Eastern Cape Highlands Is this South Africa s toughest route

Winona Griggs

Eastern Cape Highlands: The Toughest Route in South Africa?

When I set out on my journey through the Eastern Cape Highlands, I didn’t know what I was in for. But let me tell you, it was nothing short of an adventure. The stunning landscapes, the challenging trails, and the warm hospitality of the locals made it a trip to remember.

First, let’s talk about the landscapes. The Eastern Cape Highlands are a sight to behold. The rugged mountains, the deep valleys, and the winding rivers paint a picture of raw beauty. As I hiked through the trails, I couldn’t help but be in awe of the incredible scenery that surrounded me.

But don’t be fooled by the beauty. The trails in the Eastern Cape Highlands are no walk in the park. They are tough, steep, and demanding. The uphill climbs can be grueling, and the downhill descents can be treacherous. But I can assure you, the challenge is well worth it. Pushing yourself to the limit and conquering these trails is an incredibly rewarding experience.

However, it’s not just the physical challenge that makes the Eastern Cape Highlands so special. It’s also the people you meet along the way. The locals are welcoming, kind, and generous. They are always ready to share a story, provide a helping hand, or offer a warm meal. Their hospitality adds an extra layer of magic to the journey.

If you’re considering taking on the Eastern Cape Highlands, there are a few things you should keep in mind. First, be prepared. Make sure you have the right gear, plenty of water, and enough food to sustain you. Second, take it slow. Don’t rush through the trails. Take your time to appreciate the stunning landscapes and soak in the experience. And finally, stay safe. The Eastern Cape Highlands can be unforgiving, so make sure you know your limits and don’t take unnecessary risks.

So, is the Eastern Cape Highlands the toughest route in South Africa? I can’t say for sure. But what I can say is that it’s certainly one of the most rewarding. If you’re up for a challenge and ready for an adventure, then this is the route for you. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

Eastern Cape Highlands Is this South Africa s toughest route

If you’re seeking an adventure like no other, look no further than conquering 10 of South Africa’s tallest mountain passes in a single journey. By doing so, you’ll join an elite group of road trippers who have achieved this remarkable feat. It’s not an easy task, but the sense of accomplishment and enjoyment you’ll experience along the way is unmatched.

Eastern Cape Highlands Is this South Africa s toughest route

As I gazed at the poster hanging on the wall, an intriguing invitation caught my eye: climb the Summit 10 of South Africa’s highest passes and become part of an exclusive group of adventure-seekers. This piqued my curiosity, as I have always been drawn to the allure of a challenging road trip. Eager to unravel the mystery, I turned to Lee Cronje, the friendly barman at Tiffindell Ski Resort.

“Yep, that’s what it says,” replied Lee, the barman. He’s always direct and to the point. He handed me a map with ten squiggly lines on it, tracing a path through the picturesque Eastern Cape Highlands. I knew I had to conquer those trails on my trusty motorcycle, Gilbert. So, six months later, here I am again. I’ve ridden all the way from Cape Town to Lady Grey, and I’ve managed to persuade Andy Biram, the founder of The Adventure Academy, to let me join his crew of nine riders. Together, we’re embarking on a journey from Joburg to these highlands to tackle those same squiggles. We trickle into Mountain View Hotel in Lady Grey on a gloomy Wednesday afternoon, one by one.”

Yo, I’m dead serious. My tire is not feeling good at all.’ I’m chilling at the hotel bar with my buddy Howie, a badass bike journalist. The rest of our crew, a bunch of middle-aged thrill-seekers, are telling him to chill and have a drink. So he finally listens, grumbling, while our buddy Andy fills us in on what we can expect for the next three days. Gravel roads and good times, that’s the deal. But there’s something else too – some seriously tough terrain.

‘Just how tough are we talking?’ My buddy Romeo is new to adventure biking and his XT1200 is no featherweight.

