Oxwagon Route From Heildelberg

The Coast to Karoo

The Three Kloof Route

Historical Passes Of The Southern Cape

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copyright  © Anke Schemion

Oxwagon Trail

 

OXWAGON ROUTE FROM HEILDELBERG

After Heidelberg, take the N2 for a further 0.6km over the Duivenhoks River to the second Heidelberg turnoff on your left.   Travel for a further 0.6km to the Doornkraal sign – turn right for 6.9km (pass an unmarked turnoff on your right) at the Wadrift/Zeekoeigat/Gysmanshoek sign turn right over the Ertjiesvlei mountain for 16.2km (pass the farms Zeekoeigat and Wadrift) until you reach the Gysmanshoek/Kanetberg/Kortfontein turnoff on your left.. (should you wish to overnight at Korentepoort dam – comfortable reasonably priced chalets. Ph 028-7133316 travel for a further 14.5km pass these signs)
Turn left for 13.1km over the Plattekloof/Gysmanshoek pass and turn right at the T.Junction.  Travel for 15.1km until you reach the Riversdale/Ladismith tar road.   Turn right for 2.7km and turn left at the Herbertsdale/Van Wyksdorp sign, opposite the farm Muiskraal.   After traveling for 20.1km you will come to a fork in the road marked Van Wyksdorp/Herbertsdale.   Take the right turnoff (Herbertsdale) along the Langeberg for 30.2km (pass a second Van Wyksdorp turnoff ) until you reach the Gouritz River.   Travel for a further 6.8km until the only farm on your left (just before you enter the Cloetes Pass)(S33º54.370 E21º42.697) turn left at the farmhouse for 12km, through the ruins of the old village Woeska, until you reach a gate.   Just after the gate, turn sharp left and drive for a further 5km to the Bonniedale gate next to a dam.   The Bonniedale farmhouse is a further 2.6km on your right.


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THE COAST TO KAROO AND BACK ROUTE

This is a seven to ten day route incorporating the Southern Cape coastline and all the mountain ranges in the area - We follow little known gravel roads which can include various 4x4 trails, but these can be avoided

DAY ONE
The route starts at the Malgas Pont on the Breederiver.   There are camping sites, houseboats and inexpensive hotel accommodation at Malgas hotel at 028-5421049 or info@malgashotel.co.za.   Travel over the Pont and take the R324 to Witsand.   Thirteen km from Malgas is a very good guest house on the farm Waterkloof - 028-7221811 where one can take a ride around the farm on a ponie cart to view the largest blue crane flock in the area or the rare Cape vultures.   At Witsands one can undertake the Ostrich Eco 4x4 route which criss crosses the Slangriver with spectacular scenery, vegetation and a breeding pair of Fish Eagles.   There is a campsite on the 4x4 trail.   The owner Piet Uys - 028-5371942, also has a thatched roof self catering chalet at Witsands for those who do not want to camp.   From Witsands the route follows the R322 to Westfield 4x4 route.   This is a dune route with beautiful views of the bay and pristine dune fynbos vegetation.   They also offer self catering accommodation in timber chalets on the farm - Guy Moodie - 028-5371911.   Take the gravel turnoff to Vermaaklikheid (12km from Witsands on the R322 to Puntjie to view the original kapstyl huisies).   We then proceed along the Blombos coastline to overnight at Jongensfontein Caravan Park and chalets - 028-7548015.   Alternatively one an continue to Stilbay to overnight at Hold All, a guest house on the beach with unique features and a unique owner Gerrit Mars, a doctor who dropped out to become a fisherman, surfer and conservationist - brendle@mweb.co.za or gerritmars@mweb.co.za.

DAY TWO:
We visit the coastal reserve to view the original fish traps, feed the eels at Palingoat and visit an olive farm to purchase various olive products.  We then take the R305 for approximately 4km after the bridge and turn right at the sign Melkhoutfontein where one can visit the Soete inval Botanical Garden and Soete Arbeid Craft Workshop - 028-7543250.  From here we follow the coastline passed Ystervarkpunt and Reins Nature Reserve to Gouritzmond.  There is an option to visit Canca Fynbos 4x4 Route with magnificent views and fynbos.  They also have self catering chalets and camping facilities - Kippie Horn - 028-7453332.  From Gouritzmond we continue to Vleesbaai and undertake the spectacular Vleesbaai Dune Route - Riekie van Rensburg - 044-6991107.  Thereafter we return to Kanon to overnight at the Canon Valley Estate - Jan or Belinda Naude - 044-6954735 or 0824939750.  This must be the most under marketed coastal resort in South Africa, and certainly has a wow factor for its uniqueness, and 6km private beach.  They offer reasonably priced accommodation and camping. 

