When you're on your way to Rhodes and heading for the major gravel passes in this mountainous part of the Eastern Cape, this is the first little pass that gets you off the R58 main route and into the remoter part of the southern Drakensberg. From here you won't see tar again for a long time.
At 5,7 km the pass is of moderate length, and it has an equally moderate altitude variance of 156m. The steepest parts are at 1:9 and should present no problems for any type of vehicle in fair weather. However, with a summit altitude of 2088m ASL this pass is regularly smothered under a thick blanket of snow. It's best avoided under those circumstances. On the day of filming, after heavy rain, the road was slippery requiring 4WD.
Jakkalskuilnek (“Jackal Den Pass”) is a rough and tough 4x4 pass located on the eastern Limpopo escarpment. The official guide to points of interest in this area, the Waterberg Meander, lists the name as Elandskuiling Pass, but all other references use the given name. Although the pass appears to be fairly innocuous based on its statistics, it is definitely worth your while to make the effort to seek it out, provided that you are driving an appropriate vehicle.
The pass is obviously named after the Doornrivier which course it follows for some distance. It is also sometimes called the Doringrivier Pass in the more Afrikaans style. The most notable feature of this pass is that the Nieuwoudtville waterfall is located close to the southern end of the pass. At 8,8 km this is a moderately long pass with a total altitude variance of 245m which produces an easy average gradient of 1:36, with the steepest parts being just after the summit point at 1:9. This is a safe, well engineered road with gentle curves and nicely banked corners and presents no obvious dangers in fair weather. It is suitable for all vehicles.
Wilgeboomnek (“Willow Tree Pass”) is a fairly significant pass, located near Thaba Nchu on the N8 national highway which connects Bloemfontein in the west to the capital of Lesotho, Maseru, in the east. It is the only official pass on this highway. The pass is dominated by the huge mountain on the southern side called Thaba Nchu (which translates as “Black Mountain”), so named because it looms over the settlement below, causing it to fall into shadow.
The Richtersveld National Park plays host to six official passes and many more unofficial ones. Of the six official passes, the Domorogh Pass is easily the most technical, as well as being the shortest. The pass connects the upper plateau area of the Richtersveld with the Gariep River valley and was originally built by hand by a small handful of local men to create an access route down the small escarpment for their livestock to move between the winter and summer grazing areas. The pass is 1,4 km long and has an altitude variance of 139m of producing a steep average gradient of 1:10 with the steepst parts being at 1:4. This pass should not be driven in any vehicle other than a high clearance 4WD vehicle with low range. We issue a 'danger' cautionary for this pass, especially in the descending mode.
This relatively unknown tarred pass forms part of four passes along the R410 route between Queenstown and Elliot in the the high altitude region of the Eastern Cape - the others being from west to east the Nonesi's Nek Pass, the MacKay's Nek Pass, this pass and finally the Cala Pass forming a set of huge stepping stones towards the highest region of the Eastern Cape and the gateway to all the major gravel passes close to the southern Drakensberg and Lesotho. The pass offers lovely mountainous scenery and a traverse alongside a river filled with white water during summer. It's modern, well engineered and is suitable for all traffic. It's 12,3 km long and has an altitude variance of 323 vertical metres to summit at 1566m ASL producing an average gradient of 1:38 with the steepest section being at 1:11 The pass is subject to winter snowfalls.
Windnek is a minor gravel road pass which weaves its way through the conical koppies and flat plains in the heart of the Karoo. Situated some distance off the beaten track, the pass offers the intrepid traveller some stunning semi-desert scenery, and an insight into the hardships of farming in this arid region. Paradoxically, it is also located adjacent to the largest inland body of water in South Africa – the Gariep Dam. The road is in a good condition and can be driven in any vehicle, weather permitting.
Victoria Nek is a tar road pass situated on the S109, an obscure road which leads to nowhere significant except the small airport which used to serve Thaba Nchu (now abandoned) and the Maria Moroka Game Reserve. The pass was named after Queen Victoria, and is mentioned numerous times in chronicles of both the Great Trek and the 2nd Anglo-Boer War. With a height gain/loss of just 58 metres and a length of just 3.3 kilometres, this is a small pass, but it is very scenic, and worth the slight detour off the N8 if you are in the area.
MacKay's Nek Pass on the tarred R410 route between Queenstown in the west and Lady Frere in the east, is a fairly short, but dramatic pass that can surprise unwary drivers with its steep gradients and very sharp bends. It's only 3,8 km long, but crammed into the first 2,5 km are two full horseshoe bends and one ninety degree right hand curve. The gradients are steep on the western side of the pass, reaching 1:7 and when added to an already high altitude of over 1200m ASL, many vehicles will experience a sensation of feeling underpowered.
Tienfontein Se Hoogte, also sometimes called Tienfonteinhoogte, is a minor pass located on the tarred R26 road near Zastron in the eastern Free State. This road forms part of the picturesque Western Maloti Mountains Route, which runs from Fouriesburg in the north to Rouxville in the south, following the border with Lesotho. It makes for an attractive and very scenic alternative to the N1 and the N6 when travelling from Gauteng to the Border region of the Eastern Cape, but be aware that some parts of this road are badly maintained.
Mountain Passes South Africa is a website dedicated to the research, documentation, photographing and filming of the mountain passes of South Africa.
Passes are classified according to provinces and feature a text description, Fact File including GPS data, a fully interactive dual-view map and a narrated YouTube video.
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