The daily stage distances for the 2017 edition of the Waterberg Encounter have been shortened. And the big news is that the event runs between Sondela and Elements. We move away from Zebula this year to offer distances and difficulty levels which are in line with the organisers vision for the event.
Sondela – Zebula: 62km 800m ascent
So for 2017 we have lots of exciting new developments as we link up Sondela with our new race village at Elements.
There are a few changes to 2016s first 20km which has made the opening stretch more fun and a lot more manageable. As per usual we have handpicked some of Sondela’s best and quickest single track sections which takes the route out of Sondela on the North-Western border and across the N1 freeway.
Then we go past the Lion Camp, through the Humphreys farms adjacent to the tar road. On this section, we are working with a local village and building a road for them which they can use to go into Bella Bella.
We spend 3km on this road before crossing the tar road and then climbing into the Waterberg. The first climb is not too serious on some single track before crossing the Modimole - Bella Bella Road on the plateau.
The route stays on the plateau until it enters the very well-known ATKV resort of Klein Kariba. Some wonderful Klein Kariba hospitality waits at their water point before we tackle their beautifully sculpted single track trails.
There are some technical sections inside Klein Kariba but it’s fun. We will go into the heart of the resort and experience a bit of their hospitality.
Through Klein Kariba the event passes by the famous shop of Tannie Poppie Dinkelman. Then it’s onto Thaba Manzi where riders will spot some beautiful Rhino. We then enter a farm where we weren’t allowed to traverse last year - we’re busy building some wicked single track on the farm.
Now we’re in a valley with some stunning cliff faces on both ends, passing by a few dams before entering Marulani. 2016 riders will remember we had a rocky climb to enter Marulani. The good news is that it’s been removed from the 2017 routeJ.
The event runs along the northern border of Marulani and climbs to the top of the plateau. The view from the top is amazing and the single-track reward on the other side just as stunning!
The event then passes a natural spring (waterpoint) before entering the old SANDF grounds. We are building various single track sections on the former SANDF grounds You’ll be riding in a ravine and contouring the side of the mountain before entering an imposing orange farm and get the chance to enjoy some of Bela Bela’s famous citrus fruits.
The route then runs past The Shack restaurant (waterpoint) where riders can hydrate in numerous different ways, including a cold beerJ
The route then enters the back of Elements. We will be riding some of the newly built single track in Elements and we’ve selected some of the nice ridable singles inside Elements.
Elements – Elements: …km …m ascent
So, on day 2 we’re not at Zebula for 2017. Elements is closer to Sondela and its location has enabled us to shave a few kilometres off every stage and access some lovely riding terrain which we couldn’t last year because of concerns for the daily distance in trying to get to Zebula and back to Sondela.
Elements is bordered by Mabalingwe, the Waterberg Estate, Shakama and the Highlands Estate, so it’s in the heart of the Waterberg and these amazing places.
For stage 2 we are doing a clover leaf starting and finishing at Elements. The stage starts at the Clubhouse and we do stacks of single track inside Elements which is all newly built. The route then runs through some more single track on Waterberg Estate and then into Shakana.
2016 riders will remember Shakana for the cement climb we did. Shakana is also developing some interesting and exciting single track which will serve the race well in 2017.
Once finished inside Shakama we enter back into Elements and speed along some more single track sections back to the Clubhouse.
The stage is characterised by regular ups and downs, but no major signature climbs and all the little ups are followed by some delightful downhill single track rewards. It’s the fun day of the Encounter and it takes place in beautiful surroundings.
We finish back at the Elements Clubhouse where a delicious lunch again awaits.
Elements – Sondela: …km …ascent
The journey back to Sondela is probably the most manageable of all three stages. It’s nice and fast… mostly.
Again, we leave Elements on some of the new single track and the event then heads onto a gravel road for a 3.5km descent before entering Highlands Private Estate.
Beautiful views and beautiful houses await at Highlands and we’ll be climbing right to the top viewing point on the plateau inside the Estate.
We cross over what they refer to as stand no 100, which is right on the edge of the mountain. Then it’s down into Lekkerbreek and past the shooting range next to the dam before turning into Marulani.
At Marulani some wonderful hospitality awaits (as was the case in 2016!).
Out of the gate at Marulani a delightfully quick and long downhill stretch awaits, albeit technical here and there. We’ll then go into Thaba N’thle. We didn’t ride Thaba N’thle last year so it’s some nice and fresh single track that awaits.
There is a little rocky climb halfway through Thaba N’thle but a smooth tar road awaits as a reward on the other side.
The route then links up with Thaba Manzi where some Rhino spotting awaits. The event passes by Tannie Poppie’s shop again, but we’re not taking the same route back to Sondela as used on the first day – it’s only a 1km stretch which we use to access the new stage 3 trail back to Sondela.
After crossing the tar road, the route runs next to the historic Buiskop. Some singles and climbing follow Buiskop before we then access the same trail which took the event back to Sondela last year.
Inside Sondela we’ll enjoy 15km of fast single track before finishing at the Farm Yard.
The Route Profiles
Sondela – Zebula: 80km 974m ascent
Zebula – Zebula: 73.4km 633m ascent
Zebula – Sondela: 69.8km 855m ascent
131km, 1450m ascent
84km, 978m ascent