Saturday, June 29, 2024

Slanghoek Valley and Bainskloof Pass

So after having had the CRF1100 DCT Africa Twin test bike for two weeks, it was time to return it to Cape Town. But when you have access to a vehicle like this you don’t simply return it, you make a trip of it!

The return trip was just over 450km and I had a whole day to do it in, so I decided on a two-fold plan. This trip was going to be my 400km+ trip in the Turkana Challenge and I was also going to start with the passes bit of the challenge.

I wanted to get the bulk of the distance done and then explore a beautiful area a mere 90km from Cape Town. Slanghoek Valley (Slanghoek directly translates to “snake corner”) is not exactly remote, it is situated just off the N1, South Africa’s biggest main road. But because it’s a secondary road running through a valley not really linking anything, you probably wont be driving or riding there unless you specifically went there. The route is a gently meandering tar road along the valley between the impressive Slanghoek Mountains and the smaller Badsberg mountain.

The drive through the valley is a visual feast. A symphony of mountains, legends & vines.

The valley’s geographic position, fertile, varied soils and micro-climate is perfectly suited for growing several different grapes. The Western Cape, which is responsible for over 90% of South Africa’s wine, is home to a number of different wine regions, districts and small wards. The Slanghoek wine region is one of these wards, located in the Breede River Valley. Established in 1951, Slanghoek Cellar is the only winery in the ward and makes a wide selection of red, white, sweet, fortified and sparkling wines. As a result, the winery has received several prestigious awards, highlighting this powerful ward.

The hidden gem of the beautiful Slanghoek valley – and a river runs through it.

And when you have a pillion, you can have a pic of yourself crossing the river.

After exciting the valley, I still had to cross the mountain to get to Cape Town and in the Western Cape you are spoilt for choice when it comes to passes across the mountain. When I fetched this bike I rode Du Toitskloof Pass, so today on the way back I decided to tackle Bainskloof Pass as it’s a natural continuation of the Slanghoek Valley ride.

Built circa 1849 by the famous Andrew Geddes Bain, this pass was no easy feat to build, working with convicts and raw, rough materials and methods. But as usual Bain did a marvellous job of the pass which, having stood the test of time, is now a national monument.

It was a much loved route by the wagoneers who appreciated the gentle gradients that the oxwagons could manage. It remained the main road to the north for almost a hundred years, before the Du Toits Kloof Pass was constructed from 1940 till 1946.

The northern section of the pass roughly follows the course of the Witte River. There are many points of interest along the pass including the two toll points (Eerste & Tweede Tol), Dacre's Pulpit, Bell Rocks, Pilkington bridge, Borcherd's bridge, Gawie se Water, Bain's Ruins and Bain's Tunnel. The road was resurfaced recently and is in excellent condition, but it is a narrow route and there are not many safe places to stop, otherwise there would be a hundred photos in this report. It’s just that spectacular!

Dacres Pulpit is a precariously balanced overhanging rock. There is a height restriction, which keeps heavy trucks and busses off the pass. I do have a photo of myself riding under Dacre's Pulpit.

This photo was taken in 2016 during the world launch of the then new CRF1000 Africa Twin. I was riding an Adventure Sport at the time. Still one of my favourite pics.

I also stopped to photograph Borcherd's Bridge. The only way to see and photograph the stonework under the bridge is to access the campsite and take the short walk under the bridge, but unfortunately they were closed by the time we got there.

The corners along the pass are very tight and dangerous, so even though you are gawking at the scenery you need to keep your wits about you. There are 101 bends, curves and sharp corners with drop-offs that are near vertical and the only protection is a row of large spaced rocks.

Reaching the Western side of the pass you are treated to spectacular views.

And of course a picture of my bike and the pass info as record for the Turkana Challenge. The first 610m of my 10 000m passes challenge done.

And the 400+km trip challenge completed!

Slanghoek Valley and Bainskloof pass is a slight detour when heading to Cape Town, but if you have the time it is highly recommended!


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