‘Bastervoet is the beast we gotta conquer,’ says Andy. ‘It’s a 4×4 track that’s super tricky in dry conditions. If it’s wet, we might not make it through at all.’ Howie sinks even deeper into his bottle of Cab Sauv, cursing the gods of rubber.

Eastern Cape Highlands Is this South Africa s toughest route

As I wake up the next morning, I’m greeted by a bright blue sky and a gentle breeze that playfully slips through the windows of the old hotel. It tickles the lace curtains, causing them to squirm with shyness. Our adventure begins at Joubert’s, just outside of town. We hit the road, leaving behind trails of dust as we climb higher and higher.

Once we reach the summit, we gather together to capture the moment in photos, a tradition we’ll continue at each peak. Then, we start our descent. We briefly return to the smooth pavement before seeking out a gravel path that leads us to Otto du Plessis Pass. There, we come across a memorial that commemorates its opening in 1959. As we continue our journey, the clouds above turn a stormy gray, seemingly chasing after us all the way to Elliot.

Upon reaching Elliot, we take a quick break to refuel before tackling Barkly Pass. Just as we arrive at Mountain Shadows Hotel, our home for the night, the heavens open and rain begins to pour down.

READ  An old Constantia stay has some new ideas

That night, as we gather at the bar, a peculiar sight catches our attention. A giraffe taxidermy peeks out from one of the walls, its bewildered gaze fixed upon us. Amidst this curious atmosphere, we begin discussing our plans.

‘Today was a piece of cake,’ remarks Andy. ‘But if the rain keeps pouring, we might have to reconsider our plans for tomorrow.’ Just as he utters these words, a damp figure appears beneath the giraffe. Andy quickly introduces him as Kevin Payne, who will be joining us for the rest of our adventure. With Kevin’s arrival, our group of 10 expands to 11, and his arrival is met with laughter as he regales us with a tale of leaving Johannesburg in haste, only bringing his bike and a large TV – the spoils of an impulsive ultimatum from his girlfriend. As we share more beers, the stories begin to flow. Each of us has a story to tell, and we start to bond like old friends. Howie laments his punctured tire while emptying a bottle of wine, Philip captivates me with accounts of his Harley ride across America, and any worries about tomorrow’s challenges fade into the background. Interestingly, nobody bothers asking Kevin what became of his TV.

Eastern Cape Highlands Is this South Africa s toughest route

Image by Tyson Jopson

Hey there! Let’s chat about the importance of choosing the right words. When you use the right words, it’s like magic – your message gets across clearly and connects with your audience. But how do you choose the right words?

Well, it’s all about understanding your audience. When I’m trying to communicate, I think about who I’m talking to. What do they already know? What do they need to know? By taking these things into account, I’m able to choose words that resonate with them.

But it’s not just about our audience – we also need to think about the words themselves. Words have power. They can build people up or tear them down. That’s why it’s important to use words that elevate and inspire. When I choose my words carefully, I can create a positive and uplifting message.

Of course, finding the right words can sometimes be a challenge. We all have those moments when we’re searching for the perfect way to express ourselves. But don’t worry, you’re not alone. We’ve all been there. The key is to be patient with yourself and keep trying.

So, if you’re looking to make an impact with your words, remember to choose wisely. Consider your audience and the power of the words you use. You’ll be amazed at the difference it can make!

When I wake up, I see the songololos and snails slowly climbing up the wet mountainsides. The sky is clear, and it looks like a great day to go to Bastervoetpad. Everyone is excited, except Romeo. He doesn’t want to get dirty and decides to take a different route to our next overnight stop. But for the rest of us, it’s time for some muddy fun!

We carefully navigate over slippery rocks and slide into muddy patches like clumsy elephants, making sure to stay upright on our bikes. Well, most of us do. Poor William Slement ends up getting stuck in a rut and finds himself sitting on the ground. I can’t help but laugh inside my helmet, realizing that could have been me. But oh boy, this is the most exhilarating and enjoyable experience I’ve had on a rainy day since I was six years old, building mud forts for my little green army men.

