Dryland Traverse – A Festival of Trail Running

There is no better festival of trail running than the Dryland Traverse. It is unquestionably fun on and off the trails. From the Thursday evening Prologue to Saturday night’s fancy dress party and on to Sunday’s celebration of singletrack… the whole weekend is action packed from start to finish.

The Dryland Traverse is famous for good vibes, on and off the trails. Photo by Shift Media Co.

It’s no surprise then that so many trail runners return year-after-year. Camping or renting cottages together in clusters of friends. In fact, some of the most dedicated Dryland Traversers spend more time on their party outfits than they do on their physical preparation for the running. Though that is perhaps not the best strategy.

Stage 1 of the 2023 the Dryland Traverse will feature a route along a high Swartberg ridgeline which provides breathtaking views of the Klein Karoo, far below. Photo by Shift Media Co.

For the 2023 edition the routes have received a revamp, with significant changes to Stage 1, 2 and 3. These will bring more technical trail running into the course, but will also reward with pristine fynbos, proteas in bloom and spectacular views from the highest ridgelines of the Groot Swartberg. Fun on the trails is further guaranteed by Dryland’s famous hospitality and the camaraderie of the competitors; who know that the tough running is followed by delicious food, Rhodes Quality juices, Beer and Barrel craft beers, Bavaria non-alcoholic beers and Wellington Wines. As well as great post-stage chats too.

Prepare for a mix of technical trails and open dual track running in the 2023 edition. Photo by Shift Media Co.

“Stage 1 is a bit longer and more technical, initially, but it takes in trails we’ve never used before,” Race Director Bernard le Roux confirmed. “It will start at the Ou Tol just to the north of the summit of the Swartberg Pass and loop to the west before climbing to one of the highest ridgelines in that part of the Swartberg Mountain Range. From the top there are incredible views across the Klein Karoo to the south and along the Swartberg to the east, north and west.”

The Dryland Traverse is like a family reunion, where conversations from the trails seamlessly become a post-stage party. Photo by Shift Media Co.

“We then follow the ridge east, crossing the Swartberg Pass, and rejoining the traditional Stage 1 route along a valley filled with proteas and down the technical trail to De Hoek Mountain Resort,” le Roux explained. “Stage 2 has also received a refresh. It still features the beautiful run along the Raubenheimer Dam but now includes a few trails through the hills and valleys between the dam and De Hoek, through private land, which we last used five years ago.”

Stage 2.5 is always a highlight of the Dryland Traverse. Photo by Shift Media Co.

The most important announcement, which trail runners looking to take part in the 2023 Dryland Traverse were waiting for, is the fancy dress party theme. “This year it’s Deep-Sea Jamboree,” le Roux smiled. “Let your imagination run wild and join us at our Stage 2.5! I don’t have to tell anyone who has been here before, it’s a jol. For those running their first Dryland Traverse, bring your dancing shoes as well as your trail shoes…”

After Stage 2.5 and the Deep-Sea Jamboree, the final stage starts at a civilised 09:00. Stage 3 mixes some new and some familiar trails. It is also only 10 kilometres long, so even those who are feeling a little worse for wear will be able to power through the last day.

Wrapping up a fantastic four days of trail running with beers and a guaranteed good time. “The Dryland Traverse is a challenging but manageable run,” Le Roux concluded. “But the real highlight is the vibe. It has to be experienced to be fully appreciated.”

For those concerned about the distances there is a simple, but proven training programme on the race website, and more information on the routes can be found online too. Inspiration for reasons to run and fancy dress outfits can be found on the event’s social media channels: Dryland Traverse on Facebook, @drylandtraverse on Instagram, and @DrylandTraverse on Twitter/X. For more information and entries visit www.drylandtraverse.co.za.

