This is a pass not to be missed. It ascends and descends the Ribbokberg via the Valley Road and has some very steep gradients, which are not problematic as the entire pass is tarred. It's a slow drive offering fabulous and dramatic scenery culminating in the Valley of Desolation. No visitor to Graaff Reinet should miss this opportunity. The pass is 7,3 km long and it is not designed to be driven if you're in a hurry. Permits are required which can be obtained at the entrance gate. Bookmark this one - it is a real gem and rates high in our Eastern Cape Top 20 passes.
Bastard Nek (also sometimes referred to as Bastersnek) is a fairly obscure gravel road pass, situated near Mokopane in the Limpopo province. The road is badly maintained, and the use of a high clearance vehicle is strongly recommended. As with so many of the other gravel road passes in Limpopo, we also issue a soft sand cautionary for adventure bikers. As you approach this pass from the north, you are faced with a daunting array of cliffs which form the Limpopo escarpment, but the road itself follows a natural cleft up through the mountains, and it climbs at a fairly mild average gradient of just 1:22 over the length of the pass.
This magnificent poort should not be confused with the minor gravel road poort of the same name which is situated near Thabazimbi. The name is in fact technically incorrect, as the river which flows past the southern end of the poort is the Klein-Sandrivier. This is one of the five famous poorts and passes which allowed early explorers and settlers passage to the Limpopo Plateau, the others being Bakker’s Pass to the west and Tarentaalstraat, Bokpoort and Kloof Pass to the east. The much-photographed escarpment made up by the hills and mountains known as the “Seven Sisters” is clearly visible to the front and left as you approach from the southern side.
Papstraat, which translates as “Porridge Street”, no doubt got its name from the earliest users of this road, who would have camped with their oxwagons nearby and had breakfast here before tackling the daunting Tarentaalstraat, which follows directly after this small pass and which is in essence just a river crossing. The modern day road, although gravel, is in a good condition, but as you will have to traverse Tarentaalstraat as well, make sure that you are driving a high clearance vehicle or riding an adventure motorcycle. The pass is just 2.9 kilometres long, and has a height gain/loss of only 92 metres.
This attractive 5 km stretch of coastal road is located on the western side of the Cape Peninsula and connects Kommetjie and Noordhoek with the tiny settlements of Misty Cliffs and Scarborough in the south. It is has plenty of twists and turns, but a small variance in altitude, making it an enjoyable road for cyclists. The views to the west are wonderful of the Atlantic surf thundering onto the rocks close to the road and at the northern end the distinctive shape of the Slangkop Lighthouse with its crescent shaped white beach seals off the northern views.
This beautiful coastal drive contains 18 bends, corners and curves but none of them are of a serious or dangerous nature, providing speed limits are adhered to. The road surface is getting old and a bit bumpy from various repair works and the road is also fairly narrow over most of its length. Overtaking is awkward and dangerous due to the many corners. Sit back, relax and take in the stunnng scenery. Expect slow, tourist paced traffic.
The Truitjieskraal Road forms part of an escape route via the Kromrivier farm and Kromrivier Pass, when the Matjiesrivier is in flood. It's a fairly rough gravel road, which only allows a speed of around 20 kph. The route is 8,5 km long and climbs 108 vertical metres over that distance, most of it over the first two kilometres, with some stiff gradients of 1:8. After that the road meanders between beautiful weathered Cederberg sandstone formations over a wide mountain plateau amongst pristine fynbos and proteas and terminates at the bridge crossing at the well known Kromrivier farm. The route is doable in a normal sedan car, providing speed is kept low. This road gives access to the Truitjieskraal rock formations, as well as the rock-climbing routes and hiking trails.
Although officially designated as a pass, Spiders Nek struggles to live up to its name, as it is a long, straight, almost flat gravel road near both Excelsior and Marquard in the central Free State, and should be considered more of a scenic drive. The rolling grasslands, pastures and dams, interspersed with beautiful sandstone koppies and mountains, make for stunning scenery and photographic possibilities. The peace and tranquillity of the area is enhanced by the birds and animals all around you, and disturbed only by the occasional farm vehicle. The road is in a good condition and can be driven in any vehicle, except possibly in wet weather.
Sand River Heights (Sandrivierhoogte) is located on the national N1 highway between the small towns of Ventersburg and Winburg, and is one of only three passes on this highway north of Bloemfontein. The road is wide, with two lanes in either direction, and is extremely well designed and built, so it presents few dangers, except for the “surprise” factor. After travelling on long straight roads for many kilometres, especially if approaching from the south, the pass seems to appear out of nowhere, and can catch an unsuspecting driver unawares.
Jagpoort is an obscure gravel road pass, situated close to the small central Free State town of Winburg. The name, which translates as “Hunting Passage”, probably stems from the hunts which would have taken place to feed the Voortrekkers as they settled in and around this area. Vast herds of game used to roam these huge open grassland plains; sadly, this is no longer the case, and wild animals in the present day are restricted to the public and private game reserves scattered around the region. The road is in a good condition, and can be driven in any vehicle, weather permitting.
Whoever was naming passes in this area obviously ran out of ideas, as this pass is simply known as Die Nek (The Neck). It skirts a prominent mountain on the north-eastern side of the tiny town of Excelsior in the central Free State, and essentially consists of just one long gravel road curve from the north-east into the south-west. The road, although fairly rough in places, is in a reasonable condition, and can be driven in any vehicle except possibly in wet weather. The area has great scenic beauty if you take the time to look beyond the seemingly endless flat plains which dominate the region.
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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