GREAT DRIVE

go! - - Contents - WORDS & PIC­TURES SOPHIA VAN TAAK

Head from Union­dale to De Vlugt via the north­ern side of Prince Al­fred’s Pass.

Prince Al­fred’s Pass be­tween Union­dale and Knysna is one of the most scenic routes con­nect­ing the in­te­rior and the coast. You drive through the Lit­tle Ka­roo and the or­chards of the Langk­loof and down the slopes of the Outeni­qua Moun­tains. And there’s lunch wait­ing in De Vlugt!

From Union­dale, ad­ven­ture lies in any di­rec­tion: The Lit­tle Ka­roo is to the west and the Great Ka­roo is north over the Swart­berg. To the east, the Baviaanskloof and the Langk­loof cut through the land­scape. To the south, the Outeni­qua Moun­tains fade into the Knysna For­est. I’m head­ing south on the R339 and it’s al­ready scenic by the time I’ve changed to se­cond gear. The first 10 km sec­tion winds through Die Poort and passes the Gideon Scheep­ers Memo­rial, erected to com­mem­o­rate a Boer com­man­dant who fought Bri­tish troops on the nearby Gold Dig­gings farm in 1901. Soon af­ter, the road crosses the R62 near Avon­tuur and starts to climb Prince Al­fred’s Pass. Of course, there are eas­ier routes to fol­low if you want to travel south from Union­dale, like the Outeni­qua Pass on the N12 to Ge­orge, or the R62 through the Langk­loof to Hu­mans­dorp. But Prince Al­fred’s Pass is the most quiet and the pret­ti­est by a long shot. It does re­quire pa­tience, though. There are lots of sharp bends and the sur­face can de­te­ri­o­rate af­ter heavy rain. But you’ll likely be the only ve­hi­cle on the road. The Ka­roo at my back and the for­est ahead re­minds me of Daleen Matthee’s Fiela’s Child. In the movie, there’s a scene where Fiela Ko­moetie walks up this very road to get to her os­trich farm in the Langk­loof, af­ter hav­ing vis­ited Elias van Rooyen at Diep­walle in the Knysna For­est. Fiela was wor­ried about her adopted son Ben­jamin, so she probably wasn’t pay­ing much at­ten­tion to her sur­round­ings. Not me; I’m en­tranced. I drive past farms for the first 4 km, be­fore drop­ping down off a ridge. I pull over where it’s safe and take in the view, imag­in­ing how road en­gi­neer Thomas Bain might have stood in the same place in 1863 with a pen­cil and a note­book, try­ing to vi­su­alise a way through the moun­tains. I get back into the car and carry on. The road goes down, down, down – on my map the contour lines are so close to­gether it’s hard to tell them apart.

Some of the cor­ners on the pass have names. Like Tiekieliefie Draai, for ex­am­ple, named af­ter the “ticket of leave” given to the pris­on­ers who built the pass once they’d served their sen­tence. Down be­low in the kloof, the road fol­lows the course of Voogt se Rivier and I pull over to see the bridges and stone walls that Bain built with­out us­ing a dol­lop of ce­ment. I scram­ble down to a moun­tain stream to dip my toes in the wa­ter. Back on the road, I snap a photo of graf­fiti on a sharp bend that reads: “Jy loer

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