I have a special connection with the Tsitsikamma forest. It is where I go to plug in my soul for a bit of a recharge. It doesn't even have to be an extended recharge. Just a couple of minutes sitting in the forest next to a stream taking in the forest with all my senses is enough. There are various ways to explore the forest with trails being the most effective way to leave everything behind. One of these "trails", the biggest one actually, is the old Storms River Pass starting from Storms River Village.
The Tsitsikamma (then known as Zitzikama) area was first surveyed by the famous pass builder Thomas Bain in 1879. He found impenetrable forests east of Plettenberg Bay with access made even tougher by deep gorges. During the planning process of building a pass through the Storms River gorge, Bain followed the ancient elephant migratory routes down to the river and as elephants find the easiest way down, decided to build his pass along those routes. Labour for this difficult task was provided by convicts and some of their graves can still be seen on the outskirts of the Village. The pass itself was completed in 1884 and until the N2 and Storms River Bridge were built in 1955 was the only way to get through the gorge. Today the road is closed for traffic and can only be access on foot, bicycle or on Storms River Adventures' Woodcutters Journey tour.
The Woodcutters Journey takes one down the pass in a small truck with a guide telling you more about the history of the area as well as the ecology of the forest. The tour tops quite often for the guide to point our specific trees or plants and explains the role it plays in the forest and those who have lived in it in the past. The tour also allows for you to hop off if you want and walk a section of it.
I had been down the old pass a number of times, but on this specific trip the guide showed us something I have never seen. He took us along a path next to the road and showed us some of the original stonework done by Bain and his workers. In this case a small tunnel under the road to channel water away.
At the bottom of the pass the forest opens up and while the guide unpacked a picnic lunch, we took a walk to the low water bridge over the Storms River. I'm sure I was told at some stage that the bridge were built by soldiers after the first World War, but please don't quote me on that. I can't seem to find any info on it on the internet.
The trip down the Storms River Pass really is an alternative way to explore the forest and learn a bit more in the process. I need to be alone to recharge though and the batteries are starting to run low. I think a return visit is just about in order.