4 days, 10 Eastern Cape dirt passes - Day3 & Day4

GeelKameel's picture






I woke up very early at the Gubu dam, but getting up took some time.

I enjoyed just lying there listening to the sounds of the birds and the silence.

 We planned to fuel up at Stutterheim and have breakfast at the Old Thomas River Village about 50km from the dam.

At 08h00 we were ready to roll, except for a few repairs. Jaco bonded his mirror back onto the stalk. He used metallic powder and cyanoacrylate glue (ehh superglue) producing a very successful repair.

I had an easier yet less permanent repair to my riding boot. The sole came adrift and I had to use duct tape and cable ties to keep the sole on the riding boot.

The route for today: Stutterheim > Thomas River > Cathcart > Whittlesea > Spring Valley > De Beers pass > Bedford

Dirt road to Stutterheim, re-fuel and then 30km tar (N6) to the turn-off to the historic Thomas River Village.

The link road from N6 to Thomas River is short and pleasant.

The Thomas River Village dates back to 1870. It is named after Thomas Bentley, an English deserter that was killed by Bushmen when he tried to cross the Thomas river. A railway station was established here in 1870. The last train to pass here was in 1948. Since 2003 the village was restored by Jeff and Ann Sansom.  Accommodation is available (cottages and camping)

Unfortunately we found nobody at home, so we could only look through windows into the Pub Museum and the historic Dining Room. No breakfast, unfortunately, but we could wander through the open air part of the renowned Ramble Restaurant. We also could not look around in the Vintage Motor Museum and Wagon Museum.

Next stop Cathcart for breakfast. Already the day was becoming very hot.

Six km outside Cathcart we turned west onto dirt, towards Whittlesea. For most of the first part we were treated to a road surface that was corrugated in places and long stretches of embedded heavy gravel. Bike and body was rattling all the way.

The Hilto Methodist church.

About 6km short of Whittlesea was a short yet very attractive pass. I do not know the name, if it has a name. West of the summit we made a waterstop and enjoyed the panorama towards Whittlesea.

Beyond Whittlesea was a dirt road towards Tsolwana Game Park. At the first (shadeless) waterstop we agreed to look out for a dam or any form of water to cool off. We skirted the park on the northern side without any sign of a dam or river or anything wet.

Then, suddenly, serious brake marks!

At the north-western tip of the Tsolwana game park we came to a low water bridge with water!  Immediate waterstop and rest among the trees.

The trees on the sandy bank were slowly being swallowed by the Swart Kei river.

Soaking the jackets with water turned out to be a very cooling idea.

Twenty km of pleasant dirt road took us to the R344, then 6km south on the R344 to Fair View and another 20km to Spring Valley. Along the way I watched the very conspicuous Mount Mary and Mount Martha, as we went past and around them.

Some beautiful nature along the Tarka river


​Waterstop  at Spring Valley and turn west to the Volstruisnek pass and De Beers pass.

Volstruisnek pass came and went without us knowing where it was. Not much of a pass, I would say.

Twelve km from Spring Valley is the start of the De Beers pass.

About 6km long, a real pass and very attractive as well. Interesting geology, vegetation and quite a variety of road conditions. I believe in winter one can expect snow. The road is fairly narrow, but in good condition. Not much technical riding provided you keep your speed under control.  Through the pass we descended into the valley along the Baviaans river.

Riding all along the Baviaans river was a pleasant experience. It was on the heat of the day and we did not see animals. Late afternoon and early morning you are virtually guaranteed to see kudu, deer and duiker along the road.

Twenty km from the De Beers pass is Eildon, and another 20km further is the Glen Lyden church. Through the influence of the well-known Thomas Pringle, an 1820 Settler, the government built the church for the Scottish Settlers and their Dutch neighbours in 1828.

Near the Glen Lyden church is the restored manor house on the farm Lyndoch. We were fortunate to be invited to sleep there. But before we could stop there, we first had to pass and go to Bedford to buy some groceries (read “braaivleis”). Our stay at Lyndoch Farm would be self-catering. 

En route to Bedford we passed through the Wienandsnek pass. Short pass, good road surface. Reasonable gradient with a good view towards the west once you go over the summit.


 In Bedford we had a long cold beer at the Bedford hotel, bought our victuals and attended to a piece of wire in a rear tyre. An audience quickly gathered to watch. No puncture, no worry.

Back through the Wienandsnek pass


We were back at the Lyndoch Farm by 18h00.

The Lyndoch Farm is a manor house that was restored to it’s present magnificence. The manor house is used by hunters when they visit the farm for hunting safaris.

Swart gemsbokke wei in ‘n kampie by die huis.

The well-equiped braai-room cum bar cum lounge is on the upper floor, with doors opening to a wide stoep overlooking the entire surrounding veld.

Late evening before we went to bed, the farm manager used a spotlight to show us how many animals came close to the house to try and find grazing. Many shiny eyes and some shapes were visible. The drought really is biting.

A good night sleep followed after a long, hot day. And three named dirt passes and two unnamed passes to add to the memory.

I planned to do as the farm manager suggested – do a walk along the river at dawn next day.


>>>> Day 4


Day 4 was the day to return to PE.  The planned route was Slagtersnek pass near Cookhouse and Waainek pass near Somerset East).

I was awake early enough to be outside as dawn turned into day. Two of us took a slow walk along the river. We saw an amazing number of wild animals. Bosbok, takbok (deer) and duiker. Unfortunately no useful pictures. Low light and dense vegetation.

Breakfast was the left-overs from the previous evening and packing was quick (no tents to fold!)

We went on a dirt road along the Baviaans river straight to N10 and south to Cookhouse. West into Cookhouse and immediately north, past the station. (At this station I spent many hours waiting for the train connection to Fort Beaufort, during the time that I was at school in Cape Town.  Die wagtery was altyd in die nag en in die koue winternagte het hulle soms die kaggel in die wagkamer laat brand).

