sea level) followed by the mountains in the distance (2000 m above sea level). If you look closely you will see a line half way up which represents the plateau onto which I cycled. The top of the pass is 10 km from the gate and then the plateau, as plateaus are, was rather flat ! At least as far as I cycled, which was 27.7 km from Marakele's main gate. Pic :
(2) View of the Waterberg above you from the plateau at about the 26 km point from the Marakele main gate :
(3) View as you start to come back down the pass :
(4) View when you are 80% back down the pass looking back towards Thabazimbi ... Marakele's Bontle Camp Site is on the right side of the pic, about half way up & one third the way in from the right of the picture.
(5) View from the same point as pic (4) but looking back up the pass ... to remind me why my lungs complained :-) Might not look like much but you are about 200 metres above the plain at this point and you have to still have to climb to a level higher than the ridge on the right hand side of the pic.
(6) Assuming you get off your bike and climb into your car you can drive to the 1800-2000 metre level inside the park and look back down a kilometre onto the plains ... a pic of my daughter reaching for the sky :-)
This was our third successive annual camping trip to Marakele and they only get better ... can highly recommend it !