Attaquaskloof, Mossel Bay

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Attakwaskloof views Attakwaskloof views - Photo: Photo: NightjarTravel.com

This is one of the great historical gravel passes which winds its way through the Outeniqua Mountains north of Mossel Bay. It has subsequently been replaced by a significantly more convenient, tarred pass (Robinson Pass). Attaquaskloof Pass is now frequented mostly by die-hard 4x4 enthusiasts and a few local farmers.

However, the 22,3 km of gravel road is definitely worth each and every meter of its history-rich length! A permit is required to drive this route and there are locked gates. Keys are obtained on issue of your permit at the start point, which is the Bonniedale farm. Note - this route can only be driven in one direction (west to east).

 

 



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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: Getting to the Bonniedale farm is something of an adventure in itself. The easiest route is to take the tarred R328 from the N2 at Hartenbos and head north towards the Robinson Pass. Just before the well known Eight Bells Mountain Inn, take the gravel road to the left marked "Haelkraal". [GPS S33.944684 E22.035703]. Travel west on this lovely road for 8 kms and at the top of a short,steep hill, turn sharp (as in 140 degrees) right at the sign marked Bonniedale. [GPS S33.968891 E21.968093]

Slow going on the trailThe trail is slow going but not difficult / Photo: Trygve RobertsRemain on this road as it first heads north, then turns west for approximately 30 km of exquisite driving through dense forests. There are a number of gates to open (and close behind you). Some of this section is through state forestry land. Please comply with the signs. 

This is a slow drive of at least an hour. Eventually you will arrive at the Bonniedale farmstead [GPS S33.873456 E21.861597], where you will probably meet owners Nico and Danette Hesterman, (recently retired from Cape Nature) who will handle your payment, permit and maps.

The farm is a much loved venue for nature lovers and offers camping, walks, rock pools, horse trails, MTB trails, 4x4 routes and other outdoor leisure activities inclding a big, heart-stopping zip-slide over the farm dam. They also offer some self catering options (caravans and cottages) as well as a tented camp.



Centuries ago, the local Khoi tribes herded their cattle and sheep across a path in the Outeniqua Mountains, which later became something of a road for all travellers between Mossel Bay and Oudtshoorn. However, it was never suited to wagons and in the mid 1800's the public were putting pressure on the authorities to provide a decent road. Thomas Bain surveyed the area and a number of options were suggested, which included an existing road at the Ruitersbosch Village. This then became a long and arduous route through the Outeniquas to the Karoo, but it was not popular.

At the summit pointOur camera vehicle at the summit / Photo: Trygve RobertsUltimately a new road was surveyed which tracked through a neck further east. This was to become the well known, modern Robinson Pass. In time the old Attaquaskloof fell into disuse, with virtually no traffic on it these days. However, it is a lovely, scenic route to drive and one can still drive it today, but you will require a permit from Bonniedale farm. It is strictly for 4x4 vehicles only which must have low range and good ground clearance.

The start is obscure and you have to drive across the lawns of one of the cottages, past a tent and into a thicket of riverine bush to locate it. Here the track drops down sharply to the right and you will be in the Kamma River itself. The river is normally less than 250mm deep, so should not present problems in terms of wading depth for most 4x4's, except if in flood. Go immediately into low range as you have to drive up the river for about 50 meters, where you will see the two track spoor heading away on the opposite bank. This first 2 kms of this trail is a bit hectic in places and you are advised to stay in low range. Very soon you will arrive at what appears to a jumble of rocks blocking your way. A sign warns about tightening bras and removing dentures.

Cape Nature's overnight cottageThe road winds eastwards up this beautiful valley / Photo: Zane ErasmusThis section is rated Grade 3 to 4, so get out and examine the "road" carefully on foot, before choosing your line. Once over this obstacle, the track levels off briefly, then starts ascending aggressively again as the tracks traverses deep ruts and big loose rocks. Dead slow is the watchword here. Once you reach the summit ridge, the worst is over. There are other steep and rough sections, but the first 2 km are easily the toughest. If you have made it up there, you will manage the rest.