DAY THREE:
The route then follows the Gouritzriver passed Voelvlei to the N2.  Turn left over the Gouritzriver bridge and take the first unmarked turnoff to your right and follow the Gouritzriver passed Aloe Guest House, Lazarus Game Farm and Die Poort to Jakkalsvlei Wine Estate - Jannie Jonker - 028-7352102, to taste their award winning wines and cheese platter and then onto Herbertsdale.  From Herbertsdale we enter the Cloetes Pass and stop off at Dwarsrivier Country Getaway, a working macadamia farm, where Martin and Jenny Jeken - 044-6511611, take us on a short tour to taste various macadamia products.  They also have accommodation and a bush pub.  Once over the Cloete Pass, and passed the old Boer War Forts.  We turn right at the first farm on your right and follow a section of the oxwagon trail passed the ruins of the old village Woeska to overnight at Bonniedale Holiday Farm, where there is various accommodation and camping options - Nico and Danette Hesterman - 044-6953175, www.bonniedale.com.

DAY FOUR:
The route then enters the Cape Natures Attaquaskloof Nature Reserve and goes over the historical Oxwagon Pass (a national monument) passed tollhouses, old boer war forts and the ruins of an old hotel to Safraans Rivier to undertake a section of the Zebraskop 4x4 Route through the Zebraskop Private Game Reserve - Gert or Ella Laubscher - 044-2727133.  We then proceed for a short distance to Minwater Eco Adventures 4x4 Trail for a guided succulent Karoo vegetation Tour by owner, Louis Jordaan - 044-2791285.  The route then passes through Volmoed to Grundheim Wine Cellars - 044-2726927, to taste a variety of wines, unique witblits and liquors.  Their brandy is in my opinion the best in the country.  From Grundheim we follow the gravel roads along the northern boundary of the Gamkaberg Nature Reserve to overnight at Cape Natures Tierkloof tented camp - Tom Barry - 044-2133367, and a 4x4 trip to the top of the Gamkaberg and the Oukraal camp site.

DAY FIVE:
The route then passes the Calitzdorp Spa - 044-2133371, and over the Rooiberg Pass to Van Wyksdorp, along the Rooiberge to the R62.  It then crosses the R62 and rounds the western end of the Swartberg mountains and enters one of the most scenic valleys in the southern Cape, Vleiland, between the Elandsberge and the northern slopes of the Swartberge.  After the turnoff to Seweweekspoort, the route goes down the Boschluys Kloof Pass to the Gamka Dam to overnight at the 4 Star Boschluyskloof Lodge - 023-5815046.  The following day we follow the track used by the Gamkaskloowers to what they call 'The Ladder', to view "Die Hel" from the western side, which is far more spectacular than the view from the normal eastern entry.  From Boschluyskloof we pass through Seweweekspoort to the R62 and down the Huisrivier Pass.  At the bottom of the pass we turn left into Matjiesvlei to where the Gamkariver enters the Little Karoo.  Here Bennie and Selma Nel - 044-2133756, have various accommodation options and camping sites as well as the Bojaankop 4x4 Route.  After returning to the R62 and Calitzdorp, the route follows the southern slopes of the Swartberge, passed Groenfontein to overnight at Kruisrivier Guest Farm - Mandie Strydom - 044-2133788.

DAY SIX:
The following day we travel over the Swartberg pass to Prince Albert.  The route then follows the northern slopes of the Swartberg, through Meiringspoort to De Rust.  7km outside De Rust is a unique Guest House, Die Gat Guesthouse, Susanna and Anton Schoeman.  This is a national monument dating back to the 1800's.  An authentic Oxwagon en-suite is something to experience.  The route then follows the Olifants River in an easterly direction to Toorwater (a once beautiful hot springs resort that has gone to rack and ruin) and onto Uniondale and the Prince Alfred Pass to De Vlugt to overnight at Outeniqua Trout Lodge - Naomi and Ingo - 044-7523140.

