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“Hair-raising and exhilirating!” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Die Hel

Die Hel
Swartberge Pass | Between Calitzdorp and Prince Albert, Prince Albert, South Africa
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Type: Off road/All Terrain Vehicle Trails, Outdoors
Attraction details
cape town
Senior Contributor
29 reviews 29 reviews
14 attraction reviews
Reviews in 20 cities Reviews in 20 cities
41 helpful votes 41 helpful votes
“Hair-raising and exhilirating!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed January 16, 2014

We visited the Gamkaskloof in January 2014 en route to our beach-holiday destination, as it has been on the bucket list for quite some time.

We approached from Oudtshoorn via the Swartberg Pass - which was a treat in itself, but also not for the feint-hearted!

What a journey! The board says 37km, 2 hours - and means it! The road is in a good condition (or was when we visited - apparently people had to be airlifted out a week later due to severe flooding), and the views are awesome... The drop down into the Gamkaskloof itself was a bit hair-raising - especially when encountering on-coming traffic - but the views: spectacular!

We were very glad we decided to stay over, as I couldn't bear the thought of having to do the return trip on the same day...if you are thinking of doing a day-trip, I would suggest making an early start.

There is not too much to see in the Kloof itself: the information boards at the attractions (school building and school master's house, a few family graveyards etc.) sadly seem to have been either neglected or vandalised, as most of the boards contained no information at all. This was regrettable, since we arrived after the information centre had already closed, and therefore missed out - luckily we have done some reading on the Kloof beforehand. There are of course a number of hiking trails, if you have allowed enought time for your visit.

We spent the late afternoon lazing in the small pool adjacent to tant Sannie's shop (which is relatively well-stocked, given the remote location and lack of electricity - I was not even going to picture a Coke-truck trying to make a delivery here!). We didn't dine here, but it looked appealing...

We stayed overnight in one of the stationary caravans (Piet se Staning - all fully booked during our visit, so if you are planning to stay over, book in advance - the cottages we tried to book were also all fully booked). The caravans are VERY basic, but for two people, it came to the same price (R100 per person per night) as it would if we had camped - and having a roof that is already standing and mattresses that are ready waiting, beats having to pitch a tent in the dust any day!

We left very early (i.e. at dawn) the next day for a number of reasons: 1. To avoid having to pass any on-coming traffic on our way back up (especially over the first bit out of the Kloof; 2. To avoid having the sun directly in our eyes going up; and 3. To ensure that there would be other people behind us, should we experience any difficulties (we were a bit apprehensive about going up around some of the hairpins, but it turns out to have been unfounded)...

We were driving a Nissan Xtrail, i.e. good ground clearance, but not 4 x 4, which turned out to be fine - we even saw a Toyota Conquest going the other way! And going in, we saw a Toyota Hilux towing an off-road trailer / caravan - but you need to know what you're doing if you're considering towing anything there!

In all, we had a stunning experience - in the journey there and back more so than in the destination itself. Also watch out for wildlife en route - we encountered baboons, various small antelope and rabbits on the road. I would definitely recommend staying over...but book in advance!

We returned to Oudtshoorn via Prins Albert (via the other part of the Swartberg Pass), and regret not having enough time to pay this quaint town a visit...next time!

By the way, I'm an avid mountain biker...but I kept reminding myself NOT to enter the 'To Hell and back' MTB race...steep uphills, steep downhills, loose gravel, hairpin bends...if two days of that is your thing, go for it, but doing it by vehicle was quite good enough for me!

Visited January 2014
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29 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
Date | Rating
  • English first
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English first
Senior Reviewer
10 reviews 10 reviews
8 attraction reviews
Reviews in 6 cities Reviews in 6 cities
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
“To Hel and back in one day”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed December 31, 2013

Lovely roads with breath-taking views
This is one trip everyone should make at least once in a life-time.
The Swartberg pass on itself is awesome
Turning left onto the road down Gamkaskloof is an experience not to be missed

Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Sandton, South Africa
Senior Contributor
26 reviews 26 reviews
8 attraction reviews
Reviews in 14 cities Reviews in 14 cities
9 helpful votes 9 helpful votes
“Big Tick on the Bucket List - Great anitdote for The Big Smoke”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed November 10, 2013

A good friend organised the most amazing 5 day Mountain-Bike tour for 12 mountain-bikers from George - (Night 1) over Montague Pass to Oudtshoorn (Night 2) over Swartberg Pass to Die Hell 93km (Die Hell Tented accommodation / Camp site) back over Swartberg Pass to Prince Albert (Night 3) back over Prince Albert Pass to Oudtshoorn and then Robertson Pass (144km MTB stage - long + lots of climbing) Robertson Pass (Night 4) and then back to George - Flew fly back from George to Johannesburg.