Various other tracks radiate off the main track. All the tracks are well signposted, so you wont get lost. After another 1,5 km, you will spot an old ruin on your right, about 100m off the road. These are the ruins of the old toll house. The records showed that during the course of the toll house being in operation, that an astonishing 4250 ox-wagons paid their toll fees here in a single year. No wonder the track is so rutted! The ruins you see today are not the original toll house, which was razed to the ground during a major bush fire.

Tall grass and many river crossingsAfter the cottage there is asecion with tall grass and many stream crossings / Photo: Trygve RobertsThe going is fairly easy with several steep entry/exit stream crossings, but nothing too deep to be concerned about. Another 3km will bring a small cottage into view at the point where the track heads south. This is a Cape Nature cottage and can be hired. It is located in the most pristine mountain setting. There is an escape route from here of about 2 km length which joins the gravel road at Perdekop, that you drove past on your way to the start.

The track swings back into the east and meanders along the valley for many kilometers, crossing streams and ascending hill after hill. Some of the steepest parts have been strip-concreted. Remember to unlock your centre-diff along those sections to prevent axle wind-up. The serious climbing begins near the halfway point where the track rises steeply to summit at an S-bend, providing 'forever' views covering a full 360 degrees.

Steep and rocky!Things get steep and rocky closer to the summit / Photo: Trygve RobertsThe mountain range to your right is the Attakwasberge, whilst the range to your left is the Outeniqua Mountains. The ruins of an old block-house can still be seen near the summit. The town of Mossel Bay is visible in the distance to the south, whilst behind you the Outeniqua Mountains tower above the road, making everything seem miniature. There is a palpable sense of timelessless here. A good spot for a few quiet minutes of introspection.

It can often be cold and windy at the summit, so have a warm jacket ready. The descent begins quickly and the track starts dropping at a gradient of 1:5. Again some sections have been concreted to prevent erosion. This eastern descent is very pleasant with constantly changing views as the track twists and turns through the ravines and streams. This eastern section is heavily overgrown (at time of filming - May, 2014) and in places the track simply disappears into the bush. This requires a short walk to locate the continuation of the track. The descent approximates the course of the Saffraansrivier. About 3 kms from the summit on the crest of a small hill to the right of the road is another memorial plaque- the Attakwaskloof Gedenkplaat - dated 1689.[GPS S33.846044 E21.984083]

Summit views looking eastSummit views looking east / Photo: Trygve RobertsOnce the track starts levelling off, you will arrive at the next gate. Please close every gate (as you find it). The first farms start making an appearance and the boxes on either side of the track (visible in the Google earth imagery) are bee-hives. Disturb those at your own peril!

The last few kilometers are a typical drive on a jeep track across farmland and the going is easier and you can change to high range and pick your speed up a bit, where possible. Watch out for cattle and other animals. There are three gates along this section. The penultimate one reveals a view down on some labourers cottages. This is almost at the end of the trail at the Sonskyn farm. The government maps show this farm as the Moerasrivier farm.  The track swings away to the left and the final gate is right next to the tarred R328 (Robinson Pass). Usually the farm kids will run ahead of your vehicle and open the gate for you for a small reward. There is (according to the official map) a Voortrekker memorial plaque close to the gate.



A right turn will take you over the Robinson Pass back towards Mossel Bay and a left hand turn will take you to Oudsthoorn (on tar, all the way).

The historic details of the Attaquaskloof Pass are recorded in the video narrative. The name of the pass is sometimes also spelt as Attakwaskloof (Afrikaans). We rate this off-road drive in our Top 20 nationally.


Fact File:

GPS START 

S33.873456 E21.861597

GPS SUMMIT

S33.861631 E21.964540

GPS END 

S33.817925 E22.038611

AVE GRADIENT

1:45

MAX GRADIENT

1:3

ELEVATION START

351m

ELEVATION SUMMIT

846m

ELEVATION END

533m

HEIGHT GAIN/LOSS

495m

DISTANCE

22,3 km

DIRECTION - TRAVEL

North East

TIME REQUIRED

150 minutes

SPEED LIMIT

None

SURFACE

Two spoor jeep track

DATE FILMED

09.05.2014

TEMPERATURE

17C

NEAREST TOWN

Mossel Bay (50km)


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Mountain Passes South Africa

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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