DAY SEVEN:
From De Vlugt the route can continue to Knysna via the Prince Alfred Pass or in a westerly direction on the R62 to Louvain Guest Farm - Nico Bester - 044-8881726 or 083 2876927.  To undertake the Duiwelskop 4x4 Trail over the old oxwagon trail to Bergplaas and Wilderness.

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THE THREE KLOOF ROUTE

This is a six to eight day route, which incororates the Attaquaskloof, Baviaanskloof and Gamkaskloof, following interesting back roads and avoiding tar where possible.

DAY ONE:
The route starts in Albertinia, where an overnight stay or breakfast at the Albertinia Hotel - 028-7351030, is recommended.  Head north, passed Die Poort and over the Gouritzriver to Jakkalsvlei Wine Estate - Jannie Jonker - 028-7352102, to taste and purchase their award winning wines and then onto Herbertsdale the route enters the Cloetes Pass with a stopoff at Dwarsrivier Country Getaway, a working macadamia farm, where Martin and Jenny Jenken - 044-6511611, take us on a short tour to taste various macadamia products.  Once over the Cloetes Pass and passed the old boer war forts, we turn right at the first farm on your right.  This is the Western entry to the Attaquaskloof.  The route then follows the old Oxwagon Trail for 20kms, passed the ruins of the old village Woeska to Bonniedale Holiday Farm - Nico and Danette Hesterman - 044-6953175, www.bonniedale.com, to overnight.

DAY TWO:
Permits issued at Bonniedale!
The route then enters Cape Natures Attaquaskloof Nature Reserve and follows the historical Oxwagon Pass, a national monument, over the Attaquas Mountains, passed old toll houses and boer war forts to the R328 where we turn left towards Oudtshoorn at the Mount Hope turnoff.  Turn right through the village of Zebra, to the N12.  From the N12 take the Heimersrivier turnoff passed Natures Rest Private Game Farm, and the farm Matjiesdrift to the Kammanasie River, which we follow until the N9 and onto Uniondale.  From Uniondale the route passes through the Uniondale Poort on the R339 for 7km to the Bo Kouga turnoff.  The route then hugs the Kouga mountains, passed the mountain pastures and San Valley Resort and returns to the R62 between Haarlem and Misgund.  Just before Joubertinia turn left on the lower Kouga Loop to the upper reaches of the Kouga River and return to the R62 between Joubertinia and Kareedouw.  Enter the town of Karredouw, and purchase the best boerewors and dried sausage in South Africa.  Follow the sign boards to Baviaans Lodge - Rob le Roux - 042-2880557.

DAY THREE:

Follow a 4x4 trail over the Kouga mountains (permits available at Baviaans Lodge) to enter the Baviaanskloof between Studis and Sandvlakte.  the route then passes through the Baviaanskloof Wilderness area towards Patensie.  Once out of the reserve gate take the Kudu Kaya turnoff to overnight - 042-2830793.

DAY FOUR:
Take the Patensie road for approximately 30km and just before Patensie turn left at Elandsrivier turnoff.  Travel for 15km over the Elandsberge to the telkom tower.  Turn left through the Grootrivierpoort, which is as spectacular as Baviaanskloof, to Steytlerville to overnight at Noorspoort Guest Farm - 049-8350001.

DAY FIVE:
The route then follows the Grootrivier to Willowmore.  From Willowmore we take the R407 to Klaarstroom and Prince Albert to overnight at Bushmans Valley - 023-5411322.

DAY SIX:
After a visit to Prince Albert, enter the Swartberg pass to Die Hel to overnight in Cape Natures Cottages or Bo Plaas Guest Farm - 083 8613287.


 

 

1. HISTORICAL  PASSES  OF THE  SOUTHERN  CAPE 

Most of the early ox wagon passes were not constructed as such but early explorers merely followed game/elephant tracks or foot paths made by the Khoi Khoi people over the mountains.

The first ox wagon pass across the Langeberg Outeniqua range was the Attaquaskloof Pass, north of Mossel Bay.   This became the main road to the North for 180 years from 1689-1869. 

Only with the arrival of John Montagu, the colonial secretary at the Cape from 1843 – 1852, and the expertise of Andrew Geddes Bain and his son Thomas, did proper road construction begin in the Cape.

The first properly constructed passes over the Cape fold mountains between the coast and little Karoo were the Montagu Pass (1848) between George and Oudtshoorn and the Robinson Pass (1869) between Mossel Bay and Oudtshoorn.

