Bains Kloof Pass (R301)

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Dacres Pulpit Dacres Pulpit - Photo: Karel Stone

The Bain's Kloof Pass (R301) provided a more direct route from the town of Wellington to the more northern towns of Ceres and Worcester, in the Western Cape.

It is 26,8 km in length from the bridge over the Breede River to the outskirts of Wellington. Built circa 1849 by Andrew Geddes Bain, this pass was a tough nut to crack, working with convicts and raw, rough materials and methods. As always seemed to be the case with Bain, he oversaw a marvellous job of the pass which, having stood the test of time, is now a national monument.

The more dramatic, northern section of the pass roughly follows the course of the Witte River, a raging torrent during the wet winter season.

Part 1 Video: (28,6 km) Orientation and overview of this long and historically important pass is based on a Google earth 3D animation which is designed to assist first time drivers of the pass to understand where the salient points are located. The other videos all feature the actual driving of the pass and main attractions in more detail. Each video is embedded in the relevant section.

Scroll down to view the video. It is recommended to watch this video in HD. (Click on the "quality" button on the lower taskbar of the video screen and select 720HD.) Wait a few seconds for the video to display.....



[Video cover photo courtesy of Etiennedup which features a horse and buggy at Dacres Pulpit circa 1860]

FULL-SCREEN MODE: click PLAY, then pass your mouse over the bottom right corner of the video screen. The outline of a square will appear. Clicking on it will toggle Full Screen Mode. Press ESC to return to the original format.

Note: Google Earth software reads the actual topography and ignores roads, cuttings, tunnels, bridges and excavations. The Google Earth vertical-profile animation generates a number of parallax errors, so the profile is only a general guide of what to expect in terms of gradients, distance and elevation. The graph may present some impossible and improbably sharp spikes, which should be ignored. This phenomenon is particularly exaggerated in the case of this pass.


Digging into the details:

Getting there: We filmed the pass from north to south for maximum scenic value. From the junction of the R43 and the R301, head south onto the R301 and cross the Breede River via the single lane concrete Darling bridge, which is showing signs of wear and tear. The first 4 kilometers head in a south westerly direction over an easy gradient, adjacent to the flood plain of the Witterivier. The Limietberge loom majestically to the right whilst the Lategansberg takes sentinel on the left. The valley progressively closes in and both the road and river are forced into closer company. For those seeking refreshment, there is a popular bush pub on the right hand side of the road toward the northern end of the pass.


Part 2 Video: From the Breede River crossing in the north southwards to the Tweede Tol campsite (8,0 km)

[Video cover photo courtesy of Panoramio / Borcherds Bridge at Tweede Tol]

This part of the road forms the south-eastern border of the little known Mount Bain Nature Reserve. A second nature reserve appears in short order - this is the Steenbok Park Nature Reserve. The mountains close in quickly and the twists and turns in the road become sharper and more frequent. Please don't use this road if you are in a hurry. It's an old road and it was never built for speed. Drive slowly and enjoy the incredible scenery - this is one of the Western Cape's top passes.

Rock pools at Tweede TolRock pools at Tweede TolThe road curves sharply to the right skirting a buttress and a small weir can be seen in the river below to your left. The water quality is exceptionally high. A small arched bridge follows a sharp left hand turn, as the road crosses a side stream at its confluence with the Witte River. This is Borcherd's Bridge and is beautifully built. Pull off the road and examine the graceful arches of the little bridge. This stream bisects the Wolvekloof, which is part of the Limietberg Nature Reserve.

The three day Limietberg Hiking Trail descends down this kloof and terminates at the camp site next to the river, called Tweede Tol. This translates into Second Toll and this was the exact spot of the second toll point on the original road, with Eerste Tol (First Toll) being at the summit village.

Today Tweede Tol is a lovely oasis offering camping and some of the best rock pools in South Africa. Note that you need to pre-book through Cape Nature if you want to visit here. It gets quite busy in the summer months and is a popular day spot for locals.


Part 3 Video: Tweede Tol southwards to the summit at Bain's Kloof Village (7,5 km)



Hiking trail view of the passHiking trail view of the pass looking north / Photo: Peter B. PearmanThe real climbing begins after Tweede Tol as the gorge narrows even more. The corners along the next 7,5 km are very tight and dangerous. There are 101 bends, curves and sharp corners along this section, rising 286 vertical metres producing an average climb gradient of 1:26 which is comfortable - even for cyclists.

The drop offs to the left are near vertical and the only protection is a row of large spaced rocks as can be seen in the video. The next landmark is the Pilkington Bridge, which straddles a very powerful side stream. This has been dammed and a clever overflow culvert designed to prevent damage to the roadway. The bridge is tucked into a tight corner.

The Bell Rocks can be seen near the upper section of the mountain on your left and to your right the Limietkop towers up to height of 1174m

Next the road crosses under a precariously balanced overhanging rock called Dacres Pulpit (featured on our cover photo). There is a height restriction, which keeps heavy trucks and busses off the pass. At both ends of the pass overhead booms with chains will indicate whether your vehicle will make it under the rock or not.

