We met part of our group outside Jo’burg on Friday morning on the N12 and the balance of the group in Volksrust. Then there were 10 of us in 4 vehicles and 2 bikes. It looked and sounded like we were in for a fab weekend. It was 10 am and 28 deg in the shade. We ranged from early 30’s to late 60’s.
By the time we had reached Normandien Pass (after traversing 11 other passes on tar and dirt) the weather had changed. It was getting darker and wind chilling cold. Up to this point we had been mesmerized by our tour leader's knowledge of everything along the way. The history, the stories – amazing!!
We had some discussion around the route, we checked the weather, we discussed – everyone turned out to be adventurous. We were given a pep talk on the next passes and the dangers to look out for - and off we went. The sky was ominous; the conversations quieter.
The temperature dropped, the mist blew down to reduce visibility to 5 meters tops. We drove at 30 km/h with hazards on. Then the pelting torrential rain started!! We were on De Beer’s Pass. (Read up on it on www.mountainpassessouthafrica.co.za) For this story - to quote “listed as one of the most dangerous roads in SA”.
We arrived at our lodgings – everyone bounced out of their vehicles into the reception area which was flooded. How we kept together on the road only Mike will know. Your skills are now legendary Mike! But the bikers were missing. A minute later we found the 2 bikers, changed out of their wet clothes and lounging in front of a roaring fire. We found the bar – we recounted the day, we made new friends. We drank a bit, we ate dinner and drank a bit more.
We all retired early for an early morning roll call. The group was happy and well acquainted. Mike being the exception - he had some decisions to make.
Breakfast was filled with discussions – it had rained all night. Which passes could we do, not do. I think Mike changed his route a bit, but out of the conversations I realized that Mike was making changes to fit the Subaru. We elected to opt out of the day to make decisions easier – and were offered the back seats in the Jeep with Roger and Tanya. Thanks you two.
We started with Van Reenen’s Railway Pass. It was just mud and intermittently misty and clear. When we had a view it was spectacular. Roger never saw much but the road ahead. He loved the excitement of the challenge.
Another two passes later – decision time – Bezuidenhout’s Pass Yes or No. Yes it was. So off we went. Karen and I were now passengers so like dead fish we went with the flow. It was such fun just driving along and watching and experiencing the action. The run-up to the pass is also a fairly long trip and it was not without excitement in the mud – but no more rain. We had views –awesome – we could see the flowers at the slow speed. At the top of the pass – more discussion – Yes or No. Yes it was. The bikers had also elected not to ride the day and were passengers in the Everest. We were 10 in 3 vehicles.
Watch - Jeep Wrangler on Bezuidenhouts Pass
This pass is about 5 km – It took us 4 odd hours to do these 5 km. We had no rain on this stretch but the track was fairly devastated by some earlier event and the past night's rain had created a spectacular and dare I say dangerous rocky mud bath. Totally out of my league had I been driving, I was in awe of the effort and skill required for each centimetre of this pass. This group of new friends built roads, moved fences!! and kept their cool. We walked in ankle deep mud to check out the next 5 meters of road for 4km. It was cold, we had now missed lunch and everyone started to share their edibles from their boot. Peanuts, crunchies and beer are some that come to mind. Two thirds of the way down the mist started closing in on us again.
With great relief to everyone we reached the bottom of the pass. We were out of the mist, everyone was in awe of their achievements. We were headed home. Our journey still had some excitement along the way home. We passed two local vehicles stuck in the mud. True to the nature of our group, we stopped. The guys in our group got out the recovery equipment (secretly I think they were all so chuffed to test their recovery equipment). Our chaps made a difference to the world of some folk who were totally without a remedy.
Dinner was welcomed, as was the pub! This day was not as it had been planned, but it ended up being a spectacular once in a lifetime experience for all. We did not see much of the scenery on offer on a good day, but everyone learned something more about their characters and their driving skills, not to mention the awareness of how dramatic change can be on a mountain pass.
Sunday was a breeze. The Subaru climbed Mount Paul’s Pass – very slowly. My legs were a bit shaky arriving at the top. The view was unsurpassed spectacular. The second steepest pass in the list I think. Lichens Pass was beautiful. We finished the day’s passes and drove into Clarence. We said our thanks and good byes as we all headed home in different directions.
Mike – a sincere thanks for this journey. It was perfect. To our fellow travellers – thanks for the memories.
Watch - Ford Everest on Bezuidenhouts Pass
Pass of the Week
Off we go back to the sunny Western Cape as we take you through one of the long kloofs that cleave the landscape north of Montagu, where a handful of gravel roads link the Klein Karoo with its very big brother, the Great Karoo. We've had this poort/pass combination on the MPSA website for over five years and a review of the old video with its sub-titles and jumpy footage was enough to convince us to head out that way and refilm a new video. The weather was awesome with crystal clear blue skies and a landscape just heading towards the end of spring with lots of wild flowers still in bloom.
Unfortunately a 4x4 with reasonable ground clearance is necessary to complete the first 4 km of the route, but take a look at the video set and decide if your vehicle might cope with this. Remember that conditions always look easier on the video than what it is reality. We thought it was a throughly enjoyable hour and a bit and what this route does offer is lots of variety. The more civilised southern part of the route is being upgraded with a major road revamp taking place at the moment and we wondered what in this isolated valley attracted such a considerable spend on road building? This can be clearly seen, especially in the third video.
* * * * * J O U B E R T S P O O R T * * * * *
New passes added this week:
Langhoogte (R305) - An easy tarred pass near Still Bay/Stilbaai. (Provisional video)
Motpoort - A tiny little poort in a huge landscape in the Karoo south of Loxton.(Provisional video)
Keurboomsrivierhoogte (N2) - A three lane pass on the busy N2 west of The Crags. (Provisional video)
Dwars in die Weg Pass - A gravel pass on a quiet country road south-east of De Doorns.(Provisional video)
Kranskop Poort - A minor poort carved out by the Pienaarsrivier north of Steytlerville (Provisional video)
Upgraded videos added this week:
Jukhoogte (R356) - a moderate gravel pass in the Tankwa Karoo (Full 1080HD video)
Thyshoogte (R356) - a slightly bigger pass with a couple of tricky hairpins close to Jukhoogte (Full 1080HD video)
Thought for the day: "Joy must be developed from the inside. If we cannot find happiness within ourselves we will not be able to find happiness anywhere." ~ Allan Lokos