This spectacularly scenic road links the top of Barkly Pass to Ugie and combines technical driving with stunning views. The road is rough in places, so high clearance vehicles are recommended and 4x4 in wet weather. The pass is named after the Griquas who settled in the area for a while before deciding that the valleys around Maclear and Ugie were a more comfortable habitation. The rock formations in the area are of interests to geologists as there is evidence of glacial formation. The views at the top of the pass are breathtaking and reminiscent of Valley of a Thousand Hills. It is recommended to stop off at the quarry view point and take in the scenic beauty.
History of the pass.
This pass was named after the Griquas who pioneered this route on their great trek in 1862 from Philippolis to what was then known as Niemandsland (No Man’ s Land), later the district of Maclear and Ugie. It was a year of bad drought and the Griquas, under the leadership of Adam Kok III, endured much hardship and struggle, with many of their cattle dying along the way. There was no road to follow over the mountain escarpment and in places they had to dismantle their wagons and carry them, piece by piece. The Griquas settled in the foothills near Gatberg, a mountain easily seen from the top of the pass with its distinctive hole in the peak, formed by two slabs of rock leaning against each other. Over time, they moved further east to Kokstad, where the veld was sweeter and the soil more fertile. The area was named East Griqualand in 1878. In later years, trekboers from Barkly East used the same route to take their cattle to sweet spring grazing around Maclear. A properly constructed road was opened in 1979. If you’re looking for some wild adventure in a remote area, this little-used 4x4 route between the top of Barkly Pass and Ugie is for you. It’s frequently closed to traffic after rock falls, so ask local farmers about conditions before venturing onto it. For these same reasons, it’s also a favourite with those on two wheels, particularly extreme mountain bikers. But even if the route as a whole is not passable, the top viewsite on the edge of the escarpment is usually still accessible.
From the R58 south of Barkly East, turn onto the gravel R393 opposite Mountain Shadows Hotel towards Rhodes and Moshesh’s Ford. Turn right at the sign to Bastervoedpad and follow a reasonable farm road up a valley. Beyond the last farmhouse, the road deteriorates as it climbs. Wild flowers beckon you on, entire slopes covered in striking giant red hot pokers (Kniphofia northiae) early in summer. A small waterfall gushes over a slab of sandstone and a tall finger of rock points skywards.
Near the top of this ascent is a stone cairn in memory of Nic de Bruin, who surveyed and built this road. At the summit, a similar cairn is dedicated to Dr Lapa Munnik, whom the pass was named after when it was opened in 1979. However, the name did not stick and the original title of Bastervoetpad has prevailed.
There is a spectacular panoramic view from the top of the pass of undulating mountain foothills and distant peaks. From this point on the edge of the escarpment, at 2237 metres, you can see almost as far as Naude’s Nek in the northeast, in a broad sweep across Tent Kop, Maclear and Ugie, to Gatberg near Elliot in the south. The wind often howls over this saddle and it is difficult to keep a camera steady.
The route to Ugie takes a sharp zigzag across the face of the escarpment and continues below a band of rocky buttresses, winding across the folds of the mountain and traversing narrow ravines. A granite plaque is set into a rock commemorating the work of Leon Barnard, roads inspector at the time the pass was surveyed and built. At the bottom of the pass is a picnic spot next to a clear stream.
Birds commonly spotted around here include jackal buzzards and long-tailed widowbirds.
The road joins the R56 just west of the country town of Ugie. Allow about three hours to drive the entire route; however, the trip from Mountain Shadows Hotel to the panoramic viewsite takes just half an hour.