The name makes no reference to a house anywhere on the pass, but is instead derived from the Khoikhoi word for ‘Willow Tree’.
The pass is between Calitzdorp and Ladismith and the two Divisional Councils combined to build it in 1896/97.
The current pass is a very new one having only been completed in 1966. An engineering marvel, it represents a triumph of building a mountain pass through some very hostile terrain. Hostile to effective pass-building that is.
It is a wide, dual lane pass, and the effect of just how much rock had to be moved in the building of this causeway is only driven home in some sections. Huge chunks of the mountain face are carved out of the earth and with the sheer and steep gradients, posed problems of how to prevent further rockfalls onto the road, causing damage to traffic. At some sections the gradients were so steep, any removal of rock resulted in practically everything above tumbling down onto the road.
Notice the retaining walls built at some sections with a gap between the wall and the mountainside. These are intended to catch any rock falls. They are periodically serviced and the fallen debris is removed during regular maintenance. The system has worked well since the pass’s opening.
Other sections have restricting metal mesh placed over them to prevent these rocks from displacing and falling onto the road and traffic.
There are permanent reminders of the damage heavy rainfall causes to the area, with new sections of tarred road where the previous sections have been washed away.
The scenery along the pass is amazing. Deep ravines, gorges and high cliffs abound. The vegetation is thick with brush and fynbos, and is rich and lush.
Viewing spots are liberally placed along the route and one is advised to unshackle oneself from the restraints of sitting in a car and take in the breathtaking beauty of this pass. The tranquility of the area is only momentarily shattered by the sound of other vehicles using the pass.
While in this pass, one marvels at the rugged beauty of the ravines and gorges, at the falcons soaring near the cliffs and at the fynbos and flowers on show. Take the time out to marvel at the engineering achievement of the pass, cut along a slope, which was inhospitable to building a pass and which is a testimonial to South African pass building.