Nowhere else in Southern Africa is there such a concentration of mountain passes in one area, nor such a wealth of variety in there scenery and vegetation as can be found in the Southern Cape.   These passes are a much a part of the little Karoo story as the ostrich – without them there would have been no access, no settlement of farms and no way for the farmer to communicate with, and bring his products to the outside world.

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2.  THE  HISTORICAL  OX WAGON  ROUTE

2.1 This is a 450km route which takes 4 days to complete.   It follows more or less the route taken by the early explorers, likes of Shrijver (1689), Thunberg (1772), Sparrman (1775), Swellengrebel (1776), Van Plettenberg (1778), Patterson (1779), Miller and Holtzhauzen (1782), Gordon (1786) and Van Reenen (1790).

2.2 This route is for 4x4 vehicles only.  Should 4x2 vehicles, soft roaders or on/off road motorcycles wish to, they can do it with 3 diversions, as described in section 5.

2.3 The 3 overnight stops offer camping facilities and guesthouse or self catering accommodation.

2.4 The entire route is on gravel only crossing 3 tar roads and most of the trail is in mountainous terrain through pristine fynbos and indigenous forests with magnificent views of the coastline to the South and the little Karoo and the Swartberge to the North.

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3.  PROPOSED ROUTE

3.1 Start at Heidelberg.

3.2 Travel over the Ertjiesvlei se berg into a hidden valley that was known to the early travelers as “land van Egypten”.

3.3 Enter the Plattekloof Pass to Kanetberg.   Turn West and follow the Langeberg to the farm Welgevonden and the Witblitz Pass, to the Gouritzriver.

3.4 Just before the Cloetes Pass (10kms after crossing the Gouritz) at the farm Vrederus, turn left into the Attaquaskloof.

3.5 Travel passed the ruins of the old village Woeska to Bonniedale Holiday Farm to overnight.

3.6 Take on the Attaquas ox wagon pass (a national monument) past a boer war block house and old hotel to the farm Saffraansrivier.

3.7 At Saffraansrivier the trail turns left and then right passed Minwater to Volmoed. (Volmoed was known to Patterson in 1779 as Poverty which was changed to Armoed in the 1800’s and to Volmoed in the 1900’s).

3.8 At Volmoed we turn right and then right again to Kandelaarsrivier where the trail crosses the R328.

3.9 Travel passed Mount Hope and through Zebra before crossing the N12 to Heimersrivier and on through Eseljagtpoort to cross the R62 to overnight at Louvain.

3.10 From Louvain the route goes over the Duiwelskop ox wagon pass to Kleinplaas forestry station.

3.11 The trail then follows the Thomas Bain’s seven passes route (one can take a slight detour to the historical Millwood gold mine) to the N2 at the Knysna river.

3.12 Just before Knysna turn off through the Gouna forest to the Prince Alfred Pass.

3.13 Travel over the Prince Alfred Pass to De Vlugt to overnight at Katot Meyer’s Buchell bush camp or at the Outeniqua trout farm.

3.14 On the last day the route follows the Burchell’s ox wagon trail to finish again at Katot’s bush camp.

3.15 From here travelers can connect with the Baviaanskloof, return to Oudtshoorn via back roads along the Kammanassie river to Oudtshoorn, or follow the R340 which is alongside the Paardekop ox wagon trail to Plettenbergbay.

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4.  HISTORY OF  THE  OX  WAGON  PASSES

4.1 ERTJIESVLEI SE BERG PASS

This is the first pass tackled on the route and is situated behind Heidelberg.   To day it is a well constructed pass but in the days of the early travelers this was a major challenge, especially in wet weather due to the clay soils.   Many an ox wagon slid down the Ertjiesvlei se berg into the upper reaches of the Duivenhoks river – even horse riders had to dismount.   Once over the Ertjiesvlei se berg one enters a hidden valley that was known in the 1700’s “land van Egypten”.   One then passes through the farms Zeekoeigat (where Thunberg almost drowned trying to cross the Duivelhoks river), Oudewagendrift, Palmyra and Plattekloof, which were established farms when Thunberg and Patterson passed through in the 1700’s.   Patterson described these farms as prosperous with vineyards, fruit orchards and wheat fields.