2023 Dryland Traverse Route Descriptions

Prologue | #CangoCarnival

2 November 2023

9.5km with 250m of climbing

Start: Cango Caves

Finish: De Hoek Mountain Resort

Hewn by millennia of underground rivers flowing through Precambrian limestones the Cango Caves provide the unique starting point for the Dryland Traverse. Heading underground, from the start ramp, the Prologue time trial takes trail runners on an unforgettable underground adventure. Magical photo opportunities beckon for the less competitive while the racers will have to watch out for low hanging stalactites in the first subterranean kilometre before emerging into the afternoon sunlight and following the Grobbelaars river uphill towards De Hoek over the remaining 8.5 kilometres. Rocky Klein Karoo running, through stands of ancient Acacia Karoo thorn trees and the spekboom super-plants, set the scene for a carnival of trail running over the coming three days.

Stage 1 | # SwartbergSugarbush

3 November 2023

27.3km with 1 200m of climbing

Start: Ou Tol

Finish: De Hoek Mountain Resort

New trails await atop the spectacular Swartberg Mountains, as do veritable forests of the Swartberg Sugarbush, Protea montana. Starting at Ou Tol the first 1.5 kilometres are on the Swartberg Pass and then Die Hel gravel roads. After a leg loosening opening the trail and the climbing begin as the race takes on a Cape Nature footpath that ascends to 1 900 metres above sea level. From the highest point the Dryland Traverse has ever visited a technical descent takes trail runners down to Die Top, the summit of the Swartberg Pass, and onto the established Stage 1 route. The jeep track to the Bothashoek mountain hut thrills with untouched fynbos; while the descent to De Hoek offers views, across the Swartberg foothills, of unrivalled beauty. The final 7 kilometres, of the 27.3-kilometre stage, may be downhill but their technicality will demand conditioning and effective energy management.

Stage 2 | #LenteInDieKleinKaroo

4 November 2023

24.1km with 850m of climbing

Start: De Kombuys

Finish: De Hoek Mountain Resort

To misquote Koos Kombuis: “dit was lente in die Klein Karoo… al die drawwers het baljaar.” Starting at De Kombuys Stage 2 is a day of undulations and trails through ever changing scenery. Showing off the diversity of the Klein Karoo, after a wet winter, the route winds through the bushveld towards the brimming Raubenheimer Dam. There the climbing begins in earnest, ascending a koppie and dropping back to De Kombuys. The final 10 kilometres of the route trends uphill, passing Cango once more and following a mix of jeep and singletracks back to De Hoek through farm lands, along the Hoeksrivier and across low ridgelines vegetated with spekboom.

Stage 3 | #SundayShakeout

5 November 2023

10km with 300m of climbing

Start: De Hoek Mountain Resort

Finish: De Hoek Mountain Resort

After Saturday night’s Deep-Sea Jamboree, Stage 2.5, Sunday’s Stage 3 is a short shakeout. The 10 kilometre loop heads south east towards Drupkelderkop, without the exertion of summiting the peak before dropping into the Grobbelaars river valley. Running up river the course resembles a school cross-country circuit, through a poplar grove, before tracing the foot of a craggy cliff back towards De Hoek. A low but steady gradient provides the final 500 metre drag uphill, making for the ideal place to sprint for the final finish line. Across the line, Biogen recovery drinks and Bavaria non-alcoholic beers, complete the weekend’s festivities.

2023 Dryland Traverse
Race Dates: 2-5 November 2023
Race Village: De Hoek Mountain Resort
Solo Entry Fees (pp): R6,700.00 (Tented Accommodation) | R6 600.00 (Own Accommodation)
Team Entry Fees (pp): R6 250.00 (Tented Accommodation) | R5 800.00 (Own Accommodation)
Prologue: 9.5km with 250m of climbing
Stage 1: 27.3km with 1 200m of climbing
Stage 2: 24.1km with 850m of climbing
Stage 3: 10km with 350m of climbing
Website: www.drylandtraverse.co.za
Facebook: Dryland Traverse
Instagram: @drylandtraverse
Twitter/X: @DrylandTraverse
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