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