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[Video cover photo - Trygve Roberts ]
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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.
Digging into the details:
Getting there: To approach from the north (in the direction which we filmed it), head south out of Somerset East on the R335 for 63 km to arrive at a fork at GPS S33.180329 E25.695900. Turn right and remain on the R335. After 700m you will pass an intersection to the left (the R400) which you should ignore and proceed straight on for 10,5 km where you will reach a 4 way intersection at GPS S33.241260 E25.774087. Turn right and head south for 2 km where you will reach the northern starting point of the Suurberg/Zuurberg Pass. Drive over the Suurberg Pass to arrive at the northern start of the Doringnek Pass at the Zuurberg Mountain Village.
For those wanting to approach from the south, drive north-east along the N2 from Port Elizabeth for 16 km and take the offramp onto the R335 at GPS S33.823648 E25.646633. Turn left at the end of the off-ramp and head north for 50 km. Once past Addo Village, keep a lookout for a sign marked Zuurberg Mountain Village. It is important not to miss this turn-off. The R335 is tar all the way from PE up till this point (and beyond). Note that the R335 has a shared route number along this section - the R342. Turn left onto the smaller gravel road at GPS S33.455558 E25.721121. The gravel road retains the R335 route number and the tar road (R342) continues into the north-east towards Paterson and the main entrance to the Addo Elephant Park. Once on the gravel road, head north for 7 km to reach the southern start of the Doringnek Pass.
The R335 connects the towns of Kirkwood and the Addo area (with its world famous elephant reserve) with the Karoo town of Somerset East some 85 km further north. The mountains of the Zuurberg provide magnificent scenery as the road descends from the drier northern side to the lush, green plains of the Addo area.
The Doringnek Pass and the Suurberg Pass are inexorably linked. The two passes run back to back for almost 40 km.
About 1 km north of the hotel (in fact this is already part of the Suurberg Pass) and after the second S-bend, the road curves to the right and an exposed slab of rock appears on your right, with the stream now visible to the left in the valley. This exposed section of rock has a pitch of around 60 degrees and is approximately 700m long.
Look carefully a few metres above the road surface and you will see an inscription in the rock face: 'Woodifield's Krantz 1855'. Local legend has it that Matthew Woodifield (the engineer who completed the Suurberg Pass) fell down this cliff on his horse with both perishing and that his ghost appears from time to time in the mountain mists on cold winters nights. It's a story retold with relish around the fireside in the mountain-top pub. But this is a fanciful story, as history records reveal that Woodifield was still very much alive in 1855 and there is no record of him dying on this road. This story essentially belongs on the Suurberg Pass page, but due it's proximity and accessibility from the hotel, it's an easy walk (or a careful but bumpy drive) to the cliff to take in this bit of fascinating history/folklore.
Shortly after Sir George Napier's appointment as Governor of the Cape in 1838, he visited the Eastern Province. He was appalled at the state of the roads and subsequently devoted much of his energies towards improving the communications between the Mother City and the eastern parts of the Province.
When the Montagu Pass had been completed in December, 1847, the entire gang of 250 convicts was transferred from there to the Zuurberg, in order to commence a road that would provide a direct route from Port Elizabeth to the districts of Graaff-Reinet, Somerset East, Cradock and Colesberg across what was described as "another impossible mountain range."
The road party under Inspector Henry Fancourt White commenced work on the adjoining Suurberg Pass in January 1848, starting at Doringnek and after only 13 km of the road had been completed, the convict gang was withdrawn in 1850 and stationed around Port Elizabeth because renewed trouble with the Xhosas had started and it was not considered safe to have the convicts working in a hazardous region. According to a report of the Central Road Board, building of the pass was resumed at the cessation of hostilities in 1853.
In a letter dated 27th January, 1857, the assistant civil engineer of the Colony, Mat. Woodifield, reported to the Board from his office in Port Elizabeth: "The main strength of the gang has been employed during the year in widening, forming, draining and metalling the road between the first Great Zuurberg ridge above Boontjies River, and the cut between Stroebel's and Wolwekop. Out of this entire length of about 15 miles, 13 miles may be said to be finished, and in first rate repair."
Of the already completed section of the pass he writes: "Much damage has been caused to the road by careless driving, renaming with iron remschoen and locking wheels" .... "By the present ordinances, it is impossible to put a stop to these practices; but by a slight modification of the road magistrate's ordinance, this grievance could be easily remedied.". . . .
Mr Woodifield further states: ". ... it is possible that the road from the bottom of the mountain on the north side, to the top of the main ridge, will be completed in eighteen months."
The entire Zuurberg Pass (which would include the Doringnek Pass), was 37 km long was opened to traffic in 1858, more than 10 years after Hanry Fancourt White and his convict gang moved onto the site.
[Sources: Reports of the Central Board of Commissioners for Public Roads in the Cape 1848-1858.]
The start of the Doringnek Pass is adjacent to the neat and attractive grounds of the Zuurberg Mountain Village and consists of a 12 free standing units (called Edwardian Village Cottages) plus the much bigger manor lodge. The setting is quite beautiful amongst tall trees right at the summit ridge of the pass.
It's a haven of historical delight in Addo, set in 160 hectares of indigenous vegetation with breath-taking views overlooking the Addo Elephant National Park. This 150 year old historical hotel is a mere one hour’s drive from Port Elizabeth and offers guests an elegant lifestyle and ambiance of a bygone era. . There is an English pub, Sunday lunches, conference facilities, a swimming pool, tennis courts, game drives into Addo Elephant National Park, walking and hiking trails, horse trails, the all-important "Addo Elephant Interaction," mountain bike trails, and more.
