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ROOIBERG PASS – This isn’t just a pile of rocks!
A late start today. But I wasn’t stressed. I was doing this drive on my own. A self-indulgent recharge from an “interesting” week. In the driveway sits a Subaru Forester X Lineartronic 4×4. An all wheel drive SUV – resplendent in silver, reflecting the morning sun. Compliments of Action Rentals, the Subaru rental guys here in George.
Despite the late start, the roads are quiet. Too quiet unfortunately. The curves of Outeniqua Pass lie ahead and by the time the top has been reeled in, I have a large grin fixed to my mug. Once you get used to the slight body roll, the Forester hustles along at a pace that is more Lambo than Landie. Always within the speed limit of course! Who has budget for speeding fines?
Once on the straight and narrow, the cruise control takes over and I sit back and review my home for the next few hours. All the necessities are there – no heads up displays or pop up toasters but climate control, height and reach adjustable steering wheel, superb seats, Bluetooth audio – with multiple device connectivity –and an excellent level of NVH and refinement ensure a level of comfort that would be the envy of many luxo-barges. Pondering these niceties acts as a distraction and soon Outdshoorn is behind and Calitzdorp is beckoning.
Such a quaint little town. A quick stop to get some port – oops desert wine? Not allowed to call it port any more are we – and it’s off towards Van Wyk’s Dorp. Via the Rooiberg Pass…did I mention that that is today’s route? A scenic, rough but not bone breaking drive through the Rooiberg Pass on the road that joins Van Wyk’s Dorp to Calitzdorp.
If you enjoy an occasional bout of solitude, you will really enjoy this drive. The feeling that you are the last person around (you know, the one who needs to turn off the lights) is always there. I saw one other car at the start of the journey and after that nada till Van Wyk’s Dorp! Sweeping mountain vistas will take your breath away, while steep ascents – especially in the first few kilometres – and multiple switchbacks and sharp bends ensure that there is no let-up in your concentration. Fortunately for me, the car once again deals with it all with aplomb allowing me to revel in this challenging drive.
Rooibergpas. 797m. 1928. So says the sign. Off to the right is an interesting cairn of stones. Piled high by travellers since the 19th century, it signifies their thanks for the safe passage on this road. I love these little titbits of history that abound in the Garden Route!
And so, on to the descent. A lot more gradual but that only adds to that feeling of wide open spaces. Seems contradictory but surrounded by mountains and gorges, you nonetheless feel…..
“ROOIBERG LODGE” Tea, coffee, cold beer. Have to detour here. Just 500m off the road is a 4 star lodge providing libation of your choice. Next time, I’ll take a chauffeur!
From here on, the road continues gently but no less scenic. It does however allow a bit of time to think. While there are many cars that could have done this drive, there are very few that would have felt quite so at home in all the different conditions encountered. From twisty black ribbon to loose rocks up steep climbs, from tight gravel turns to fast open stretches of gravel, the Forester really is the ultimate all-rounder. Almost on cue, the clouds that have been threatening for the last hour or so open up and add mud to the equation. It’s brief though which is just as well as there are multiple river crossings to come….
What a superb drive! What great scenery! The rolling mountains appear endless and you are almost in Mossel Bay before they finally surrender their grip on you! Take the time and chat to the people in the towns on either side of the pass – there really are worse ways to spend a day.
Rent a Subaru 4×4….Explore the Garden Route!
Footnote: The suggested guided self drive tours are still on offer. Both local as well as more distant drives are available. Visit www.mountainpassessouthafrica.co.za to get a taste of what can be done. E mail George.firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.