Poeiernek (R563)

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View from Poeiernek summit View from Poeiernek summit - Photo: Mike Leicester

This is a short, easy tarred pass on the R563/R400 road between Krugersdorp and Hartbeespoort with an easy average gradient of 1:40, but the southern side has a short sharp section with gradients of 1:14. The pass is close to the Hartebeeshoek Radio Observatory and the John Nash Nature Reserve. The road is often referred to as 'The Satellite Road' by locals due to the large number of radio satellite dishes along the road.

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[On-car video material supplied by Mike Liecester / Video cover photo by Hartrao.ac.za]

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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: From Pretoria West head west on the N4 highway, then follow the the R104/R512 to Broederstroom and Hartbeespoort for 10 km where you can marvel at the scale of the uranium enrichment plants at Pelindaba and Velindaba. Turn left onto the R513/R400 at GPS S25.796952 E27.858316 and continue westwards for 19 km to arrive at the northern end of Poeiernek. We filmed this pass from north to south due to available light, but most first timers would approach from the south. Invert the directions if you are approaching from the Krugersdorp side.

Just before the start of the pass, you might notice a turn-off to the right (west), which leads to the Hartebeeshoek Radio Observatory. The 1584m high mountain range a little further north, which dominates the skyline, is the Witwatersberge (White Water Mountains)

The name Poeiernek is Afrikaans for "Powder Neck" and we are not sure of the source of this name or whether it relates to a place where gunpowder was stored in the Anglo-Boer war or the type of soil found in the neck. To the left (east) is the John Nash Nature Reserve.

The pass is short and well under the national average at just 2,9 km and the first of two kilometres takes up the northern ascent towards the summit where the gradient is a very mild 1:25. The summit is easy to spot at the top of the neck, where a tall white telecomms tower is clearly visible close to the right hand side (west) of the road, which is at an altitude of 1567m ASL.

Maropeng Visitor CentreThe Maropeng Visitor Centre at the Cradle of Humankind / Photo: WikipediaThe descent is less than one kilometre and is much steeper than the northern ascent. Here the gradient is 1:14 as the road hugs the western flank of the natural cleft in the ridge of mountains. A small river cuts through the middle of the valley below, which is the Skeerpoortsrivier. The bends in the road are minor and this pass presents few dangers, providing the speed limit of 100 kph is complied with. The pass levels off and ends at an altitude of 1523m ASL adjacent to the Weltevreden and Dwarsvlei farms.

The road is popular with the biker set for their 'breakfast run' route, so be aware of this, especially over weekends.

A must visit venue is the Sterkfontein Caves, which is today a World Heritage Site and is called 'The Cradle of Humankind', where there is an informative interpretive centre - The Maropeng Visitor Centre. A guided tour through the lit cave complex is an experience to be remembered.

Fact File:

GPS START  S25.899050 E27.711070
GPS SUMMIT S25.916103 E27.710695
GPS END  S25.924199 E27.706768
SURFACE Tar (R563)
DATE FILMED 16.08.2015
NEAREST TOWN Krugersdorp (25 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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