We filmed this pass from north to south in the descending mode.
Once past the village the road meanders over a long section of the mountain ridge till the 4,6 km mark past grassy hills and peaceful farms, where the bends suddenly become tighter and the frequency increases. This is where the real Doringnek Pass starts to become a memorable drive.
All along this easy plateau section, there are wide views of forest clad mountains and deep valleys which appear on both sides of the road from time to time.
At the 6,5 km after a sharp left hand bend, the road reaches a watershed point. Here there is a fork, with the right hand option being barred by a gate. The left hand option leads through a spectacular cutting, which was carved out of the bedrock with near vertical sides. Overhead a power or phone cable in a conduit pipe, straddles the gap. Be extremely careful of oncoming traffic as this cutting is just wide enough for one vehicle. The cutting is short, so you'll be on the other side in short order. On bright, sunny days, the cutting is cast in deep shadow and it takes a second or two for your eyes to adjust to the gloom and the opposite effect once back in the bright light.
Once through the cutting, a magnificent view opens up ahead and to the left and on a clear day it is rumoured one can see the Indian Ocean. A dense green swathe of foliage extends below as far as the eye can see. Almost all of this land is part of the Addo Elephant National Park.
The Sundays River has its mouth at the Indian Ocean and is tidal from the mouth for 17km. The river is well known for its excellent fishing and the bird-life is prolific. At Addo you can see the famous Addo elephants as well as mile after mile of verdant citrus trees, bearing fruit all winter and scenting the air with their blossoms in springtime.
[Video cover photo - Trygve Roberts ]
The Sundays River Valley Route/Addo region is only an hours' scenic drive from the wonderful beaches of the Sunshine Coast and the rich 1820 Settler history of Grahamstown. To experience the sounds and sights of the Big 7 (elephant, black rhino, buffalo, lion, leopard, great white shark and sperm whale) and the friendliness of Africa, this area is a must for any holiday maker.
Addo Elephant National Park was established in 1931 to save 11 Elephants on the brink of extinction, and is now home to more than 350 of them, 280 Cape Buffalo, black Rhino, a range of Antelope species, as well as the rare flightless dung Beetle, Addo Elephant Park is a perfect destination for the adventurous outdoor enthusiast and nature lover.
The park, the third largest in South Africa, offers a wide range of game viewing and outdoor activities, which include horse-riding, guided walking, hiking and 4x4 trails and a picnic area for day visitors. Nothing could be better if you are a bush lover.
After the cutting, the road winds its way down the Zuurberg mountain into the south-west, winding in and out of many side ravines. The road condition is good, but becuase of the many blind corners, it is necessary to keep your speed down.
The last four kilometres has many sharp corners, so keep your speed low. The inside of some of the corners are often rutted from water runoff. These can cause your vehicle to 'bounce' which can quickly result in a loss of traction and end with loss of control. Almost the entire are on either side of the road is part of the Addo National Park, so be on the lookout for wildlife.
Towards the bottom of the pass, the straight sections become longer and it's easy to want to drive faster, but beware of corrugations and if you have not deflated your tyres, you could end up in serious trouble. Maintain a speed of below 60 kph until you are back on tar. It's not far from here to the village of Addo or the bigger town of Kirkwood.
The town of Kirkwood is the epicentre of the local citrus farming area and offers plenty of quality self catering and B&B style accommodation. It also serves as the springboard to the Addo Elephant National Park with its diverse range of game, but guarantees elephant sightings. The park itself also offers various levels of accommodation as well as camping.
The Governor of the Cape Colony, Sir John Francis Cradock, gave the first farms in the Sundays River Valley to the leaders of the successful burger commandos for their role in the victories in the border wars of 1811 and 1812.
These farms were awarded to Magistrate Cuyler (originally from the United States) of Uitenhage, who received Geelhoutboom (Yellow Tree, later Dunbrody); Commandant Ignatius Muller, who received Klaaskraal (Klaas' Corral, situated just outside what is now Kirkwood) and Field Cornet J.S. van Niekerk, who received Gouwernements Belooning (Government's Reward). It is on the latter farm that Kirkwood would be established many decades later.
In 1877 James Somers Kirkwood, an auctioneer from Port Elizabeth, arrived to auction off Gouwernements Belooning. When a flooded Sundays River prevented Kirkwood from reaching this farm he climbed a nearby hill (known today as The Lookout) instead. From there he had a view of the entire valley and had a vision of the valley - which was overgrown by bushes at the time - being transformed into irrigated fields with fruit trees. He also envisioned this farm produce being delivered via river barges to Port Elizabeth.
Shortly afterwards, James himself purchased "Goewernements Belooning" as well as some other farms in the valley. He subsequently founded the Sundays River Land and Irrigation Company as well as the village of Bayville. [Source ~ Wikipedia]
|GPS SUMMIT||S33.353896 E25.743325|
|GPS END||S33.394465 E25.720247|
|DIRECTION - TRAVEL||South-West|
|TIME REQUIRED||15 minutes|
|SPEED LIMIT||60 kph|
|NEAREST TOWN||Kirkwood (46 km)|
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||Click to download: Doringnek Pass (R355) - Note - this is a .kmz file, which can be opened in Google earth and most GPS models.