Tropical storm Irina is currently located off the east coast
Towerkop (Magic Peak) , at 2139m, is an easy recogniseable feature of the Swartberg range. The word “chase” after “storm” puts people in cars on the ground, and in my mind this is a form of tourism. This blog is to put a story to the country drive. Working as a part time tour guide in the area some time ago, I have extended the legend to encompass the larger Swartberg.
A very very long time ago a witch lived on the south side of the Swartberg in the Klein Karoo. She often had to cross over the mountain to the Groot Karoo on the north side to collect cetain herbs and spices. One day, flying on her broom, she tried to cross over the ever higher looming mountain. Keep in mind that her broom was a very mutch older model than the Nimbus Two Thousand used in later years at Hogwarts. So she got thwarted near the summit and got stuck in the many small crevasses and between the large boulders. In a fit of rage she lashed out with her broom and cut a deep vertical gash through the high dome shaped summit.
The agry witch then went off to see Mother Nature and demand that something needed to be done. Mother Nature agreed and together, with a magic wand of fire, they burned clefts through the Swarberg range to serve as passage ways.
To name these clefts today and working from west to east, the first is the Prinsrivier gorge in the Anysberg. The Prinsrivier enters the gorge from Anysberg Nature Reserve and fills the Prinsrivier dam on the south side of the mountain.
Location on Google maps: http://maps.google.co.za/?ll=-33.502039,20.752144&spn=0.069997,0.109692&t=h&z=13
Then there is the impressive Buffesrivier gorge where the great Laingsburg flood of 1981 passed trough.
Location on Google maps: http://maps.google.co.za/?ll=-33.439463,20.971355&spn=0.070047,0.109692&t=h&z=13
A main gravel road between Laingsburg and Ladismith, running trough this gorge, was completed in 1950. The plan was to build a major elevated tar road suspended from the cliffs, and with a short tunnel at the thin end of the u-bend in the pic above. The surveying was done and the road was to be completed by 1983, but then the great Laingsburg flood happened and took the flood level way above the expected and calculated flood levels for the road. After the flood the entire plan for the suspended tar road was scrapped and the existing gravel road disappeared. Today the surveyor markings and test holes can still be seen on the sides of the cliffs. This also explains the partially completed tar roads from Laingsburg and Ladismith. On 15 June 1987 Buffelspoort was declared a National Heritage Site. Today this unique wilderness area is still home to leopard, black eagle, fish eagle and lost of small game. Occationally some organised small groups of 4×4 vehicles venture into the gorge.
View of Buffelspoort showing some of the Jeep tracks up the mountain.
Next is Seweweekspoort (Seven weeks canyon) with a gravel road from Laingsburg to the old misson settlement of Zoar and Allemienstein.
Location on Google maps: http://maps.google.co.za/?ll=-33.397626,21.405659&spn=0.070081,0.109692&t=h&z=13
Then there is Gamkapoort with the large dam and the bottom end of Gamkaskloof, a secluded vally better known as the Hell.
This pic by Ralph Pina shows the Gamka dam from the Prince Albert side looking towards the gorge.
Location on Google maps:
The main tar road from Oudtshoorn to Beufort West runs on the floor of Meiringspoort, managed by National Parks.
Location on Google maps: http://maps.google.co.za/?ll=-33.428003,22.566605&spn=0.140113,0.219383&t=h&z=12
Finally is Towerwater poort near Willowmore where the railway line makes its way through the Swartberg at Vondeling.
Location on Google maps: http://maps.google.co.za/?ll=-33.402498,23.117638&spn=0.140154,0.219383&t=h&z=12
The faces of the precipices still glow with the reds and oranges of flames, and the warping of the rocks resemble those to be seen in the embers of a fire. Strange spirits are said to make their journey through the clefts. Sometimes in the night for a few minutes, the wind drops and stills the rusling leaves, the stream seems suddenly silent as the frogs stop croaking. The world is hushed as though holding its breath, while something all-powerful passes by on its journey between the two Karoos, or just on a pleasant promenade through the beutiful pass.
In later years a pass over the top of the Swartberg was made between Oudtshoorn and the small town of Prince Albert.
Google maps location: http://maps.google.co.za/?ll=-33.33397,22.027245&spn=0.140265,0.219383&t=h&z=12
From the top of the Swarberg pass, you can decend into a secluded dead end vally towards the Gamkarivier. This is Gamkaskloof, better know by the name The Hell.
Road to Hell.