The Fifth in the series of Famous South African Passes: – Attaquas Kloof and Robinson Pass.

Attaquas Kloof pass west of Robinson Pass between Mossel Bay and Oudtshorn, was the earliest recorded route linking the coastal strip with the little Karoo via the Outeniqua Mountains.

Curves of Robinson Pass

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.

The pass cut out of the rock

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 travelling 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 travellers 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 travellers.


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, e.g. 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.

Fantastic scenery from the pass

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 blockhouses along the Outeniqua Mountains to prevent the Boers from reaching the coastal towns.   One of this well-preserved blockhouses is situated near the top of the Attaquas pass overlooking that part of the old wagon road leading to Oudtshoorn.

Fantastic Outeniqua Mountains

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 mountainside away from the present road in the direction of the Mooihoek farm homestead.


For today’s traveller, 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.


Thomas Bain was asked to improve the pass started by the Divisional Council in 1860 and were still working at it in 1866 when they gave up the ghost.


Bain improved the work and took a new line up the southern slopes of the Outeniques working with 142 convicts.


The new road was officially opened on the 4th June 1869. The pass was named after the Inspector Murrell Robinson Robinson.

It might be a tarmac pass but still dangerous a tragic bus accident involving Dutch tourists

The cost of the pass appears to have been 30 000 pounds.

Alternate Names: Ruiter bos, Brandwaghoogte.

Altitude 860 metres, GPS way Points : S 33.87239   E 22.03117  On the R328








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Filed under 4x4, African continent, Little Karoo, Passes, Tours, Western Province Travel

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