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Moordenaarskloof Pass

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Moordenaarskloof Moordenaarskloof - Photo: SA Forums

This is quite a unique pass as it holds a number of extreme statistics under its rutted gravel surface. It's a short pass at only 3.7 km but packs a staggering 55 bends, corners and curves into that length, which works out at one bend every 67 metres! There is no other pass in South Africa to equal this!

Besides the large number of corners, this pass is also steep with an average gradient of 1:14 and some very steep sections at 1:5. The scenery is fantastic as the pass follows the course of a tributary of the Nooitgedacht River, but the cherry on top of all these impressive figures is the ghoulish history of this pass, where a murder took place about 200 years ago - and it's how the kloof got it's name. There are other passes in South Africa with similar names, like Moordenaarsnek (EC) and Moordenaarspoort (NC) and Moordenaarshoogte (WC).

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[Video cover photo: Trygve Roberts]

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Digging into the details

Getting there from the south: Follow the directions for both the Suuranysberg Pass and the Kouga River Pass, which have to be driven in succession to get to the Moordenaarskloof Pass. Once you've reached the northern side of the Kouga River Pass and arrived at the fork at GPS S33.848691 E24.236612, keep right and continue for a further 4 km heading generally into the north-east until you arrive at a prominent fork at GPS S33.826592 E24.255420. You must keep left here. This point also marks the southern start and summit point of the Moordenaarskloof Pass.

Moordenaarskloof sceneryAt the northern end of the pass / Photo: Google Images

Getting there from the north: It is possible to approach from the north-western side and drive this pass from north to south in the ascending mode. From the summit of the Kouga River Pass where it ends at the fork at GPS S33.848691 E24.236612, turn left towards Baviaans Lodge and drive north west for 16 km where you will find another road connecting in from the east at GPS S33.774431 E24.155458. Turn sharp right here and follow this road into the east for 1,3 km where the road turns sharply to the left. There is a private farmstead on this bend, where you must keep right and drive through the farmstead, but you will need to get permission first. GPS S33.780247 E24.165502. Drive east for 4 km to arrive at another fork at GPS S33.782080 E24.202887. Keep right and drive a further 2,3 km into the south-east to arrive at another fork at GPS S33.790847 E24.218333. Keep left at this fork and continue heading east for for 6,5 km to arrive at the bridge crossing and northern end of Moordenaarskloof. We do not recommend driving this option as the real possibility exists of coming across locked farm gates, which will mean a long drive backtracking your route.

Moordenaarskloof PassThis pass is well off the beaten track / Photo: SA Forums

Pass description: From the southern starting point and summit of the pass at 489m ASL, the road bends away into the north and immediately begins descending along a straight section for 130m which is the longest straight piece of road on this pass.

It then turns through an 80 degree bend to the right towards a side ravine known as Huiskloof where it descends via a triple set of continuous S-bends. At the 0,5 km point, the road swings away into the west still using the many contours to maintain a steady descent gradient. The heading changes into the north-east at the 1,1 km mark where the road crosses a small stream. For the next 300 hundred metres the gradients ease off a bit via another double set of S-bends, but at the 1,4 km point, things get steeper once more as the road heads directly north via a big S-bend.

At the 1,9 km point there is major change in direction as the road descends down the final section of the kloof into the north-west. The cliffs and ridges forming the northern side of the gorge formed by the Nooitgedachtrivier dominate the views ahead and 100m later there is a fork. Make a note of this fork as we refer to it later to locate the ruins of he haunted farm house. Keep left and descend the final 100m via a tight S-bend past a small farm building to cross the river at an altitude of 312m at the 2,5 km mark. This river forms a confluence with the Ragelsrivier a few kilometres to the west. The Nooitgedacht river in turn, forms a confluence with the Kouga river about 7 km south east of the pass.

Kouga RiverWhere the waters run sweet and clear / Photo: SA Forums

You now have the option of retracing your route back to the Kouga River Pass or if you are a navigation expert and don't mind risking a very long drive (and the possibility of coming across locked gates), you can follow our directions to approach from the north, but remember to invert them. Once you reconnect with the main gravel road you can head up towards Meidenek, the Baviaans Lodge and the Baviaans-Kouga 4x4 Trail.

Make use of the hyperlinks to review all of the above passes. Note that permits are required to traverse the Baviaans-Kouga 4x4 Trail, which may be obtained at the Doringkloof camp-site in the Baviaanskloof. This may be purchased even at the end of the trail, but it's best to contact the Doringkloof farm in advance and advise them of your intention to drive the route and provide them with an ETA, for your own safety. Allow a full day to complete the trail. It's best to overnight at the Baviaans Lodge before commencing the trail - and start early. 

