Week after week we dig into our treasure chest of mountain passes and take you into every corner of our beautiful and diverse country, as we introduce you to remote or forgotten passes and at other times we reawaken your interest in a well known or famous pass, where no matter how many times you travel it, it remains an absolute joy.
Our featured this week, is one of the latter. It was originally built by Thomas Bain and ranks as one of his best passes in terms of technical ingenuity. We recently refilmed this exceptionally lovely pass and bring it back to you today as fresh as a Namaqualand daisy in HD in a three part video set, covering every aspect of the pass, from technical engineering to history to tourism information.
We rate this pass amongst the Top 10 passes in the Western Cape and in the Top 20 nationally.
This week we focus on the Outeniqua mountains in the Southern Cape and on one of it's three great passes. Once again, Thomas Bain features as the builder/designer of this lovely mountain pass, but the original road was a lot more dramatic than the modern road we travel on today.
As from this week we will be publishing all refilmed passes as they are published per week, plus any new passes, (besides our featured pass) in these weekly news releases.
[To access the featured pass of the week, expand this page by clicking on the title, photo or green READ MORE button]
Like our Chritmas Eve news release, this final news item for 2015 similarly falls on Old Year's Eve. We were expecting a low readership due to the significance of the day, but last week's news release was read by over 12,000 people between the website and the FaceBook entry!
On this final day of 2015, we give you a real treat and in keeping with our December theme, take you on a cyber drive with four videos over Thomas Bain's final masterpiece.
We also have a closer look at the road death toll and take an 'out of the box' solution.
[To access the links and read further, expand this page by clicking on the title, the photo or the green READ MORE button]
December 2015 is Thomas Bain month. This week we focus on two very technical passes in the Tsitsikamma forests which Thomas Bain tackled with enthusiasm and his trademark "can do" attitude. These two passes crossed the two most difficult gorges along the 165 km stretch between Port Elizabeth and George, which government authorities insisted was too difficult to build a roud through. Bain proved them all wrong and with a little help from Mother Nature in the form of devastating forest fires through the Tsitsikamma, the task of clearing the biggest trees became easier.
[To access the hyperlinks to these two passes, expand this page by clicking the Photo, the title or the green READ MORE button]
This interesting gravel pass is located (as the name suggests) in the Klein Swartberg mountains about 40 km south of Laingsburg on the R323/P315 road. It is one of a series of passes and poorts in the area, which provide a fascinating range of options. The pass was built by Thomas Bain in 1880. Please read the detailed notes carefully as there is one very dangerous section on this pass you should be aware of.
This old pass which was built by Thomas Bain in 1860 can still be clearly seen from the new road (R46) which is on the northern side of the kloof. The dry-stone packed supporting walls of the old pass still support the original road, which was tarred in the 1930's - as well as acting as support base for the railway line, slightly higher up the slope, which is still in use to this day and was originally built by Bain as well, some time after completing the road. The old road can still be driven, but it should be noted that it is blocked off at the Tulbagh end at the railway station, where one has to turn around and retrace the route back to the starting point at the main bridge on the R46.
This fairly short poort routes through a clear gap in the mountains just north of Heroldt and forms a natural northerly extension to the historicial Montagu Pass on an easy traverse towards Oudtshoorn. This little poort seems to have been forgotten and completely dominated by the grandeur of the Montagu Pass, but a closer look at the Paardepoort (The Pass of Horses), reveals an old road, built in similar style to Bain's work of the late 1800's, which can be clearly seen on the opposite side of the poort with substantial retaining walls still adequately propping the old road up, above the river.
This historical oxwagon route dates back to 1776 when it was used by pioneers as a trade route between the coast and the Langkloof valley. prior to the current name, the route was known as the Duiwelskop Pass which was first designed by Thomas Bain circa 1865.
Enjoy magnificent views of the Indian ocean, the lakes around Wilderness and Sedgefield and the verdant Langkloof valley. The 21km route starts on Louvain guest farm and ends at the entrance of the Bergplaas Forestry station on the Seven Passes road between George and Knysna. It takes approximately two and a half hours to complete, and is enjoyable and scenic without being unduly demanding. A permit is required to enter the forestry area and the cost thereof is included in the permit obtainable at Louvain Guest Farm, which was R200 per vehicle at time of writing. This route is strictly for 4x4 vehicles with low range and good ground clearance. It can get tricky on the northern slopes in wet weather.
Note - No motorcycles or quadbikes are allowed.
Grey's Pass is approximately 157 years old and was designed and built by Thomas Bain in 1857 using between 100 and 220 convict labourers. The road has been fully deproclaimed, which means ownership (and maintenance) has reverted to the land owners. This lovely old pass is unfortunately not publicly accessible. There are certain exceptions, which will be explained later.
On the northern end it can be accessed via the gravel road close to the entrance to the historic Modderfontein farm off the N7. The middle section is shared commonly with the Piekenierskloof Pass, whilst the southern section lies to the west of the N7 and descends down to the valley floor over private farm land. Today the pass traverses the property of 3 private land owners as well as state land on the plateau, where the old pass has been obliterated by the N7.
It's something of a mission to drive this pass and having to comply with all the permission requirements and backtracking. Based on this, we suggest that this pass should only be attempted by the more serious pass hunter.
The Gannaga Pass is a magnificent gravel road ascending 548 meters through the Roggeveld Mountains from the endless plains of the Tankwa Karoo to the high plateaux near Middelpos. The pass does not break any records in terms of altitude, gradient or length, but it possesses an almost ethereal quality from a combination of graceful curves, raw mountain beauty and scope of vision that is rarely repeated in other passes.
It contains 45 bends, corners and curves which include 4 extremely sharp hairpins and another three corners sharper than 90 degrees. The quality of this road can vary greatly depending on recent rainfall and snow and especially when last it was maintained. On the day of filming it was in good condition, but is not always in this state.
Although it can be driven in a normal car, it is the roads leading to the pass in the Tankwa that can be a bit rough for a vehicle without adequate ground clearance. The approach from the south via the south and R355 is often a real tester for tyres that are not in top condition. Come well prepared in terms of the real possibility of picking up a puncture and carry two tins of 'Tyre Weld' or similar product with you.
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.
We are as passionate about maps as we are about mountain passes. A good map is a thing of beauty that can transport you into the mists of time or get your sense of adventure churning. It is a place to make discoveries about deserts and seas, mountains and lakes; of roads leading into places you have not been before; a place to pore over holiday destinations or weekend camping trips. A map is your window to the world.