Eastern Cape Tourist AttractionsCarlisleshoekspruit Pass
To reach Tiffindel ski resort, deep in the northern reaches of the Eastern Cape, one must navigate an incredibly steep, sometimes heart-in-mouth kind of driving pass known as Carlisleshoekspruit.
Most of the pass, in theory, is in pretty good condition – it pays the resort for people to arrive at their destination in one piece - with the worst bits strip-concreted or completely concreted.
Carlisleshoekspruit Pass lies in the Eastern Cape highlands – the tail end of the Drakensberg Mountains that limp over the KZN border and form what is known as the Dragon's Tail. These mountains are sheer, remote and beautiful.
In these mountains are at least eight different passes, some of them extremely difficult to drive, most of them adrenalin inducing, and many of them now on the list of avid bikers and 4x4 enthusiasts.
There are two indicative road signs on the pass. The first: 'Keep up revs and drive confidently', and the second: 'You've done the worst only 10 km to go'.
Carlisleshoekspruit Pass lies on the road between the village of Rhodes and Tiffindell, close to Ben Macdhui - the just over 3000 metre high mountain that is the highest peak within the Eastern Cape (KwaDuma is higher, but it rests on the Lesotho border).
Rhodes is an excellent base from which to explore many of the passes in the region. The little historical village is quaint, and perched in amongst the mountains. Some of the houses have been turned into self-catering houses and guest homes.
To reach the pass from Rhodes leave along the main gravel road to Naude's Nek Pass, taking the first left just after the police station.
But, if you have a 4x4, then one of the best ways to drive Carlisleshoekspruit is as a return trip to Rhodes. Rather drive the Bidstone/Volunteershoek Pass to Tiffendell, and then descend using Carlisleshoekspruit Pass. This circular route has become very popular.
Carlisleshoekspruit is, in similar fashion to Macdhui, named after the Scotts - one of the farms in this valley was called Carlisle's Corner. Over time it became the Afrikaans Carlisleshoek. And 'spruit', of course, comes from the Afrikaans 'stream'.
Take warm clothes, and check in with the locals in Rhodes ahead of your drive for last minute news on the pass.