THE NORTHERN CAPE’S FORGOTTEN HIGHWAY ROUTE
Follow in the footsteps of ancient travelers, and stretch your horizons on the Forgotten Highway Route. This 1 000 km Route stretches from Tulbagh
and Ceres in the south to Kuruman in the north. It is the route that was used by the! Xam, KhoeKhoe, Tswana, missionaries, and explorers. In 1870 the
diamond fields of Kimberley were discovered and for a brief time the road, now known as ‘the Forgotten Highway’, became exceptionally busy. At times
there were as many as thirty wagons, nose to bumper, traveling through the pass, carrying wine, brandy, hardware, mining equipment, tobacco, biltong,
dried and fresh fruit, vegetables, and skins.
This road fell out of favor in 1877 when the Pakhuis Pass was opened, offering a more direct route from Cape Town; in the same year, the railway line
had reached Touws River, making road transport less attractive and effectively beginning the decline of the Forgotten Highway through Karoopoort.
By 1895 the road was all but deserted, and in 1900 the inn closed. The Forgotten Highway was passing into history, overtaken by the railways and the
need for speed and comfort. Parts of the highway can still be seen: Bain’s Kloof remains largely unchanged except for the tarred surface, and until 1948
it was still the main road from Cape Town to Johannesburg. There is still a road through Karoopoort to Calvinia and Sutherland, and the original
farmhouse, inn, and fig orchard are still very much in existence, as is the outspan under the poplar trees by the river. In 1981 the fig orchard was made a
National Monument, and even today there is still a clause in the lease over the farm stipulating that free overnight accommodation must be offered to
The farms Platfontein and Smitswinkel are still there for those who care to look, but the road with its motley crowd of hopeful travellers, has long since
disappeared into the mists of time.
When next in the area, pause awhile under the poplar trees by the river, switch off your engine and you might hear the beat of hooves and grind of
wagons as they toil through the poort; imagine how what is now a quiet and lonely spot was once the Forgotten Highway to the riches of the future.