The Gannaga Pass was set out by the Bain family and built as part of a public works programme during the Great Depression.
It is a pass that just has to be experienced. Just off the R354 on the way to Sutherland, one is offered quite a bargain in the deal when visiting this beautiful pass. The R354 and surrounds is home to some other very beautiful, breathtaking and albeit nerve wracking passes including the Verlatenkloof Pass and the Ouberg Pass.
The Gannaga Pass is a one track, gravel pass and takes one onto the Roggeveld escarpment, a beautiful stretch of Karoo resplendent in flora.
Gannaga is a spectacular pass, held in place by impressive stonewalls, rising sharply along 700 m of Roggeveld escarpment. It is 6km of dramatic switchbacks not for the particularly fainthearted. Once at the peak, one is rewarded for one’s trepidation with breathtaking views of the Tanqua Karoo basin below.
Most of the pass is within the Tankwa Karoo National Park. About halfway up the pass is a very healthy Botterboom forest.
There is a wealth of birdlife, heralded by the circling Black Eagles suspended in the air in graceful flight, while searching for prey.
Further along the R354 west of Sutherland, also just off the track, one finds the Ouberg Pass, which winds itself down the Roggeveld Mountains into the Karoo Basin, a thousand metres below. It is an experience of absolute beauty as one looks over the entire basin, seeing Ceres in the distance, and even as far as Towerkop near Ladismith. On the pass you will find the very rare Olifantsvoet, as well as the Sterboom, both endemic to this area.
The Verlatenkloof Pass, southwest of Sutherland on the R354, which winds its way up 1000 metres of steep slopes of the Roggeveld Mountains.
Access to Sutherland was limited and in 1874 Thomas Bain set out a pass. Work started that year and was completed in 1875. The pass allowed a loaded wagon pulled by donkeys, to complete the Matjiesfontein-Sutherland trip. Longer if the donkeys were particularly stubborn.
Hesketh, who completed the work on the pass on behalf of Bain, built the pass at his own expense until the government could refund him, which when the time came, they could not do. They gave him a farm, Klipbanksrivier in lieu of payment.
There is a commemorative stone with his name etched into it, dated 1875.
Naturally a trip to this area will undoubtedly involve staying over in the World famous Sutherland, where the SALT (Southern African Large Telescope) is situated.
Even if you are not a stargazer and become squint when looking through a telescope, recline in a chair and look up at the sky for a demonstration of stellar proportions, unsullied by light pollution.