Road Trip – Tradouw Pass & True Crime

Geelbos on the Tradouw pass.

The talk of road trips by oh and shoreacres on the Property Blues post inspired me to embark on one – and taking the Tradouw pass to Barrydale is a drive worth doing.

Calling a mountain pass a masterpiece is no exaggeration when it’s designed by 19th century road mapping genius Thomas Bain.  The only downside to the fourteen kilometre pass through the rugged, undulating Cape Folded Mountains covered with golden  Leucadendron (Geelbos) and purple Heather is that it’s over too soon.

The Khoisan originally discovered this ancient route, and Bain,  known amongst his contemporaries as ‘the man with the theodolite eye’ (a theodolite is an instrument to measure horizontal and vertical angles), perfected it.

Completed in 1873 and built with the help of a large gang of prisoners,  the Tradouw Pass perches 315 metres up in the mountains and winds sharply through the craggy peaks.

There is a reason for this constant winding. Bain’s respect for nature meant that he applied the logic of river courses, and their preference for the path of least resistance, to this pass, and so adopted the same course as the Tradouw River down in the gorge below.

Note to squeamish travellers – doing the trip with an 8-year-old who suffers from extreme car sickness can mean an extra emergency stop or two to admire the flowers.

Staring into the abyss - the mountains covered with Geelbos and heather.

The extravagant beauty of the pass is also tinged with an element of sorrow. It was on the Tradouw pass that kidnapped Dutch tourist, Marleen Konings, was murdered and her body dumped in 2003. Ironically, Tradouw is a Khoikhoi word that means “the way (ravine) of the woman”.

At the top of the pass you’ll find the little village of Barrydale. An old Karoo town, with traditional houses and water furrows, it’s a great place to stop for lunch and a wander around.

Backyard in Barrydale.

Tin cup gate in Barrydale.


11 Responses to “Road Trip – Tradouw Pass & True Crime”

  1. 1 Mike September 6, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    If you haven’t ever seen it, you should look for a book called “Colossus of Roads” by Patricia Storrar. It’s the story of Thomas Bain and his obsession with building passes – twenty three in all.

  2. 2 Jeannine September 6, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    Thanks Mike! Great tip, I will look out for it – or scrounge around in my Mom’s book shelf. He was a gifted man, way ahead of his time, and what a legacy of pleasure he left behind for us.

  3. 3 Mike September 6, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    I have it if you are unsuccessful.

  4. 4 Jake September 6, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    Great post,haven’t let me down with your annual sharp wit and sophisticated humor!

    Keep it up!


  5. 6 oh September 17, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    Bain. I knew nothing of him. Have now looked him up. What a great name, though. Bain.

    And what a treat traveling with the kids. (except for the car sick stops, I hear you! I remember those!)

    I keep forgetting – you’re on the flip side of the seasons. I walked out on the patio this morning in bare feet and realized can’t do that much longer – I’ll need shoes, and then boots! And there you are, coming into the warm.

  6. 7 shoreacres September 22, 2010 at 6:06 pm

    OK – long story short.

    I’ve been having trouble – a bit of a saga, actually – with my eyes. Finally, I ended up back in Houston, being examined by the doctor I’ve gone to for 25 years, rather than the goofball here in the neighborhood.

    One thing led to another, and I discovered he’d spent some time in South Africa back in the 70’s. He was a free-spirited medical student at the time, and I think was just traveling.

    Anyway, he met an opthamologist who took him into his home, somewhere around Capetown. He’s traveled the whole Garden Route and was effusive in his praise for its beauty.

    I had to go back so I copied this post and took it with me. He was so pleased to see it – he’s been on this very road trip as well.

    And you have heather. I didn’t know that grew anywhere but – well, actually, I don’t know where I thought it grew. Scotland, I guess. 😉

    Love the photos – thanks for the posting!

  7. 9 Mike September 22, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    Another bit of Bain trivia. There is a single malt whisky called Bain’s Cappe Mountain Whisky. Worth trying in in my view. I’d guess that if it was part of a blind tasting, most people would assume it is of Scottish origin. It is actually the first single malt produced in SA.

    No, Jeannine, I don’t have shares in the distillery!

  8. 10 Mike September 22, 2010 at 7:45 pm

    Whoops! Should be Cape Mountain Whisky. Tut, tut.

    • 11 Jeannine September 23, 2010 at 5:50 am

      I must find it and try it – if it makes you add an extra p to Cape it’s gotta be good!
      I did scrounge the Bain book from my Mom’s shelf, thanks much for the recommendation, it’s fabulous.

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