Northern Cape Tourist AttractionsMesselpad Pass
Messelpad Pass lies on the 104 km gravel road between Springbok and Hondeklip Bay in the Northern Cape, one of two passes through the Tigerkloof. These passes (the other is Wildeperdehoek Pass) are geographically linked and thus driven as one (you can't do the one without the other).
Whilst Messelpad is not much to write home about in terms of ascent (it does not reach great altitudes), it is exceptionally beautiful to drive for its dramatic scenery; accompanying the almost always dry bed of the Buffels River for much of its route, alongside imposing sandstone cliffs and, in spring, wild flowers that are nothing short of sensational (locals regard the pass as one of the best places to see flowers during the season).
To reach Messelpad Pass leave the N7 south of Springbok travelling in a westerly direction (following signs to Hondeklip Bay). The road is rough and best suited to 4X4 vehicles because of the corrugation, washouts and potholes.
Messelpad dates back to the late 1860s during the copper boom, when copper was the Cape's second biggest export. Discovered in Okiep, copper needed transport to the harbour at Hondeklip Bay. Incredibly this took six days by ox wagon (bearing in mind that the wagon and its wooden wheels had to engineer two passes through the mountain).
Messelpad was built as a result. The name of the pass, when translated from Afrikaans, means 'masonry road' - called such after the carefully engineered stone embankments that form the support for the road as it descends into the Buffels River valley.
Interestingly, around the time that the convict crew responsible for building Messelpad, under the direction of road engineer Patrick Fletcher, began additional work on Wildpaardehoek Pass (early 1871) the harbour was moved to Port Nolloth.
Messelpad Pass starts roughly 32 km from Springbok just beyond Luiskraal farm. The road follows the course of the Buffels River, crossing to the opposite bank over a little concrete bridge.
A climb follows before the road makes a sudden turn, levelling off to follow the natural mountain contours at an even altitude. One further ravine later and it begins following a tributary of the Buffels River before ending.
Only a few kilometres later the Wildeperdehoek Pass follows.