Cape Town - He's braaied up a storm across the world (and in a few other rather unconventional places...), and now Jan Braai has sparked travel enthusiasm for his other major passion - cycling.
For the past five days, 20 cyclists with a taste for adventure and flame-grilled South African fare have been riding through the Klein Karoo, making their way from George to Swellendam via the most scenic district roads and mountain passes in the Western Cape.
The five-day ride marked the inaugural Tour de Braai, an antidote to South Africa’s obsession with gruelling mountain bike stage races, tents and communal toilets.
The Tour is the brainchild of Jan Braai, the man behind the National Braai Day initiative and the National Braai Tour.
Riders on the first Tour have come from all over South Africa, with one participant from Germany and another from Switzerland also dipping their toes into the braai and bike trek. The Tour de Braai started in George last Monday, with overnight stops during the week including daily luxury accommodation and fine braai dining in Oudtshoorn, Calitzdorp, Rooiberg Lodge in the Klein Karoo, and Riversdale. On Friday afternoon, the Tour reached its final destination of Swellendam.
Check out some of the highlights -
The road to tourism success
One of the pioneering gravel riders on the Tour de Braai is elite South African mountain biker Erik Kleinhans, a man with multiple stage race wins under his belt, as well as being a former South Africa cross-country champion.
On hearing about the Tour de Braai, Kleinhans was intrigued by the concept of a stage event where the main aim is to have fun. After four days of gravel riding and the best braai meals in South Africa, he’s convinced that this is the way forward for cycle touring.
"It's great to combine my favourite food pastime - braaing - with the sport that I love," says Kleinhans. “It's been amazing to be out in nature and cycling through such fantastic areas. Everywhere we have been is renowned for good food and stunning scenery; it’s made the Tour de Braai very special. The week has been incredible.”
The idea behind the Tour de Braai is to showcase the incredible countryside of the Western Cape and to let people experience it on their bicycles in a way that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.
The Tour de Braai is right on par with what official tourism authorities see as the future of adventure tourism.
On Friday, 12 May, the highly anticipated inaugural ride of the Western Cape’s Cross Cape cycling route - a 742km route from Plettenberg Bay to Stellenbosch - also kicked off.
Minister of Economic Opportunities, Alan Winde, announced the first ride, outlining the specific route at a pre-ride event in Stellenbosch. Residents of the respective participating towns along the way have been invited to join the group as they travel through each leg.
READ MORE HERE: Be the first to join the inaugural Cross Cape cycle ride
Celebration of the country
According to Jan Braai, the Tour de Braai hopes to showcase the beauty of SA to participants, rather than be a competition-driven chase only.
"On the first day, some riders were still keen to come to breakfast in their cycling kit and ready to race, but that is not the ethos of the Tour de Braai. We are here to see beautiful scenery and to enjoy ourselves. So far, both those objectives have been achieved," Braai says.
German participant Ralf Stapela, from bicycle company Bergamont, described the experience as 'amazing'.
“The whole week has been very special. I’m from Europe, so the conditions were perfect! I’m so glad I did it; I would definitely come back for more.”
Want to take part? Here's how
Entries for the November edition of the Tour de Braai are open, and can be found online.
What to read next on Traveller24:
- WATCH: 24Qs with Jan Braai + your complete SA Heritage Day insider guide
- Be the first to join the inaugural Cross Cape cycle ride
- Cycle2Hike MTB Kasi Challenge: 'It's not just a mlungu thing'