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Gantouw Pass Hike to Centuries Old Ox Wagon Tracks

Our Eco-Rangers and a few visitors enjoyed a gentle hike on Saturday to see the wagon wheel tracks and canons at the top of Sir Lowry’s Pass, from the 1600 century.

gantouw-pass-to-helderberg

Gantouw Pass to Helderberg

Well done to our youngest hiker who has just turned three. He walked the enitre way on his tiny little legs sniffing all the flowers, checking out all the rocks and playing in any muddy patch he could find.

Blood-Root-Dilatris-viscosa

Blood Root – Dilatris viscosa

wagon-wheel-grooves-in-sandstone-rock

Wagon Wheel Grooves In Sandstone Rock

It’s mind boggling how ox wagons went up and down this notoriously treacherous mountain pass. Deep cuts in the sandstone rock, caused by the locked wagon wheels as they slid down the dangerous slope, can still be seen from centuries before. This is a fascinating piece of South African history! The Khoi herders used this route which they called “Gantouw”, a pass over the “T’kana Ouwe” – or mountain range now known as Hottentots Holland . “Gantouw” means Eland in the Khoi language.

The earliest recorded crossing of the pass was by a Dutch East India Company surveyor, Hendrik Lacus in 1662. By 1821 more than 4 500 wagons were using the Gantouw Pass (Hottentots-Hollands Kloof) each year.

gantouw-pass-hike

Gantouw Pass Hike

It however came at a steep price. Apparently one out of every five wagons were damaged in the arduous journey. In spite of the tough moutain pass, it continued as the main route for over 150 years.

We had lunch at the top of the pass where there are two Dutch East India Company signal cannons. The Helderberg Renaissance Foundation is trying to restore the cannons to firing condition and they will be fired on National Heritage day 24th September each year.

Even though there has been a very dry winter there were many beautiful wild flowers in bloom. There where two types of “Blood Root” genus in flower, one being the Dilatris viscosa and the ther being Wachendorfia paniculata.

blood-root-wachendorfia-paniculata

Blood Root – Wachendorfia Paniculata


Thanks to Andreas Groenewald for guiding us and filling our minds with amazing stories and facts about the history of Gantouw Pass.

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