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Vetpoort (P2230)

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Many farm gates to be opened and closed on this road! Many farm gates to be opened and closed on this road! - Photo: Trygve Roberts

This very minor road rises only 49m to clear a wide neck amongst the vast plains of Namaqualand about 25 km north-east of Nuwerus (on the N7) as the crow flies. It is one of the most northerly official passes in the Western Cape. The word 'poort' is normally associated with a road following the path carved out by a river, so Vetpoort is inappropriately named and should rather have been called Vetnek. Only die-hard pass-chasers will hunt this one down. It's difficult to find (especially from the south-eastern side) and has many farm gates to open and close in the process of getting there. For those that do take the trouble to drive this 'pass' you will be rewarded with a remarkable sense of peace and solitude as it is truly in the middle of nowhere.

 

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.....

[Video cover photo by Trygve Roberts]

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: Turn north-east off the N7 approximately 4 km north of Bitterfontein onto the gravel R358 at GPS S31.002041 E18.260316. Remain on the R358 for 30 km and turn right at GPS S31.30.799781 E18.18.440707 just before Rooiwalspoort. Now drive south on this minor farm road for 10 km to arrive at a fork. Keep left at GPS S30.880825 E18.469393. Continue heading SSW for 14 km to arrive at the northern start of Vetpoort. This approach is as described below and also the direction that we filmed it.

Approaching Vetpoort from the southThe approach road to Vetpoort / Photo: Trygve Roberts

For those wanting to approach from the south, drive along the N7 heading north out of Vanrhynsdorp for 47 km and turn north-east at GPS S31.230270 E18.529590 onto a good, wide gravel road maintained to an excellent condition. Drive along this road for 24 km and make a careful note of the next waypoint, which is very easy to miss. Look out for a closed, but unlocked farm gate on the left hand side of the road at GPS S31.033814 E18.623243. Please close the gate behind you. This is a public road, so don't worry about trespassing. Drive north-west for 3,3 km to arrive at a complex intersection with 5 options. This is where most people will make mistakes as there are no signs. Take the second turn to the left, which heads WNW at GPS S30.993643 E18.598183. Drive for 1,9 km to arrive at the eastern start of Vetpoort at the crossing of a (usually) dry riverbed. Do not take the first road left which runs on the left hand side along the fence.

Please note that getting to this very minor poort is something of a mission, with many farm gates to open and close. In addition the roads are of a low standard and the going is slow - generally between 20 and 30 kph. It takes a long time to get here, so be patient. The rewards are complete solitude and isolation where you are highly unlikely to see another human being. The Northern Cape has a Maerpoort (in the Richtersveld),  and this is the Western Cape's repost.

A spot of shade in NamaqualandA perfect picnic spot along Vetpoort - the only shade for many miles / Photo: Trygve Roberts

We filmed the poort from west to east, approaching from the north via the R358. From the northern start you will traverse the following farms: Rooiwalspoort, Besonderheid and Middelputs. At Middelputs farm there is a staggered intersection. Ignore the left and right hand options and continue straight on into the SSE. The road now enters a long kloof, knows as Roodekloof for several kilometers. Where the kloof opens up, there is a 4th farm, called Groot Banke. Immediately after the farmstead, there is a fork. Keep right and remain on the SE heading. After 1,5 km there is a small intersection with a road leading off to the right (SSW). Ignore this road and keep to the left hand option. After 200m you will arrive at the western starting point of Vetpoort. Mark it on your GPS, otherwise you will not realise you are on an official pass.

Vetpoort starts at the crossing of a small riverbed and a closed gate at an altitude of 366m ASL and climbs gently through a series of gentle bends at a gradient of 1:20 to reach the summit point after just 550m. The summit is a very wide neck between two hills and is barely noticeable. There is a smallish hill to the left (north) called Bakenkop [466m].

Knersvlakte succulentCrassula columnaris - one of many succulents to be seen in the Knersvlakte in spring / Photo: Pinterest

The scenery is pure Namaqualand with low bushes and reddish sand. In winter it's bleak and cold and in summer it's punishingly hot. But underneath that veneer is wonderworld of minute succulents and if you ever do decide to venture to this remote spot, do so in springtime, when the desert comes to life in a wild display of colour. 

Exactly 1 km from the start, you will arrive at the second gate, which is normally also closed. You now have a view of an enormous plain in front of you. The descent towards the plain  meanders down the slope at a very easy gradient of around 1:40.

At the 1,8 km mark, there's a short dip through another riverbed via a left hand bend, after which the road rises slightly and straightens out again. Up ahead a tiny oasis of greenery can be seen. It consists of two substantial acacia thorn trees, which provide shade for one or two vehicles. Next to the trees there is a green water tank (for the sheep). Another smaller thorn tree stands in a rusted 44 gallon drum, struggling to take root in the hard soil. This is the perfect place to stop and take a break. Here you will experience the total tranquility of Namaqualand. On a calm day, you can hear your heart beating.

Continue heading east as the road meanders towards the eastern end of the poort via some gentle bends and it ends at the 4,2 km mark at the crossing of another riverbed - the Klein Rietrivier.

To get back onto a main road, please follow our directions above for the southern approach, but reverse them. If you don't have a good GPS loaded with Tracks4Africa, you will more than likely get lost.


Fact File:

GPS START  S30.980654 E18.538040
GPS SUMMIT S30.983071 E18.542892
GPS END  S30.991501 E18.579242
AVE GRADIENT 1:86
MAX GRADIENT 1:20
ELEVATION START 366m
ELEVATION SUMMIT 378m
ELEVATION END 329m
HEIGHT GAIN/LOSS 49m
DISTANCE 4,2 km 
DIRECTION - TRAVEL East
TIME REQUIRED 4 minutes
SPEED LIMIT 60 kph
SURFACE Gravel (P2230)
DATE FILMED 27.04.2017
TEMPERATURE 26C
NEAREST TOWN Nuwerus (56 km)

Route Map:

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From Address:


Route files:

||Click to download: Vetpoort (Note - this is a .kmz file, which can be opened in Google earth and  most GPS models)

 

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