Normal people may find this post boring.
As Jess and I whizzed southwestward in search of clear skies to dry out the tent on my lorry after the floods in the Kruger Park at the beginning of the year and the soaking rains in Mpumalanga, Free State and KZN which kept my canvas damp. It got so bad I started thinking there wasn’t a sky in the cloud. On the tar roads we passed numerous signs saying some or other pass. You notice the lovely scenery, but the passes pass with no effort, so we seldom stopped for photos. Thanks to the amazing website run by the geeks, nerds and – worse – engineers of mountainpassessouthafrica.co.za anyone can go on a virtual drive over these passes. I used them gratis for a bit, then subscribed. Well worth R465 a year in my view, even if you’re only doing one trip with one pass – you’ll get so much more out of the trip once you’ve read the amount of info these guys post about each pass. A narrated video of the route, angles, altitudes, distances, directions, gain, gradient, history, can you take a Fiat Uno or do you need a Unimog, ens. Fascinating.
I had some well-known and challenging passes on my to-do list for this trip, and on those I did take pics which I’ll post.
Wapadberg Pass – On the tarred R61 between Cradock and Graaff Reinet; 17km long; On YouTube here.
Carlton Heights Pass – On the tarred N9 between Noupoort and Middelburg; 7km long; On YouTube here. It was here I remarked to Jess, ‘Look, not a cloud in the sky!’ We had found our dry blue skies to dry out my tent! We stopped for a pic and saw there was one wee cloud to the south, no bigger than a man’s hand, just like in the Bible.
Now four passes on the tarred N9 north of Graaff Reinet. Heading South, as we did, they are: Naudesberg Pass; Paardekloof Pass; Goliathskraal se Hoogte Pass; Perrieshoogte Pass; All tar, all beautiful, but none caused us to stop and take pics. Also near – almost in – Graaff Reinet are van Ryneveld’s Pass and Munniks Poort. Some of these passes were Andrew Geddes Bain passes, the famous road- and passbuilder whose reputation I accuse my ancestors of appropriating when they got to Natal!
In Camdeboo National Park we found the first pass, mountain and valley I had long wanted to see: Camdeboo Pass leading to the Valley of Desolation! Back in 1972, fresh from a wonderful Veld & Vlei adventure, I’d been invited on a Boy Scouts patrol leader camp to the “Valley of Desolation near Graaff Reinet.” The camp was cancelled, but my imagination had been fired up and I always dreamed of seeing this mythical place one day. Now, a mere fifty one years later, I was driving up the pass. – – (virtual drive it on YouTube here and here)
— Jess halfway up the pass; and the tent on my lorry nice and dry —
Next we headed to the Karoo national park outside Beaufort West, my old mate Louis’ stamping ground. Inside the park there’s the Klipspringer Pass built with great effort and care. Being in a declared nature reserve, rocks were sourced from outside the park, ruins of old houses and kraals eg. and local labourers dry-packed them by hand to minimise the damage to the area. Jess chose to loaf back at camp while I drove it. She missed out.
After Beaufort we headed for Oudtshoorn to visit Louis and Gail – and what a welcome we received! Good friends indeed. Louis told of us of Meiringspoort, saying It’s Beautiful! and he was right. We crossed Droekloof Pass on the way, then took our time in the poort, stopping at every picnic spot and walking up to the waterfall. — (the feature pic at the top shows the mighty Ford Ranger on the Meiringspoort road).
Reluctantly leaving Louis n Gail’s hospitality we headed north towards a must-do pass – the famed Swartberg Pass, After passing through Schoemanspoort near the Cango Caves we started up the pass, stopping at Kobus se Gat to get Jess her 100th hot chocolate (!). Ahead lay 24km of Thomas Bain’s finest road engineering. The boffins at mountainpassessouthafrica.co.za rate it so special they have made eight videos to cover it! See a shorter video here, showing north to south, opposite of our direction.
Thanks to mountainpassessouthafrica.co.za; tripadvisor.com; and princealbert.org.za for pictures