A poort is defined as a path through a mountain range. The Cogman’s Kloof Pass extends across a poort which runs through the Langeberg between Ashton and Montagu on the popular Route 62 to Oudtshoorn.
The pass follows the path of the Kingna River and is therefore susceptible to flooding.
The Cogmans were a Khoikhoi chiefdom. Early history of white settlement indicates that farms beyond the Langeberg were granted from1725 onwards. The link to the main settlement for transporting their produce was difficult and open to flooding.
The original track was a precarious one running alongside the riverbed incorporating 8 hazardous drifts. Some of these drifts were of thick and heavy sand while others were of rough beds of rock and boulders. To round the Kalkoenkrantz, wagons had no other option but to travel in the riverbed itself.
In 1861, a Parliamentary Select Committee authorised the building of a road using convict labour, but as convicts were in short supply, no work was possible.
Six years later, the unfortunate drowning of 12 people prompted some action and a survey of the land was undertaken. A 5,5km stretch of road was approved and work began in 1867.
Construction using what is termed as “distressed labour” soon lost momentum. The work was arduous and the previously unemployed labourers were not up to the demands of such physical labour. Work stopped in 1870.
Thomas Bain, son of Andrew Geddes Bain, surveyed the pass and work was restarted in 1873. Included in the task was an unlined tunnel through the hard rock of the Kalkoenkrantz. Remember that dynamite was still new at that time and blasting was done with gunpowder, which was far more inferior and volatile. Bain did manage to obtain some dynamite, though most of the blasting was done with gunpowder.
This section of work only addressed the 5,5km stretch of road, but the crossing of the Kingna River at the entrance to Montagu remained a problem, as it was liable to serious flooding in the harsh Cape Winters. A bridge was constructed in 1915.
Tarring of the strip of road took place in 1931. Traffic volumes as well as the size of vehicles were increasing and Bain’s tunnel at Kalkoenkrantz was proving to be insufficient. The tunnel was straightened and the Loftus Bridge carried the roadway across the river, as did the Boy Retief Bridge further down.
The area is most susceptible to flooding and in 1981, at the same time Laingsburg was tragically flooded, the Montagu area also suffered serious flooding. The approach to the Boy Retief was washed away. Again in 2003 the area experienced serious flooding with the approaches to both bridges suffering major damage.
Approaching from the Ashton side, one is struck by the beauty of the area. The wide riverbed, running below the road, is flanked by vineyards in an idyllic setting, which give way to the stark, rugged beauty of the rock formations as one enters the Kloof.
At Kalkoenkrantz, set back from the road, on the other side of the river is a most beautiful gorge. The cliffs are sheer and high and reminds one of the organ pipes in a classical cathedral such as St Paul’s. It is a truly breathtaking sight. There are a number of viewing sights and the magnitude of this pass’s beauty is only grasped when one takes the time out to walk and look around, and also to look up. By looking up, one realises the depth of the gorge one is in and the rugged attraction of the rock formations.