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huisrivier pass

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Caledon Kloof before the 1885 flood

Caledon Kloof before the 1885 flood

 

The Huisrivier Pass, just outside Calitzdorp on Route 62, must be one of the scenically most impressive passes in the country. Hanging on the side of the mountain, it looks out onto the faces of imposing, precipitous, fold-rock mountains, where Cape leopard still roam.

GPS Summit S33.4744 E21.5531

The name ‘huis’ is not the Afrikaans word for house as might be thought, but rather the Khoi word for ‘willow tree’. The Huis river rises in the Klein Swartberg range, flowing through the Seweweekspoort and into the pass where it joins the main Gamka river.

The convoluted mountains with deep, rocky, impassable ravines were a serious barrier to access between Calitzdorp and Ladismith for many years.

 

Section of old road visible center. New road on slope behind

Section of old road visible center. New road on slope behind

 

The development of the pass started rather tentatively in 1807 with the discovery of a way through the mountains via Rooielsboskloof. This dangerous path became known as Welgevonden (well found).

It was Gerrit Pretorius, the son of earliest settler Jacobus Pretorius who found his way through. This was said to be “Nothing but the roughest track following the bed of a stream through the mountains.

Despite its dangerous terrain along a stream in a frightening but strikingly beautiful cleft between unstable, sheer towering rock walls, the new route was used extensively. Soon it became the graveyard of broken wagon wheels and scattered bones of oxen that just couldn’t make it through with their loaded wagons.

In 1810 the pass was given a new name in honour of the then Governor Caledon – Caledon Kloof – probably with the forlorn hope that this might entice the Governor to grant funding for improvements

 

Huge floods in May 1885 washed away the fairly level river bed track and eliminated any chance of turning the Caledon Kloof into a suitable permanent pass.

It was probably at this time that the Caledon Kloof was given its next name of Verkeerdekloof! (Wrong kloof).

Huisrivier Pass photo Kanteys

Huisrivier Pass               photo Kanteys

 

The same flood also decimated Meiringspoort further to the east and many other roads in the Cape

In 1896-1897 The Divisional Councils of Calitzdorp and Ladismith combined to build the Huisrivier Pass which replaced the treacherous Caledon Kloof route and was opened to the public in 1896. Remnants of this early road can still be seen today.

In 1951 surveys to find a good permanent route through the mountains to Ladismith were started

The contract length was 16 kilometers in total, of which seven kilometers were the pass proper. The consulting engineers were Kantey & Templer, the contractor A. G. Burton and geologist Bruce King.

Kanteys, past road projects:
“It took Graham Ross and his team almost 10 years to finalise the routing through the mountains and there was a lot of blasting and bulldozing necessary. The specific rock type in the mountain composition is easily disturbed and subject to frequent rockfalls, resulting in any cuttings invariably ending up with rocks in the road after the next rains. The construction work was dangerous and there are some harrowing tales of rocks as big as cars rolling down the mountainside, sending the construcion team running for their lives. So extensive was the re-building of the new road, that an entire bypass had to be built allowing the flow of traffic to continue.”

Plaque 1966DSCF0136

 

 

Work on the reconstruction and surfacing of the Huisrivier Pass having been completed, the ‘new’ Huisrivier pass was opened on the sixth of May 1966 by Mr F A Loots, MEC.

 

 

 

 

Between 2012 and 2013 the Huisrivier Pass underwent major slope remediation and upgrading.

Kanteys, past road projects:
“HUIS RIVER PASS – SLOPE REMEDIATION
The project entailed the remediation of the existing rock cut slopes and concrete catch-walls in the Huis River Pass on Route 62 between Ladismith and Calitzdorp. The work included the barring down of potentially unstable material from the existing cut slopes and the removal of the rock build-up behind the catch-walls – some 23000m3 in total. In addition extensive use was made of draped mesh to mitigate against the danger of falling rocks to the road user as well as the introduction of restraining mesh and the selective installation of rock bolts. Ancillary Works included the repair of slacks in the road alignment (caused by long term settlement of the fills), the repair of damage to the road pavement, the structural repair of the reinforced concrete catch-walls where damage had been caused by falling rocks, the erection of road reserve fencing, the repair of the existing guardrails and the reinstatement of roadmarkings.”

Much to the excitement of locals and delight of conservationists, there was proof that leopards are still resident in the gorges and kloofs of these mountains. To the astonishment of the workers managing a stop/go point on the construction site, a leopard crossed the road right in front of them – in broad daylight!.

Drive up the pass and stop at a viewpoint en route to enjoy one of our many spectacular sights.