To Hell and back.
Have you been?
Yes, it exists.
There is a hot little place called The Hell that sits in the Gamkaskloof Valley that can be found in the Swartberg mountain range. The road that leads there is not paved with good intentions. Well, it’s not paved at all.
It is an adventure so far off the beaten path that few dare to take it.
The name Die Hel was given to this kloof because it is so difficult to access and the road that leads to the dead end, is quite dangerous. For years the only access was a steep donkey trail called “Die Leer” (in English = The Ladder), until they built the 4×4 dirt road in 1962. It is advised to travel there in a 4×4, although it has been done in a sedan. I speak of experience ヅ
The Swartberg mountains are magnificent. It is 230kms long and one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world.
I mean the road signs say it all!
More importantly, the following is not available:
No ATM’s or card swipe facilities
No cellphone reception
No public phones
Just you and nature, is what you can expect. Which is kind of heaven for a short while.
Dead proteas can be seen as you enter the 37km trip down to The Hell.
The deeper you travel into Hell, you cross a very narrow bridge and this is where Anton decided to show his Freddie Kruger hand, right before we got stuck.
Yes, that happened.
Fortunately we just had to move a few rocks about before the wheel managed to dislodge.
A long and winding road.
There is some serious concentration required when driving here.
For some parts I asked to get out of the car and walk. The road was just to narrow and full of hairpin bends. I had visions of the car toppling down the side. Heaven forbid another car came from the opposite side to pass! Hell no. There’s no place really to pull over safely. One of you would need to reverse a while. That is a whole different kind of hell.
The walk provided some photo time, and there are some breathtaking views to take in on the slow descent.
The road was built in the 60s and soon all the residents left, almost all of them selling their property to Cape Nature. (All but one!… Annetjie Joubert runs a guest house and the one and only restaurant in the valley). Before, there was no road. No access.
We didn’t see much life other than a lizard, a beetle, baboons, and flies for Africa!
After the longest 37km of my life, we reached our destination.
Hell doesn’t look that bad.
Apart from the intense heat and the flies and mosquitoes, hell is quite pleasant.
I was very very very happy to see a pool, though not the clear blue kind you’d find in the burbs. It was water to cool off in, and I was going to stay in there for a long time.
You have to experience it at least once!
You have to stay the night. The stars are more beautiful here than you can imagine! Also to drive in and out same day would be self-inflicted torture.
Hell is about the journey and the destination. It is a challenge and a daring venture. It’s definitely a senses overload. Looking around the rock-faces it feels like the world is spinning. Or is it me spinning?
I can understand the reason for the inhabitants who left. They were completely cut off from the world. This road that was meant to be an access route, became their escape.
Would I go back. No.
But I am glad to have experienced it. It was on my list. It is now crossed off. And what a well-worth adventure it was.