Passes would be great tourist draw

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SO Eden District acting head of economic development and tourism Fatima Watson has smelt the roses and sees the virtualtourist.comwebsite comments as an opportunity to market the Garden Route (“Garden Route ranked in world’s top six”, April 24). And so it should be.

While she’s about it she should get off her haunches and tour the Groot Rivier and Bloukranz passes, which have been closed for several years.

My wife and I were fortunate to navigate these two passes recently, and we both agreed that given very minor attention they could be reopened and become an amazing drawcard for tourism. The scenic beauty is breathtaking.

Certainly, from a layman’s point of view, there is very little wrong with the road surfaces. The Bloukranz has vegetation closing in over the asphalt, so it’s quite narrow in parts and there are virtually no Armco barriers in place, anywhere.

The bridge across the river appears to be in good shape and we only came across one minor rockfall despite a weekend of pouring rain. I would think that with a little investment in new Armco barriers, bushwhackers and road paint this stretch could easily be reopened.

The Groot Rivier Pass is legally open between The Crags and Nature’s Valley. However, at the river crossing there is a “road closed” sign as repair work is under way on the bridge.

It is easily passable in a sedan car, however, and the road up the other side to the exit at the toll plaza is a straight forward drive, with no hidden surprises.

When the Tsitsikamma Toll Plaza was originally opened the two passes were considered as the “alternative route” up the Garden Route. If memory serves me right, this was a legal requirement when toll roads were constructed – there had to be an alternative route.

When nature “did its thing” about a decade ago and the two passes had to be closed for repair, the motoring public took it on the chin in the belief that they were being repaired and would reopen in the shortest possible time. Work did commence and they were close to being reopened when a second flood wreaked havoc and they remained closed, as is currently the case.

This has gone on long enough. We are being fleeced.

Little to no work is being done and yet we continue to pay escalating fees at the plaza. I recall that this issue was raised recently and the answer from the authorities was that “the Langkloof is the alternative route”, or words to that effect!

Something really needs to be done to bring these two roads back into service. Chapman’s Peak Drive had more serious issues than this, but its value to tourism was recognised and money was invested to make it operationally safe again.

What will it take to energise a similar attitude and imagination within the powers that be in the Eden District? Heaven knows. Let’s pray!

P Thorpe, Linkside, Port Elizabeth

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