Mountain passes of the Eastern Cape Highlands
Did you know?
Locally, the Eastern Cape Highlands are known as the ‘tail of the dragon’.
The United States has its legends about the giant Paul Bunyan and his blue ox called Babe. South Africa, in particular the Eastern Cape Highlands, has an equally vivid set of legends, of the legendary Cloete brothers who lived in the mountains near Lady Grey village.
One day, the story goes, two of the Cloete brothers were fighting a gang of seven tough guys in a local bar. For once the brothers were taking a bit of a beating, so they called a time-out.
‘Can we ask our friend to come and join us?’, they requested. ‘He’s sitting in the car outside.’ Their adversaries, believing they already had the better of the Cloetes, agreed.
So the Cloetes brought in their pet lion, which used to sit in a specially strengthened passenger seat of their sedan. The bar cleared in seconds flat.
These are the kinds of lovely mountain tales you will hear in the pubs and guest farms as you drive east from Lady Grey through the Eastern Cape Highlands all the way to the snowy village of Rhodes.
You will enjoy negotiating the 1:6 gradient of Joubert’s Pass, the third highest pass in South Africa. En route, you will see shaggy Galloway cattle, gurgling streams and poplar groves as you drive along the winding cliff-side routes.
Volunteer’s Hoek Pass takes you on to the Wartrail area within sight of the Maluti Mountains and Lesotho. You will see many old sandstone farmhouses, full of their own memories, and if the road is slick from rain or snow, just maintain a steady speed and do not rev the engine suddenly.
Up at Carlisle’s Hoek, the potentially rough patches have concrete tracks to provide purchase for your tyres. At the bottom of the pass, you will be rewarded with the sight of the village of Rhodes.
This is where you admire the horns of Wydeman the Giant Ox at the local hotel, and then troop off for beers and pizza at Walkerbouts Inn while watching Dave Walker’s well-muscled African clawed frogs do jumping jacks in his fish tank.
Continue to Naude’s Neck, the highest mountain pass in South Africa. Before ascending, however, stop off at the Naude’s Neck Monument, mainly dedicated to Stefan and Gabriel Naude, who led construction of this pass in 1896.
Up at Lundean’s Neck via the Wartrail, you will find the Isted family, who have been there for nearly two centuries. It’s a comparatively gentle pass that takes you up to Telle Bridge on the Lesotho border. Ready for more mountains?
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