Tag Archives: mountain pass

Moer Koffie and Melktert at Die Tolhuis Bistro and Farm Stall in Ceres (2016-12-10) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 24 JUL 2017

Towards the end of last year, over the course of our weekend away in Tulbagh, Chantelle and I decided on the spur of the moment to try our hand at cherry picking on Klondyke Farm (as well as fuel some nostalgia by checking in on Ceres’ Dennebos – aka Pine Forest – holiday resort that both of us frequented as children), which then of course meant an impromptu trip over Michell’s Pass.

If you are not familiar with it, the pass carves a route through the Skurweberg and Witzenberg mountains, in the process connecting Ceres to Tulbagh and Wolseley, and is named after the Cape Colony’s first Surveyor-General, Charles Michell – incidentally the man responsible for planning this very path in the first place.

The original road was constructed by famed road engineer Andrew Geddes Bain and it stood for nearly a century before finally undergoing two major upgrades to form the tarred pass that we are now so familiar with.

Pleasingly, the historic toll house survived all these changes, and now acts as a welcome halfway stop along the pass, with the grounds hosting a small farm stall filled with odds, ends and tasty treats, and a small bistro (aptly called Die Tolhuis) which serves up some good old traditional ‘boerekos’ on its wickedly tongue-in-cheek menu, very much designed to put a smile on South Africans’ faces.

Melktert. Moer koffie. Enamel cups. What more do you need to know about this self-proclaimed Republic of Roosterkoek?

Definitely a fun little stop.

Related Link: Die Tolhuis | Facebook

Driving over the Bain’s Kloof Pass to Wellington (2016-12-11) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 07 FEB 2017

Chantelle and I enjoyed a weekend away in Tulbagh towards the end of last year. We decided to head home via Wellington for a change, and that led to a decision to tackle the rocky Bain’s Kloof Pass, a road that I literally haven’t been on since I was a teenager!

Created in the 1850s, the Bain’s Kloof Pass was built to connect Wellington to Ceres, and like all the well made mountain passes in South Africa, was designed and built by a Bain – though this time around it was father Andrew Geddes Bain as opposed to his more famous road engineer son, Thomas Bain!

The now tarred mountain pass is a national heritage site, and runs for about 20 km as it moves from the Breede River, across the Limiet mountains and along the Witte river.

Popular with hikers due to its isolation, striking scenery and of course many rock pools (perfect for swimming), the mountain pass sees a fair bit of tourist activity, with the popular bush pub at the start of the pass (on the Wolseley side) doing brisk business, particularly with all the bikers that take on the pass’s many dangerous twists and turns!

It is relatively nerve-wracking/exciting pass to drive, thanks to its narrowness, unforgiving stone barricades, and sharp drop-offs, not to mention the numerous twists and turns that seem intent on making any person sitting in the passenger seat rather… uncomfortable.

Chantelle found the drive harrowing, I loved it, and the views afforded from the summit overlooking Wellington are simply put, spectacular.

Well worth tackling if you are in the area then.

The team behind Mountain Passes South Africa do a fantastic job in detailing the various mountain passes of South Africa, and for Bain’s Kloof Pass they’ve actually filmed a four part series, all of which are well worth the watch if you are interesting in the details and story behind this national heritage site of ours:

Part 1: Orientation and Overview:

Part 2: From Breede River to Tweede Tol:

Part 3: From Tweede Tol to Bain’s Kloof Village

Part 4: From Eerste Tol to Wellington:

Finally, a map in case you want to tackle this hairy pass yourself:

Related Link: Bain’s Kloof Pass | Mountain Passes South Africa

Steenbras Dam and Sir Lowry’s Pass over the Hottentots Holland Mountains (2016-09-10) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 05 OCT 2016

We find ourselves taking the short hop over the mountain to visit the apple rich Grabouw/Elgin area quite often, which of course then means we travel via the N2 national road over Sir Lowry’s Pass and past the Steenbras Dam (Upper) to get there.

dav

On one of my recent expeditions to the area with my girls, I thought it a good opportunity to stop at both the entrance to Steenbras Dam (which is these days sadly closed to the public of course), as well as the Sir Lowry’s Pass view point.

(The girls were of course not impressed with this plan of mine, but I bribed them with the promise of ice cream, so all was good in the end.)

dav

Although still a bit on the low side in terms of water level, thankfully the Steenbras Dam (a reservoir for Cape Town as well as part of a pumped-storage power system) is looking a lot better than what it was just a few short months ago – which is a big relief when you consider just how gloomy the outlook in terms of Cape Town’s water supply for the upcoming season originally was.

