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The history of Michell's Pass

Its inaccessibility initially hampered the Bokkeveld's progress. The first farmers carried their necessities by pack animal through the kloof along the river. From the waterfall it had to be carried over the mountain. Wagons later reached Ceres via a detour of some 150 km over the Hex River Pass.

Bokkeveld farmers also wanted to benefit from the great upsurge in the Cape market in the 18th century, and in 1765 Jan Mostert of the farm Wolvenkloof built the first pass to Ceres. This pass was called Mostertshoek Pass and was certainly not built for joyrides. It criss-crossed the river and was so steep under the waterfall that the wagons had to be taken apart and carried over the mountain in pieces. Mostershoek Pass was used until 1848.

From 1846 to 1848 Andrew Geddes Bain built a new road – a masterpiece for those days – at a cost of 21 000 pounds. Small streams were forded with solid dry masonry and living rock was hollowed out of the mountain slope. The pass was named after Col. C Michell, Surveyor- General of the colony for 20 years.

This great event laid the foundation for agricultural development in the Bokkeveld, and with the discovery of gold and diamonds, the pass became an important route to the gold and diamond fields. The transport industry started to blossom in Ceres.

Goods were brought from Ceres Station (now Wolseley) over the Michell's Pass. A toll house was later built on the pass, and the following tolls were levied: 3d per wheel of four-wheeled vehicles without remschoens; 2d per wheel of other vehicles; 1d per pack animal; ½d each for sheep, goats or pigs, and 2d each for all other animals.

Bain's Michell's Pass was used for nearly a century, until a concrete road was completed on 31 March 1946.

The rebuilt pass

Michell's Pass passes through the Ceres Nature Reserve and as its impact on nature had to be limited, the rebuilt pass mainly follows the old route. The roadway was widened from 6 m to 9.8 m and the hairpin bends were cut out. Three passing lanes were constructed and the surfaced roadway is bordered with concrete paved side drains and guardrails conforming to modern standards.

During construction the pass was closed for traffic for three hours per working day to accommodate blasting. All other construction work took place in full traffic with a minimum of workspace available.
Some 400 000 m³ material was excavated from road cuttings, 180 000 m³ of which was used for fills, the rest was crushed to be re-used as gravel layers. 250 000 m³ hard rock had to be blasted, for which 83 000 kg explosives was used.

The foundation of the new White Bridge consists of ten cylindrical caissons. Because there are enormous boulders in the riverbed, this was the only viable option for the bridge foundation. These caissons were excavated by hand to a maximum depth of 13 m below the riverbed.

The old toll house and parts of Bain's original stone retaining walls were preserved for posterity so that future generations can acknowledge Bain's engineering genius.

They began to rebuild the pass in August 1988, and completed it four years later at a cost of R42 million.



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