The Outeniqua Mountains, named after the Outeniqua Khoikhoi, is a mountain range that runs in parallel to the southern coast of South Africa, and forms a uninterrupted range with the Langeberg to the west and the Tsitsikamma Mountains to the east. The mountains are part of the Garden Route of South Africa.
"Outeniqua" is said to be unoriginated from a Khoikhoi tribe that lived in the mountains, and means "they who bear honey".
The range is characterized by moderate southern slopes and steep drops on the north side down to the low valley Little Karoo. High points include Cradock Peak and George Peak located to the north of George. Changing conditions create different habitats. On the south-facing slopes there is montane fynbos at higher, moister altitudes, while the north hosts karroid and renosterveld shrubland. On the mesic southern slopes there are Afromontane gallery forests.
The exceptional good rainfall on the range has formed numerous streams used for irrigation in the Olifants River valley. While the climate along the range is generally hot to moderate, weather conditions can vary greatly. In winter the temperature can drop to 5 °C or less and snowfalls can occur on the higher peaks.
Animals that can be found in the Outeniqua range are klipspringer, grey rhebuck, leopard and various rodents. The Outeniqua mountain range is also home to a very small number of African elephants. New sightings of these large animals, including that of a young bull give hope that the legendary animals might, with time, become re-established in the Outeniqua reserve. Birds include black eagles and other raptors as well as the Cape sugarbird as well as fynbos birds.
In 1908, work started on a railway route between George and Oudtshoorn. This required the building of seven tunnels and numerous long cuttings. Eventually the railway was opened in August 1913.
Cradock Pass was completed in 1816 and became known as the "Voortrekker Road". The Pass did not have a very good reputation and was considered as dangerous in the years to come.
In 1847, a vastly improved Montagu Pass was constructed and named after the Colonial Secretary, John Montagu.
Due to increasing demands of modern traffic, construction was started on the Outeniqua Pass in 1943. The pass was opened to traffic in September 1951.
Two other road passes cross: the Outeniqua, the Robinson Pass west of George; and Prince Alfred's Pass, which connects Uniondale with Knysna.
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