Africa trips

Road to Hell - Aug 2012

Overlanding Trips

The idea started more than a year ago when Cobus from Kanoneiland suggested we do the Road to Hell trip.

He read a story about the Cruiser club who battled for two days to help strangers who went down the Road to Hell to get up again.

It took some months of planning and eventually we had one vehicle from Gauteng, 3 from the Northern Cape and 3 from the Western Cape.

For the first time ever I did not drive with my own vehicle. I went with my good friend, Johannes in his Hilux.

We left early on Thursday morning and reached Ramansdrif late the afternoon. If you are coming from Cape Town, you follow the road from Springbok north and turn off at Okiep, about 7km north of Springbok. Then follow the road to Concordia and from there you follow your GPS.

The plan was to meet at Ramansdrif and sleep there the first night.

On this trip there are no facilities or organized camping spots. You have to be 100% self sufficient.

The level of the river is not always the same, thus I cannot tell you what it would be like when you get there. When we were there the level of the river was very low and we could easily camping on the patch of ground next to the river. It is a lovely spot and those who took fishing rods with could even catch some fish


Ramansdrif camp

Camping at Ramansdrif

By that evening all the vehicles from the various areas arrived and it was nice to meet all the new faces whom we only knew from forum usernames.

That evening Johannes and I treated the visitors with 2x fresh snoek and one smoked snoek, o ja, and some Bokkoms. The smoked snoek and Bokkoms were Johannes's idea and the guys really liked it.

That evening we enjoyed laughter under the bright stars next to the Orange River. Some of the guys from the Northern Cape should really become comedians and throughout the trip they entertained us.

The next morning it was time for the Road To Hell. We decided to leave early so that we have enough time to drive down the road.

From Ramansdrif it is a couple of hours' drive. The area is beautiful and very interesting. Next to the road you will see some "Halfmens" and many interesting plants. Next time I go there I will put aside a whole day to drive from Ramans to The Road to Hell.

The pictures below were taken on the road from Ramansdrif to Road to Hell.

Road to Hell

Road to Hell trip

Road to Hell trip

We reached the start of "The Road To Hell"

Start of Road to Hell

Apparently the road was built by miners to be used as an escape route only when the river was too high to use the normal road. There are no sign of the normal road anymore, thus the only route down the valley today is via "the road to hell"

Down the road of hell

The road down is a normal rocky road. About 300 to 400 meters from the top is a big rock on the side of the road and you first have to make sure the hole at the bottom of the rock is not too deep. This rock is actually the only difficult part on the route.

It is very steep, with loose, sharp rocks and one have to take care not to cut a sidewall of your tyres. Wide vehicles like Land Cruisers and Patrols will find this route much more difficult than narrow vehicles.

Hilux on road to hell


Road to hell

RTH down

Besides the one big route there really are nothing else that is very difficult. I was rather disappointed when we reached the bottom and was informed that it was the end of the pass. It was a moment like "What, is that all?" . Is this what all the fuss is about?

The area is still beautiful and I will easily spend months on end here.

The camp down there in the hell is not as nice as the previous evening's camping space. Here you only have sand to choose from, no grass and it is about 500 meters from the river. But still you are under the stars, far from any noise and completely cut off from the outside world.

Camp at road to hell

The camp at road to hell

Some of us went for a swim and quick was in the freezing cold waters of the Orange River. This was in the week when it rained so much up north that it was even snowing in Jo'burg and Pretoria. I guess all that snow was the reason why the river's water were so cold.

That evening it was again an evening of stories and laughter around the fire. One of the friendly Northern Cape farmers who joined the party sponsored some super tender lamb chops.

It was a bit chilly, but nothing which some Muscadel from Oranjerivier Wynkelders could not solve.

The next day it was cloudy and it looked like rain. Piet (who has lots of experience in this area) suggested that we start early. He was afraid that it might start raining and then the rocks will become slippery. We just had coffee and rusks and decided to make breakfast when we reached the top.

The road up is very slow crawling and easy navigation, but nothing serious. There are two or three areas where the vehicles without diff lock will spin, but nothing too serious. The most important thing is to deflate your tyres to at least 1.2 or even 1.1 bar.

Going up road to hell

Going up road to hell

All was easy sailing until we came to that big rock 300 meters from the end.

We packed rocks again to make sure that everything is fine and that all the vehicles will get to the top safely. You have to take the correct line otherwise you will end up down the cliff on the side.

Do not try to just drive up that big rock. Let somebody stand on the outside and show you where to put your right wheel. Putting the right wheel 10cm to far to the right can cause problems.

Some people might suggest that you have to go up with some speed to get momentum, I totally disagree with that. If you go up with speed the vehicle will bounce which can cause it to bounce off track as we have seen.

If you don't make it rather deflate your tyres more, instead of going up with more speed. Even 0.8 bar will still be safe.

This is the only difficult part of the whole route.

Our first two vehicles went up without problems but then the third vehicle bounced in the wrong direction and found itself in a dangerous situation.

Road to hell recovery

We first anchored the the vehicle with one other vehicle and later with a second. Both anchors had to reverse down the pass in order to assist, which was a hair rising experience.

The rest of the vehicles went up without any problems. The last Land Cruiser pick-up proved the tyre pressure theory. They came at with a little bit more speed than the rest of us but immediately started to spin. We immediately stopped them, deflated the tyres to 1.2 bars (from 2.2) and they went up with ease. They were not part of our group, they found us at the bottom the previous evening.

And then is was all over. We reached the top in safety and all were very happy and thrilled.

Finish road to hell

This is the view when you go over the other side of the road to hell, beautiful !


About a kilometre from the start of the Road to Hell we found a big open space where they used to mine Mica. We used this as breakfast area.

Breakfast at road to hell

Nothing like fresh coffee and heated chops from the previous evening.

Coffe road to hell

That evening we camped at Kamgab. Although Kamgab is only a couple of kilometres from the bottom of Road to Hell, you have to drive all the way around the mountains. This is a couple of hours drive depending on how fast you drive. The whole route are beautiful, over mountains, through dry river beds until you find the river again.

River bed to Kamgab

The camp at Kamgab also do not have grass. The grass was washed away in the floods of two years ago. But it is also next to the river with excellent fishing spots. There were also some fish eagles circling the area.

This afternoon the weather was not great. The wind was blowing and every now and then some rain came poring down. This lasted until about 20h00 in the evening, but it did not put us off to have one last wonderful evening of relaxing next to a camp fire.

Kamgab Camp

Camp fire at Kamgab

The next morning we were rewarded by being awaken by fish eagles.

Is the Road to Hell the most difficult road to drive in South Africa?
No, it is not. There is only one part that is rather difficult and very dangerous. BUT it is not a road to tackle on your own. If something do go wrong you will not find any help in the area and it might be weeks before the next vehicle came along.

What to take with?
There is nothing, it is the bare earth and you. You have to take your own fire wood, water, food (obviously), spare fuel, a spade to dig your own holes for a toilet. In winter 5 litres of water per person per day is enough, in summer it gets very hot here and even with 5 litres per person per day you might feel that it was not enough.

Take a GPS or very reliable maps. There are many little roads and without a GPS you will get lost. I am not a big GPS fan myself, but on this trip I was glad that we did have a GPS.

Where to book:
The Road to Hell is part of the Namaqua eco trail. You must get a permit. You can get a permit from:
Springbok Tourism , 027 712 8035/6;

When is the best time to go?
Summer is very hot and winter very cold. The best time is autumn and spring. September would be a good month because then the succulent would have flowered.

Road to hell - gdb
Road to hell - gpx


This trip report was compiled by:
Pieter Pretorius