Witte River Rock Pools

Just before the top of the Bainskloof Pass there is a dirt road to the right. Park near the boom.

After a short walk along the track and you will see a river with waterfalls and rock pools down to the left.  You are standing on the watershed between the Witte River which is a tributary of the Breede River that enters the Indian Ocean at Cape Infanta near Swellendam and the Krom River which is a tributary of the Berg River which enters the Atlantic ocean at Velddrif.  Pee on the eastern side of the track and it flows to the Indian Ocean and on the western side and it flows to the Atlantic.

Another kilometre further is the memorial to the 1895 Witteriver tragedy and a timely warning too.  A group of students from Wellington were hiking in the area when the weather turned foul. The party split into two.  The stronger party went back to Bainskloof village for help. The slower party were forced to stay overnight on the eastern side of the river. It rained all night and the river turned into a raging torrent.  There were reports of snow on the lower peaks. The next day the rescue party returned and managed to secure a rope across the river. The first to attempt the crossing was a girl by the name of Lettie de Jager. She got as far as the middle of the river, where she managed to cling on to an outstanding rock, but she could progress no further. Three young men tried to help but also only got as far as the rock where they all succumbed to the cold after about 2 hours. Later that day the remaining survivors where winched across at a safer spot.  Mr Hugo who was the prosperous owner of Hugo’s Jam factory in Wellington built the access road and later erected the memorial. There are rock pools below the memorial.

Gawie se Water

A little further past Mr Hugo’s House there is a small bridge over a deep cutting in the rock.  The cutting forms part of the water transfer scheme known as “Gawie se water” and you can see a sign bearing this name on the road coming up the Bainskloof Pass from Wellington. Another half a kilometer further it is possible to get down to the diversion weir where again there are pools to swim.

The cutting was constructed more than 150 years ago and is South Africa’s first inter basin water transfer.  It diverts water from the head waters of the Witterivier, into the Pombers stream which feeds into the Krom River which then flows down to the Berg River.  Thomas Bain who built the pass in the 1850’s offered to make this cutting for £600, but the local farmers thought that was too much money. Gawie Retief of the farm Kanetfontein (a cousin of the  voortrekker Piet Retief) took it upon himself to excavate the cutting. It was completed by 1860 at three times the price!

The scheme continues to deliver water to the irrigation farmers of the Bovlei where it is used to grow rootstock for vines.


About a kilometer further past the Whitte River Rock Pools parking you will see what remains of Mr Hugo’s house.  He erected the house in the 1940’s, complete with a swimming pool.

His wife refused to go and live there. Mr Hugo died without moving into the house and it stood empty before it was burnt in a wild fire in 1949. The building was then known by locals as the “spookhuis” (Ghost house).