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!
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