Saturday, 9 January 2016

The Oliviershoek Pass via the R74

The R74 is the primary route to the Northern uKhahlamba Drakensberg World Heritage site 
The road runs alongside the spectacular Sterkfontein Dam and down the equally spectacular Olivierhoek pass on to the mountains.

For many years this section of the R74 that runs along the dam has fallen into 
terrible disrepair but in December 2015 the newly built road was once again opened. 
We took the road and like to share our experience.

Sterkfontein Dam 
Sterkfontein Dam and all the interesting names
Sandy Bay is the area situated next to the R74
The name Poacher's Corner keeps us wondering
This dam is part of the Tugela-Vaal Water Project and located on the Nuwejaarspruit, 
a tributary of the Wilge River in the upper catchment area of the Vaal River. 
Views of Sterkfontein Dam 
The dam receives its water via the Tugela-vaal Project which is a pumped-storage 
scheme involving the net transfer of up to 630 million cubic meters of water and 
stored in the dam. The Dam is a highly effective reservoir, since it has the depth 
to store a large amount of water with very little loss to evaporation. 
It comprises of a 93 meters high earthfill embankment 3,050 long with no spillway. 
Thanks to Joburg2c for sharing the photo 
It is the largest dam wall in South Africa with regards to volume while the reservoir 
formed by the dam is the third largest in the country. 
At full supply capacity of 2,656 million cubic meters and a surface area of no more than 70 km.
The circumference is approximately 102 km 
It is situated in a nature reserve with 12000 hectares of considered land offering, wildlife, birding, boating, watersports, flyfishing and magnificent views over the Drakensberg. 

It is one of the windiest inland spots with the most consistend wind 
throughout the year and wind can pick up to over 30 knots within minutes 
and makes it ideal for windsurfing. 
It is also home to the annual Sterkiesswim 3000 m in February 
The vulture restaurant used to be a place where fresh and poison free carcasses were put out to feed the vultures and it contribute to the survival of the birds especially during periods of food scarcity and when young birds fledge. 
We hope that this project will once again be up and running 
It is home to the endangered Oribi and White Tail Rat, 
the vulnerable De Winton's long-eared bats, 
the Lammergeier
the Near-threatened South African Hedgehog

The site is so named because the Voortrekker’s priest, Erasmus Smit, deemed the cluster of rocks at its base was worthy of a church. The heritage markers that can be visited are the Retief Klip, a stone engraved by the leader's daughter Deborah on his birthday to commemorate the Boer's successful land negotiations, and Retief Pass, the old wagon trail used by Piet Retief to descend into KwaZulu-Natal.
The rock with Retief's name as engraved by his daughter
The Bare foot women
The name packed in lime washed stones
The cluster of rocks that was used as a church 

You can read more about the Retief's daughter Deborah here
Driekloofdam at the bottom
The old sandstone quarry
You will find a little bit more about the quarry and a certain Flip Pieterse
on this blog post

Wild flowers
Old ruin
Oliviershoek Pass 
The summit point of 1758 m above sea level and is close to the most southerly arm 
of the Sterkfontein Dam.  
The descent is gentle and enters a wide S-bed which straightens out at the 2 km point. 
it is often used as an alternative route to Van Reenen's Pass but for us it is a scenic alternative to the Northern Drankensberg. Interestingly, and to add a little history to the mix, it was along this area in October 1837, that Piet Retief and his trek party climbed the Drakensberg.  

Thank you for joining us on this wonderful scenic drive on the newly built R74. 
Sending you lot of love from My Harrismith 

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