After conquering Bastervoetpad, covered in mud but full of joy, we zoom down the logging roads towards Ugie. The tall pine trees surround us, blocking our view of the sky, but it only adds to the excitement of the journey.

I could hardly believe it when I discovered that the most delicious toasted chicken mayo in the world can be found in a little town called Ugie in the Eastern Cape. It just goes to show that sometimes the most incredible things can be found in the most unexpected places.

As I travel from Ugie to Maclear and tackle the rough road that leads me through Potrivier Pass and Naude’s Nek Pass to Tenahead Mountain Lodge, I can’t help but marvel at the lush greenery and vibrant flora that surrounds me. The landscape is alive with red-hot pokers poking out from the wild grass and everlastings swaying in the gentle mountain breeze. I take a moment to savor a cup of coffee and prepare myself for the rainy journey ahead.

The Tiffindell-Tenahead Traverse lies before me, tracing the border between South Africa and Lesotho high up in the mountains. It’s a wet and adventurous ride as I follow the fence line, but I’m determined to reach my destination – Tiffindell Ski Resort. Along the way, I discover that my friend Romeo, who isn’t the best at reading Google Maps, managed to navigate the last two challenging passes anyway. It’s a reason to celebrate, and that’s exactly what we do.

Eastern Cape Highlands Is this South Africa s toughest route

The moment I wake up, I am greeted by a magnificent sight. The sky is painted with splashes of gold, like yolks of eggs breaking over clouds. It’s a beautiful start to the day. And what awaits me is just as inviting – a delicious breakfast filled with crispy bacon, two types of sausages, and savory hash browns. It’s a feast fit for champions. And today, I’ll need all the energy I can get.

As I look up, I see a rugged 4×4 track snaking its way alongside the ski slope. It’s a challenging path that leads to the highest drivable summit in South Africa – Ben MacDhui. Standing at an impressive 3001 meters, it proudly takes the title of being higher than even the renowned Sani Pass.

READ  The Franschhoek Magic of Bubbles Cap Classique and Champagne festival MzansiBride

So here’s the deal: some people find the whole idea of lugging a massive adventure bike up a mountain after breakfast just too darn exhausting. So instead, they opt to ride the traverses and hike the rest of the way. Not a bad compromise, if you ask me.

But then there are those of us who have both pride and a seriously questionable amount of brains. We refuse to back down from the challenge and push our trusty steeds to the tippy top, even if our style may vary quite a bit. Take Philip, for example. He’s the epitome of grace as he conquers the last climb, only to execute a spectacular dismount and somersault back down. Don’t worry, though – he’s perfectly fine. And so is his 690 Enduro.

We dust Philip off, give him a pat on the back, and send him right back up that mountain for another round. And wouldn’t you know it? He nails it this time. Success!

Eastern Cape Highlands Is this South Africa s toughest route

As I embark on my adventure, I can’t help but feel a surge of accomplishment. Strapping the fresh memories of success onto our bike racks, my friends and I eagerly embark on the descent of Carlisleshoekspruit Pass towards Rhodes. Along the way, we trace the meandering path of the Bell River, accompanying its gentle flow through the valley until we find ourselves surrounded by majestic mountains once again.

Our journey takes a break as we pause for a well-deserved lunch and a quick drop-off of our luggage at Reedsdell Country Guest Farm in Wartrail. Fueled by delicious food and refreshed spirits, we gear up to tackle the final two passes that await us.

First up is Volunteershoek, a deceptively cunning ascent that can take even the most experienced riders by surprise. But not Chris Isted, the proud owner of Reedsdell. He fearlessly mounts his 990 Adventure and swiftly conquers the pass. Inspired by his bravery, I give chase, envisioning myself in a high-stakes Dakar rally. Together, we push our limits and race towards the summit, filled with exhilaration and a wild sense of joy.

Reaching the top, we find ourselves standing at the edge of a world of endless possibilities. With a renewed determination, we turn around and retrace our path through Wartrail, our sights now set on the final challenge ahead – Lundin’s Nek Pass. Just in the nick of time, as the sun prepares to make its grand exit into the land of Lesotho, we embark on our ascent.

