It has been a while since I wrote my last blog – a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then – but now that we have our house move out of the way and we are settled in our new retirement home in beautiful Knysna in the Western Cape, it is time to resume my writing. I promised that I would write about our visit to Gannaga Pass on the eastern side of the Tankwa Karoo National Park, so here goes.
There aren’t too many animals to look at in this rather arid park, so one has to appreciate the stark beauty of the area, and by driving up Gannaga Pass you will be able to take in the vast expanse of landscape from a high vantage point. The drive up the pass is about six kilometers long and there are a couple of places along the way to stop and enjoy the beauty as it unfolds below you.
At the foot of the pass the vegetation comprises mostly of Gannaga bush and succulent plants like the botterboom trees, which faintly resemble baobabs with their bulbous bases. Scarce as animals are, one has the chance to catch a glimpse of kudu and eland here as they feed on the Gannaga bushes. Before ascending the pass, one drives past the remains of a stone cottage let go by humans and grabbed hold of by Mother Nature. Who lived there, one might ask, in this harsh environment, and why and when did they leave? What was it like living here all those years ago? There are more questions than answers.
As the road snakes up the Roggeveld Mountains the air gets thinner and cooler and the sky somehow looks more blue. We stopped often to drink in the scenery and to watch the landmarks and insulbergs below getting smaller and smaller. Rob commented that it would be amazing to cycle this pass, so I knew what was occupying his mind as we drove slowly higher. Quite near the top of the pass is a viewpoint where one can relax with a cup of coffee and meditate on the peace and silence. From here you can trace the course of a long-gone river by the ribbon of trees that hug the dry bed, and gaze on the Cedarberg Mountains on the horizon that look both blue and very far away.
As one climbs higher the vegetation changes until one reaches the top of the pass where it flattens out and grasslands prevail. What an experience it is to scale these dizzy heights and absorb the beauty and silence of this magnificent pass. The way down is best taken slowly lest you meet an oncoming car on the narrow road. We descended reluctantly, not wanting to end the experience too quickly. All too soon, however, the road deposits you back on the flat plains where the occasional Springbok was caught grazing in the morning sun.
This is an area to explore if you want to get far away from the madding crowds and think about what it means to be disconnected from society for a while. Don’t bother to go there if you want to be entertained, need animals to fill your time or are looking for lush vegetation. This spot is arid and Zen-like. Enjoy it if you dare!!!