Heia you doing
Words and pics Andrew Steer
It’s simply a fantastic mountain-biking and trail-running facility, and we had a great time testing it out
Heia has the best lake in Johannesburg for open-water swimming (Lake Heritage), and I even accompanied some friends on an unsuccessful fishing expedition there once upon a time. There is some fairly tame wildlife roaming around – not petting-zoo tame, please, you will get kicked – but tame enough to linger around and not head for the hills at the first sign of human life. You will encounter giraffe, impala, zebra, wildebeest, blesbok and springbok on almost every visit to the park, and you may even be lucky enough to spot one of its three black springboks. The whole place has a nice African game reserve feel to it, from the rondawels and curio shop to the friendly zebras that frequent the poolside of the ranch’s restaurant.
The latest addition to Heia is the Hero Adventure Park, which was built up in the last year and a half and opened officially in March this year. It’s simply a fantastic mountain-biking and trail-running facility, and we had a great time testing it out.
There are four routes available at Heia: three routes (12,5km, 15km and 18,5 km) for adults and the 3km Little Heroes route. Between these routes, riders of pretty much every level are covered, from those riding the 3km to those riding the pretty tough 49km (if riders choose to tackle all the routes of offer).
Blue route (easy–intermediate)
The 12,5km Blue route is an absolute blast and the ideal ride for anyone looking to have some fun on their bikes. There are some slightly more challenging sections, but in general there isn’t too much in the way of serious grunt work required. Most importantly, the fun factor is set to the max most of the time: there are plenty of fun bermed descents, switchbacks on most corners, great flowing singletrack and, optional jumps and even a floating bridge (momentum is your friend, just stick to the middle).
The 18,5km yellow route is accessed via the Blue route through an access swing gate on the left end of the lake, taking you to the south-western side of the farm. You hit plenty of fun, tight, forestry sections (eight in total), with lots of quick, sharp rises and steepish drops to navigate. It’s hugely entertaining fun but also pretty tiring work at the same time – your quads will feel it after a while. After those initial forest sections, you head out towards more open terrain, with some long drags up rocky exposed outcrops that offer some nice, wide views of the surrounding area. The descents from there are fast and furious, taking you back to more switchback forest sections and, ultimately, to the Blue route and home base.
The 15km Red route is the toughest on the property and is accessed off the Blue route, this time via a wooden bridge just before the dam wall towards the end of the Blue route. This takes you to the northern side of the farm (the other side of the dam). After an initial quick XC-type assault that really gets the heart racing, the route becomes a lot more forgiving: 90% of it will be rideable for a cyclist with decent fitness and a basic MTB skill set. You climb along the banks on the northern side of the lake before eventually popping over the ridge onto some concrete tracks and returning a bit later for a last few challenges and a gnarly final descent back down to the dam wall. There is plenty of great singletrack (some of it even runs through abandoned houses), many switchback sections and great views of the lake/dam wall as well as a lookout point/lunch-stop bench – well worth the sweat you’ll spill.
Clearly, a lot of time and effort has gone into all the trails on the route: probably 90% of it is purpose-cut singletrack, and the number of bermed corners is already really impressive; yet it still seems to be expanding every time I return. The variety of terrain and challenges is fantastic – forest singletrack, bermed corners, long climbs, switchbacks for Africa, rocky koppies, a floating bridge, great lake views and free- roaming wildlife –all this within just 30 minutes’ drive of Johannesburg and Pretoria. It’s an experience that’s hard to topple. And yes, what better way to cap any ride than with a great meal.
Several more riding and running routes are in the pipeline, as are two more floating bridges that will have been opened by the time you read this. It’s pretty clear to see why Heia is rapidly becoming one of the most popular event venues in Gauteng. There is just so much for everyone to enjoy.
Cycling hours are from sunrise to sunset. Night rides are offered only on specific event evenings.
For most of the riding, you are pretty exposed to the elements – sunblock is a must for riders pretty much all year round. It can get very hot on the far ends of the Yellow and Red routes, so always make sure you have enough water before heading out there.
It costs R30 to ride and there is a R20 deposit for your number board. Pay at reception, where you can also pick up a map of all the trails. There are no year permits, but the option is likely to be introduced soon.
The restaurant is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
From the East Rand: when coming from the OR Tambo/ Eastgate direction, take the N1 Pretoria off-ramp at the Gillooly’s interchange. You are now on the N3, which later becomes the N1. Follow the signs to Roodepoort. Take the Beyers Naudé off-ramp, turn right over the Concrete Highway and keep straight for approximately 23km until you see Heia Safari Ranch sign on your left-hand side. Follow the dirt road for 150m and you will see the entrance on your right.
From Johannesburg: from the Beyers Naudé off-ramp on the N1, travel approximately 23km (away from Northcliff) until you see the Heia Safari Ranch sign on your left-hand side. Follow the dirt road for 150m and you will see the entrance on your right.
From Pretoria: proceed along the N14 towards Krugersdorp, take the Randburg/Swartkops off-ramp (the M5/Beyers Naude) and turn right at the yield sign. Keep straight along Beyers Naudé Drive for approximately 5,5km, until you see the Heia Safari Ranch sign on your left-hand side. Follow the dirt road for 150m and you will see the entrance on your right.
Sights and attractions:
• trail running
• open-water swimming
• catch-and-release fishing
• game- and birdwatching
• hand-made Franz Richter dam wall
• Lake Heritage
• CrossFit Adventure
• secure kiddies’ play area
• conference facilities.
Heia Safari Ranch:
1747 Beyers Naudé Drive, 2024, MuldersdrifT
011 919 5000
Source: Ride Magazine