In the late 1870s, master pass builder Thomas Bain arrived in the Tsitsikamma to look at the possibility of building passes through the three gorges standing in the way of a road linking the Plettenberg Bay area to Port Elizabeth in the east. Bain plotted the best and easiest way through the Groot River, Bloukrans River and Storms River gorges by following the elephant footpaths and construction started in 1879. The Bloukrans Pass was completed in 1880 with the Storms River Pass, the last to be completed, in 1885.
Sadly the pass was damaged by heavy rains that led to flooding and heavy rockfalls in 2007. Rather than repairing the pass, it was allowed to degenerate into such a state of disrepair that it was declared closed to traffic. Even though officially closed, it is possible to get past the heap of soil placed on the road on the Eastern Cape side to stop vehicles from entering. Being an adventurer and explorer at heart, I slipped by and entered a world that felt like it came straight out of The Walking Dead television series.
As you descend the road narrows to a single lane in many places. The Bloukrans is a proper pass with sharp bends, sheer cliffs on one side of the road in many places and in some areas the tree canopy covers the whole road. Because the road is so narrow you have to drive very carefully and approach turns slowly in case there is somebody coming from the other side.
At the bottom of the pass, I stopped after crossing the bridge over the river and got out of my car to enjoy the magnificence of nature around me. The forest, the stream, the sound of the birds, the sun on my face and just the feeling of freedom.
The Bloukrans River flows dark like most of the other rivers along the Garden Route due to the tannin it picks up flowing through the forests and Fynbos in the region. The pool next to the bridge looked welcoming but I settled for just sticking my feet in.
Starting my journey back up the pass on the Western Cape side, I was delighted to see that there was construction taking place and that side of the pass was being repaired and restored. If only the Eastern Cape government would do the same on their side.
The Bloukrans Pass sure deserves to be one of the biggest tourist attractions on the Garden Route. Fixed up it is accessible to everybody as it’s not a dirt road pass that you need a 4×4 for. If you have time and are feeling a little rebellious then I would really encourage you to take a drive through the pass and enjoy its natural beauty now, because it may still be a very long wait for it to be fixed and officially open again.