After a year and a half of waiting due to Covid-19 lockdowns eventually 18 excited friends from Cape Town converged on Morgan Bay for the Imana Tour. Greg Webb shares his experience of what is one of SA’s must-do tours.

After the disappointment of having to postpone our initial trip to the Eastern Cape for the Imana Tour last year, it was with huge enthusiasm we found ourselves having a cold one in the Morgan Bay Hotel bar for the rider briefing with our amazing guides Rodger and Damon. It quickly became abundantly clear, after the first few videos and PowerPoint presentations, that this was to be no ordinary mountain bike ride. In fact, if you were partial to thin wheels and riding in a peloton on tar you were clearly in the wrong place!

Beautiful sunshine greeted us the next morning as we set off with an easy ride to the Kei River and a ferry trip. Day One is relatively easy with 50km of fast beach riding, rock clambering and grassy tracks. Our second night out was at Cob Inn and we managed to get through the first day unscathed.

" We learned quickly that mountain bikes could float and most of us were washed 100m or so up the river by the incoming tide. "

Sunset at Coffee Bay

Much excitement again for the next race briefing and awards for the evening as well as forfeits. The Fines Masters kept the tequila flowing for any indiscretions. The daily “Twot du jour” award always hotly contested and the winner riding the next day in a tutu, as well as the daily “P**s uitbroek” award for the best wipe-out with many contenders. In addition, the style police always on hand to punish any indiscretions for dress code violations.

Another glorious morning and it was off to the Haven on what was meant to be the easiest day of 35km. This section takes you through the Dwesa Nature Reserve and the first steep grassy climbs which are more of a push than a ride. The Dwesa Reserve was extremely overgrown and muddy and hard going with the odd decomposing cow to add a little flavour. Our arrival at the Mbashe River was delayed and our first proper swim awaited. We learned quickly that mountain bikes could float and most of us were washed 100m or so up the river by the incoming tide. Fortunately, 1km down the road we were rewarded by the hugely hospitable staff at the Haven and another fabulous evening with excellent food and superb accommodation.

Our regular beach buddies

Pushing up a "Mother"

Ran out of beach on incoming tide

The next day was off to Coffee Bay. A lot of fantastic beach riding again during low tide and a slightly longer day with a lot of grassy climbs known as the “mothers” and inland singletracks. We were rewarded by a fabulous sunny day at Hole in the Wall, a magnificent spot for a swim as well as lunch, followed by a gruelling climb up the “Col-du Coffee Bay” and through to the Ocean View Hotel for our second last night. Another fantastic evening in the bar with entertainment from our guides who provided excellent digital footage of our cycling throughout the day as well as the numerous wipe-outs some of which proved to be quite tumultuous down grassy slopes and into rivers.

The following day was the longest day and here one really had to race the tide to make it down to the long beach section through to Umngazi River Bungalows. We had three river crossings in small boats and very nearly didn’t make the tide around the rocky outcrop in the sea onto the final stretch.

Gallery: Feeling the stoke on the Wild Coast.

The tour was rounded off by a superb Umngazi dinner, drinks and awards on the terrace.

This was really the most incredible tour. It’s not for the faint-hearted, involving a lot of climbing, scrambling, swimming as well as riding, but truly it is a remarkable and unique life experience. To cycle 200km down the pristine coastline of the Eastern Cape that is completely undeveloped, surrounded by the natural beauty and scenic vistas, is a true privilege.

Credit to Rebecca and her team from Wild Rides for putting it all together for us and choosing the dates and also to the Wild Ride Education Company headed up by Spider Clark for the significant contribution that they make to education in that part of the world.

Would I do it again? Almost certainly. It’s not easy but the rewards are incredible memories that will last for a lifetime.

Thank you to everyone involved and especially to the group whose humour and good spirits prevailed throughout the five days.

DR GREG WEBB: MTB enthusiast and Crank!