28 of South Africa’s favourite Passes and Poorts
Is not our first thought to go on the road?
The road is our source, our vault of treasures, our wealth.
– Ryszard Kapuściński, Travels with Herodotus (Penguin, 2007), p.258
The magic of mountains
What is it that draws us to the mountains? Is it something that was bred into our genes when we lived as hunter-gatherers, seeking high points from which we could survey the landscape and spot possible prey – and where we could feel relatively safe from being preyed upon? Is it because these unspoiled highlands lift our spirits in a way that the busy bustle of the cities cannot hope to match?
Mountains are among the last wilderness areas to escape the farmer’s plough and the bulldozer’s blade. The rugged terrain is unsuitable for development, and mountain ranges are often protected because they are important watersheds in our thirsty land.
Road passes offer quick and easy access points into these wonderful wildernesses. Without them, these lofty heights would be restricted to the fit and the strong, those who can hike, bike and ride the steep and rough pathways to summits and saddles.
Today we travel for the pleasure of exploring new places, seeing magnificent scenery and experiencing how other people live. The network of modern roads is so convenient that we seldom give thought to how they came about.
Roads develop for a reason – it’s not always as dramatic as a gold rush; often it’s as prosaic as farmers needing to get their produce to market. A route is an expression of a need in a community. The more difficult it is to build the road, the greater the need has to be before this comes about.
Rough tracks through the veld used to do the job, but as transport has developed, our needs have become more sophisticated.
Enhancing your travel experience
This old wagon never made it down Naudes’ Nek Pass.
We have such a fine network of roads that we scarcely think about the enormous effort that has gone into making so many of our modern mountain passes a safe and easy journey as we speed over them. Conversely, those seeking to recapture the spirit of adventure so readily available to the early travellers are only too keen to jump into their 4x4s or onto their mountain bikes and head off into some of our wilder parts on tracks less travelled.
In this book, Marion has provided descriptions of a range of passes to whet the appetite of modern explorers of all persuasions, from the tough pioneer passes over the Langeberg and Outeniqua mountains in the scenic Garden Route, to the easy tarred passes sweeping over Mpumalanga’s magnificent Drakensberg in graceful curves. To enhance pass chasers’ enjoyment, there is background on how the route developed over time, and snippets of information about the people, places, fauna and flora along the way, plus odd quirky facts and anecdotes that Marion found fascinating during her own explorations.
Use the practical advice on the best trails and activities, plus where to eat and stay, to plan your trips for maximum pleasure.
Enjoy the ride and travel safely.
Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing
lessons from God.
– Kurt Vonnegut Jr, Cat’s Cradle
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