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Joubert's Pass                
The third highest pass in South Africa, Joubert's Pass traverses the Witteberg Mountains in a scenic loop. The road passes through beautiful farmlands before rising up through the Lammergeier Nature Reserve. Each year extreme adventure racers run across these exposed peaks in the 100km Skyrun which ends at Tiffindell Ski Resort. As you descend into Lady Grey it is well worth stopping at the town dam; the wall is 25m high and this area is makes a scenic picnic stop. You can walk up a natural staircase to the top of the dam wall. The beautiful Dutch Reformed sandstone church is a National Monument and each Easter is one of the locations throughout the town used for a passion play depicting the biblical story of the Resurrection of Christ. How the pass was built They say 'n boer maak 'n plan (a farmer makes a plan). Well, the Joubert clan certainly did when they wanted a short cut from Lady Grey to their farms over the mountain. They ended up with the third-highest pass in South Africa. Was it worth it? The sign at the top of the pass at the view of the lush valley surrounded by mountains reads 'Hemel op aarde' (heaven on earth), so they must have been pleased with themselves. This passage through the mountains was built using only manual labour. The stone tablet on the top of the pass credits five Jouberts: C, DF, GD, G and JM Joubert, plus GF Stephenson and CW Cloete. It was opened on 17 December 1914. The initials MP at the bottom of the tablet stand for Moos Pieterse, who also carved many of the headstones in the old cemetery in Lady Grey What you'll see along the pass Stop in at the 25-metre high concrete arch dam in a ravine down a bumpy road a couple of kilometres out of town to see a veil of water cascading over its lip. You can picnic at its base and climb a steep path to the top and enjoy the distant view of Lady Grey from this vantage point. Continue on Joubert’s Pass up a steep hill to where the road plateaus for a way. Up here, you can see the most westerly ridges of the Drakensberg, which are often coated with snow in winter. Many are studded with sharp basalt outcrops, looking much like the spines on a dragon’s tail. At the Witfontein Dam, it’s possible to detour up a steep, rough service road which leads to a telecommunications tower six kilometres further. Along here, you get the best views of Lady Grey, its houses clustered around the church at its heart, and the plain beyond towards the Orange River. On this track, you’ll find the starting point for a number of mountain hikes. Back on Joubert’s Pass, you pass a pretty waterfall before the road begins a long, winding climb up the front of the mountain towards a band of shale. As you go higher, you leave behind invasive, alien trees such as bluegums and pines, and the predominant vegetation becomes mountain grasslands, dotted with ouhout (Leucosidea sericea) shrubs. There are no longer peach trees at Perskedraai, but it is often very windy at the spot signposted Windpunt. The steepest section of the pass has a gradient of 1:6 and is just below the summit. At Die Nek, there’s just enough space to park a couple of vehicles, admire the distant view of Lady Grey down the valley to the west and, in the east, a beautiful, green valley ringed by mountains and signposted ‘Hemel-op-aarde’ (Heaven on earth). A stone tablet commemorates the men who built this pass. This is also the start of a hike, marked with a white hiking boot icon. The eastern descent is not as long as the western ascent, but it’s steep and it’s advisable to change down to first gear on the bends. There are no picnic spots on the pass and not many places where vehicles can pass each other, but fortunately you won’t see much traffic on this quiet back route. With photo stops and detours, it takes about two hours to get this far. The next section of the road meanders through farmlands, crossing ravines and clear, icy mountain streams at drifts with quirky names such as Kar Wegspoeldrif (Car wash-away Drift) and Car Sump Drift. Watch out for the odd switchback in the road that crops up without warning. Pass Lammergeier Private Nature Reserve, famous for its fly-fishing, off-road and nature trails, and nine kilometres later you meet the tarred R58 from Lady Grey to Barkley East. Allow around 3,5 hours for this 60-kilometre drive. Take the detour to the communications tower, past the parking place for the hiking trail, for the best view of Lady Grey. Lady Grey was named after a woman who never visited it, or even South Africa. Lady Eliza Lucy Spencer was the wife of Sir George Grey, the governor of the Cape at the time the village was founded. The Dutch Reformed Church bought land in 1856 to establish a new congregation east of Aliwal North and built the beautiful sandstone church, which is now a national monument and boasts an impressive pipe organ. In recent years, a number of artists and nature lovers have settled in this peaceful village and the Lady Grey Arts Academy has produced a number of graduates who have gone on to play leading roles in the performing arts. Each year at Easter, the town holds a passion play in various venues and the streets of the village. Large numbers of people participate and spectators are invited to dress in period costume. Lady Grey is on the Maloti Drakensberg Route and is notable as a fly-fishing destination, with some fine beats on the Karringmelkspruit for those wanting to hook trout and yellowfish.
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