Saturday, July 31, 2010

Prince Alfred's Pass & De Vlugt


Prince Alfred's Pass is named after the second son of Queen Victoria, who later became the Duke of Edinburgh. He joined the Royal Navy and in 1867 visited the Cape aboard H.M.S. Galatea as part of a world cruise. He visited Knysna, where he took part in an elephant hunt and had time to inspect the pass named after him.

The pass was urgently needed by the middle of the 19th century as Knysna had grown into a thriving town built on the timber industry. A route from Plettenberg Bay to De Vlugt existed, but it was a terrible road and Andrew Geddes Bain and his son was commissioned to find a route inland from Knysna. After the reconnaissance Andrew reported: The fearfull ruggedness of the road outstrips even that between George and Knysna and that is saying enough."

Work on the pass began in 1860. The road would cut through the forest from Knysna and in one spot climbed 700m over a mere 14km. They had enormous difficulty in cutting and felling through the dense forest. The trees were huge, many with trunks 70ft long and 30ft in girth. Clearing these trees away and rooting out the large stumps took quite some doing.

Eventually in 1863 Thomas and his family moved to De Vlugt to be near the work commencing in the Poort. Very little has changed in De Vlugt since then. The convict camp area is all but gone, but most buildings are still there.

(Click on map to enlarge)

Bain's house:

Another homestead:

The view of De Vlugt today as seen from the Northern Side:

In the foreground you can see the old shop, with the "Blikhuis" (wrought iron house) in the background and Bain's house behind on the right.

I could not get closer to Bain's house when I was there but here is an closer shot:

"Die Kliphuis" (Stone house)

The well known tea garden - be sure to sample some of the home made milk tart here.

Shop / Butchery in 1945:

The pass continues from here to Avontuur. This pass has several points of interest and on the Northern Section from here to Avontuur these places have recently been signposted.

(Click on map to enlarge)

Riding North the first point of interest is Bain's Pillar:

Bain reportedly marvelled at this majestic natural stone pillar. I can see why, it is quite a sight. You can easily miss it though if you don't look for it because from a distance it just blends in with the rock face behind.

Tata Riet se Gat:

Tata Riet was a farmhand who worked for Esias van Rensburg, a farmer in De Vlugt, at the beginning of the century. Tata Riet used to sleep in this shelter from time to time.


Here a huge wild elder (Nuxia floribunda) used to give shelter to travellers - alas, no longer. Fortunately the mother tree left some offspring and there are a few small elders at this bend.

The road ahead as seen from Vlierdraai:

Just across the bridge you find the Convict's grave.

While the pass was being built, a rock-slide killed one of the convicts here. He was buried where he lay as there was no time for a funeral.

Looking back at the Convict's grave and Vlierdraai:

Next up - "Hangkrans" (Hanging cliff)

This was (is?) a danger point for high vehicles with high loads. Many have come to grief here.

"Die Kerf" (The Cutting)

Bain did considerable blasting to make way for the road here.

"Voor de Poort"

You'll find this sign just to the North of the "Poort" signaling that you are about to enter the Poort if you are travelling in a Southerly direction.

"Bo Voogt se Kraal"

The original bridle path - used before the pass was built - leaves the present road here.

Tiekielief Draai (Ticket-of-Leave-Ridge)

After the pass had been completed, in 1867, the convicts were given their "Ticket of Leave" (their freedom) on this ridge.

From here to the top you still find "Koue Water Draai" (Cold Water Bend) and "Rooi-Els Draai" where several Red Elder trees stood. Popular places to rest and quench your thirst.

And finally - "Die Kruin" (The Summit)

The summit is 1050m above sea-level and the highest point on the pass. Just look at this view:

Some more random shots of my ride on Prince Alfred's pass:

A spectacular pass built by a brilliant engineer. No matter which direction you came from, with the Jamboree being held in De Vlugt you rode through beautiful scenery as you had to ride at least a piece of the pass to get there.

Jamboree attendees could hardly have asked for a better venue.

Source: Prince Alfred's Pass: Spectacular and Diverse - Ilse Meyer


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