The third in a series of famous South African passes The Attaquas & Robinson Passes


Attaquas Kloof Pass is about six kilometers west of the present day Robinson Pass between Mossel Bay and Oudtshoorn, was the earliest recorded route linking the coastal strip with the Little Karoo across the Outeniqua Mountains

Most of the early ox wagon passes were not constructed as such but early explorers merely followed game/elephant tracks or foot paths made by the Khoi Khoi people over the mountains.

The first ox wagon pass across the Langeberg Outeniqua range was the Attaquaskloof Pass, north of Mossel Bay.   This became the main road to the North for 180 years from 1689-1869.

Only with the arrival of John Montagu, the colonial secretary at the Cape from 1843 – 1852, and the expertise of Andrew Geddes Bain and his son Thomas, did proper road construction begin in the Cape.

The first properly constructed passes over the Cape fold mountains between the coast and little Karoo were the Montagu Pass (1848) between George and Oudtshoorn and the Robinson Pass (1869) between Mossel Bay and Oudtshoorn.

Nowhere else in Southern Africa is there such a concentration of mountain passes in one area, nor such a wealth of variety in there scenery and vegetation as can be found in the Southern Cape.   These passes are a much a part of the little Karoo story as the ostrich – without them there would have been no access, no settlement of farms and no way for the farmer to communicate with, and bring his products to the outside world.

The Attaquaskloof pass was the “N1” for ox wagons traveling North and East and was used by thousands of ox wagons from 1689 until 1869.   The first ox wagon to use this route was an expedition of 21 men and 2 wagons sent out by Simon van der Stel, under the leadership of ensign Isaac Schrijver in January 1689.   Gouriqua Khoi Khoi pointed out the old elephant route to them.   It took Schrijver 7 days to cross over the Attaquas mountains from the farm Hagelkraal on the Southern Side to Saffraansrivier on the Northern side.   A list of travelers passing through the Attaquas pass is a who’s who of celebrated early explorers and boasts names such as Thunberg (1772 – 1773), Sparrman (1775-1776), Swellengreber (1776), Van Plettenberg (1778), Patterson (1777-1779), Gordon (1786) and Van Reenen (1790).   In the early 1800’s came Barrow and a host of other travelers.  In 1842, the official toll of wagons passing through the Attaquas was 4280 that year alone.   It became known as “the gateway to the Karoo and Eastern Cape”.   Although other passes into the little Karoo were established before the end of the 18th century, eg. The Plattekloof pass and the Duiwelskop pass. They did not pose a serious threat to the Attaquas pass.   The establishment of George in the early 19th century and the Cradock (1812) and Montagu (1847) passes brought about the beginning of the end of the Attaquas pass, but finally the Ruiterbosch pass (1869) now known as the Robinson pass, provided a new and shorter route between Oudtshoorn and Mossel Bay, and this finally ended the 180 year reign of what must be one of the most attractive passes over either the Langeberg or the Outeniqua mountains.   In the late 1800’s Thomas Bain surveyed a railway line from Albertinia through the Gouritz gorge and over the Attaquas pass but this was never constructed due to the outbreak of the Anglo Boer War.   During the Anglo Boer War the Mossel Bay town guard built a series of block houses along the Outeniqua mountains to prevent the Boers from reaching the coastal towns.   One of this well-preserved block houses is situated near the top of the Attaquas pass overlooking that part of the old wagon road leading to Oudtshoorn.

For todays traveler, the Attaquas pass, which has been declared a national monument, offers spectacular scenery, pristine fynbos, natural rock pools, relics of block houses, an old hotel and toll houses, remains of ox wagons alongside the road and outspans with aloe kraals to hold the oxen.

Outeniques from Attaquas Pass

View up the Robinson Pass


Ruiterbos is the start of the Robinson pass and was constructed between 1867 and 1869 and was named after the then commissioner of roads, M.R. Robinson.  Previously there was a bridal path over the Outeniqua mountains and it was named the Ruiterbosch Pad.   The pass was realigned and tarred in the 1950’s but signs of the original pass constructed by Thomas Bain are still to be seen next to the tar road on both sides of the pass.   At the top of the pass, on the Western side of the road is a monument to M.R. Robinson and directly opposite, the original road curves down the mountain side away from the present road in the direction of the Mooihoek farm homestead.

Robinson Pass

For your information the Attaquas pass is gravel and the GPS co-ordinates are:   S33.86164  E21.96459

The pass is approximatly 800m above sea level

The information for Robinson Pass is tarmac and the GPS co-ordinates are:  S33.87239  E22.03117

The pass is approximately 860 m above sea level

Please note all GPS points are in the format of  h ddd mm.mmm

Testament to a terrible accident on the pass involving tourists


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Filed under 4x4, Hiking, Little Karoo, Passes, Tours

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