Baviaanskloof, Eastern Cape

Visited March 2002

    The route along the N2 in the eastern Cape is well known. Every section of the route offers something different, with magnificent scenery around every bend. Eastwards from Mossel Bay the road hugs the coast all the way to Storms River, and it is not for nothing that this is known as the Garden Route.  

The many mountain ranges form a significant barrier between the narrow coastal strip and the dry interior.  All the routes from the interior to the coast have to pass through these mountains in one way or another: The N9 passes over the Outeniquas north of George through a very impressive pass, although the upper sections are often shrouded in mist, hiding the views.  North of Oudtshoorn lies the punishing Swartberg Pass, worth the detour if you have never been there before.  The N12 from George to Beaufort West travels through the erie Meiringspoort - The road through here follows the river bed, and has been washed away many times... It has now been rebuilt as a first class road and is also well worth a visit.

North of Nature's Valley lie three ranges of mountains, all running roughly east-west: The Tsitsikamma mountains, the Kouga mountains, and the Baviaanskloof mountains.  Between the Tsitsikamma and the Kouga lies a fertile valley.  There is a fairly good road as well as a railway line along this valley.  However, the section between the Kouga mountains and the Baviaanskloof is wild with very difficult access. The road through the Baviaanskloof Wilderness Area is a narrow track, following the dry river beds where it can, and taking in some breathtaking passes through the mountains along the way.  The distance from Andrieskraal to the N9 main road is only about 180 kms, but you can count on about 6 hours for the trip! 

The dark line on the map shows our route as recorded by our GPS. We came from Port Elizabeth, with a detour to Jeffreys Bay and stayed overnight at Cape St Francis.  From there we travelled north via Humansdorp, Hankey and Patensie before entering the wilderness area proper. We counted 98 low water crossings through the main part of the route; the total between Andrieskraal and the N9 was closer to 130! 

As if this route was not punishing enough, we took the "short" route down to Knysna, through Prince Alfred's pass.  A lovely trip but very tiring!


    Here you can see the rather gentle start of the route.  The road follows the river between gentle rolling hills. We should have been warned...


    Apologies for the bad contrast in this picture.  However, it shows the sand road through a fairly high section.



    After some tough driving through interesting valleys and passes one reaches a high plateau, with some signs of farming in the recent past.


This view shows the mountain ranges in the distance, with some significant gorges in between!


    A view down into the valleys between the mountains.  You can just see the track down in the valley - We are going down there!


    This is what the road is like down at the bottom. We stopped at this spot for lunch. You can see that it could be challenging in wet weather...


    Jocelyn negotiating some water!


    After following the river for many kilometres and a serious 4x4 climb we reached a point from which we could look back over our route.


    This interesting rock was found almost at the end of the wilderness area.  Again, it looked as though farming had been attempted here in the past but given up.


    A kloof offering a little shade along the way.


    A this point we were almost out of the real wilderness area. The mountains in the distance are either the Tsitsikamma or the Langkloof mountains.  The cloud is characteristic of the region.  The coastal air is blown up against the mountains and condenses into dense clouds, which hover over the mountains for weeks on end.  Some moisture is deposited on the higher parts.  However, as the air drops down on the northern side of the mountains, the temperature increases and all the moisture evaporates.  North of the mountains the area is very hot and dry, semi-desert, while the coastal strip is completely different, with mist and rain much of the time.

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