The Ox Wagon Route starts near Heidelberg in die Western Cape from where
it crosses the Langeberg mountains via Gysmanshoek Pass into the Klein
Gysmanshoek Pass, or Plattekloof Pass as it was also known, was opened up in 1740 by the Trekboers (migrant farmers). It was well used and even mentioned by famous explorers William Burchell and the botanist Carl Thunberg in their travel diaries.
The historic pass lies between way-points S33 58.220 E21 03.085 in the south and S33 53.468 E21 03.604 in the North.
is an easy start to the Ox Wagon Trail as Southern Cape passes go, but
interesting nonetheless. It runs through three farms, Plattekloof in the
South, then Kanetberg and Kortfontein on the Karoo side.
scenery and flora changes dramatically as to cross to the Northern
slopes turning into typical fynbos and eventually Karoo vegetation. The
Southern portion though is lush and green:
But that changes soon as you start to enter the mountains.
track is generally in good condition and once in the mountains you are
alone with little or no signs of civilization around. Just the way I
Looking back - notice the contrast, how much greener the side facing South is:
Pass runs through this gentle valley, a very easy road to build in
those times. And yet, about 120 years after this route to the Klein
Karoo opened they chose to build the Tradouw pass, a massive undertaking
over very challenging terrain, instead of upgrading Gysmanshoek Pass.
It almost makes no sense until you consider what it was like in the days
of animal drawn vehicles.
When the inhabitants of Swellendam
wished to get to the Little Karoo on the other side of the Langeberg
they had to travel either via Cogmans Kloof 50 kilometres to the west,
or via Gysmanshoek, 30 kilometres to the east. Huge distances in those
days worth days of traveling time. This of course also applied to Little
Karoo farmers who wished to transport their produce to Port Beaufort on
the Breede River, which Joseph Barry had opened to shipping in 1841.
the construction of the Tradouw and Garcia's passes in 1873 & 1877
respectively, Gysmanshoek Pass fell in disuse. It came in handy for a
Boer Commando during the Anglo-Boer War though, when they used
Gysmanshoek Pass to flee back to the Karoo after attacking the
headquarters of the West Yorkshire Regiment at the Masonic Hotel in
Heidelberg on the 14th of September 1901.
Today the road is seldom used, mostly by local farmers.
wrote about crossing the Langeberg in 1777. He commented in his
journal: "Upon reaching the summit of the mountain, we were presented to
the south with a view to the sea, and on the North... the Channa Land
Looking back at the pass from the Karoo side:
the most challenging pass you'll encounter, but the remoteness and
solitude will more than make up for that. You are unlikely to encounter
other traffic on this pass. I never have.
From here you continue
East on well maintained gravel roads along the Langeberg mountains to
the Gouritz river and beyond to the next portion of the Ox Wagon Trail -