4.2 THE PLATTEKLOOF PASS

The Plattekloof pass was used by farmers from the early 1700’s.   Thunberg passed over it in 1772 travelling from the Klein Karoo Southwards and it was certainly known in Sparrman’s day, for he mentions it in 1776 as an alternative route to and from the Klein Karoo.   The Plattekloof pass became the main road from the coast to the Klein Karoo and also linked to the Attaquaskloof pass and the Oudewagensdrift route (South of Gamkaberg) from 1772 which took travelers further North.   This pass was rendered redundant in the 19th century by the opening of the Tradouws pass in 1873 to the West of it and Garcia pass in 1877 to the East.  However on 14-09-1901, the Boers under Kommandant Jan Theron attacked the British West Yorkshire regiment, under the command of Col. Burke, at the Masonic hotel in Heidelberg.   The Boers fled through the Plattekloof pass back to the Karoo.   The pass is still in use to day and is used by local farmers and paragliders.   The Kanetberg Honeybush tea plantations are also alongside the pass.

4.3 THE  WITBLITZ  PAD

Although we do not drive over the Witblitz pad, we do drive passed it.   It can now only be done on foot or on horseback.  This pass crosses the Langeberge between the farms Welgevonden and Bergfontein, West of the Gouritzriver.  It was used to smuggle witblitz from the little Karoo to the coastal towns.   At the farm Welgevonden there also used to be an old hotel, possibly the buildings alongside the road called Langeberg Halt.   This pass was used by narrow 750mm wide wagons and sleighs, from the early 1800’s and was still in use during the Anglo Boer war to smuggle arms and produce to the Boers.

 

4.4 THE  ATTAQUASKLOOF  PASS

The Attaquaskloof pass was the “N1” for ox wagons traveling North and East and was used by thousands of ox wagons from 1689 until 1869.   The first ox wagon to use this route was an expedition of 21 men and 2 wagons sent out by Simon van der Stel, under the leadership of ensign Isaac Schrijver in January 1689.   Gouriqua Khoi Khoi pointed out the old elephant route to them.   It took Schrijver 7 days to cross over the Attaquas mountains from the farm Hagelkraal on the Southern Side to Saffraansrivier on the Northern side.   A list of travelers passing through the Attaquas pass is a who’s who of celebrated early explorers and boasts names such as Thunberg (1772 – 1773), Sparrman (1775-1776), Swellengreber (1776), Van Plettenberg (1778), Patterson (1777-1779), Gordon (1786) and Van Reenen (1790).   In the early 1800’s came Barrow and a host of other travelers.  In 1842, the official toll of wagons passing through the Attaquas was 4280 that year alone.   It became known as “the gateway to the Karoo and Eastern Cape”.   Although other passes into the little Karoo were established before the end of the 18th century, eg. The Plattekloof pass and the Duiwelskop pass. They did not pose a serious threat to the Attaquas pass.   The establishment of George in the early 19th century and the Cradock (1812) and Montagu (1847) passes brought about the beginning of the end of the Attaquas pass, but finally the Ruiterbosch pass (1869) now known as the Robinson pass, provided a new and shorter route between Oudtshoorn and Mossel Bay, and this finally ended the 180 year reign of what must be one of the most attractive passes over either the Langeberg or the Outeniqua mountains.   In the late 1800’s Thomas Bain surveyed a railway line from Albertinia through the Gouritz gorge and over the Attaquas pass but this was never constructed due to the outbreak of the Anglo Boer War.   During the Anglo Boer War the Mossel Bay town guard built a series of block houses along the Outeniqua mountains to prevent the Boers from reaching the coastal towns.   One of this well-preserved block houses is situated near the top of the Attaquas pass overlooking that part of the old wagon road leading to Oudtshoorn.

For todays traveler, the Attaquas pass, which has been declared a national monument, offers spectacular scenery, pristine fynbos, natural rock pools, relics of block houses, an old hotel and toll houses, remains of ox wagons alongside the road and outspans with aloe kraals to hold the oxen.

 

4.5    DUIWELSKOP  OX  WAGON PASS

Duiwelskop was described by the early explorers and travelers as the most difficult pass to cross in the 18th century.   Many an ox wagon crashed down the steep cliffs alongside the pass pulling their oxen down with them.   However, Thomas Bain realigned the pass in 1864 and the present 4x4 track follows this alignment along the Western slope of the mountain, rather than over the summit.  The pass was regularly used by timber merchants transporting timber to Graaf-Reinet from 1776 to 1869.   The opening of the Montagu pass (1847) and the Prince Alfred pass (1867) was the final knell to this pass.   On 3-11-1778 the first recorded wagon crossing was made by governor Van Plettenberg, traveling South from the Langkloof.  For todays 4x4 travelers the Duiwelskop pass features magnificent views of the Garden Route and the Indian Ocean, the original tracks of ox wagons and the unparalelled beauty and characteristic smell of mountain fynbos.   The 30km trip starts at the farm Louvain and ends at Bergplaas.  

