Mountain Passes are a daily feature of Motorcycling around South Africa
I had the privilege of meeting with Trygve Roberts recently. My previous interaction with this man with the very strange name was via a few cursory emails a few years ago. It just so happens that when moving to the Cape, Trygve lives very close to the place I find myself in the first weeks. An hour spent listening to his passion for and obsession with mountain passes across the vast South African geography was quite fascinating. A 4x4 enthusiast primarily but with an interest in the motorcycling fraternity. South Africa is home to over 1,000 mountain passes! More than enough to keep him busy for a lifetime.
Two such mountain passes are considered iconic in the ‘canon’ of passes across the length and breadth of this country. Du Toit’s Kloof Pass and Bain’s Kloof Pass. In my first few weeks I took it upon myself to enjoy both, they are accessed via different routes but only a spit away from each other. They have some things in common. Both are in the Western Cape, both link Cape Town to the hinterland over the Haweqwa Mountain catchment area. These passes are ‘as the crow flies’ less than 7km at their nearest touching point… but… also so very different.
Du Toit’s Kloof Pass snakes over the ‘Huguenot Tunnel’ with stunning view s that allow Table Mountain be observed on a clear day when descending the Westerly approach to the City. Du Toit’s Kloof Pass planning dates as far back as 1778. The pass was however only finally completed in 1949 with the use of mostly Italian prisoners of war until 1945 after which local labour was employed. The pass today is of excellent condition and has enough space for vehicles to pass each other easily and in opposing directions.
Bain’s Kloof Pass, built by Mr. Andrew Geddes Bain, constructed in 1854, with convict labour as opposed to prisoners of war. It is a beautiful pass with fantastic vistas and unsurpassed indigenous flora. But not as well maintained or in as good a condition as the previously mentioned pass. The bumpy road is narrow with just enough space for two vehicles to pass each other, no runoff at all, mostly barriered with massive rocks. The huge upshot of this is that it encourages the rider to slow down and enjoy the views!
So all good… now how about the other 998 passes…, or did I say “over 1,000!!!”
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