While Sir Lowry’s Pass gave easier access to Grabouw and was indeed a gateway to the Overberg, the descent on the eastern side needed serious attention.
Cole’s Pass is in fact the 25km stretch of plateau between Sir Lowry’s Pass and the Houwhoek Pass. As part of the Sir Lowry’s Pass project, Charles Michell built the Houwhoek Pass but fell very short of funds.
Considered of far lesser importance than Sir Lowry’s, it was completed 9 months after the main project..
With its completion the Overberg became far more accessible. The transition from subsistence farming to market farming became more attractive and gained momentum, and the standard of living in the interior improved dramatically as a result thereof.
Cole’s Pass straddles two previously problematic rivers, the Steenbras and the Palmiet. A pontoon
operated at the Palmiet at the turn of the 19th Century, and a bridge was built in 1808, the first in the country to be built outside of a town. Note that this is not the bridge which the N2 crosses. That bridge was built in 1958.
Houwhoek Pass was built somewhat on the cheap after Sir Lowry Cole had been rapped across the knuckles for spending public money without the approval of the Crown. This Pass, damaged by the heavy ox wagons, had to be rebuilt by Andrew Bain 15 years later in 1846.
The Pass in its current four-lane format was completed in 1976.
Entering the Houwhoek Pass from the Grabouw side, one encounters the landmark establishments, the Houwhoek Inn and the Houwhoek Farm Stall. The Pass itself is short and stocky, but one should remember that it is actually a descent and can therefore be ‘short and stocky’.
After the Inn, the gorges visible from the pass are quite magnificent. Lush and green with vegetation, they run deep and are a beautiful sight indeed. The top of the Houwhoek Pass is almost a portal to the Overberg, and the farmlands which stretch out ahead are a sight to behold in the late winter as they are awash with the green hues of crop such as wheat and barley and the contrasting bright yellow of canola. The lower road, heading towards Cape Town offers an even more panoramic view of the farmlands.