Die Hell was on my Bucket List - Things To Do Before I Die. Die Hell apparently isolated from the outside world for almost two centuries - from about 1760 until a dirt road was cut into Die Hell in about 1960. Die Hell - despite its name is situated in a lovely fertile river course guarded on all 4 sides by sheer Karoo Cliffs.

We stayed in the tented camp which was basic - but perfectly acceptable after a long day's MTB, and ate dinner and breakfast at "Ouma Sanie se Winkel" - good basic wholesome food for hungry cyclists at a very reasonable price - considering the logistics of getting food and supplies into Die Hell.

Climbing Swartberg on Mountain-bikes list was spectacular - certainly on of my "Bucket List ". We started each day reasonably close to seal level and Swartberg is 1500 meters - almost the same altitude as Johannesburg. A big factor was the cold. Temperatures were warm / hot at lower altitudes but freezing on top of the pass. Cold weather is great for climbing, but we literally froze when we stopped on top of the passes - making it very difficult to get the legs warm and working again after the break. Swartberg often gets thick snow. Amazing to ride from green , lush , wet lowlands , into the dry Karoo ostrich far areas , up into the freezing summits and then hurtle down sheer dirt passes with break-pads burning up, and bikes taking a pounding on the rough descents - hoping that your wheels and/or bike do not collapse at high speed.

Visited September 2013
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
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Uitenhage, South Africa
Senior Reviewer
6 reviews 6 reviews
Reviews in 4 cities Reviews in 4 cities
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
5 of 5 stars Reviewed October 3, 2013

Scary but well worth it. We stayed over in one of the original farm houses. The scenery to and from is stunning. If you love mountains, this is a must.

Visited September 2013
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Cape Town
16 reviews 16 reviews
6 attraction reviews
Reviews in 11 cities Reviews in 11 cities
15 helpful votes 15 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed June 19, 2013

Between Calitzdorp and Prince Albert there is the most amazing adventure. The route is made up of the Swartberg mountain Pass and the Nels River route starting close to Calitzdorp. The lovely route is rich in wildlife and skirts the Calitzdorp dam. From Calitzdorp to Prins Albert takes approximately three hours, without stopping. I strongly recommend stopping often and making it a day trip.
I suggest do not go via the town Oudtshoorn as it is all tarred roads, but stick to the dirt roads where you will see much more. The route starts in Calitzdorp, where you turn off the tarred R62 in to Calitz street. This is the beginning of an amazing 'off the beaten track' experience.
One does not need a 4x4. Driving slowly with a rental car will do. Make sure you bring a spare tyre and water, just in case.
When leaving Calitzdorp, you will first drive along the Groenfontein road along the Nels river, which offers many birds and great views over the Nels River Dam. The route is also part of the Calitzdorp Art meander and there are many quaint stops at potters, artists and winemakers. The tourism office in Calitzdorp offers great service and even phoned around looking for available accommodation for us during the busy yearly Port festival.
Both Calitzdorp and Prince Albert, at opposite ends to route are beautiful and offer reasonable accommodation between 15 and up to 60 euros a night per person. Camping will cost you 7 euros per person per night. As Calitzdorp is the port capital of South Africa, one finds very good food and wine here. The yearly Calitzdorp Port Festival is a great opportunity to experience the region's food, port and wine. If you are exploring the Western Cape along route 62 and around Oudtshoorn, I would highly recommend you take this route between Calitzdorp and Price Albert. Once you get to either destination there are tar roads to continue to your next destination.
A quick summary of our journey:
We drove from Cape Town to Calitzdorp which took 4 hours. Spent two nights in Calitzdorp at the Bos Varkie camp site, during the Port Festival. Then took Calitz street out of town to start the journey to Prince Albert. Spent two nights in Prince Albert and then traveled to Oudtshoorn via Meiringspoort.
Meiringspoort deserves a separate review as it is another amazing experience in the Western Cape. From Oudtshoorn we traveled along the now famous Route 62 and stopped for sun downers at Ronnie's Sex shop, a small bar and eatery close to Barrydale in the Karoo region.Our journey ended back in Cape Town

Visited June 2013
Was this review helpful? Yes 4
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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