The Cogmanskloof Pass connects the towns of Ashton and Montagu. Its entire 6.5 km stretch through a majestic landscape of towering rock formations. Renamed after Cape Colony secretary, John Montagu, the town’s original name of Cogmanskloof is where this pass took its name from.
The original route through the mountain included two fairly dangerous river crossings (Kingna River), and so following a few disasters, famed road and pass builder Thomas Bain was commissioned to build the pass through Cogmans Kloof in 1877.
Using a combination of dynamite and gunpowder (gunpowder because dynamite was apparently relatively new and they quickly ran out of supply), Bain and his team ‘dug’ (fine, blasted) through the Kalkoenkrans and opened the route in 1879.
The unlined tunnel is 16 metres long, and has a five metre high arched roof.
The tunnel is the oldest solid rock (unsupported by concrete) road tunnel in South Africa.
(Thomas Bain’s father Andrew Bain, actually built the very first tunnel along the western ascent of Bainskloof Pass near Wellington in 1835, but that collapsed during construction so it doesn’t count)
At the top of the tunnel, blink and you will miss it, is the remains of a well camouflaged English fort (declared a monument in 1999), accessible via a short little hike starting to the right of the tunnel entrance, heading towards Ashton side.
Taken from the Internet: “1899 heralded the Second Anglo Boer War and saw the construction of the English Fort above Cogmans Kloof. This was built by stonemason William Robertson at a site selected by Lieutenant Colonel Sidney, Commandant of the Royal Field Artillery. The fort was garrisoned by a company of the Gordon Highlanders who were survivors of the Magersfontein battle, commanded by a Lieutenant Forbes.
They were camped on the original road construction site below Kalkoenkrans (Turkey Crag) the site which is now the parking area below the fort on the Montagu side.
The fort measures 9,3 x 3,8 m on the outside. It has a simple entrance opening at the west end and 21 ‘waisted’ loopholes formed in the masonry without steel plates. The loopholes are 700-800 mm above the concrete floor and the 400 mm thick stone walls reach a height of about two metres inside the building.
Inside the fort, near the south-east corner, is a roughly circular mortared stone platform (400 mm high), together with a drainage channel and hole at the base of the adjacent east wall, which seems to indicate the presence of a water tank and hence a roof.”