Backwards on Joubert Pass
Your article that showcased Lady Grey, among other towns, took me far back. In 2004, we were en route to East London from Limpopo, where I had temporary employment. Our kids had spent a night at the Lammergeier Nature Reserve and recommended we visit it too.
I consulted the map and saw that Joubert Pass, southwest of Lady Grey, has a slope of 1:5. It was going to be a challenge for our 1960 Bedford camper van with its Ford engine I had to have installed because Bedford parts were no longer available.
One peaceful night at Lammergeier later, we headed up the pass… It all went well until we were about three-quarters of the way up that 1:5 incline, and the first gear proved too fast and too weak to get our big bulk any further. We couldn’t turn around – at that stage it was just a one-way – and reversing was the only way out. The camper van’s living area extended 50cm on both sides of the cabin, so we had to reverse with the help of two mirrors only.
My wife, Bes, had to get out and guide me from the front so I could navigate the steep slope with its twists and turns. Reversing that three-quarter-kilometre stretch felt like an eternity.
Four years later, Joubert Pass still haunted me, but this time we tackled it in a 1986 Suzuki Vitara. What a wonderful trip. You simply can’t beat the platteland and its natural wonders.