Klipspringer near the passA lone Klipspringerstands sentinel over the pass / Photo: Ralph PinaThe road curves to the right to cross another small bridge. If you look up to your left, you will see some unusual rock formations - these are the Montagu Rocks. Around the corner on your left, another deep side gorge comes into view. This is the Bobbejaansrivier Kloof. There is a hiking trail (a fairly tough one) that you can follow all the way to a series of waterfalls at the head of the ravine. Just to the left at the top of the ravine is a peak known as Observation Peak. The whole mountain from Tweede Tol to the summit is the Slanghoek Mountain and the tallest peak at the top of the Bobbejaansrivier ravine is paradoxically called Kortberg (Short Mountain) [1497m]

Some of the beautiful rock formations have been defaced by grafitti - although grafitti is meant to be an art form and painting your name on a rock does not constitute art. It's nothing more than a self indulgent, immature act of criminality. Defacing of a national monument is a criminal offence and if you're caught the penalties are severe. This is another level worse than littering.


Driving the pass in winter is the best when the fynbos shows off its colours and the rivers run wild. The short promo clip below was filmed in July and shows the raw power of the Witte River from the midpoint of the northern section, close to Dacres Pulpit.



Within the next 500 meters, the road reaches its maximum altitude of 586m ASL and levels off before dropping slightly into Bains Kloof Village. Stop and explore the serenity and peace of this mountain top village. Mountain fires are a big issue here and many homes have been razed to the ground over the years.

Watch a short tour through Bain's Kloof Village which includes the Bain memorial plaques and the views over Groenberg to the south-west:

[Video cover photo of Groenberg and the Wellington Valley by Trygve Roberts]



Southern views from the passSouthern views from the pass / Photo: Troy GoldieThis was Bain's original work site for the duration of the construction of the pass and housed a school, a hospital and stores. There are a few convict graves on the village, if you can find them. These were convicts that died during the building of the road.

Just after the village is a small area where you can park and walk over the road to the viewsite. Here you can look to the west over the indescribably beautiful Groenberg and the valleys spread out below you in a vast tapestry of forestry, fields and orchards.

The first two kilometers of the descent towards Wellington takes on a southerly heading. Above you on your left are two domnant peaks - the smaller is Deviation Buttress [1239m] and the second, higher one is Klein Wellington-Sneeukop [1597m]. A little further to the south-east is the Groot Wellington-Sneeukop [1685m]. At the bottom of this long descent the road turns sharply towards the west. A strong stream flows under the road here and is labelled "Gawie se Water".

Part 4 Video: Eerste Tol southwards to Wellington (13 km)



 The story goes that Bain built himself a house above the road, but he needed a reliable supply of water. he had a furrow dug and diverted the entire stream to run past his house. It has remained as such for over 120 years. If you are cycling up the pass, this is a good place to top up water bottles with clean mountain water.

The next 8 kms of the descent is peppered with sharp corners and steep gradients. There are 39 corners in total of which 4 are hairpins. Look out for a small sign "Bain's Tunnel".

Bains Koof CollageBains Koof Collage by Lisa RobertsThere is space to park your car, but the entrance and access to the tunnel is badly overgrown. If you find the tunnel, you will be witnessing the attempt by Bain to make the pass shorter by boring through this nose in the mountain. The tunnel kept collapsing, until he abandoned the idea altogether. What you see is the remains of both the western and eastern portal attempts.

Finally the corners come to an end and the road straightens out and levels off a bit at the crossing the Leeutuinsrivier, next to the Suiderkruis and Antoniesveli camp sites. Another steep, but straight descent follows through rows of tall bluegum trees, then curves past a well known local winery, before descending finally past a farm dam. The town of Wellington lies another 2 kms down the road.

The Western Cape's magnificently unique and world-famous fynbos cloaks the majestic Boland mountain slopes -- the perfect backdrop for sweetly shy little klipspringer deer ('rock hopper') and the beautiful Cape sugarbird. The abundant wildlife that can be spotted - some more easily than others - include dassies, baboons, mongoose, porcupine and, the rare caracal or leopard. Birdspotters? Bring your camers, tripods and binoculars! Quiet patience will reward you with sightings of kites, black eagle, owls and the protea canary.

Activities abound for the adventurous - with the area being most famous for its excellent hiking trails. Swimming and cycling are also very popular with tranquil, crystal-clear (and icy!) rock pools and rivers.

And for those with a penchant for something more cultural and slow, a number of the Cape's most prestigious wine farms offer beautiful views, and wines that sing of the warm Cape sun and crisp mountain air!


Fact File:

GPS START 

S33.520165 E19.185615

GPS SUMMIT

S33.611912 E19.104491

GPS END 

S33.638722 E19.021220

AVE GRADIENT

1:63

MAX GRADIENT

1:5

ELEVATION START

235m

ELEVATION SUMMIT

594m

ELEVATION END

137m

HEIGHT GAIN/LOSS

457m

DISTANCE

28,6 km

DIRECTION - TRAVEL

South

TIME REQUIRED

50 minutes

SPEED LIMIT

40 - 80 kph

SURFACE

Tar (Sub standard)

DATE FILMED

03.01.2016

TEMPERATURE

28C

NEAREST TOWN

Wellington (25km)


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Mountain Passes South Africa

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.
 

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