(Sure, it’s still not great, but it is a damn sight more positive than the original forecast outlook!)

dav

Anyway, after a couple of minutes of standing next to the car and taking photos of the dam, guarded entrance and pretty tree next to me, I hopped back into the Getz and headed up the road, only to pull off at the Sir Lowry’s Pass view point which is probably only a kilometer or two away from where I had first pulled off the road for the dam.

dav

The girls opted to stay in the car once more, allowing me to take my time strolling around the rather large view point area, happily snapping pictures with my cellphone in pretty much every direction that presented itself to me!

bty

Named after Sir Galbraith Lowry Cole, governor of the Cape in 1828, today’s modern and upgraded Sir Lowry’s Pass is essentially a cantilevered four-lane highway which then crosses the Hottentots Holland mountain range between Somerset West and the Elgin Valley.

sdr

As you might imagine, the lookout point affords you a spectacular view of the Helderberg basin… not that you would necessarily say that if you have only ever had my not so great cellphone camera photos for reference! ;)

Lastly, a handy map in case you need a better idea of where this view point actually is:

Related Link: Steenbras Dam | Sir Lowry’s Pass | Wikipedia

Travelling through Tradouw Pass to Barrydale (2016-04-15) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 28 APR 2016

Continuing the trend of this being the year of weekends away as a result of my lack of mobility throughout December and January (February was Jacobsbaai, and March was Mossel Bay), April saw us head out to Warmwaterberg Spa near Barrydale – one of the oldest hot spring resorts in South Africa!

IMG_20160415_171030 hyundai accent in front of the beautiful scenery of tradouw pass in south africa

For us, the best route to get there is the N2 and then cut across the R324 to hit the R62 – in other words, we get to cross the magnificent Tradouw’s Pass in the process!

IMG_20160415_170123 beautiful scenery of tradouw pass in south africa

Originally opened in 1873 and built by the famous South African road and pass builder Thomas Bain, the Tradouw Pass (which more or less means Women’s Path in Khoi) is a 17 kilometer mountain drive through the rugged Langeberg region. It connects Swellendam with Suurbraak and Barrydale, and is by far one of the top tarred passes in the Western Cape in terms of beauty and engineering.

The road offers spectacular views of the surrounding areas, and numerous lookout points have been added over the years to make the most of this.

That said, this route has suffered severe flood damage in its 130+ years of existence, with several rebuilds occurring during its lifetime. 1974 was one of the big ones, with the pass being almost completely rebuilt, widened in places and a couple of hairpin bends removed for good measure. It was also completely tarred in the process, and to add an element of landscaping to the project, 4000 aloes and 2500 indigenous trees and shrubs were also planted!

Mountain Passes South Africa has a great informational video showing off the pass and its story up on their website:

Naturally, we stopped at more than just one lookout point to admire the view (and take a few phone camera snaps!) – after all, the last time that we tackled this pass was literally at the dead of night!

Related Link: Tradouw’s Pass

Things to do with Kids in Cape Town: Eat at The Orchard Farm Stall in Grabouw Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 30 MAY 2015

If you feel like a drive with the kids, then why not shoot up the N2 and tackle Sir Lowry’s Pass, taking it up past Steenbras Dam and then swinging left into Grabouw.

IMG_20150427_121811 the orchard farm stall and coffee shop in grabouw

The first thing you’ll see is the large rolling green lawn of The Orchard Farm Stall, a large airy farm stall filled with all manner of home made treats, farm produce and of course arts and crafts.

Of more importance to us here is the attached coffee shop / restaurant, which features a host of well priced, simple food options, covering you if you just want to stop and have a cup of coffee and a piece of cake, or sit down and devour lunch proper.

IMG_20150427_115549 jessica lotter with a giant choc chip cookie

The huge green lawn means that there is ample space for the kids to run around and play, and the owners also have had a little jungle gym with swings installed, perfect to keep the little ones busy.

Also, there seems to be a permanent jump castle setup as well – which needless to say keeps the kiddies pretty happy!

IMG_20150427_121815 emily lotter about to tackle the jungle gym in grabouw

So if you want to get some fresh air, let the kids run around a bit, and just sit and relax, then a stop at The Orchard Farm Stall in Grabouw is certainly not a bad option.

(My only complaint is a little one – given that it sits right on the N2, you do get the noise of the passing traffic – but in the same breath that gives you a little more to see and to talk about, so it’s not all that bad!)

IMG_20150427_123839 emily lotter going for a ride on dumbo in grabouw

Note, if your kids are of the older variety, then another great option slightly further along the route is Peregrine Farm Stall and its associated Red Tractor Cafe – looking particularly good following its recent refurbishment.

Oh, and on the way back, don’t forget to pull over and stop at the Sir Lowry’s Pass viewpoint. Stunning views of the False Bay, Gordon’s Bay, Strand, and Somerset West guaranteed!

(The day that these photos were taken proved to be a little too windy for the girls – they were back inside the car before you could blink!)

IMG_20150427_125819 looking over the bay from sir lowry's pass 1

IMG_20150427_125839 chantelle lotter with the girls at sir lowry's pass viewpoint

IMG_20150427_125823 looking over the bay from sir lowry's pass 2

IMG_20150427_125902 craig lotter at sir lowry's pass viewpoint

Related Link: TripAdvisor | Sir Lowry’s Pass