Western Cape Tourist AttractionsThe Garcia's Pass
Where? Between Riversdale and Ladismith, Western Cape
When? Best during daylight hours
How much? Free
Back in the old days the only route through the Langeberg Mountains was via the Plattekloof Pass, something of a detour for farmers who wanted to reach Riversdale and subsequently Mossel Bay for trade.
Today Garcia's Pass takes travellers along a beautifully scenic tar road via Grootvaders Bosch and the Garcia Nature Reserve to Riversdale, on the N2 east of Suurbraak and Heidelberg. For these parts the pass has a rather foreign sounding name but, as with many of the passes hewn initially by enterprising individuals, it is named after a Mr AH Garcia, the Civil Commissioner of Riversdale at the time. He realised that by following the course of the then Kafferskuils River Gorge, now called the more politically correct Goukou River, one could find a path through the mountains.
By 1868 there was a commonly used bridle path, initially constructed by a few convicts under the orders of Garcia. Within a few years Thomas Bain had been called in to construct a proper road that took some four years to complete, given some of the impossible curves and bends.
Garcia's Pass isn't a well known pass, despite its beauty and its claim as an incredible example of pass builders' craft. The pass today has been widened in places and a lot of the rather hairy sharp curves have been softened and supporting walls, some of them as high as 15 metres, constructed by the convicts under Thomas Bain. It climbs the slopes of the Mosambiekkop, also known as Sleeping Beauty.
Garcia Pass along the R323 is roughly 80 kilometres long and is a magnificent pass, with wonderful views over the valley. Explore the pass at your leisure as you will most likely have much of it to yourself. Today's farmers have other alternative routes to trade.
For more info and photographs read ouyr article "Taking the Back Roads - The Garcia Pass between Riversdale and Ladismith".