East Poort is an easy 9 km traverse along the southern side of the Great Fish River just to the east of Cookhouse on the tarred N10 route to Cradock. The poort is suitable for all traffic and presents no obvious dangers. The road is in excellent condition with smoothly banked corners and easy gradients, with some impressive side cuttings for those interested in road engineering, counterpointed with lovely river and mountain views. Cookhouse has an interesting history with its most famous event being the Slagtersnek Rebellion. In modern times, the area is being widely utlitised to generate electricity via extensive wind farms.
The Slagtersnek (or Butcher's Neck) is an easy gravel road that descends very gently from a natural neck between the two prominant mountains north-east of Cookhouse in the Eastern Cape. The road first crosses the Great Fish River near the start, then approximates the river's course along it's western bank at a higher contour, in a south westerly direction, where it terminates after 3 km at the crossing of a small stream. The pass is insignificant in terms of statistics, but it has a major historical connection - the Slagtersnek Rebellion, which was the major instigator of the Great Trek.
The name Waainek translates into 'Windy Neck' and windy it was on the day of filiming, making the name perfectly appropriate! Every now and again we come across a humdinger of a pass that not many people even know about. The Waainek Pass is one of those hidden gems. Tucked into the well wooded ravines of the Boschberg, Graskop and Witkrans mountains north of Somerset East and mostly falling within the boudaries of the Glen Avon Falls Kloof Natural Heritage Site, this long gravel pass will hold you spellbound, with breathtaking views, sharp corners, technical driving and a big altitude gain. You might even be lucky and spot some wildlife, as we did on the day of filming when a large group of warthogs sauntered over the road near the summit. There were also klipspringers, rhebuck and rooibok about. If you're in this part of the Eastern Cape and you have a few hours to spare, go and drive this one. It's a beauty!
Legend has it that the name of this pass, which translates as “Guinea Fowl Street”, is not derived from these wild birds, which are plentiful in the area, but from the nickname of the fellow that first pioneered this route, who apparently had a rather unfortunate spotty complexion. Although not particularly steep or difficult, it is extraordinarily beautiful because of the stream which tracks the length of the pass, the lush vegetation, and the multitude of animals that are usually encountered along the road, such as baboons, warthogs, klipspringers, bushbuck, and other small antelope. The road is gravel and in a fairly good condition but there are a few difficult sections, so ideally it should be driven in a high clearance vehicle.
This short, but scenic poort drops down into the little village of Nieu Bethesda from the north-western side. It is only 3 km long and descends a total of 143m, producing an average gradient of 1:21. It is an extension of Martin Street and is often referred to by that name. The poort offers lovely scenery and a pleasant, but slow drive down the poort. Nieu Bethesda is an interesting and quiet Karoo village set in a small and well watered valley, surrounded by tall mountains. The village is beautfully green with tall trees and some very old buildings. It is reputed to be the Central Karoo's best kept secret.
This gravel pass is fairly long at 8,5 km but quite easy to traverse. It is suitable for most vehicles with the possible exception of cars with low clearance. It is only the first 1,6 km which has two sharp bends, stiff gradients and some rough and stony sections. Once through that section the going is easy. The pass has a substantial altitude variance of 286m, but due to it's length the average gradient is an easy 1:30 with the steepest parts being at 1:10. The pass lies on a minor gravel road (P2398) that connects Nieu Bethesda with the tarred R63 road near the summit of the Oudeberg Pass. This is primarily a farming road that serves the local farming community to the west of Nieu Bethesda.
Bokpoort is a tar road pass that follows a natural poort through the mountains from the lowlands of Limpopo up onto the plateau. It is one of the five original passages into the Limpopo interior used by early explorers and settlers. From the south, the roads leading to the pass are tarred, but all approach roads from the north have a gravel surface and are not in a particularly good condition, so be aware of this if driving a normal sedan vehicle. The pass has a height gain of 177 metres over a distance of 5.6 kilometres, producing a fairly gentle average gradient of just 1:32.
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.
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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