Kommandonek (R26)

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Fabulous scenery Fabulous scenery - Photo: Mike Leicester

Kommandonek is located on the tarred R26 road between the small Eastern Free State towns of Fouriesburg and Ficksburg. Although it traverses an area that is sprinkled with spectacular sandstone mountains, the pass itself is not particularly impressive, being only 4 kilometres long and with a height gain of only 77 metres. The R26 has a notoriously bad reputation for the numerous potholes which plague sections of this road, but the pass can be driven in any vehicle. The name of the pass is no doubt derived from the frenetic military activity in this region during the 2nd Anglo-Boer War.

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[Video footage supplied by Mike Leicester]

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Note: Google Earth software reads the actual topography and ignores roads, cuttings, tunnels, bridges and excavations. The Google Earth vertical-profile animation generates a number of parallax errors, so the profile is only a general guide of what to expect in terms of gradients, distance and elevation. The graph may present some impossible and improbably sharp spikes, which should be ignored. 

Digging into the details:

Getting there: To approach from the north, start near Fouriesburg at the intersection of the R26 and the R711, at coordinates S28.628201 E28.200341. Travel in a southerly direction along the R26 for 23.4 kms to S28.776226
E28.040629, which is the northern start point of the pass. To approach from the south, start near Ficksburg at the intersection of the R26 and the S67, at coordinates S28.853648 E27.879438. Travel in a northerly direction along the R26 for 16.6 kms to S28.805464 E28.018814, which is the southern start point of the pass.

Scenery near the passThe area is dotted with distinctive sandstone koppies like this / Photo: Mike LeicesterWe have described this pass from south to north. The pass begins at the foot of a magnificent koppie, which is on your right-hand side. The road follows a gentle S-bend, first turning left and then right, then it straightens out for 400 metres, all the while ascending gradually. This is followed by a long shallow right-hand bend with two distinct apexes, then a left- hand curve takes you back into a north-easterly heading. The famous Ionia Cherry Farm is on your left at this point, clearly signposted. The summit of the pass is reached at the 1.9 km mark, followed immediately by a shallow bend to the left, then the road begins a long straight descent which does not deviate for 1.8 kilometres, all the way to the end of the pass at the 4.0 km mark. The scenery along this last section of the pass is breathtaking, with magnificent views of the Eastern Free State sandstone mountains in every direction.

Kommandonek sceneryScenery near the end of the pass / Photo: Mike LeicesterFicksburg is a small town, situated at the foot of 1750 metre high Imperani Mountain and on the banks of the Mohokare River, which forms the border between South Africa and Lesotho. The town was founded by and named after General Johan Fick, who won the territory in 1867 during the Basotho Wars. The last Governor-General of the Union of South Africa and the first State President, Charles Robberts Swart, was imprisoned here by the British in 1914 and released just one day before his scheduled execution.

This is a key agricultural region of the Free State where crops like maize and asparagus are grown. The most important products in the Ficksburg area are the cherries on the numerous cherry farms surrounding the town. These are harvested from October to December, and in November of each year the annual Cherry Festival is held, which stretches over three days and attracts up to 30,000 visitors. The festival presents family shows and activities like sheep herding, horse rides, camel rides, steam train rides, helicopter flips, and tours through the town to see the sandstone building architecture. Visitors can also elect to do tours of the cherry and asparagus farms.

As it is situated right on the border, Ficksburg is also known as the gateway to the mountain kingdom of Lesotho. This is the closest entry point for visitors wanting to travel to the incredibly spectacular Katse Dam, about 150 kms from the town, and which is accessed via a good tar road. The dam is very popular for boating, fishing and sightseeing, and is visited by
thousands of tourists each year, most of which pass through Ficksburg en route.

[Research and text write-up by Mike Leicester]


Fact File:

GPS START 

S28.805464 E28.018814

GPS SUMMIT

S28.792740 E28.030837

GPS END 

S28.776226 E28.040629

AVE GRADIENT

1:52

MAX GRADIENT

1:11

ELEVATION START

1648m

ELEVATION SUMMIT

1725m

ELEVATION END

1679m

HEIGHT GAIN/LOSS

77m

DISTANCE

4.0 km

DIRECTION - TRAVEL

North

TIME REQUIRED

3 minutes

SPEED LIMIT

100 kph

SURFACE

Tar (R26)

DATE FILMED

27.02.2016

TEMPERATURE

26C

NEAREST TOWN

Ficksburg (22 km)


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Mountain Passes South Africa

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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