These moments of triumph and the breathtaking views that accompany them remind me of the true beauty and adventure that await those who are willing to wander off the beaten path. It’s in these daring feats that we find ourselves truly alive, connected to the untamed spirit of the world around us.

After three incredible days, we gather around a bonfire at Reedsdell, exhausted but content. These mountain passes require courage and determination. However, for those who are up for the challenge, the reward is an unforgettable journey that will be remembered for a lifetime. And guess what? Howie’s tire was perfectly fine all along. But deep down, we already knew that.

Eastern Cape Highlands Is this South Africa s toughest route

I’m amazed by the variety of goats we encounter while riding. Just thinking about it brings to mind Ray O’Neill conquering the heights of Ben MacDhui, which is even higher than Sani Pass. The stunning images captured by Tyson Jopson tell the tale.

Taking it day by day

Now, we need to keep in mind that this route is exclusively for 4×4 or adventure-bike enthusiasts. The passes we’ll encounter range from smooth tarmac to easy gravel roads, and even some challenging Jeep tracks. It’s absolutely crucial to have experience off-roading, regardless of whether you’re on a bike or in a 4×4. If there’s rain, be sure to consider alternative routes, as some of the passes, like Baservoetpad, can become completely unpassable.

Day 1: From Mountain View Country Inn to Mountain Shadows Hotel

DISTANCE: A whopping 192 kilometers to cover, so make sure you set aside a good 5 hours for this journey.

If you’re staying at Mountain View Country Inn (1), start by following Walton Street out of town and taking the gravel road that leads to Joubert’s Pass. You’ll find the dam (2) at the end of a small single-track just before the pass gets challenging. Once you’ve conquered the pass, continue on the gravel road until you reach the tarred R58. Turn left towards Barkly East. Cross the Kraai River bridge and then take the gravel R396 towards Dordrecht. After 17km, make a left turn and then keep to the right to reach Otto du Plessis Pass. Once you reach the bottom, cross the Kwavoyizana River bridge and take a sharp left to remain on the gravel road that will lead you to Elliot. From Elliot, take the R58 that goes up Barkly Pass until you reach Mountain Shadows Hotel (3).

Here’s what to expect on day 2: your journey from Mountain Shadows Hotel to Tiffindell Ski Resort.



Let’s start by taking a scenic route to our next destination. Instead of staying on the main road, we’re going to veer off onto the R393, a gravel road. It might be a bit bumpy, but trust me, it’ll be worth it. Just remember to turn right after about 8km until you reach Bastervoetpad Pass.

Once you’ve crossed the pass, you’ll find yourself on some gravel logging roads. Don’t worry, just keep following them until you reach the tar road, R56. Take a left on R56 and head towards Ugie. If you’re feeling hungry, you can make a stop at the Cock and the Cat for a quick bite to eat.

READ  Need a break Stay in a pear orchard in the Breede River Valley

After your lunch break, you can continue on R56 until you reach Maclear. Once in Maclear, take the R396 road. Fair warning, the road isn’t in the best shape, but just keep going. As you approach Elandshoogte, make sure to stay left so you end up on Naude’s Nek Pass. It’s a great road that will lead you to Tenahead Mountain Lodge. Take a break there, and enjoy some tea or coffee.

Now, for the final stretch of our journey, we have the Tiffindell-Tenahead Traverse, also known as the TTT. This road runs along the Lesotho border, offering stunning views. Follow this road until you reach Tiffendell Ski Resort.

Day 3: Tiffindell Ski Resort to Reedsdell Guest Farm

DISTANCE: 125km TIME: 7 hours

When you’re done with the challenging Ben MacDhui trail, I recommend taking the scenic Carlisleshoekspruit Pass down to the gravel R396. From there, simply turn right and head towards Rhodes. Along the way, make sure to make a quick stop at the park (7) next to the Bell River to catch your breath.

