Perskedraai (R509)

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Derby is one of the small hamlets near Perskedraai Derby is one of the small hamlets near Perskedraai - Photo: Mike Leicester

A pass is usually defined as “a break in a mountain range or other high obstruction, used for transportation from one side to the other”. Perskedraai does not even come close to this definition, as it consists of one long curve on what is essentially a flat section of land, yet multiple sources list it as an official pass. The name, which translates as “Peach Corner”, is most likely derived from the many peach orchards in the area. The pass is situated on the tarred R509 road between the two small villages of Derby and Koster and is 3.6 kms long, gaining just 16 metres in height. It is suitable for any type of vehicle (including bicycles!).

Scroll down to view the map & video. It is recommended to watch this video in HD. (Click on the "quality" button on the lower taskbar of the video screen and select 720HD.) Wait a few seconds for the video to display.....

 

[On-car video footage supplied by Mike Leicester]

FULL-SCREEN MODE: Click PLAY, then pass your mouse over the bottom right corner of the video screen. The outline of a square will appear. Clicking on it will toggle Full Screen Mode. Press ESC to return to the original format.

Note: Google Earth software reads the actual topography and ignores roads, cuttings, tunnels, bridges and excavations. The Google Earth vertical-profile animation generates a number of parallax errors, so the profile is only a general guide of what to expect in terms of gradients, distance and elevation. The graph may present some impossible and improbably sharp spikes, which should be ignored. 


Digging into the details:

Getting there: To approach from the west, travel along the N4 from Pretoria in a westerly direction past the town of Rustenburg. At S25.636550 E27.129307, turn left onto the R52 – there is a signboard incorrectly labelled as “R509: Koster”. Travel for 39 kms until you reach the small town of Koster. As you enter the town the road crosses the R509 via an overhead bridge, then makes a fairly sharp U-turn to the left, bringing you to an intersection at S25867958 E26.896699. Turn right onto Jameson Road, travel for 350 metres until you get to another intersection, then turn left onto the R509. Travel for 5.6 kms to S25.903569 E26.940771, which is the western start of the pass.

The village of Koster lies close to Perskedraai The small village of Koster lies 5 km to the west of the pass / Photo: Mike LeicesterTo approach from the east, travel to Magaliesburg, then at S25.998155 E27.543946 take the R509 towards Derby – there is a signboard correctly labelled this time as “R509: Koster”. Travel for 53 kms to the village of Derby, then continue straight on through the town for another 7 kms to S25.911599 E26.972222, which is the eastern start of the pass.

The pass has been filmed and is described from east to west. At the start, the road is almost flat, and travels in a generally westerly direction for approximately 200 metres. As you pass the turnoff to Leliefontein on your left, the road begins a long and very gradual curve to the right, ascending gradually. This continues for the next 1.2 km, then the road straightens out and the gradient decreases until the crest is reached at the 2.6 km mark. It is easy to identify the summit, as there is a cell tower right next to the road on the right hand side. The road now turns gently to the left, and an almost imperceptible descent begins which continues for 1 km, taking you to the end of the pass at the 3.6 km mark.

Sublime birdlife in North West provinceExcellent birdlife in the area / Photo: Koster TravelKoster is a small farming town situated on the watershed between the Orange and Limpopo rivers in the North West province of South Africa. It was founded on the farm Kleinfontein in 1913, and has been administered by a village council since 1931. It was named after the Dutch owner of the original farm, Bastiaan Hendricus Koster.

The town supports mixed farming activities and is a centre of maize production, although other grains, tobacco and citrus fruits are grown in the region.

Recreational activities in the area include angling, biking and hiking, or a visit to one of the caves, namely the Swartland, Oom Paul (an obvious reference to Paul Kruger) and Rietpan caves.

Whilst researching this pass, we came across an intriguing and mysterious 85-year-old newspaper article which was published in the Auckland Star in New Zealand on 7 November 1931:-

Paul KrugerPaul Kruger had a profound influence in the area / Photo: ArchivesThe Trail Of Ivory Sticks

Mr. Liebenberg, the owner of the farm “Rietpan” in the Lichtemberg (sic) district, Northern Transvaal, discovered some years back what are today called the Rietpan caves. Some years ago he started opening up these caves, the entrance to which was cemented with a kind of concrete unknown to the builders of today.

A passage, or rather a crack in the rocks, about two feet wide, leads into the main cave. This is about 50 by 20 yards and a good 20ft high. From the main cave Mr. Liebenberg started operations, as his theory is that these were used by some Eastern nations in their expeditions to Africa thousands of years back.

Here he found in a small cavity in the rock, and closed with flat stone cemented with concrete, a human skull, said to be that of a woman. With this skull was found a round stone with a hole in the centre, something like the so-called bushman’s stone; through it was an ivory stick, sharpened at the one end and about six inches long.

This find strengthens Mr. Liebenberg’s theory.

Numerous openings in the walls of the main cave were found to be closed by concrete. One after another, the investigator opened these, only to find himself in a small cave or chamber leading nowhere. Just lately, he opened another such door and came to a passage which was filled with earth that must have been carried down from the surface, as it was a kind only found at some distance from the caves.

After clearing away the loose soil, Mr. Liebenberg came to another closed door, a few feet from which he found another of the round stones fitted with the ivory stick. After opening this second door he found at regular distances similar ivory sticks.

By following them he now came to an opening, closed by stones packed one on top of the other, but in such a way that none could be removed. Finally, by sheer luck, he pulled out one stone, which proved to be the key stone, and after it had been removed the others could also be removed quite easily, though it was impossible to remove any before the key stone was taken out.

The excavators are now busily engaged in removing loose soil from what they think is the last chamber and to the secret of the Rietpan caves.

Despite many hours of diligent research, including a talk with the current owners of the farm, we have been unable to establish the final outcome of this story. It seems that Mr. Liebenberg became a little impatient, and dynamite was used; apparently he used a little too much, because parts of the cave were blown up. If any of our readers can shed some additional light on this fascinating tale, we would be most grateful to hear from you!

[Research and text by Mike Leicester]


Fact File:

GPS START 

S25.911599 E23.972222

GPS SUMMIT

S25.907700 E26.949083

GPS END 

S25.903569 E26.940771

AVE GRADIENT

1:225

MAX GRADIENT

1:33

ELEVATION START

1607m

ELEVATION SUMMIT

1614m

ELEVATION END

1598m

HEIGHT GAIN/LOSS

16m

DISTANCE

3,6 km

DIRECTION - TRAVEL

West

TIME REQUIRED

2 minutes

SPEED LIMIT

100 kph

SURFACE

Tar (R509)

DATE FILMED

30.01.2016

TEMPERATURE

24C

NEAREST TOWN

Koster (7 km)


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Mountain Passes South Africa is a website dedicated to the research, documentation, photographing and filming of the mountain passes of South Africa.
 

Passes are classified according to provinces and feature a text description, Fact File including GPS data, a fully interactive dual-view map and a narrated YouTube video.
 

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