Just as the pass comes to an end, you start the next pass - the Blue Mountain Pass (or Lekhalo La Thaba Putsoa). This is the second biggest of the 4 passes on the A3 before reaching the Mohale dam.
There are plenty of bends, corners and curves to keep you busy - a total of 95 of them and of those 12 are greater than 90 degrees, which include two hairpin bends. This is a long pass at 18.3 km and it also has steep sections at 1:6 which will have your vehicle gasping for air. It summits at 2642m and offers spectacular views.
This pass has a long, steep descent of almost 5 km, and it remains steep all the way to the village at the foot of the pass. It's best to gear down and run against engine compression to save on the overuse of the footbrake. It's important to know that brake fluid's boiling point decreases as altitude is gained. Therefore, on high altitude passes with long and steep descents, brake failure is a substantial risk. It's best to get into the habit of running against engine compression. Rather know that your brakes will be effective when you really need them. This is even more important if you are towing a heavy trailer or caravan.
There is one more pass to traverse before reaching the Mohale Dam. The Likalaneng Pass is huge, making the previous three passes quite small by comparison. It climbs a whopping 811m over 26.8 km to summit at 2636m ASL. As progress is made into the south-east, the mountain views are stupendous. It's almost too much to take in on one day. From the end of this pass the road winds all along the spine of a long ridge, where a good quality side road provides access to the Mohale dam (which we covered in some detail in last week's newsletter). We made use of the facilities at the lookout point and enjoyed a lunch break overlooking the impressive dam wall. We had dam engineer Pierre Storey, on the tour with us who was in seventh heaven!
But the afternoon would provide another few hours of exceptional driving over yet more passes. Cheche's Pass popped up on the GPS at the 169km mark. It's another long pass at 19 km and climbs 728m to summit at 2553m ASL and then one final pass required our concentration, which was the Mokoabong Pass. This one is quite bluntly, a monster of a pass. It is 41.5 km long; climbs 692m and summits at 2884m, which is higher than Sani Pass.
The pleasures of the Katse Lodge awaited and sundowners overlooking the Katse Dam was just the right medicine to end an incredible day of pass driving and sightseeing. [Next Week: Katse Dam]
Bedrogfontein-Zuurberg Tour (Chapter 1)
This lovely tour was our final offering for 2019 and it turned out much better than we anticipated. This was mainly due to high quality game sightings, great weather and an exceptionally easy going group of people who got straight on with the task of having fun.
We gathered at the Kronenhoff Guest Lodge in Kirkwood and overnighted there on each night of the tour. That meant we could travel light and return to serviced rooms at the end of each day. We had an interesting mix of vehicles on this tour - Two Suzuki Jimnys (one of them being the new shape); three Toyota Landcruisers; a Jeep Wrangler and a Range Rover V8 Sport. After a relaxed driver's briefing and radio fitments completed, it was happy hour, dinner and an early night in preparation for the first day.
Friday 22nd November: 0830 - Everyone was punctual and after a radio-check our convoy rumbled down the main road in Kirkwood in perfect blue-sky weather. We headed through Addo and from there followed the main tar road to Paterson - a tiny and almost forgotten Eastern Cape village. The road bisects parts of the main Addo National Park and we were treated to various game sightings on either side of the fence, but it is the warthog which seems to be the most prolific animal in the area as they have flourished in recent years. Other sightings included zebra, giraffe, red hartebeest, springbok and buffalo.
Paterson came and went as we headed up the big tarred Olifantskop Pass on the N10 main route northwards. This is statistically a dangerous pass and many serious accidents take place here, mostly involving buses and trucks. There are a total of 34 corners, curves and bends on this pass, 15 on the northern side and 19 on the southern side. This averages out at one corner every 288 metres, so not much of this road is straight! Given these and the other hazards on this pass, it would be wise to slow down to the posted speed limit of 60 kph, and to enjoy the magnificent scenery all along this traverse.
Soon after the end of the pass we turned left onto a quiet gravel road and deflated our tyres. The drive into the west was pleasant as the morning sun was behind us and game sightings were plentiful. A word of advice on accommodation options in the area. Lodgings in Addo come at a premium and almost everything was booked out when we made inquiries three months ago. However, a bit of patience and diligence reveals that as you move further away from Addo, the prices improve and options are more plentiful. We were absolutely delighted with our base (Kronenhoff Guest Lodge). It is a 4 star establishment; the food was good; the service was great and the management were always available to make sure everything ran smoothly. We highly recommend it. (The drive through to Addo takes only 20 minutes on a good quality tar road)
At the end of the gravel road, we reached an intersection, requiring a left turn (south) to start our main attraction of the day - the rough, historical Suurberg (or Zuurberg) Pass. At the start of the pass is a very old double story Victorian house, dubbed Anne's Villa. It's one of the country's oldest coaching inns, built in 1864. It's a national monument where all self-catering rooms are furnished with bedding and towels, but guests have to bring their own food and drink.
Ann's Villa is an excellent destination for those looking for somewhere historic and interesting, a place to immerse themsleves in 19th century South Africa. The house can be booked as an entire unit or as individual rooms. Guests can shop in the original 1864 general goods store or explore the history of blacksmithing and wheel-making in the blacksmith museum. Guests can also visit the historic graveyard.
[Next week: Tackling the Suurberg Pass]
Podcast: A chat about the Katse Dam, Lesotho. Click to listen.
Pass of the week
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New passes added this week
Goreeshoogte - an easy pass on the R60 in the Robertson winelands.
Thought for the day: "You have to be strongest when you are feeling at your weakest"