Our event roared back to life in 2022 after a short pandemic-induced hiatus. And we expect more of the same great fun in 2023 at the Descent (16-18 June 2023) and the 2-Day (24-25 June 2023).
Berg & Bush did go ahead in 2021, but in a slightly diminished capacity and with one weekend of riding scrapped at the last minute when President Cyril Ramaphosa upgraded Covid-alert levels midway through the festivities.
Last year’s Berg & Bush, however, was the first mask-free, post-pandemic, back-to-normal bush bash since 2019, and boy was it brilliant.
Riders stormed into registration for the Descent – quite literally, actually, as there was a raging storm in the Drakensberg at the time – at the top of Oliviershoek Pass, eager for three of the best bushveld biking days on the race calendar.
The wind blew itself out overnight, and riders woke to a cool, still morning with clear blue skies – ideal conditions to ride in and witness the dramatic snow-topped Drakensberg views.
Three days of sublime singletrack
Day 1 of the Descent must rate as one of the most unique stages in South African mountain bike riding, with riders starting in the Free State, riding along the Escarpment, and then dropping down into KwaZulu-Natal farmlands and bushveld via a series of handmade singletrack trails and some rugged district roads.
The singletrack winds around, lifting riders up, taking riders down and in between moments of whooping delight provides tremendous views of the Drakensberg and the valley below.
The day’s ride distance is a bright and breezy 79km, providing just enough of a challenge for the racers and ramblers alike. Climbs are all manageable, with a few famous stings in the tail (including the aptly named “Grumpy Climb”) before you rip it home on “Bone Rattler” and the scenic “Garden of Eden” trail along the Tugela River.
Days 2 and 3 of the Descent provide more trail fun, particularly the snaking descent down Puff Adder Pass, a gnarly, narrow alley that descends for days. (But be warned, to enjoy the bite of the Puff Adder you must first conquer Mike’s Pass!).
Like Day 1, Day 3 of the Descent provides hills and highlights in equal measure. Riders will love the very forgiving and view-enhancing Zig Zags switchback climb, which is quickly followed by the fast, free-flowing Fanagalo singletrack.
Duck under the culvert, cross the district road and then you are descending The Kloof, a new section of trail that is eye-wateringly fast. Climb out of the valley on another agreeable switchback ascent and then you have Spioenkop in your sights. This is the final challenge of the Descent, with your reward being a place on the Spioenkop Wall of Fame if you ride all the way up and a thrilling 14km downhill (ish) finish along Long Drop Pass back to the Race Village.
The original Berg & Bush event, the 2-Day, follows similar trails to the Descent, minus the Day 1 stage. The 2-Day, with one day less of riding and slightly shorter distances than the Descent, is the ideal stage race for newbies, couples, parent-and-child teams or teens over the age of 15. In fact, school-going teens between 15 and 19 are encouraged to race in the Bushbaby category, with prize money for Boys’ High School team and Girls’ High School team.
Both the Descent and the 2-Day allow solo or team entries. There are numerous accommodation options, from self-camping to luxury tents. E-bikes are welcome at both events too – Ts & Cs will apply.
Enter at bergandbush.co.za