 

4.6    THE  SEVEN  PASSES ROUTE

From Bergplaas the ox wagon route joins the seven passes route but by passes the Swartrivier, Keimans and Touwrivier passes but does cover the Hoogekraal, Karatara, Homtini and Phantom passes.   From 1863, Thomas Bain and his brother-in-law Adam de Smidt, who was the local district engineer, battled through dense forests and deep river gorges, to survey a route.   They argued so seriously over the route to take that they never spoke to one another again.   Work started in 1867 – de Smidt from the George end and Bain from the Knysna end.   The great fire of 1869 made work easier, but still the seven passes route took 20 years to complete and was handed over to the district council in 1887.   This was the “N2” until 1952 when the coastal national road was built.   This route highlights the engineering genius of Thomas Bain if one considers the obstacles he faced with dense forests, steep river gorges and an annual rainfall of up to 2540mm per year.   An interesting short de-tour, is to visit the Millwood gold rush town high in the Outeniqua mountains.   In 1886 this was a bustling town with shops, banks, hotels, a police station, a post office and several news papers.   Today there is little left but one can stay in an original 1800’s corrugated iron self catering guesthouse, visit the small museum or even take a guided tour down one of the old mines.

 

4.7    THE  PRINCE  ALFRED PASS

After coming down the Phantom pass the route follows the present N2 for a few kilometers over the Knysna river, then turns off before Knysna through the Gouna forest to the Prince Alfred pass.   This fine pass, still in much the same condition as when it was originally built, is one of the most spectacular mountain crossings in Southern Africa.   Andrew Geddes Bain surveyed the route of this pass by following elephant trails which took these old creature to the drier Langkloof when the forests were to wet and cold.   In 1856 his son, Thomas Bain, began construction with 270 convicts and completed the pass in 1867.   The cost of the 70km new road was £10632, which was amazing considering the amount of blasting required and the kilometers of stone retaining walls, some 16 meters high, not to mention the clearing of indigenous forests on the Southern side.   It was named after Prince Alfred, the Duke of Edinbourgh, who in the company of the Rex family, had hunted elephant in the area.   It is a classic example of the work of Andrew Geddes Bain and his son Thomas, two of the greatest road builders who ever worked in Southern Africa.  At De Vlugt the route turns Westward to the start of the Burchell’s ox wagon trail to overnight there or at Outeniqua Trout Farm.

 

4.8    BURCHELL’S  OX  WAGON TRAIL

In November 1998 a fire started at De Vlugt and swept Westward, destroying many hectares of fynbos but exposing a track from the farm Pietersrivier, over Skuurbeknek near De Vlugt.   This track was described by the botanist William John Burchell (1814).   From Skuurbeknek Burchell traveled to Romanskraal, Jaggakamma and Knoetskraal and joined up with the Paardekop trail to Plettenberg Bay.   This is a fascinating trail for 4x4 enthusiasts, especially if accompanied by the owner, Katot Meyer, a Southern Cap 4X4 legend.   His wife Ilsa has published an interesting booklet on the area and the Prince Alfred pass.   From here travelers can follow the old Paardekop ox wagon route via the R340 to Plettenberg Bay or connect to the Baviaanskloof or return to Oudtshoorn via the Kammanassie river route.

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5.  DIVERSIONS FOR  4x2, SOFT  ROADERS OR  MOTORCYCLES.

5.1 In stead of going over the Attaquas pass after Bonniedale Holiday Farm, follow an old wagon trail via the farm Hagelkraal (1729) to Ruiterbos, over the Robinson pass (1869) to Saffraansrivier to connect with the ox wagon route again.

 

5.2    The Duiwelskop pass can be done with 4x2, soft roaders or motorcycles but it is a challenge for these vehicles.   An alternative route would be to take the Montagu pass (1847) and then onto the seven passes route.

 

5.3 Burchell’s ox wagon trail is definitely only for 4x4 vehicles with low range.   Alternative routes from De Vlugt would be:-

5.3.1 Take the Paardekop route (the R340) to Plettenberg Bay.

5.3.2 Continue with the Prince Alfred pass to Avontuur, then over Potjiesberg, via Buffelsdrif and along the Kammanassieriver to Oudtshoorn.

