GAMKASKLOOF (‘THE HELL’)
April & May 2021
You will remember from our last post about our Karoo trip (you can read about here), that we’ve just ‘conquered’ the Swartberg Pass in wet weather conditions and now we’ve came to Gamkaskloof … and a road that will take us to ‘The Hell’.
Yes, we are still in Day 3 … this was a long day with really high mountain passes, but also breathtaking views.
Gamkaskloof, also known as ‘The Hell’, is a narrow and isolated valley located in the Swartberg mountain range. It is believed that the name ‘Die Hel‘ was derived from the Afrikaans word ‘helling’ or ‘hel’, meaning a steep dip or incline … later in the post, you’ll see exactly why this is a very appropriated name!
This road must be one of South Africa’s iconic gravel roads. It winds through rugged mountain scenery, with a pass towards the end (Elands Pass) that almost had me in vertigo-rush!
It is not recommended to complete this road as an ‘out and back’ drive in a single day – the slow average speed is around 25 kph – and you anyway would want to take your time, stop and take photo’s (and to catch your breath after experiencing dizzying drop-offs, hairpins and narrow roads).
The road (at the beginning) was not too bad. We were driving on the flat part of Gamkaskloof and enjoyed the scenery around us.
We knew the challenging part of the road was laying ahead and were therefore looking for a place to have lunch before we get to that part.
We’ve found this beautiful place at a ruin where we had to drive a bit off the main road. While we were eating a sandwich and wandering around, we’ve talked about how quiet it was – no other people, no cars, nothing … just the pleasant sounds of nature.
The road was now starting to change. Sometimes we would be deep in the valley and other times, the road would take us along the edge of the mountain … up and down, up and down …
There was one car in front of us (we’ve passed them halfway) and another one when we’ve started the journey. And then towards the end of the Elands Pass, another vehicle came from the front … so, in total 3 cars on a 2 hour stretch … do you understand now that this is the ‘road less travelled’?
And then … we got to the part which are referred to as the highlight of the journey, the Elands Pass.
From here onwards, it’s best to leave you in the capable hands of Berto (the driver) and our Go-Pro … because I was, for most of the time, sitting with my hands over my eyes!
It took us about 11 minutes to drive down, but the video is only 5 minutes long – do yourself a favour and watch it!
And … what do you think?
I’ve only managed to take 2 photo’s on our way down … and that was almost at the bottom … with sweaty hands and a beating heart 😉.
There was a fire in November 2019 in the valley of ‘The Hell’ and the evidence is still pretty clear as we’ve looked around us … burned trees were visible everywhere and it was kind of eerie to drive past them.
Although we’ve reached the bottom of the Elands Pass, we still had to drive another hour to get to our accommodation for the next three days … but at least, no more mountain passes (thank goodness) … just a gravel road that was really beautiful.
At last we’ve reached our house, called ‘Stalletjie’ (translated, a small horse stable). The whole house is just one room – double bed on the one side, small dining table in the middle and the kitchen with sink, stove and refrigerator on the other side. But it was just what we’ve needed and so cute!
We will be living off the grid for the next couple of days – no electricity and no WiFi. There are solar panels for lights inside the house and LP gas for hot water and for the refrigerator. No TV, no newspapers, no reception … we were really looking forward to a blissful weekend!
It was an eventful day – starting with the beautiful Cango Caves, then driving a wet Swartberg Pass and finally a drive we will never forget into ‘The Hell’. Now it was time to make a big fire and enjoy each other’s company in the wilderness.
We’ve sat till very late outside – the fire was our only light – and we could see the Milky Way stretched out above us … it felt so close, we could almost touch the stars.
In our next post, we will show more of the beauty of ‘The Hell’ … in the meantime, we hope you’ve enjoyed this post.
I must admit, while watching the video of our decent on that pass, my hands were still sweating 😉.