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Blinkberg Pass (P1482)

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Sneeukop (2070m) Cederberg Sneeukop (2070m) Cederberg - Photo: Trygve Roberts

The Blinkberg Pass (translated as 'Glittering or Shining Mountain') is a fairly long pass, found on the much revered gravel road (the P1482) through the southern Cederberg. The Grootrivierhoogte Pass and Blinkberg Pass run concurrently for a distance of almost 20km through magnificent and rugged scenery.

The pass has an unusual vertical profile in that it has two false summits located approximately at the 1/3 and 2/3 points. Each of these is marked by a short tarred section to cope with the very steep gradients. At 11,8 km this a long pass and is peppered with corners, but most of these are fairly easy. There are however, some really nasty ones, which can catch unsuspecting drivers by surprise.

The road traverses spectacular Cederberg mountain scenery and follows a narrow kloof for most of its length. Earmark this one if you've never driven it, as it's one of the nicest gravel roads in South Africa.

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: 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: To approach from the north the easiest is to drive along the N7 and turn east midway between Citrusdal and Clanwilliam at the sign marked "Algeria" at GPS S32.363973 E18.939232. Use the hyperlinks provided to get accurate directions to each of the following passes, which must all be traversed to reach the northern start of the Blinkberg Pass. 1. Nieuwoudts Pass 2. Uitkyk Pass 3. Grootrivierhoogte Pass. The Blinkberg pass and the Grootrivierhoogte Pass have a common start and end point. If the Matjiesrivier low level causeway is flooded, you will also need to read up on the escape route via the Kromrivier Pass and Truitjieskraal Road.

A road less travelledA road less travelled / Photo: Henri CloeteTo approach from the south, there are two options. (a) From Ceres take the R303 up the Gydo Pass. Drive for a further 25 km (north) to Op die Berg (the last refuelling point), then turn right (east) on the tarred road past Houdenbek Farms for 15 km until you reach a fork where the tar ends. Take the left hand fork and drive along this gravel road for 25 km to reach the southern start of the Blinkberg Pass.

The other southern approach alternative is via the Peerboomskloof and Katbakkies passes, which is much longer and slower, but worth the extra effort for the amazing scenery on offer. From Ceres head north-east on the tarred R46 over the Theronsberg Pass followed by the Hottentotskloof Pass. Six kilometres later the R46 becomes the R355 if you carry straight on. The road also becomes gravel here. Drive through the Karoo Poort, then continue northwards on the R355 for 38 km and turn west at the sign marked "Kagga-Kamma" at GPS S32.891241 E19.769450 onto the P2244. Now drive over the Peerboomskloof Pass followed by the Katbakkies Pass and the Klein Cederberg Pass. 1,8 km after the foot of the Klein Cederberg Pass, you will reach a fork, where the left hand option leads onto a tarred road. Turn right here onto the P1482 and drive north for 25 km to arrive at the southern start of the Blinkberg Pass.

Grootrivier at Mnt CederGrootrivier at Mount Ceder / Photo: Mark ChiddyThe pass starts at its northern end at the crossing of the Grootrivier, which is via a single width, low level concrete bridge. Should the bridge be under water, be extremely careful before attempting to cross it and it would be best to ask the advice of the owner at the farm if it is safe to do so or not. The river has two streams under the bridge with the more powerful, main stream, being the further one to the north. On the northern side of the bridge are many acres of olive trees, which is the farm's main source of produce and the main shed with an olive press is located to the north-eastern side of the bridge, a little further downstream.

The first two kilometers are easy and the gradient is consistent at around 1:17. The green roofed buildings at Mount Ceder make an appearance on either side of the short tarred section immediately after the bridge. We regularly use the facilities at Mount Ceder as a base when we are filming in the area and have the highest recommendation for this 4 star establishment, which offers a range of chalets from basic 2 sleeper labourers cottages without electricity, all the way to the magificent Klipbokkop lodge nestled high up the valley overlooking the river with its jacuzzi and superb views from a wrap-around balcony. There are three campsites as well - each with their own private ablution block. The farm also offers a restaurant and small shop, which is open to the general public.

