Outeniqua mountains A great deal of that enchantment and delicate beauty still captivates the modern traveller. For instance, there is the rare George lily (Cyrtanthus elatus), found near water in the deep ravines of the mountain, and a variety of ericas and proteas thrive on the fern-clothed slopes. Carpets of pink watsonias are a common sight during summer.
Four Historic Passes
There are four historic passes over the Outeniqua Mountains towards Oudtshoorn namely the Cradock Pass (Oxwagon) the Railways Pass, the un-tarred Montagu Pass and the tarred Outeniqua Pass. The Oxwagon or Cradock Pass has white markings along the mountain side (as it no longer exits) to show where the actual road used to be.
The Montagu Pass is very popular with cyclists as well as sightseeing travellers.
The Outeniqua Pass has beautiful lookout points where you can see George lying ahead of the ocean.
The range is characterized by gentle southern sleeps and steep drops on the north side down to the low valley Little Karoo. High points include Formosa Peak at 1675 m, roughly 45 km north-east of Plettenberg Bay and Cradock's Mountain at 1578 m, located to the north of George. The variant conditions create diverse habits. On the south-facing slopes there is montane fynbos in higher, moister altitudes, while the north hosts karroid and renosterveld shrubland. On the mesic southern slopes there are Afromontane gallery forests.
While the climate along the range is generally hot to moderate, with an average summer temperature of 20.5 °C, weather conditions can vary greatly. In winter the temperature can drop to 5 °C (and even lower on the southern slopes) and snowfalls may occur on the higher peaks.
On 1 June 2002, Former South Africa Cricket captain Hansie Cronje scheduled flight home from Johannesburg to George, Western Cape was grounded so he hitched a ride as the only passenger on board a Hawker Siddeley HS 748 turboprop aircraft. Near George airport, the pilots lost visibility in clouds and were unable to land, partly due to unusable navigational equipment. While circling, the plane crashed into the Outeniqua mountains northeast of the airport. Cronje, aged 32, and the two pilots were killed instantly.
Fauna and flora
Among the animals found in the Outeniqua range are klipspringer, grey rhebuck, leopard and various rodents. Birds include black eagles and other raptors as well as the Cape sugarbird and other fynbos birds.
The rugged Outeniqua mountains proved a huge hurdle for the early settlers who wished to move from the coastal regions into the hinterland. In the western part of the reserve, the Attakwaskloof, which was originally a thoroughfare for herds of elephants, was first used by settlers in 1689 to travel inland. In 1813 the Cradock Pass was built through the Outeniqua mountains, but was so steep that some travellers considered it only fit for baboons to climb! During 1844 work began on the Montagu Pass, eventually providing travellers with a safer and quicker route through the mountains.
The Outeniqua mountains are host to a variety of animal species. Mammals include the klipspringer, grey rhebuck, numerous small rodents and the elusive leopard. Birds include large raptors such as the black eagle, as well as smaller typical fynbos birds like the Cape sugarbird.
The weather conditions in the Outeniqua mountains could change at any time. In winter snowfalls may occur on the higher peaks. Heavy fog is very common and thunderstorms occur between five to ten days per year. The winter temperature can drop to 5° C and even lower on the northern side of the mountain. The climate is generally hot to moderate with an average summer temperature of 20,5° C.