KAROO TRIP (4)


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’.

How dangerous can it be … yeah right, famous last words …

DAY 3:

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

When a board indicates you will travel 2 hours on 37km (22 miles), you must be prepared … for anything!

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!

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

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 welcoming sign … we are officially starting our trip to ‘The Hell’
Earlier today, we came through those clouds on the Swartberg Pass … at least, on this side of the mountain, the sun is out and the road dry

The road (at the beginning) was not too bad. We were driving on the flat part of Gamkaskloof and enjoyed the scenery 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 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 …

Looking back at the road we came from

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.

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

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 😉.

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

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.

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

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!

Our bathroom was outside the house – shower, loo and basin (basic, but we’ve needed nothing more)

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.

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

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.

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’ve enjoyed this post.

I must admit, while watching the video of our decent on that pass, my hands were still sweating 😉.

Categories: South African Break Aways

33 comments

  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

    • 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. Yikes! Like driving along the Amalfi Coast without the sea!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. 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

    • 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

  4. 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

    • 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

  5. Well, that road looks like it was made in hell, but the ride itself must have been exhilarating. I half-expected a car coming from the opposite direction at some point. The stable house is lovely.

    Liked by 1 person

    • 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

  6. I loved the ride.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thats our kind of road, mountain roads like that are so much fun. Love the video, looks a bit scary in places. We are guessing you need a 4 x 4 to do it😁 Great scenery!

    Liked by 1 person

    • 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!)

      Like

  8. Looks like you should be on that road with a mountain bike not a car! But awesome views so I guess it was worth it. Maggie

    Liked by 1 person

  9. WOW! What a stunning part of RSA and WELL off the beaten track. Thank goodness you didn’t meet any vehicles coming the other way on the really steep bits!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Wat ongelooflike pas! Moet se my maag maak sommer draaie as ek daarna kyk, Corna! So pragtig, dalk moet ons die pas ook aandurf!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. That would be an adventure for me. But an interesting experience and a great getaway.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Beautiful images and the drive took my breath away, literally and figuratively! I can just imagine how you felt that did the actually drive 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Oh NO way I could have taken that drive from Hell! You are very brave. As for living off the grid….YES!!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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