Waterfall on the Blinkberg PassWaterfall on the Blinkberg Pass / Photo: Heribert BrechenThe first two kilometres are easy going and the road surafce is normally in an excellent condition, which lulls drivers into a false sense of security. The bends are very gentle with submile views of towering mountains on either side. The first dangerous bend pops up at the 2,9 km mark. The road ascends up a short, blind rise, then suddenly flicks over to the right. The bend is very sharp and comes up quickly for the unwary driver and to make matters worse, it has reverse banking. It is very easy to "lose it" on this bend. It is well marked with chevrons and danger signs. Make a mental note of it as a number of cars (and bikes) have had accidents here.

The next 2 km is easy going again, but the bends increase in arc and intensity. At the 4,8 km mark the gradient ramps up and the gravel gives way to tar as the road climbs steeply up to the first of two false summits. This is an exceptionally good place to take a good photograph. Dusk and dawn are wonderful times to capture the scenery.

The drop down the southern side of this tarred section is very steep and is at 1:5. This section is tarred to aid traction for non 4WD vehicles in wet weather. The descent is short and steep and its best to run down this slope against engine compression. The road is narrower than the gravel section and it's important to note that no overtaking is allowed. Near the bottom there is a tight S-bend which should be driven at below 40 kph. The road sweeps over a small stream and immediately after the S-bend there is an open gravel pit on the left, which is a perfect place to park and enjoy the scenery or take the walk down to the waterfall.

The trail itself leads off to the right (west) and follows a wide footpath for about one kilometer down to a tributary of the Grootrivier. The path crosses the river via a small footbridge then heads south following the western bank for about 2 km. It's an easy enough walk getting there and will only take about 25 minutes, but the walk back is a stiff, sweaty climb, which will take about 40 minutes (for the average person).

Dangerous bendBe wary of this dangerous bend at the 2,9 km mark / Photo: Trygve Roberts

The path heads through dense riverine bush and reeds and terminates at a large rock pool with a small, but attrractive waterfall of about 10 meters height plunging down the rock face into the pool. The water is clean and potable and the pool is an idyllic place to take a dip when it's hot. Rumour has it that a leopard has been spotted near the pool. The waterfall is obviously more impressive in winter during the rainy season. Please note that the path and waterfall fall within the boundaries of the Mount Ceder farm and only paying guests may use this facility. Non-guests may make inquiries at the Mount Ceder office at the bottom of the pass.

The valley gets deeper here and the red-golden rocks of the area start closing in around the road. Steep cliffs to the west hint of a bigger river - and big it is as it is the aptly named Grootrivier, which is the largest in the area and the one you crossed at the start of the pass. A sharp conical peak near the road on the right marks the proximity of the waterfall path.

LeopardLeopard / Photo: Essential Africa

The next section of the ascent is once again gravel and the going is fairly easy as the road meanders up the centre of a distinct kloof. The kloof gets ever narrower as altitude is gained. The Blinkberg Pass is interesting and it is your first real taste of the true Cederberg when approaching from the south. For those travelling north to south, it's the last of the true Cederberg terrain, before arriving on the higher plains of the Koue Bokkeveld.

The quality of the road is generally quite good and the driving is a real pleasure as the altitude starts increasing with the mountains becoming increasingly closer as you proceed southwards. The next false summit looms at the 8,4 km point and is also marked by a transition from gravel to tar.  This short section is only about 500m but is very steep at 1:5. Like the first false summit, this one also is a blind rise and offers excellent photographic opportunities. Once again, note that no overtaking is allowed.

 

[Video cover photo: Trygve Roberts]

The crest of this second mini-summit is an excellent place to stop and take a breather, but be sure to pull right off the road as there is not much width for passing traffic. The road can be seen winding its way in both directions up to the next neck and this is a particularly pleasant spot to take a breather and soak up the tranquility of the Cederberg.

The  tar is short lived as the surface once more switches to gravel for the final 3 km climb to the true summit. The gradients start increasing slowly, but eventually the fimal 500m section ramps up to 1:7. The last bend is a left hander and the summit point of 966m marking the end of the pass is reached at 11,9 km mark, opposite a small quarry.

