Cape Town - South Africa
The mountains above Bainskloof village
To the east of Cape Town we are surrounded by mountains.
It was these mountains that the Dutch and the English
(in their quest to colonise South Africa )
had to cross to get to the interior.
As you look at the Hottentots Holland mountains as they soar
above you they look quite impossible to cross, yet these hardy
people found ways through them to the north and eventually built roads through them.
There are a number of mountain passes out of
Cape Town and today we will visit the Bainskloof Pass.
The pass was opened on the 13/14 September 1853
and this year will be a 150 years old. It was built
by Andrew Geddes Bain after whom it was named.
To drive over this pass one has to travel to the country town
of Wellington which is about 20 kilometres due
north of Paarl in the same valley as Paarl.
The pass runs up the western slopes of the
Hottentots Holland Mountain Range .
At its base the road is cut into the mountain slopes and
has some very sharp hairpin bends on its way to the top.
The first kilometre or two run through pine forests on the
slopes of the mountain. Once past that you reach
the fynbos on the higher slopes where there are many protea species growing on the mountain side.
At this time of the year they are really pretty as they are all in bloom.
The views from the pass down into the Wellington valley are spectacular.
Graves of convicts who died building the pass
Once at the top of the pass there is a small plain where a village called Eerste Tol has been established.
It has about a dozen houses in it most of which date back to the 1840's. There are also a number of convict graves
between the houses which have been surrounded by chains to protect them.
Once you have passed through the village you arrive on the sheer parts of the Bainskloof pass.
The road has been cut into the sides of the mountain and is very narrow. It used to be a gravel road and was used by horse and carts in days gone by.
It is a tarred road now.
The sides of the road slope steeply downwards and there are sheer drops of hundreds of metres
into the river below.The view from the road down onto the river and across the
valley to the mountains on the otherside are spectacular.
The road also has height restrictions as there are a number of large boulders which stick out across the road.
Over the years there have been numerous problems when trucks have used the pass and have found their cargoes to tall to get
under the obstructions.
Trucks driving on this road are unable to turn around so if they get stuck they block the whole pass for hours.
There are not many places to pull over either.
As you exit the pass at the northern end you cross the Breede River which has its source in the mountains above Ceres.
The road to Ceres follows the river along its western bank and eventually crosses the river at the beginning of the Mitchells Pass which wends its way
through some spectacular mountain scenery.
Entering Ceres at the northern end of the Mitchells Pass you come across a slope which is littered with rocks which looks like a real moonscape.
Ceres is situated in the beautiful Ceres valley and
is a fruit growing area. It is well known for its apples which it exports
to all corners of the world.
The town of Ceres is very pretty with roads lined with tall
oak trees. There are many little rivers flowing down from
the mountains which surround it and these are channelled
through the town by a mini canal system.
In the town is a small pine forest where they have a campsite
and wooden chalets. It is very relaxing to stay there and
wake up to the smell of the pine trees in the morning.
I have very many happy memories of the
times we stayed there when I was a child.
The town boasts a number of hotels with the
Belmont Hotel being the best.This hotel used to have a tame baboon (about 35 years ago)
which was chained to a post in the middle of a courtyard.
When he saw people he used to perform, turn somersaults etc.
Sometimes he was given live cigarettes by people and when he
burnt his mouth he used to shower then with stones. (Cruel)
One day he escaped and chased everybody. You should have seen
the people scatter when this happened. It was really funny
to watch. I've never run so fast in my life.
In the winter when it snows Ceres becomes a winter wonderland.
One of the few places where the locals can reach the snow without having to climb a mountain.
When this happens Ceres is besieged by thousands of visitors
who come to see and play in the snow.
Snow is very scarce down this part of the world so exporting
some of yours to us could become big business.
Ceres is situated in a volcanically active area and often has small earthquakes.
Back in the 1960's it was the epicentre of a large quake which hit this part of the world.
There was much damage done in the surrounding towns of Tulbagh and Wolseley.
A trip into the Bainskloof and Ceres mountains and a drive through the passes is a must
as the stark beauty of the mountains must be seen to be appreciated.
For those wishing to spend a day in Bainskloof and to enjoy a swim in the river Tweede Tol offers the best facilities.
To contact them here are their details.
Phone 021 4832949 or 021 4833500
Email: Geoff Fairman
6 Bothma Street, Monte Vista 7460 South Africa
© 2013 Turtle SA - All Rights Reserved - Bainskloof
Page Updated 8.5.2015