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6.  SHORT HISTORY  OF  THE ALTERNATIVE  OX  WAGON PASSES

6.1 ROBINSON  PASS

Ruiterbos is the start of the Robinson pass and was constructed between 1867 and 1869 and was named after the then commissioner of roads, M.R. Robinson.  Previously there was a bridal path over the Outeniqua mountains and it was named the Ruiterbosch Pad.   The pass was realigned and tarred in the 1950’s but signs of the original pass constructed by Thomas Bain are still to be seen next to the tar road on both sides of the pass.   At the top of the pass, on the Western side of the road is a monument to M.R. Robinson and directly opposite, the original road curves down the mountain side away from the present road in the direction of the Mooihoek farm homestead.

 

6.2   MONTAGU  PASS

Due to the shocking state of the Attaquas, Cradock kloof and Duiwelskop passes, John Montagu, the colonial secretary of the Cape, commissioned colonel Charles Mitchell to survey a better route through the Outeniqua mountains.   Henry Fancourt White, an experienced engineer was brought to South Africa from Australia for the construction of the new pass.   He set up a construction camp at the foot of the pass and a little town sprang up which was named after him.  As “White” sounded rather strange they called it “Blanco”.   Here too, White later built his residence which he named Fancourt, to day a site of a world renowned Golf Estate.   Work on the pass began in 1844 and was completed in 1847.   The total cost was R71 598 and was named after John Montagu, the colonial secretary.   At the foot of the kloof a tollhouse was built and you can still see an old tollhouse alongside the road, but this is not the original building which was burnt down in a bush fire of 1855 and rebuilt.   Half way up the pass is a ruined stone building which was a blacksmith’s shop.   From the Southern end of the Montagu pass it is easy to see the route that the Cradock kloof ox wagon pass  followed as it is clearly marked by white washed cairns erected during the time of the Voortrekker centenary.   The Cradock kloof pass was built in 1812 in honour of the governor, Sir John Cradock, and was built by the first magistrate of George, Adrianus Van Kervel.   It was an appalling 8km long climb and required 26 oxen to pull a wagon over this pass.   The Afrikaans saying “net n bobbejaan met n kierie kan daaroor” originated from the Cradock kloof pass.

 

6.3  THE  PAARDEKOP  PASS

For those who wish to continue the ox wagon route to the coast there is another ox wagon trail over the Paardekop mountains to Plettenberg Bay.   This is another of the passes that became an ox wagon route from a bridal path which followed elephant trails.   It was in use in 1772 when Thunberg traveled over it.   The original trail went straight over the top of the Paardekop mountain and was extremely steep.   The link from the Prince Alfred pass to Plettenberg Bay via the Bitou bridge (now the R340), replacing the old Paardekop route was constructed in 1888 by P.H. Ferreira along a line chosen by the surveyor Charles Lennox Strech in 1858.   As this was an engineered road, it was no longer necessary to go over the Paardekop peaks.   The scars of the old wagon trail can still be seen on the South Western side of the R340.

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7.  REFERENCES AND  RECOMMENDED  READING

7.1 Jose Burman describes the passes in 3 of his books:-  So high the road, Towards far horizon, and The little Karoo. (Human & Rousseau, Cape Town).

7.2 The work of Thomas Bain is recorded in Patricia Storar’s A colossus of roads (Murray & Roberts, South Africa).

7.3 The recordings of early travelers are detailed in Prof. V.S. Forbes (1965) Pioneer travelers of South Africa (A.A. Balkema, Cape Town/Amsterdam).

7.4 The romance of Cape mountain passes by Graham Ross (David Phillip, Cape Town) gives an interesting account of all the passes, especially from an engineering point of view.

7.5 The Bartholomeu Diaz Museum in Mossel Bay have also published two brochures on the subject titled The passes of the Langeberg and Outeniqua mountains and Drives through historical places, Mossel Bay district.

7.6 The diaries of early explorers i.e. Barrow (1801), Burchell (1822), Patterson (1789), Sparrman (1776), Swellengrebel (1776) and Thunberg (1772-1775) make interesting reading and are available at the Cape Archives or the Van Riebeeck society Cape Town.

7.7 Various old maps are also available at the Cape Archives (Old Roland St Jail).

 

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