Four star game reserve, South Africa

Bosch Luys Kloof Pass
The Hike

DISTANCE: 9km approx
ASCENT/DESCENT: 500m approx

Bosluiskloof Pass Hike

The Bosluiskloof pass has a long and interesting history. Originally built in the 1860’s as a wagon and horse “trekpad”, it is still something special today. The road through Seweweekspoort was first build and improved at the time but was washed away many times. That lead to the Swartberg Pass being build. In between the relatively small Bosluiskloof pass was build and improved. The engineer was Adam de Smidt, a brother in Law of Thomas Bain.

The famous description of the vista from the top of the pass by Lord Atherstone and Thomas Bain was –

“A scene burst upon us that I shall not forget in a hurry. Breathless I gazed down the valley on the boundless sea of blue mountains, cones and peaks, table tops and jagged lines of hillocks, tingled with the faint blush of early morn…“ ( shortened ).

The scene was sketched by Sophia Gray in 1869. One can accept that the pass was completed by that time.

Hikers are dropped off at the reserve’s top gate and walk all the way back to the lodge. It is a leisurely hike of approx 9 km and the idea is to enjoy the surroundings and beautiful vistas from the pass itself. It is a totally different experience than driving with your vehicle. Before descending the pass you will pass the starting points of the “To Moer & Gone” hiking trail, as well as the “To Hell & Gone” trail (4x4, hiking or MTB) that ends at the Ladder footpath down into the Hell/ Gamkaskloof.

The mountain range in front of you (east/west) is the Hartmans range. The Swartberg mountains “proper” is to your right. Hartmansberg was named after a German family who stayed in the valley, far from the real world, for decades before the pass was built. Mr Hartman apparently acted as blacksmith to the ‘trekkers’, fixing their wagons and horse shoes as they passed over Hartmansberg and his settlement into and back from the vast inland. He moved down closer to the road later on.

The Kloof where he stayed had a fresh water spring which even today has water after the drought that started in 2015. We assume they had friends in the valley of The Hell that is not that far from the remains of the Hartman settlement.

The beautiful lookout point referred to earlier is just around the tight corner, “Aalwyn draai”, in the road as you start to descend.

You will note the change in vegetation as you follow the road. There are signage boards along the way giving some info.

If you have some sense of how to look for them, you will find many fossils in the cut-outs towards the lower end of the pass. These are the “bosluise” that gave the area its name originally. The workers on the road commented that they look like ticks (‘bosluise’ in Afrikaans, and ‘boschluys’ in Dutch). The fossils are mainly trilobytes that lived some 250 to 500 million years ago. If you are lucky you may come across some fossil shells and molluscs. This area was under water at the time.

Near the bottom of the pass you will find a large rock next to the road (right-hand side) with some old names on. Just round the corner there are many more “signatures”on the right hand side. We think that in those days the drift (Wa-drif) still had water most of the time. The old windmill isn’t working any more but the solar pump is delivering water every day still!

Wagoneers would outspan their oxen and let them drink before taking on the daunting trek up the pass, or rest them at this point once having descended from the top.

From that point onwards you can keep an eye out for roaming kudu that love these dense thickets and drainage lines. On the pass itself and further on, klipspringer usually show up as well. Along the way you will pass the start of the “Wagon route” trail. It is also the exit point of the Wagon Route 4x4 challenge.

Keep an eye out for ruins of old shepherds’ overnight shelters as they roamed around with flocks of sheep. This was long before the days of fencing.

After about 6 km from the start you will pass the exit point of “To Moer & Gone” again. Then you have some 2.3 km left to the lodge.

About 1 km before the lodge you pass the cutting through some seriously rocky little kloof we call ‘Dassie draai’. Spend some time at this cooler part of the road. This was one of the obstacle points that prevented early travellers to get into the Great Karoo from this direction. Up to 1862 they had to take the To Hell & Gone road and cross over the Hartmans mountain and down in what is now the eastern end of the Wagon Route. Some holes in the rocks look like they could have used dynamite to open up rocky obstructions. It is interesting that prior to the invention of dynamite in 1867, only gunpowder and labour intensive methods of heating and cooling the rock, crowbars, sledge hammers and so on were used to break through rock obstructions.

The lodge is now only a corner or three further on.

We trust you have had a great experience.

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