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[Video cover photo by Trygve Roberts]
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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: Your navigation needs to be good to find this pass and a GPS loaded with Tracks4Africa is a prerequisite. Make sure you have punched in all the waypoints given below. The pass can be approached from the west via Kamieskroon or from the east from the R355.
The western approach involves traversing both the Kamiesberg and Baillie's passes. It is best to read up the approach directions via the hyperlinks provided. Drive along the P2951 from Kamieskroon for 3 km, then ascend the Kamiesberg Pass. 13 km after leaving Kamieskroon, you will arrive at a 3 way intersection at GPS S 30.201225 E18.041653. Turn left and drive for 23 km where you will traverse Baillie's Pass. Continue for 5,8 km beyond Baillie's Pass summit to arrive at another intersection at GPS S30.122528 E18.230194. Turn right and drive along this smaller road for 1,8 km to arrive at the northern start of the poort.
For those wanting to approach from the R355, turn west off the R355 at GPS S29.931460 E18.422106 and head south-west for 31 km via Kamassies and Rooifontein. Turn left at GPS S30.122528 E18.230194. Drive along this smaller road for 1,8 km to arrive at the northern start of the poort. It's not possible to approach from the south as this road, although splitting into several directions, is a dead end.
We filmed this pass from north to south, which is the obvious and only direction that it will be driven for the first time. At the start there is a wide valley surrounded by low granite bouldered hills. These hills play host to hundreds of quiver trees. Stop here, but note that there is no shade, and enjoy this wild and wonderful landscape for a few moments. The air is almost always still and quiet here and the sense of peace is palpable.
The Khoi and San used to use the hollowed trunks of the quiver tree as a receptacle for their arrows. The source of where the Pypmaker (or Pipe maker) name comes from is unknown to us and there are no doubt several urban legends explaining the name.
One of the koppies near the summit is called Pypklip se Berg (Pipe stone mountain), which possibly gives a clue to the origins of the name in that some of the granite extrusions on this peak could resemble cylindrical pipes.
From the northern start, the road bends through an easy 90 degree right hand bend into the south and heads along a sandy bottomed valley. In summer the sand will be soft here and 4WD is the right option to tackle this drive. Although the road feels level, it is actually ascending continuously at a gentle gradient of around 1:40. The neck can be seen from a long distance away, which is the summit goal.
There are 5 or 6 small curves along the ascent, but none of them require slowing down. Speed should be kept below 40 kph along this road, as there are some washaways and deep sandy patches which appear without warning.
The neck is formed by two conical peaks. The one on the left is named Pypklip se Berg [1173m] and the unnamed one on the right has a similar altitude of 1171m.
At the 2,8 km mark, the road bends sharply to the left through a 90 degree corner and the gradient immediately gets steeper at 1:14. The next 500m is quite tricky and speed is best taken down to 20 kph as there are some deep ruts and axle twisters to contend with. Halfway up this little climb, the road reaches it's steepest gradient at 1:7.
Just before the summit, there is a closed (but not locked) farm gate. Close the gate once you have driven through. The summit looms suddenly at the 3,3 km point, revealing a wide plain, stretching away as far as the eye can see. In the middle of his plain, there is the Goraap farmstead which is just visible about 3 km away, and which marks the southern end of the poort. If you're into landscape photography, this is a very good spot to capture the essence of Namaqualand's vast open plains.
From the summit point, the road curves to the left and descends quite steeply for 400m, after which the gradients gradually ease off, as the road descends steadily towards the farmhouse. The poort officially ends at the 5,7 km mark at an altitude of 819m ASL. A hundred metres after the farmhouse, the road crosses the Buffelsrivier, which is a tributary of the Papkuilsrivier, which it forms a confluence with about 1 km to the east.
Once the river has been crossed there is a staggered intersection. The first turn to the right leads to the farm Couragiefontein, which is about 5 km away and all the other roads lead to remote farms in this valley. All of them are cul-de-sacs. The farms at the end of each of these roads are (clockwise) Doeksteen, De Riet, Langhoek and Couragiefontein.
You will now need to do a U-turn and retrace your route back to the P2951. Please respect the farmers (that put food on our tables) by driving carefully, avoiding running over livestock and keeping dust levels down, especially near dwellings and crops. Leave all farm gates as you found them.
|GPS START||S30.125942 E18.247544|
|GPS SUMMIT||S30.152260 E18.262055|
|GPS END||S30.172509 E18.269313|
|DIRECTION - TRAVEL||South|
|TIME REQUIRED||10 minutes|
|NEAREST TOWN||Kamieskroon (47 km)|
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