It was an early morning for me. I battle to sleep past sunrise, and being summer in South Africa, it starts getting light from around 04h45. It was a great opportunity to try and tidy up my mess of ribs around the braai area from last night.
Olivia was awake as well, so I prepared a bottle of formula and let Linds sleep in for a few more minutes while I fed her.
At 6am it was already starting to bake out there in the Karoo. Unardo was also up early, so we decided to go on a short walk to explore the rest of Porcupine Rest Camp. We came across a sign pointing down a path and indicating that the river was there. We were both keen to go for a refreshing swim, so we pushed our way through the thorn bushes and found the river… bed.
Not a drop of water left to dip into… It’s the thought that counts, though.
With day 1 under our belts, it was time to pack up our camp site and get back on the road for a big drive into Die Hel. We left the camp site at 10am, all refreshed and ready for a new day. We were going to drive through 2 of the most beautiful mountain ranges today: Swartberg and Gamkaskloof. The mountains and views are absolutely stunning.
Linda and I were there in 2020 (link to our Youtube video), and we were both looking forward to going back. On that trip we stayed in one the Cape Nature historical cottages: Koort Cordier. This time we were driving pretty much all the way to the end of the valley, past the Cape Nature offices and into Bo Plaas, which is private property.
After driving on Swartberg Pass, you reach a turnoff to Gamkaskloof. There is a sign that says: “37km, 2 hours” to get to Die Hel. Google maps tries to trick you by saying it is 1 hour, but the road is in such a condition that it is at least 2 hours. 2 hours gets you into Die hel, but then there is another 45 minutes of driving to actually get to the other side of the valley (Bo Plaas). You can’t rush this stretch. It feels like the road is never-ending. Once you reach the top of one koppie, you see the road far in the distance going over another one.
After driving multiple passes on this 30km stretch of road, eventually you get to the top of the valley, looking down into Die Hel, and this is where the real fun begins. This stretch is part of Eland’s Pass. The summit is just over 1000m high. You descend a total of 447m over 4.7km. If you are scared of heights, make sure you sit on the mountainside of the car, as the road is very narrow (most sections are only 1 car width wide, and there are steep, unprotected drop-offs. The views are insane, though.
Once you reach the bottom of the pass, it is a relatively flat, but very rocky, 14km to get to the entrance gate of Bo Plaas. The camp site was large, with plenty of space to set up our tents, a nice central fire pit, as well as green lush grass. The ablutions and kitchen area were also good.
We completely misjudged how long the drive would take us to get into Die Hel. I had forgotten how long that 50km stretch from the Swartberg turnoff was. I don’t think I will be forgetting it any time soon. So again, it was a quick camp setup, get Olivia fed and in bed, then sit by the fire to cook some dinner and relax. Linda was exhausted, so she was in bed early, and we decided to make an early start the next morning (07h00) as we were heading down to the Knysna on the coast.