The new Wild Coast V5 Mbashe Tour will start in Coffee Bay and end in Morgan Bay.
- Monday 16th May – Meet & Greet in Coffee Bay – overnight at Ocean View Hotel
- Tuesday 17th May – Hole in the Wall, Mapuzi, Whale Hill, lunch at White Clay Restaurant. Overnight at Ocean View Hotel.
- Wednesday 18th May – Forest 4x4 Route at Hole in the Wall or Kayaking adventure on the Umtata River. Overnight at Ocean View Hotel.
- Thursday 19th May – Coffee Bay to The Haven via some of the best unchartered gravel passes. Overnight at The Haven.
- Friday 20th May – Cwebe Nature Reserve 4x4 – Breezy Point – Overnight at The Haven
- Saturday 21st May – The Haven - Rest day.
- Sunday 22nd May – The Haven to Kob Inn via four major river crossings. A day of adventure. O vernight at Kob Inn.
- Monday 23rd May – Collywobbles vulture viewing. Overnight at Kob Inn.
- Tuesday 24th May – Kob Inn to Morgan Bay.
- Wednesday 25th May - Depart for home after breakfast.
To book your spot, here are the hyperlinks:
It's officially called the Otto du Plessis Road, but most people call it either the Gamkaskloof Road or the Road to Die Hel.
Day 3 - The road to Die Hel
Drive up the magnificent Thomas Bain built Swartberg Pass from either Prince Albert in the north or via Oudtshoorn in the south. In the middle plateau section of the pass, about halfway between the summit and the Teeberg view site, a narrow gravel road heads off into the west along a long valley. The signboard reads: "GAMKASKLOOF / DIE HEL 37 km = 2 hours"
This is the Swartberg - one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world. Scientists have calculated that it was originally more then 7000m high, but erosion has worn it down to the current height. This drive, together with the Swartberg Pass will provide the finest views of the geology, flora and fauna.
This is the eastern start of the Gamkaskloof. The route is a dead end, so allow five hours to complete the journey there and back as the road is sub-standard, slow and convoluted. It is possible to complete the trip in a normal sedan vehicle but a "bakkie" or SUV is a much safer option.
This 37 km stretch of gravel road has been the undoing of many motorcycle riders and motorists. Many turn back, unable to deal with the never ending switchbacks that sap energy and concentration levels, but for those that persevere, the most glorious prize awaits at the end of the road - an oasis of tranquillity and nature that you will never forget. But more of that later.
We turned west from the Teeberg Plateau on the road marked "Gamkaskloof" or officially the Otto du Plessis Road. This has to be one of the most iconic gravel roads in South Africa, holding almost pilgrimage status to gravel-road devotees. It winds through 37km of rugged mountain scenery, culminating in the vertigo-rush, single-width Elands Pass, and terminates in the Gamkaskloof - reminiscent of a lush oasis and paradoxically nicknamed Die Hel (The Hell).
Some of our 4x2 drivers were a little nervous and to be fair the first 8 km can be quite intimidating as the road surface is quite rough. Frequent stops resolved the problem of the convoy stretching out too far.
There are nine passes along this road (all unnamed) plus the Elands Pass that takes one down to the Gamkaskloof Valley, which make up the composition of this route. It is both magnificent and tiring all in one. The best way to deal with this road is to stop often. Take photos, breathe in the fresh mountain air and savour the magnificent landscape that envelopes you completely.
It takes just under two hours excluding stops to reach the summit of the Elands Pass.
The best pass of the tour was without question the Elands Pass. You can look at photos and watch videos, but actually driving or riding down this pass is an otherworldly experience. We arrived at the summit at noon in blazingly hot sunshine and no wind whatsoever. For once our guests were silent as they gazed down at the spectacle of the narrow road zig-zagging its way to the bottom of the valley. The moment of truth had arrived. Acrophobia is a very real thing if you suffer from it and we had a few guests who were looking downright uncomfortable, but there was no turning back.
The Elands Pass is the final descent down into the long, low altitude valley called Gamkaskloof, but more commonly known as "Die Hel". This pass descends a total of 477m over a distance of 4,7 km producing a very stiff average gradient of just under 1:10. You will have to deal with five very tight hairpin bends, and 49 other bends, corners and curves of varying degrees, but it is the very steep, unguarded drop-offs that tend be unnerving for many drivers and passengers. The design of the pass is actually very good and there is no point where the gradient exceeds 1:7.
This pass, although fairly short ranks right up with the biggest and best passes in South Africa. This is a bucket list pass and one that every adventurous traveller should do.
From the start which is also the summit point at 1050m ASL, the road begins descending for the next 1,2 km towards the main kloof at a gradient of 1:14. This section is straight-forward and contains no corners and the road surface is generally quite good. As progress is made towards the west, the gradient begins getting steeper.
As altitude is lost, one gets the first glimpses of Die Hel as a tiny wisp of greenery very far below in the valley. When you get to the 1,3 km mark, the road drops down into a tight S bend to the left. You need to drop your speed right down to 20 kph for this bend. As the S-curve is exited via the second left hand bend, you will get an amazing view of Die Hel.
Before you get out of your vehicle to take your award winning photographs, switch your vehicle’s engine off and leave it in 1st gear, making double sure that the handbrake is fully engaged. It might sound ridiculous, but many accidents have happened at view sites like this, due to carelessness and over-eagerness.
The road can be seen dropping down to the miniature looking buildings in the valley, via multiple switchbacks. It is a breath-taking sight. There’s nowhere to stop, but due to the low traffic volumes, no-one will mind if you block the road for a few minutes. The views stretch away into the west where the entire valley is visible well past the Gamkapoort.
[Next week: Die Hel and its wonderfully hospitable people]
A chat about Day 3 of the Swartberg Tour from Prince Albert to Die Hel. Click to listen.
PASS OF THE WEEK
Enjoy this fabulous pass via our video set.
Funny Dictionary: GLIBIDO - "All talk and no action"