2012-11-08 - 2 day tour through Sedgefield, Knysna, Oudshoorn, Prince Albert, Die Hel (Gamkaskloof)

ON Wednesday the 7th November 2012, we towed the KLRs down to Sedgefield to visit our good friends, Guy & Ann who live on a smallholding with their horses, pigs, sheep, chickens, cat and dogs.  Emma, our teenage daughter decided to join us on our mid week break and while we were meandering the gravel roads in and around Knysna, she stayed with our friends and caught up with some pre-exam studying (not to mention sun tanning). 

The Nav and I set off early on Thursday morning on the route as per Day 1 below.  We had perfect weather for riding, cool in the morning and hotting up as we headed into the Klein Karoo.  The highlight of day 1 was riding the Simola Road (R339).  The road took us through the Knysna indigenous forest.  We scooted up Spitskop view point for a view of the surrounding mountains an could literally see the Coast to the Karoo - video below.  We crossed a few rivers and passed a few mountain bikers along the way, not to mention that David finally found Angie's-G Spot (not what you are thinking.... a tucked away cafe in the middle of nowhere) at the bottom of Prince Alfred's pass, where we stopped for a welcoming cold Coke Cola.  

We set off for Uniondale (where we spent out honeymoon (believe it!) in 2006) and travelled via an amazing gravel road following the Olifants River through planted onion farms and beautiful volstruis paleise near Rooiloop station.  Next stop was De Rust where we had lunch and a welcoming cup of coffee.

We continued through Meiringspoort, Middelpos and the R407 to Prince Albert where we overnighted at the Karoo Khaya guesthouse.

After breakfast on Friday morning, we set off to Gamkaskloof (Die Hel) via the Swartberg Pass.  What a sight the Pass was!  One of the most beautiful roads I have ever had the pleasure of riding along.  Majestic views and blue skies that went on forever.  We took the Gamkaskloof turnoff. 

The remote and isolated Gamkaskloof valley is about 90km from Oudtshoorn and 60km from Prince Albert and is only accessible via the Otto du Plessis Road, which turns off from the Swartberg Pass. The Otto du Plessis Road is only 52km long but the drive along this gravel road will take two and a half to three hours.

The valley is of ecological, archaeological and cultural-historical importance and is now managed as part of the Swartberg Nature Reserve. The roads were slow going, winding and narrow, lots of loose stones and rocks, steep gradients in places with a number of river crossings.  The first 37 kilometres follows the contours of the mountains, but as the Kloof itself is reached the road forms a winding and spectacular pass leading to the valley floor far below. In the valley the road  passes through riverine shrubs and an abundance of thorn and wild olive trees.

It is highly recommended that you have a bakkie or a 4x4 to tackle this road although we did see one or two normal cars (rentals no doubt).  The road comes to an end in the Kloof and we popped in to say hi to Elmarie who works for Cape Nature and lives in the Kloof with her husband.   The most pristine and beautiful pass that you will ever encounter in my opinion and definitely an item for your bucket list.  Next time we will  rent one of the houses in the Kloof and overnight and enjoy the mountains, gorges, vegetation and clear air.

Gamkaskloof (Die Hel), which was first inhabited by farmers in 1830, was only accessible by foot until 1963 when a road was finally built into the valley.  This is an area of climatic extremes, with very cold winters, often with snow on the mountains and temperatures well below zero, while summers can be uncomfortably hot with temperatures reaching 40°C and more! Rain occurs throughout the year, peaking in early winter and spring, and with thundershowers in the summer months.  

Fortunately for us, we chose a 'cooler' day.  It got quite hot towards lunchtime as we retraced our tracks back to the Swartberg Pass on route to Oudshoorn/George back to Sedgefield.

ROUTE - 2 day tour of Knysna & surrounds 
Day 1 - Karatara,7 Passes Rd (Homtini & Phantom Pass), Knysna, Simola,  through Knysna forest to R339, Prince Alfred's Pass, Uniondale Poort, Uniondale, Olifants River, De Rust, Meiringspoort, R407 to Prince Albert - 300kms
Day 2 - Prince Albert, Swartberg Pass, Gamkaskloof (Die Hel), Schoemanspoort, Oudshoorn, Outeniqua Pass, George, 7 Passes Rd, Karatara  - 300kms 

The Dormeyl's eco friendly and beautiful home in Sedgefield 

Bridge at Homtini Pass
The Nav taking in the views
Breakfast at 'mon petit pain' in Knysna
Gouna - just past Simola - a tricky road for some...
We took a left.. even though the Nav posed to the right... 
Spitskop views
Same view, different angle
Uniondale in the distance
Taking in the views at the Spitskop view point
Finally! have a closer look at the sign...
An oasis and a welcoming stop for a cold drink
and a river runs through it
beautiful ravines
The Nav on route to Uniondale
we took a left

on route to De Rust
beautiful Karoo windmill
he opens gates too 

Blending in

its that way...
Karoo Khaya Guest house in Prince Albert 
Braai at Karoo Khaya in Prince Albert 
is that my Prince Charming?
a work of art and it works! 
quiet main road of Prince Albert
Dirtbin day in the Karoo - where there is a tractor, there is a way!

Video of view from Swartberg Pass

Swartberg Pass 
The Nav - Swartberg Pass
Gamkaskloof (Die Hel) to the right
Otto Du Plessis road into Die Hel
4x4 convoy in the distance
The Nav chatting to 4x4 enthusiasts from Plumstead 
what a view

400m descent to the Kloof
one of many river crossings along the way 
proof that I was there....
at the entrance to the Kloof 
one of many river crossings in the Kloof
Art in the Kloof - anything goes
Drifting along 
Annatjie Joubert's "Fonteinplaas"
the Nav resting in the shade of the farm stall 
making our way back up the mountain
Spectacular views from the top
the Kloof below
we made it! 
Lunch in the shade
Otto du Plessis memorial 
my trusted KLR on top of the world 
a rare sighting - the Nav and the Editor framed 
descending the Swartberg Pass towards Oudshoorn 
7 Passes road back to Karatara

Final Destination - the end of our awesome 2 day tour 

Saturday was our 'rest day' and we took in the sights of Knysna and enjoyed spending some  quality time with Emma and Guy and Ann as they attended an agility training course with their 'well behaved' pooches "Biggles and Jakkals"  - see pics below 

Emma captured most of the photographs of the animals - well done girl - you have a good eye and captured some wonderful memories! 
Biggles putting Guy through his paces
Come on Guy, you can do it, keep up!  shouts Biggles the jack russel! 
Look mom, no paws - Jakkals jumping at least 40cms! 
on your marks, set, GO!  Jakkals and Ann racing to the finish line 

Who would have thought that Biggles could jump so high - the flying jack russel!
Jakkals and Biggles won the prize for most obedient! Unheard of for a jack russel but Biggles has a Guy....

David & Emma at the Knysna waterfront 
Ems enjoying a Moccacino - love it when she speaks foreign... 

meanwhile back at the ranch......

Roodekraal Farm 
and on the farm we found some pigs... oink oink oink oink oink!
Rosemary and Piglet
Horses at play
Free range chickens

The beautiful Jessie the GREAT dane keeping the fort while the family is at play! 

What a FANTASTIC time we had!  Thank you Guy & Ann for your hospitality and for keeping an eye on Emma in our absence.  This trip was memorable for so many reasons but the highlight surely has to be our trip into Die Hel and back.  

We will most certainly be back to do some more exploring on 2 wheels in this magical part of our lovely country!    So many roads to conquer so little time.....

Till next time...

Safe travels everyone
"4 wheels move the body, 2 wheels move the soul"