Mark Lawson on form

Mark-lawson

No of Trips: 3

Hi Mark, welcome to the Not In The Guidebooks Team! First thing’s first, tell us a little bit about yourself. 

Of course! I’m originally from the UK, but I moved to Cape Town in 2009, after visiting for my honeymoon in 2007 and not being able to find anywhere to rent a bike. I’m quite an active person – I used to be a runner, but as I got older I got much more in to cycling – so when I go travelling, I’m not looking to sit around on the beach all day.

I really couldn’t understand why somewhere as beautiful as Cape Town would lack cycling facilities – the scenery is fantastic and the weather is perfect for riding, so I said ‘I think someone needs to bring that kind of thing here.’

Of course, things have changed a bit since then as cities across the world try to promote more green transport, but at the time, I started looking in to it and I felt like we could make it work. And the proof is in the pudding – we’ve been going for over 8 years.

What makes your experiences special?

I think our experiences are unique. I’ve always been interested in history, so over the course of the last decade I’ve built up an intimate knowledge of the area and I can answer most questions people ask me. I’m friendly and I love to talk to people about Cape Town and the idiosyncrasies of the different routes we go on, but most of all I’m always positive. Getting people to finish the cycling routes who maybe might have struggled to cycle that far at home is a great joy in my life.

But of course, the trips are tailored to each individual group, and we can provide everything that you’ll need – water bottles, helmets, even cycling shorts. Usually, we’ll have a chat before we set off and I’ll assess the kind of distance we should be aiming for. I like to go for something that will push people but that won’t be too far or difficult for them – we can  be very flexible with the distances, and we offer hiking trips for people who might not be interested in cycling.

And then the great thing about cycling or hiking is the pace that we go at – obviously, we’re going much slower than a tour bus, which means it’s easier to stop and start if we see something interesting. You can get up close and personal with the wildlife and the scenery in a way that you just can’t do in a car or bus. It give you a chance to really stop and smell the roses.

What is your favourite thing about your city?

So it sounds like you’re quite in-the-know about Cape Town – what is your favourite thing about the city.

Obviously I would say being outdoors on the bike. For one, the infrastructure is very good, so were cycling on roads that are smooth and comfortable, but the scenery is very special too. I’ve travelled a lot and there is something unique about this area.

 

In terms of the best spots, Chapman’s Peak is simply the best scenic cycling routes in the world. It’s only 10km, but everyone says it’s absolutely spectacular, and again, when you’re cycling you can soak it up at your own pace which is much better than going in a car. On the other side of the bay as well, you’ve got Clarence Drive, which is also spectacular, and is less well known. It’s a bit further away but I like to push people to try and get there because it’s really worth it.

As a cyclist, I’ve got to have a nice portfolio of coffee shops too for that mid-ride snack – at the end of the day, I exercise so that I can eat nice food without feeling guilty! There are some great places dotted around our cycling routes; my personal favourites are Noordhoek Farm Village and Imhoff Farm are my personal favourites, but there are plenty more. I like to avoid tourists and follow the local trends because in my experience that’s the best way to find good places to eat and drink.

And while we’re taking recommendations, where is the best place to stay in Cape Town? 

That’s a tough one – honestly it depends on what you’re looking for. The Coach House in Franshoek is one of my personal favourites, because its run by a South African lady who has a British husband, so I like chatting with him! It’s amazing how many people here have connections to the UK.

I also really like the Camps Bay Retreat in Camps Bay, which is an old style manor house. It’s a great place to use as a base for exploring Cape Town and beyond and the whole team are helpful and friendly. But if you’re looking to be more independent on your trip, we’ve got our own self-catered accommodation, and we’ve got lots of different recommendations, so just get in touch!

Mark-lawson's Experiences