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.
Although all official sources list the name of this pass as “Koeisehoogte”, it is far more likely that the correct spelling should in fact be “Koei Se Hoogte” (Cow Heights). The pass is located on gravelled farm road, just off the N2 highway close to Heidelberg in the Western Cape. It is quite long, at 7.4 kilometres, with an altitude variance of just 107 metres, and traverses an area of lush pastures consisting mainly of cattle farms, thus further justifying the name.
Hobbs Hill is located just 3 km north of Cathcart and whilst it's a short pass at only 2,7 km, it descends a substantial 132m over that distance producing an average gradient of 1:20 with the steepest section being just north of the summit at 1:14. This is generally a safe, well designed road and only contains two easy curves. Having a summit altitude of almost 1200m means this pass is sometimes subject to winter snowfalls. The usual snow driving precautionary measures apply.
Kiewiet Se Hoogte is a minor gravel road pass located near Loxton in the Northern Cape. “Kiewiet” is the Afrikaans name for a species of bird, originally called a plover in English, but more recently referred to as a lapwing. It is most likely that the subspecies which gave its moniker to the pass is the Blacksmith Lapwing, whose vernacular name is derived from its repeated metallic “tink, tink, tink” alarm call, reminiscent of the sound a blacksmith’s hammer makes as it strikes an anvil.
Despite some diligent research, we have been unable to establish the origins of the name of this pass, but it seems logical that it would have been named after a telegraph station established here in the early days of the region. It is located in the southern Free State province near Smithfield, in the centre of the sheep farming district of the Grassy Karoo. The pass itself is typical of the others that are scattered around this part of the country, with no significant corners and only a small gain in height of 68 metres.
Like so many of the poorts in South Africa, Kommissiepoort is fairly flat and has no significant corners. It is situated on the tarred R26 in the eastern Free State, more or less equidistant between Ladybrand and Hobhouse. This road, the western part of the Maloti Mountain Route, also hosts three other passes, Retiefsnek near Bethlehem, Kommandonek near Ficksburg, and Tienfontein Se Hoogte near Zastron. The name is sometimes spelled as “Commissie Poort” or “Commissiepoort”.
The Bosnek Pass is a substantial gravel pass of over 9 km in length that descends through a westerly outlying section of the Fort Fordyce Nature Reserve. The altitude variance is 418m and with a summit height of 1121m ASL you can be assured of sweeping views over the reserve with it's densely wooded mountains and attractive dam nestling at the bottom of the valley. The road is nicely engineered with a maximum gradient of 1:8, so the going is fairly comfortable for most vehicles. There are however some very sharp corners including one horseshoe bend and one hairpin, where speed has to be reduced to 30 kph. These are all well signposted with ample warning signs. The road is suitable for all vehicles in fair weather. Like all gravel roads, this road is subject to washaways and corrugations. Adjust your speed according to current conditions.
This 19km long, gravel pass winds northwards up the Amathola escarpment through the beautiful Mpofu Nature Reserve, offering not only stunnng scenery and wildlife, but also some rich history and folklore. Entrance is free (at the time of writing in June, 2016) but there are gated control points at the foot and summit of the pass, where one has to sign in and out. This is the longest of the three local passes that traverse the Mpofu and Fort Fordyce Nature Reserves - the other two passes being the Fullers Hoek Pass and the Bosnek Pass. All three can be driven in a single day making for a feast of gravel road driving through some of the finest Eastern Cape scenery you will find. This pass is suitable for most vehicles in fair weather, but drive slowly as there are a few sections which get a bit rough. In very wet weather, a 4x4 would be best.
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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