Once you’ve had a chance to rest, continue your journey on the R396 towards Barkly East. However, instead of following the main road, make a detour onto the R393 towards Wartrail. This road will lead you to the beautiful Reedsdell Guest Farm (8), which is conveniently located just after you cross the Bell River.

If you’re up for even more adventure, the last two passes of the trip are not to be missed. Both the Volunteershoek Pass and Lundin’s Nek Pass offer breathtaking views and exciting rides. To reach Volunteershoek Pass, simply retrace your steps on the R393 and take a left turn just after the Wartrail Country Club. Follow the Funny Stone Stream until you reach the bottom of the pass.

For Lundin’s Nek, head north on the R393 from Reedsdell. This will take you on an unforgettable journey through stunning landscapes and challenging terrain.


Eastern Cape Highlands Is this South Africa s toughest route

Hey there! Let’s talk about some great places you can visit in Lady Grey and Elliot. Get ready for warm hospitality, gorgeous views, and a touch of old-world charm!

First up, we have the Mountain View Country Inn in Lady Grey. This cozy inn offers classic decor, delicious food, and a friendly atmosphere. With prices starting from R510 per person sharing, including bed and breakfast, it’s an excellent value. Give them a call at 0829621999 to book your stay!

Next, we have the Lady Grey Dam. When you’re heading on Joubert’s Pass, take a little detour to see the impressive 25-meter-high dam wall. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even climb the stairs to the top! Best of all, entrance is completely free.

Finally, let’s talk about the Mountain Shadows Hotel in Elliot. This hotel is perched at the top of Barkly Pass, which means you’ll be treated to breathtaking views. Inside, you’ll find a mix of old-world charm and modern comfort. Yes, there is some interesting taxidermy to admire, but the bar is stately and the beds are cozy. Prices start from R730 per person, and you can secure your stay by calling 0459312233.

Whether you’re looking for a peaceful country retreat or a scenic adventure, these destinations in Lady Grey and Elliot have something special to offer. So go ahead, plan your getaway and experience the magic for yourself!

4. The Cock and the Cat, Ugie. This little gem can be found in a simple house along the main road of the town. Don’t expect lightning-fast service, but trust me when I say that the toasted sandwiches (starting from R23) are well worth the wait. If you’re interested, you can reach them at 0824461980.

5. Tenahead Mountain Lodge. This magnificent stone lodge offers an extensive à la carte menu from 12pm to 2.30pm (with burgers starting from R85). But even if you miss that window, don’t worry – you can still grab a delicious coffee and a rusk for only R20. You can get in touch with them at 0459718901.

6. Tiffindell Ski Resort. This place has so much more to offer than just snow and skiing. During the summer months, you can enjoy activities like grass skiing, mountain biking, and guided wildflower tours (the best time to see the blooms is early February). The rooms are cozy and have breathtaking views. Do keep in mind that finding accommodation can be tough during the ski season (1 June to 31 August). If you’re interested, you can contact them at 0117812620.

7. Rhodes River Park. It’s a really nice place to take a break and just chill out. You can sit on the deck or play frisbee. And if you’re there in December, there’s a market to check out. The best part? It doesn’t cost anything to enter. Call 0459719003 for more info.

8. Reedsdell Country Guest Farm, Wartrail. This farmstay is absolutely amazing. The people here are incredibly friendly and welcoming, and the food is top-notch. You have to try Kath Isted’s lasagne – it’s seriously the best. I can’t recommend this place enough. Prices start at R470 per person for bed and breakfast. Give them a call at 0459749900 to book your stay.

Eastern Cape Highlands Is this South Africa s toughest route

I’m here to tell you about Tiffendell Ski Resort. Looks like an amazing place to visit, right? Image by Tyson Jopson. I found this article in the April 2018 issue of Getaway magazine. They talk about 13 campsites in Kruger National Park, a trip to Vietnam’s capital, a return to Knysna after the fires, and the best of both worlds in Mauritius. There’s so much to discover!

Eastern Cape Highlands Is this South Africa s toughest route

Leave a Comment