The road beyond the railway station was wide and in perfect condition. Shrubs and bushes were growing right onto the verge. This is a bit dangerous when driving at night because the driver cannot see an animal before it enters the road. This has caused many accidents and a lot of serious injuries all over the Eastern Cape. Hitting a kudu is the most serious situation because the body of the kudu is above the vehicle's bonnet. The vehicle hits the legs and the body travels through the windscreen. Even more dangerous is being stabbed by the horns as the kudu penetrates the windscreen.


Kort voor lank het ons twee vlakvarkies in die pad sien hardloop dat die stof so staan.  Die een regs het op kort nadat die foto geneem is, reguit in ‘n bos vasgehardloop! Dit behoort hom te leer dat omkyk terwyl jy hardloop 'n slegte idee is.

Slagtersnekpas is regtig nie veel nie. Mooi landerye en vergesigte, maar niks indrukwekkend nie.

En n paar kilometer verder weer twee vlakvarkies

Ongeveer 26km vanaf Cookhouse is die afdraai na Waainekpas. Dit is by n plaashuis wat geen naambord het nie.


Aanvanklik is die pad sowat 5km gewone grondpad tussendeur twee plaasopstalle. By die tweede plaasopstal raak diepad tweespoor pad met keerwalle dwars oor die pad. Sekerlik om verspoelings te voorkom.

Die keerwalle is ongeveer 1m hoog en maak ‘n geleidelike boog  --- perfek vir bietjie opwinding! Spoed? Van so 40km/u af begin jy wiele lig en met grasie anderkant land!

‘n Ent verder paar landerye en steeds die keerwalle. Dan ‘n hek of twee en steeds keerwalle.

Teen hierdie tyd sien ons al uit na die volgende keerwal. En wonder of dit ooit gaan ophou.

I tried to capture the up&down riding over the jumps.

At last the jumps are were more and we started a climb up the mountain side. This is not Waainek pass yet, but I promise you, it is some of the best and enjoyable tweespoor I have come across! Worth going back there any time!

The climb is fairly steep and bit technical in places (rough and tight turns), but we really enjoyed this road up to here.

Soon the road levels off and you ride a good tweespoor for about 6km over an open plain.


The Waainek pass starts at the southern end of this plain.

The vista towards the south-east is great! You can see valleys and mountains near and far.

And great vistas to the west & south-west

The Waainek pass itself takes you down with a fairly narrow tweespoor, many turns and through many cuttings. It is reasonably steep, but you hardly notice it because the road surface is remarkably good, given that it is quite a remote and little used road.


I had a moment going down the Waainek pass  ----  I was going around a bend to the right. Next moment I realised I was ino the gravel next to the left spoor. Fortunately my speed was low, but not low enough.  I geared down (which helped a little bit, but not enough), bit of front brake also helped (but not enough). Then I realised I need to choose where I have to park the GrysKameel.

I drifted into a ditch and hit the left side of the ditch.

Huge thud, lots of dust and awkward parking angle!

Jaco was close behind me. He probably wondered how on earth did I manage to go off the road there. Within a minute he helped me back to upright the bike.

Fortunately no significant damage en daar gaan ons weer.


To the left a wonderful view opened up. A deep valley and far-away vista.

Beautiful scenes passing by. The aloes and trees were very impressive.

Gradually the drop-off became less, we left the Waainek pass behind and joined the R63. Here we turned north towards Somerset East for a well deserved cold beer and lunch.

Originally we planned to ride to PE via the Zuurberg pass, but decided to go via N10.

Riding on the N10, I had lots of time to ponder on the past four days of riding.

To me the highlight was the jumpy run-up to and the actual Waainek pass. I will be going back there, for sure.

The Katberg pass and Michels pass were very exciting. Katberg pass I will do again, but Michels pass --- hmm I think I will skip that one.

Fullershoek and Wolfrivier passes were beautiful and pleasant. I may do them again if I ride that way. For any future trip I will skip the Dontsa pass and definitely the long stretch Stutterheim > Cathcart>Whittlesea>Fair View.

Blinkwater pass --- happy to have seen it, I have no need to return there.

Pity we had to miss the Tarka/Botha pass, but that one can be combined with a more northern route that includes Nieu Bethesda, Cradock, Graaff Reinet etc.

The distances per day were all less than 300km, which proved to be just perfect. Having ridden over a weekend and to places where shopping is limited/non-existent, we had to carry a lot of extra weight by way of provisions.


Link to Day 1  http://bmwmotorradclubcape.co.za/four-days-and-10-eastern-cape-dirt-passes-day1


Link to Day 2  http://bmwmotorradclubcape.co.za/four-days-and-10-eastern-cape-dirt-passes-day-2


Kevin Charleston's picture
Joined: 2011/09/09

Baaie lekker TV - dankie GK. 

Michel's looks in better shape than when I had a look in December 2015 - but pictures only tell a fraction of the story.  Some nice new passes and places - some definitely to add to my to-ride list.  

Charles Oertel's picture
Joined: 2007/04/14

Very nice report Danie - I love the detail.  BTW, it's "victuals"...

Committee: Webmaster / Ride Captain

Froggy's picture
Joined: 2014/01/15

Thanks Danie very enjoyable.




hd's picture
Joined: 2007/06/18

Dankie Danie! Lekker gelees! Dink die Rossouw's wil kom saam ry volgende keer! en 'n paar Old Timers!



Mwendo's picture
Joined: 2011/04/13

Dankie Danie, dis altyd lekker om van jou avonture te lees!

Jy moet net so bietjie van die "impromptu parking skills" afleer devil  

The only problem with hindsight, is you don't see it coming!