The Franschhoek Pass, located on the R45, is the most scenic of the only two routes leading into the popular town of Franschhoek. The Pass is also known as Lambrechts Road and 150 years ago was called Olifantshoek (Elephants Corner), after the mythical herds of gentle giants that were once believed to roam these mountains and valleys.
The Franschhoek Pass was formally constructed in 1822 by a group of soldiers under the command of Major Holloway and the orders of Lord Charles Somerset. The Jan Jouberts’ Gat Bridge was part of the original construction and today is South Africa’s oldest single span stone-arch bridge still in use. There is a plaque at this little stone bridge commemorating the hard work of the soldiers who built the Pass. This is a particularly beautiful spot and visitors can stop and picnic here while enjoying the wonderful surroundings.
The Pass is extremely popular with the locals and Capetonians often take Sunday drives over the Pass, particularly biker groups, visitors should expect lots of bikers on the road on weekends. For stunning panoramic views, mountains and gorges there aren’t many routes that can compare.
The Huegonot Memorial, where Franschhoek’s Main road intersects with Lambrechts Road, is the northern most starting point of the Pass. The Pass starts in the suburbs of the town, but after a few hundred metres the steep climb with easy curves up the foothills begins. Do take care, however at the first hairpin as it as it is very sharp and curves completely through 180 degrees and needs to be negotiated carefully. The Pass climbs up the contours of the mountain revealing stunning views of the town, vineyards and orchards below and offers several safe viewing sites along the way. The next section of the Pass, to the next just as tricky hairpin, is possibly the best of the route with dramatic scenery and sheer drops! The summit, however still has the best viewpoint of the whole Pass and there is a gravel track that leads you to the Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve, permits are required to visit.
From the summit there is a long descent ahead, filled with deep gorges, waterfalls, Joubert’s Gat Bridge, more hairpins and viewpoints. After the bridge pay attention to the road signs and look out for the warning of a sharp turn to your right, here the speed limit suggested is 30 km/hr. for this 90 degree bender and this is considered the most dangerous part of the Pass. The bridge over the Du Toit Span River will come into view and this marks the end of the Pass.
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