On Thursday night, snowfalls intensified in Lesotho and the Eastern Cape Drakensberg. Barkly East and Lady Grey also received some snow including the entire area around Rhodes and Wartrail. Good falls were reported on the Lootsberg Pass as well as further south in the Eastern Cape over places like Hogsback, the Amatola Mountains and even as far inland as the Sneeuberge outside Graaff-Reinet.
Meanwhile, the beleaguered Western Cape, has seen steady increases in dam levels with the latest readings being at 58,8% for the Cape Metropole area - a long way ahead of last year's figure of 30,9%. With only a few weeks left of the rainfall season left, it seems unlikely that the magical figure of 85% will be realised. Water restrictions will remain in force for the present time.
Opportunity to join our film crew at Eureka City Pass
Part 3 of Peter Sulivans mountain pass story
On our way back to Johannesburg from Plett, my partner airily declared she had found a shorter route than going through Knysna and George, we should just take the R330 to Willowmore …Ha! Mostly on gravel or sand or clay, it had a billion bends, was startlingly beautiful, saw a famous tree, took us a lot longer, but certainly worth the ride.
This is the famous Prince Alfred’s Pass between Knysna and Uniondale. “Probably Thomas Bain's greatest work. Not only an extremely long pass, it presented almost every possible technical obstacle to the pass-builders. At 68,5 km it is the longest (publicly accessible) mountain pass in South Africa by a considerable margin, as well as being the second oldest unaltered pass still in use” the website says.
“The pass is Thomas Bain's Opus Magnum - a work of monumental proportions carried out with rudimentary equipment and convict labour, but with science, ingenuity and Bain's "can do" attitude making it all possible. Bain constructed 29 passes mainly in the Cape colony in his lifetime. This pass epitomises all of his unique touches, but especially his exceptional dry walling method of construction.
“His famous dry-walling method of construction to support roads on mountain faces, involved breaking large rocks up by means of fire, followed by cold water, to create manageable triangular pieces. These would then be stacked up at an inward tilting angle of 15 degrees and backfilled from the top. “The more backfill added, the stronger retaining walls became, utilising scientific principles of friction and cohesion. Many kilometres of his original walling still support this road. Many sections have been declared a national monument. Bain's contribution to South Africa as a developing nation was profound.”
Remarkably, if you want to see this pass in all its glory you can watch a 14-part video on the website, taking an hour-and-a-half, a lot less time than we took driving it. Seeing the retaining walls shoring up the road on which you travel and knowing they were built more than a century ago with just broken stones is amazing and humbling.
I am now more educated about passes. I know Wildehondskloofhoogte Pass has the longest name, Ping Pong cuttings the oddest, that there are six Langkloof and six Rooiberg and four Ouberg passes, and that Grey’s Pass in Cape Town is the shortest at 97 meters.
Clearly, I have much to learn. But a big thank you to Mr Bain for his hard work and my enlightenment.
Dirkiesdorp is located just south of the impressive Heyshope Dam which is well known for large-mouth bass fishing. Despite having about 120 km of shoreline from which to fish, Heyshope Dam's favourite fishing spots are only accessible by boat. To show just how small Dirkiesdorp is, this is what Wikipedia have to say about it: "Dirkiesdorp is a town in Gert Sibande District Municipality in the Mpumalanga province of South Africa" - and that's it!
The dam is fairly large in size with a surface measuring 50km² and a shoreline of 120 km. Fish include large-mouth bass, carp, and yellowfish. Guided fishing trips with local fly fishermen are easily arranged, and are certainly recommended as the dam's unpredictable weather can be unsafe for those who are not familiar with the region. Cyber drive this lovely gravel pass by clicking the link below.
* * * * * W A T E R V A L P A S S * * * * *
Upgraded videos added this week:
Bloukrans Pass (R355) - filmed on a muddy, wet day in 2013
Leeurivierhoogte (R60) - an easy scenic pass close to Swellendam
Bakoondhoogte (R60) - forms a back to back pass with Leeuriviershoogte (above)
Remhoogte (R60) - the third and biggest of a trio of passes on the R60 near Ashton
Thought for the day: "Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young" ~ Henry Ford