Tulbagh and Bains Kloof Pass November 2020

When we left Swartberg Pass, we headed back to Cape Town. Always looking for the roads less travelled, we decided on a road between Laingsburg and Touwsrivier that runs paralell with the N1 and passes the Witteberg Nature Reserve.

We had read that there was somewhere a cave with Khoisan Art and we wanted to go and see. The road was very good and after an initial little pass, we ended up in the valley and had a flat drive all the way.

At one moment we were stopped by a bakkie and the farmer asked us if we were lost. When we explained we were just tourists and were looking for the caves, he said they had been closed quite a while ago due to vandalism.

So… unfortunately no rock-art stop. We continued out of the valley, hit the N1 again somewhere between Matjiesfontein and Touwsrivier and started looking out for a place to sleep. As we wanted to fill up tanks and catch up with website and photo/video editing, we got ourselves a spot at the Touwsriver Caravan Park.

At our R&R spot we had looked at the map and decided to do the Bainskloof Pass the following day.

Unfortunately the weather was awful with the mountains shrouded with clouds and showers pelting down every so often. The closer we got to the pass, we concluded that that day was not the day to do the pass, because we most probably would not see a thing.

So we continued to Tulbagh to see out the rainy day and hope for better weather the following day.

We parked our truck and sauntered up and down the main street.

On our return we were hailed by a little group of people outside Sarons Kunsteater. We figured out that the historical museum and tourism info were closed (it was Sunday) and thought… why not join these people.

And man… did we have a party or what!

Although it seems as if the original Saronsberg Kunstheater is closed, it has been revamped into an art gallery… where we could get a glass/bottle of wine.

Back downstairs, we joined a little crowd as they were listening to a live band ‘Theron&Canfield”: a South African/American duet. Their music was amazing!

(see our own experience of that night in the TruckWithAView compilation video below  and listen to a sampling of their music here.) 

From one glass comes another and before we knew, Stefaan did the grand tour of Trokkie for a few of the guests, and later on we joined another crowd for more chatter on the balcony.

Although we had been invited by one lady to come and park the truck on her farm, by the time we decided to go to bed, Stefaan was definitely not in a condition to drive another km. We slept where we had parked in the street.

The next morning the weather had cleared substantially and we took a leisurely walk towards the museum to learn some more about the devastating earth quake of 1969. The historical street is lined with beautifully restored cottages set in flowery gardens.

After that we left for Bainskloof pass.

Stefaan had watched a video on the Mountain Passes South Africa website and it looked very do-able: tar road all the way, length restrictions at 9m (we are 7m) and height restriction 2,87m high (we are 2.55 high)

On our way out of Tulbagh to Bainskloof, we passed the pastoral wheatfields set against the dramatic Winterhoek mountains, with the huge bales strewn over the freshy harvested fields and cattle enjoying a refreshing dip in a small dam. 

When we turned off the main road and entered the pass we saw that there were road works in progress with stop and go’s for part of the pass.

Even though the pass is a tarred road all the way, it was still a scary trip for me (once again). Because of the roadworks, there were little beacons placed in the middle of the road which made the lanes ultra narrow. In normal circumstances Stefaan drive in the middle of the road or hug the mountainside of the road and only move to the ravine side of the road if there is on-coming traffic.

In this case we couldn’t! The beacons in the middle of the road between the two lanes, didn’t allow for the “middle of the road” scenario. Which meant that most of the time we were squeezing between the beacons and the ravine drop side… my side!

I’m afraid that I didn’t enjoy the scenery to the full because I kept my eyes glued on the road. Early on we had been warned by some of the roadworkers that we might not make it with our truck, but we relied on the information we got from the video AND the signage at the start of the pass: our dimensions were within the parameters.

When we got to the end of one of the ‘stop and go’ sections we saw a line of cars patiently waiting for us. Unfortunately this didn’t help with my stress. It’s one thing to negotiate the narrow space between beacon and ravine drop for just a meter and then swing back to the middle of the road for a short distance till we need to squeeze past the next beacon again, it’s a whole different thing to negotiate this narrow space with ravine on one side and a line of cars on the other side. As I didn’t have a choice, I eventually hung out of my window to see how many centimeters Stefaan could still move to the ravine side in an effort to prevent crashing into one of the cars. I think that there were moments that we only had a hands width between the tyre and the stone barrier at the edge of the road.

We saw a few drivers of the waiting cars get out of their vehicle to help us negotiate the narrow passage and some were taking photos. I give my eye tooth to see the pictures because I think it must have been a scary (daring?) sight to see this truck fit between cars and ravine with only centimeters to spare. Maybe because there were shrubs on the ravine side, I didn’t actually see the drop and I kinda survived that short but hair raising section.

We continued and I was still anticipating the Dacres Pulpit (image middle left), a low overhanging rock. Although the height restrictions that we had seen on the video seemed ok, I was still a bit nervous of getting stuck. But… we passed under it smoothly. Great relief on my side!

A little further up the road, the roadworks ‘stop and go’ sections came to an end we stopped for a view down the gorge.

(video footage of the pass in the TruckWithAView video above)

We had a little chat with one of the flag waving roadworkers who do a very necessary but not always the nicest job: the environment is beautiful, but she stands there alone for the whole day and doesn’t feel too brave when she hears the baboons (I’m with her on that one, you wouldn’t find me alone in the mountains, knowing there are baboons and sometimes leopards.)

The rest of our trip was uneventful and we ended up in Somerset (once again) for our next stage of sorting out stuff.

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