Africa trips

Die Hel - December 08 - Pieter Pretorius

Overlanding Trips

You have to follow this road until you get to ********

At ************

Turn left at ************ towards the Swartberg Pass. The road will become a tarred road for a while. When you reach the Swartberg Pass it will be gravel again.

Keep in mind that trailers and Caravans are NOT allowed on the Swartberg Pass. I do not think that it is so steep that you cannot get up. The problem is that the road is very narrow at some places and if a vehicle comes from the other direction you might have to reverse which will be very difficult with a trailer or caravan. Some of the bends on the pass is also very sharp.

Swartberg Pas
Swartberg Pass

This is one of the most spectacular mountain passes in South Africa. A photograph cannot capture the intense beauty and you cannot describe it in words. The only way is to go see for yourself.

Follow the road over the Swartberg Pass and down the other side until you find the sign shown below, turn left here.

Turnoff to Gamkaskloof

If the signs says "2 hours" for the 50Km you can believe it. The general conception (or misconception) is that the road is very bad and that it is a 4x4 route. It is not. It is a normal graded road which is badly corrugated at some places. Just deflate your tyres to 1.6 bars and off you go. When we explore a road like this we stop a lot to look at the plants and rocks. So it took us closer to 3 hours to drive to the hell.

You can reach the hell with a normal sedan car although I do not suggest you do it. But some of the locals do go there in their Audi. If you drive carefully and know what you are doing you will reach the hell with a normal car. You might scratch the belly here and there but it should not do serious harm (if you know what you are doing)

My suggestion is that you at least use a car with high ground clearance. The roads inside the hell has been washed away and poorly fixed. You might reach the hell and the main camping site by normal car, but down in hell you will not be able to drive to the shop, etc.

As I said the road is too bad but it takes long because it is full of sharp bends and it is like full of waves (bigger than speed humps) which prevent you from going fast. At places we did reach 80Km/h but most of the time you go very slow.

Road to die hel
The road to hell (also called the Otto du Plessis road)

Pad na die hel
The road to hell, the picture shows Gamkas Kloof, in the valley is the place called "The Hell"

I would still consider to take my chances with a trailer on the Swartberg Pass, but on this road to hell a trailer is a definite NO. The bends are so sharp at some places that you have to make a 3 point turn to get around the corners and at most places the road is not wide enough for two cars to pass each others.

The Hell was first inhabited by farmers in 1830 but was only accessible by foot until 1963 when this road was finally built into the valley.

The road to hell is not all just landscape scenery. There are also beautiful flowers all along the way. At one spot there are a lot of Proteas, it almost seems like a Protea plantation.


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This trip report was compiled by:
Pieter Pretorius from Langebaan