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Sep 18, 2017

Most people in the 18th and 19th centuries got from place to place on foot. Some people could afford to travel on horseback or in a cart drawn by a horse. There were others that travelled on wagons pulled by oxen. The ox-wagon was used to transport goods like bales of wool, bundles of dried animal skins, sacks of wheat, flour, sugar and wooden planks. Roads during those times were mostly tracks and travel and transportation were arduous and time-consuming. Travel in the Southern Cape was particularly slow and difficult. There were no bridges across the rivers and travel via the couple of passes over the Outeniqua Mountains, was both strenuous and dangerous.

Attaqua’s Kloof Pass 

The first pass over the Outeniqua Mountains was described by Ensign Isaac Schrijver as early as 1689 when he was sent by the Castle of Good Hope with the mission of finding Khoi tribes in the area in order to trade for cattle and sheep. 

The Outeniqua Mountains presented a seemingly impenetrable barrier to the interior, but Schrijver was shown an elephant track near Hagelkraal, close to Hartenbos near Mossel Bay (about 30 kilometres west of where George is situated), this path was however impossible to negotiate because of the thick vegetation. Eight men and all the Khoi guides spent a day hacking, clearing and burning the bush before it was possible to get a wagon through. Read more...

Duiwel’s Kop Pass 

Duiwel’s Kop Pass (Devil’s Peak), to the east of George, was the second pass over the Outeniqua Mountains and the only alternative to Attaqua’s Kloof Pass - and a pretty awesome alternative at that. Famous travellers such as Van Plettenberg (1779), Barrow (1779, who described it “as among the most formidable and difficult roads in the Colony”), Le Valliant (1782, said the ascent was bad enough, but it was the descent that unnerved him) and the botanist Andrew Sparrman (1775, reported that the road was very bad) all recorded their crossing over Duiwel’s Kop Pass. 

Before traversing this notorious pass, they had the ordeal of first crossing the dreaded Kaaimansgat and Touw Rivers. If they were in flood they were impassable. The pass was abandoned in about 1815. Read more...

Cradock Pass 

George was proclaimed a drostdy in 1811 and A.G. van Kervel was appointed the first Landdrost. Keen on making a success of his post, he drew up a report pointing out the need for a new pass over the Outetniqua Mountains. He suggested upgrading the bridle path immediately behind the town of George as he realized that access to the interior was vital for the prosperity of the new town and he hoped to persuade the Governor of the Cape, Sir John Cradock that a pass over the Outeniquas would benefit the colony as a whole. Cradock agreed with his reasoning.

Forty labourers took two months to complete the 5.5 mile route (10km) which went almost directly over the mountain with no sharp bends or contour paths. The pass was named Cradock Pass, in honour of Sir John Cradock, governor of the Cape (1811-1813). From the start there were complaints about this very steep and formidable road. In places wagons had to be taken apart and carried. The gradient was so severe that two teams off oxen had to be inspanned. Disasters were frequent and travellers were held up for days while repairs were effected. Big rocks caused the wagons to tilt unevenly. From the very beginning, some travellers referred to the route as “only fit for baboons!’ Read more...

The Montagu Pass

The historic Montagu Pass between George and Oudtshoorn was declared a National Monument in 1972. With many serpentine curves this magnificent pass gradually winds its way through the fynbos-covered Cradock’s Kloof until it reaches the summit. Travelling along this fascinating route, with its natural scenery, is an unforgettable experience.

The main route over the Outeniqua range before 1848 was the Cradock Pass. The southern end of this track started at the village of Blanco where there was an outspan for ox to graze and travellers to rest. The route of the Cradock Pass is marked today by a series of stone cairns which can be seen from the Outeniqua Pass.

The pull exerted by a team of oxen is at its greatest when all the oxen are in a straight line. Consequently a pass used by ox-wagons tries to avoid sharp bends. However the steepness of the Outeniqua range made some sharp bends necessary. A journey by ox-wagon over the Cradock Pass could take days. In a number of places wagons toppled over unless they were restrained by men pulling them side-ways with ropes. Many sections of the Cradock Pass were frequently washed away by flooded mountain streams and the oxen struggled for purchase on the rocky, uneven ground. The route was a nightmare.  Read more...

The Outeniqua Pass

During the 1920s and the 1930s motor cars used the Montagu Pass in ever increasing numbers. By the late 1930s it was evident that a new pass which could handle this motorised traffic, was needed over the Outeniqua Mountains.

In 1933 work on the pass was commenced with the aid of 500 Italian prisoners of war, whose camp was situated near Blanco. They blasted and hacked out the new road and were paid between 6d and 1/- a day. The Chief foreman of works was Mr E. van der Westhuizen. The construction work was regarded as the most arduous in the Cape, because of the hardness of the rock.

However, at the end of World War 11in 1945, the Italians were repatriated and the remaining two miles of the pass was constructed by Clifford Harris (Pty) Ltd. The total cost of the pass was 500 000 pounds. Read more...
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