April & May 2021

You will remember from our last post about our Karoo trip (you can read about it here), that we have just conquered the Swartberg Pass in wet weather conditions and have now arrived at Gamkaskloof … as well as a road that will take us to ‘The Hell’.

How dangerous can it be? Famous last words

DAY 3:

Yes, we are still in Day 3 … it was a long day with many high mountain passes, but also breathtaking views.

When a sign indicates you will travel 2 hours on 37km (22 miles), you must be ready for anything

Gamkaskloof, also known as ‘Die Hel/The Hell’, is a narrow and isolated valley in the Swartberg Mountain range. It is believed that the name ‘Die Hel’ is derived from the Afrikaans word ‘helling’ or ‘hel’, which means a steep dip or incline … later in the post you will see exactly why this is a very appropriate name!

Monument to commemorate the inauguration of the road in 1962 – called the ‘Otto du Plessis’ road

This road has to be one of South Africa’s iconic dirt roads. It winds through rugged mountain scenery, with a pass towards the end of the road (Elands Pass) that almost had me in a vertigo rush!

It is not recommended to complete this road as an ‘out and back’ trip in a single day – the slow average speed is around 25km/h – you will want to take it easy throughout, stopping and taking photos (and catch your breath after experiencing dizzying drop-offs, hairpins and narrow roads).

The welcoming sign … we are officially starting our trip to ‘The Hell’
Clouds still hang over the Swartberg Pass … at least, on this side of the mountain, the sun is out and the road is dry

At the beginning, the road wasn’t too bad. We drove on the flat part of Gamkaskloof and enjoyed the natural beauty around us.

Beautiful scenery as we’ve entered Gamkaskloof
Around some of the corners, we could see the road ahead

We knew the challenging part of the road was ahead and so looked for a place to have lunch before we got to that part.

We found this beautiful place by a ruin where we had to drive a little way off the main road. As we ate a sandwich and wandered around, we talked about how quiet it was – no other people, no cars, nothing … just the pleasant sounds of nature.

The road has now begun to change. Sometimes we were deep in the valley and other times the road took us along the edge of the mountain … up and down and up and down.

Here we look back at the road from which we came

There was one car ahead of us (we passed them half way) and another when we started the journey. Towards the end of the Elands Pass, another vehicle came from the front … so in total 3 cars on a road that stretched over 2 hours. Do you now understand that this is the ‘road less travelled’?

And then … we got to the part referred to as the highlight of the trip, the Elands Pass.

On top of Elands Pass … the road into ‘The Hell’
We have to get down there …

From here it is better to leave you in the capable hands of Berto (the driver) and our Go-Pro, as I spent most of the time with my hands over my eyes!

It took us about 11 minutes to drive down the pass, but the video is only 5 minutes long – do yourself a favour and watch it!

And … what do you think?

At least I managed to take 2 photos on the way down (and it was almost at the bottom) … with sweaty hands and a pounding heart 😉.

I never thought I’d say this … but thank goodness we’re finally in the ‘The Hell’

There was a fire in November 2019 in the valley of ‘Die Hel’ and the evidence is still pretty clear as we looked around. Burnt trees were visible everywhere and it was kind of eerie to drive past them.

Although we reached the bottom of Elands Pass, we still had to drive another hour to get to our accommodation for the next three days. At least there were no more mountain passes (thank goodness); just a beautiful dirt road.

Driving through the gate of Cape Nature to get to our little house

Finally we came to our house, called ‘Stalletjie’ (translated, a small horse stable). The whole house is just one room – double bed on one side, small dining table in the middle and the kitchen equipped with a sink, stove and fridge on the other side. But it was just what we needed and so cute!

We will be living off the grid for the next few days – no electricity and no WiFi. There are solar panels for lights inside the house and LP gas for hot water and for the fridge. No TV, no newspapers, no reception … we were very much looking forward to a blessed weekend!

Our bathroom was outside the house – shower, loo and basin (we don’t need anything more)

It was an eventful day! We started with the beautiful Cango Caves, then we drove out a very wet Swartberg pass and finally a ride we will never forget in ‘Die Hel’. Now it was time to make a big fire and enjoy each other’s company in the wilderness.

A fire to end our day
We had some meat and then ended our meal with ‘braai broodjies’ (grilled sandwiches)

We sat outside until very late – 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.

Our only light while looking at the bright stars that adorned the sky

In our next post we will show more of the beauty of ‘The Hell’ … in the meantime we hope you enjoyed this post.

I have to admit, while watching the video of our descent on that pass, my hands were still sweating 😉.


37 thoughts on “KAROO TRIP (4)

  1. Loved this post on your epic drive through the Elands Pass. Is it usually so quiet or do you think it’s because of the time of year / COVID? Love the look of the stable house accommodation. You are clever to find such interesting places to stay! Marion

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much Marion. This is not normally a well-travelled road (probably because of THAT pass 😉), so we were not surprised to find it so quiet. It is however very well-known to adventure bikers and 4×4 lovers – I think we were just lucky to find it on a quiet weekend. Yes, that stable house was a real gem and we loved our time there. Thanks for following our Karoo trip and your comments. Take care, Corna.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I was feeling adrenaline pumping through my body just watching your video! What an adventure it must have been, a scary one at times! But the best places typically have the most difficult accesses from what I’ve learned… at lest in “The Hell” the house sounded like a little piece of heaven for you to recover from the journey. And the scenery is simply beautiful!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly like you’ve said … if you want to get to the secret hideaways and little gems, the roads leading to that are not always easy! I love how you’ve said we’ve found our little piece of heaven in the hell – I should have thought of that one 😊. Thanks for your lovely comments. Take care, Corna.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Absolutely amazing, I loved watching your video.. I feel like I have been on a drive with you. So awesome! I would love to live off the grid for a while… We did that in the Cedarburg… Thank you for your lovely post. 💞💖

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I also like to look at the video … now 😉. When we were actually driving the pass, I was covering my eyes with my hands – Berto had such a laugh at me! Yes, we would also like to live off the grid – done it a couple of times and love it!
      Thanks for following our Karoo posts and your lovely comments Morag 💌.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. To be quite honest Leighton, I’ve also been waiting for that car from the front … fortunately it only came towards the end 😅. The stable house was definitely a winner – we’ve loved our time there! Thanks for reading and your comments.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the video. We also love to ride these mountain roads … but I must admit, this one had me on the edge of my seat at times!
      You won’t believe it, but some people do this road in a normal 2×4 vehicle (the car that came from the front in our video is a 2×4). I guess I just feel a little bit more relax (safe?) in our 4×4 😉.
      And yes, the scenery was absolutely beautiful (and that made the trip worthwhile!)


    1. You’re absolutely right there Mel with your comment about “off the beaten track”. Seeing just a couple of cars and almost no people for 4 days …
      I was glad too we did not had any traffic from the front – can you imagine? The rule of riding these mountain passes is that the one going down, have to wait for the one coming up … the question just is where to wait if a car is coming up 😳.

      Liked by 1 person

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