Updated: Jun 17, 2022
On my third try, I finally made it to the MTO Trails in White River. The first time, I crashed the car into a Marula tree and thankfully escaped with minor injuries, although the car didn’t fare so well. The second time, there was a change of plans. Ultimately, on the third try, the charm seemed to be with the company I was keeping.
I met up with friends from Hoedspruit and Phalaborwa for a weekend of cycling and socializing after a long time apart. We stayed at a chalet on Pine Lake Dam and had easy access (with a long climb) to the extensive network of MTO Trails. The trails can be accessed from the MTO White River Trail Centre near the south end of the KlipkoppieDam or at various trailheads intersecting the main loops. Many riders cycle up from White River, adding a nice climb!
For me the MTO Trails are a testament to community and working together. For years, cycling enthusiasts encroached on the private MTO forestry land. Rather than banning cyclists from the private tree plantations, MTO and local riders came together to create a formalized, permit-only trail system with epic routes for cyclists, runners and walkers.
Currently, there are 80km’s of trails/roads in MTO White River network. Base loops of 20km – 40km take cyclists through tree plantations, native vegetation and alongside gorgeous, dams. Single track routes drop away from the service roads providing mostly downhill tracks, ranging from swooping to treacherous. Singletracks are marked with gradient, length and a skills rating.
The trails are well marked, but it still makes sense to carry a map and or use navigation devices to find your way.
Staying on Pine Lake allowed the additional and unexpected benefit of unpacking my paddleboard and exploring the landscape by water. Wow! Partway up Pine Lake, the houses and development give way to forest and a sense of being deep in nature. Cormorants dry their wings in the late afternoon sun and lotus flowers bloom in the shallower water.
I came across an event at the furthest accommodation on the lake. It looked like a wedding or some sort of formal gathering. The boma overflowed with adults and children socializing and playing. The braai seemed to burn non-stop over the two days of my paddling past.
The weekend spent cycling with friends at White River was a lovely way to launch my upcoming travels in South Africa. I reveled in the friendships and our shared adventures. I also found myself nearly overcome with grief, doubt, and anxiety as I let go of the familiar to strike out on my next adventure.
Download the MTO app to purchase permits online or pay at the MTO White River Trail Centre.