The history and folklore of Moordenaarskloof: Many of our passes and poorts carry stories of murder, mayhem, jealousy, revenge and ghosts that roam the roads on dark stormy nights. The story behind this kloof is so well documented that there is more than likely some level of truth behind it.

Farm outbuildingAn abandoned outbuilding on Jan Prinsloo's farm / Photo: SA Country Life

Most of the kloof falls within the borders of the original Jammersfontein farm, where the central figure of Jan Prinsloo farmed in the 1700's. Legend has it that Prinsloo, a large and strong man was particularly fond of his prized stud horses and was well known in the valley as a breeder. On the other end of the scale he had a reputation for being harsh and cruel with his servants.

Prinsloo pushed the limits of discipline on his farm when he punished two of the Khoi women and a child for absconding from the farm without permission (ostensibly to visit relatives) by tying them to a tree, flogging them, after which they were shot. After this incident, all his Khoi servants fled the farm for the area between the Sundays and Great Fish River, where they joined up with the Xhosa whose tactic it was to plunder local farms and so drive the settlers further west.

 

[Video cover photo: Trygve Roberts]

This insurrection soon gravitated to the Langkloof. Prinsloo had joined forces with other farmers to leave the disturbed area and was some 15 miles away from his farm, when all the farmers in the group were attacked in an ambush. All the farmers were killed, except for Prinsloo who fled back towards his farm. His six servants (all on stolen horses), caught up with him inside the kloof, where he was overpowered and killed. The Khois then looted Prinsloo's house and went back to join their Xhosa unit, but all of them later died, when the insurrection was quelled by government forces.

Wild horsesAre Prinsloo's horses still thundering down the kloof at midnight? / Photo: Google Images

The kloof quickly became known as Moordenaarskloof.

When you reach the final fork just before the river crossing, turn sharp right and see if you can find the ruins of Prinsloo's house. The ruins are in dense bush and difficult to locate, but they are about 1 km from this intersection and quite close to the river. Another half a kilometre down the road there are grave sites of British soldiers who died during the Anglo-Boer War. The little valley is surrounded by steep cliffs and the clear river flows by forming a beautiful landscape - a far cry from the turbulent history that played it self out here hundreds of years ago. The murder apparently took place on January 15th and the story goes that at midnight each January the sound of horses hoofs thundering along the kloof can be heard, amidst anguished cries.

ZebraZebra at Bo-Kouga / Photo: BoKouga.co.za

Many years later a young Englishman, Stephen Goodrick, had amassed a good deal of money in the ivory trade and purchased Prinsloo's farm from the Van Der Meulen family, who had owned the farm after Prinsloo.

The story of the ghosts was kept a dark secret and the unsuspecting Goodrick purchased the farm and moved in, but it wasn't long before he was awoken to the sound of drumming hooves and people shouting and screaming in the dead of night. The horses in the stables were always terrified, but Goodrick was never able to find a logical explanation for the sounds and apparitions that appeared at regular intervals. The final major episode occured during a violent summer storm on January 15th, 1867.

Goodrick and one of his Khoi servants ran to the farm kraal, where they found their horses cowering in a corner and the ghost of a tall farmer holding an elephant gun appearing before them, with a band of armed Khoi men with knives and assegaais approaching the farmer. In this vision, which both men witnessed, the farmer stumbled and the Khois attacked him, smearing themselves with his blood, whereafter the noises stopped and the spirits vanished. After uncovering the story, and not surprisingly, Goodrick moved on and left the farm.

As you leave the pass you might notice the so-called "spook klippe" or 'Guardians of the Kloof' – two pillars of stone rumoured to have been female slaves who turned away from the sight of Prinsloo’s execution. When they finally stole a look at the spectacle, they were turned to stone, in a copycat local version of Sodom and Gomorrah.

You should be OK to drive this pass but maybe not on January 15th?


    

 Fact File:

GPS   START

S33.826592 E24.255420

GPS   SUMMIT

S33.826592 E24.255420

GPS   END

S33.814995 E24.242080

AVE   GRADIENT

1:21

MAX   GRADIENT

1:5

ELEVATION   START

489m

ELEVATION   SUMMIT

489m

ELEVATION   END

316m

HEIGHT   GAIN/LOSS

173m

DISTANCE

3.7 km

DIRECTION - TRAVEL

North West

TIME   REQUIRED

18 minutes 

SPEED   LIMIT

60 kph

SURFACE

Gravel (P1600)

DATE FILMED

20.11.2019

TEMPERATURE

26C 

NEAREST   TOWN

Kareedouw (23 km)


Route Map:

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Route files:

||Click to download: Moordenaarskloof Pass (Note - This is a .kmz file which can be opened in Google earth and most GPS software systems) 

 

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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.
 

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