Drive on for 25 km until you reach the Kagga Kamma and Tankwa Karoo intersection, which is a perfect spot to inflate your tyres as it's tar all the way from here.

The Cederberg is no place for hasty experiencing! Thankfully, there are more than enough places to settle down for a leisurely meal or overnight. You are also now in the greater Cederberg Conservancy area, so keep a lookout for wildlife.

This is most certainly not a route to rush through! Spring flowers adorn the mountainsides between August and September, and an observatory for those with a nocturnal passion for stargazing is open on saturdays (weather permitting) at the Dwarsrivier farm. The Cederberg is famous for is rejuvenating, magestic serenity which lures back local and international travellers again and again.

Watch a short video below which is an overview of a few of the features of Mount Ceder guest farm:

Technical driving details: It is not necessary to be in a 4x4 for this road. Normal sedan vehicles will cope quite easily, even in wet weather. The previous pass, the Grootrivierhoogte Pass will be a lot more difficult for normal cars (and especially front wheel drive cars), as the steep parts are not tarred and in wet weather, things can go pear shaped near the top of the pass without 4WD.

Tip for driving on corrugations:
Deflate your tyres down to 1.2 - 1.4 bar and increase your speed to 70 kph (if the road conditions allow). At a speed of between 70 and 80 kph a vehicle starts 'floating' over the corrugations and the ride suddenly becomes smoother. However, trying this technique out could result in a sudden loss of traction and control. If you feel confident enough of your driving skills, by all means try it out.

If your car starts bouncing, you will lose traction and a resultant loss of control. 4x4 vehicles manage corrugations much better than normal cars. Although the steepest parts of the Blinkberg Pass are tarred, the condition of these roads vary according to the changing weather --- always expect corrugations!

The low level bridge at Nuwerus in the next valley north, is frequently flooded in the winter, as is the next (more dangerous) river crossing at Matjiesrivier. These should not be crossed except if you have sound 4x4 driving skills. There are numerous accounts of cars being washed down the river. This is a serious cautionary - don't become a statistic. If the water appears to be too deep, it is best to ask one of the local farmers, who will be able to provide sound advice in terms of safety. There is an escape route just before the Matjiesrivier crossing, which diverts over the Truitjieskraal route to Kromrivier farm. The Matjiesrivier crossing is both wide and deep, and has caught many an over eager driver unawares. This particular crossing produced a washed away vehicle scenario with a drowning in the winter of 2012. The escape route takes you over the mountain to the west via the Kromrivier farm, where the river crossing is much shorter and less dangerous.

Whilst travelling in this area you can also drive the long and elegant Blinkberg Pass, the short and steep Kromrivier Pass and the beautifully designed Uitkyk Pass which is the gateway to the Northern Cederberg. From Clanwilliam and it's blue dam, you can take the Pakhuis Pass to Wupperthal via the Hoek se berg pass and Kouberg Pass and possibly do the complete round trip including the Eselbank Pass (4x4 recommended) and explore the tiny mountain hamlet of Eselbank and it's spectacular waterfall. On your return trip to Cape Town, you can try something different and drive the Winkelhaak farm road loop if you have the time.

The Cederberg Wilderness is one of those timeless places where you can find your soul and restore your equilibrium in exquisite surroundings and complete silence. There is little or no cell reception in most of the area. Halleluja!

Watch a short overview on one of the small restored restored labourers cottages just for 2 people at the Mount Ceder Guest farm:


Fact File:

GPS START 

S32.645590 E19.406813

GPS SUMMIT

S32.745086 E19.434604

GPS END 

S32.745086 E19.434604

AVE GRADIENT

1:24

MAX GRADIENT

1:5

ELEVATION START

486m

ELEVATION SUMMIT

965m

ELEVATION END

965m

HEIGHT GAIN/LOSS

479m

DISTANCE

11,8 km

DIRECTION - TRAVEL

South

TIME REQUIRED

20 minutes

SPEED LIMIT

60 kph

SURFACE

Gravel (P1482)

DATE FILMED

26.06.2018

TEMPERATURE

18C

NEAREST TOWN

Ceres (90 km)


Route Map:

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Route files:

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

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