The Bloukrans Pass is a narrow two lane road that twists and winds down the side of a beautiful valley, crosses a river bridge, and then climbs up the other side, still snaking around bends and turns.
Overhead, tall trees reach for the light, while lacy swathes of long grey strands of lichen (old man’s beard) hang from their branches and ripple gently in the breeze.
There is no point being in a hurry to drive through the valley – there is nowhere to pass slower vehicles, and the road zig zags so that visibility around the next bend is non existent. I travelled this road many times as a child and loved the way the car gently rocked me from side to side as we drove through the curves. There was so much time to take in the beautiful scenery. This is where my love of trees, plants and forests was born.
The Bloukrans Pass used to be a busy road, one of three ‘passes’ on the road along the Garden Route on the south coast of South Africa. These time consuming routes are now all bypassed, with enormous concrete bridges stretching across the valleys. So in modern times, the traffic is no longer an issue on the passes, which I think makes the windy river crossings even more special.
The Bloukrans River Bridge at the bottom of the pass is in a very pretty setting and it is favourite spot of mine. It has a small weir upstream of the bridge and a rare parking spot to pull off the road to appreciate the views of the bridge and the water.
This open area is also a favourite haunt for baboons who come down for a drink, because they have good visibility to keep a lookout for danger. Roadsigns warn against feeding these animals as they quickly become accustomed to cars being a potential source of food and can become quite a nuisance. Baboons can get quite large, especially the males, and can be dangerous if not treated with caution. But it is good to see these wild animals in their own habitat and they are also so like humans in their mannerisms – a treat to watch.
As a child, the thing that fascinated me most about about this beautiful place was the colour of the water. It is crystal clear, but is brown and looks for all the world like a river of cola! The colour is actually caused by natural tannins which leach from the plants growing in the catchment and is common in the streams and rivers of the area.
Unfortunately, the roads in these passes are now starting to deteriorate and eventually they may have to be closed to general traffic. This will be a sad day for those who enjoy these lovely forests and their picturesque rivers of cola!