Hekpoort (R563)

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Bartons Folly Blockhouse Bartons Folly Blockhouse - Photo: Hendri

Located on the tarred R563 between Hekpoort in the north and Krugersdorp in the south, this is easily Gauteng's biggest pass in terms of distance, altitude gained as well as steepest gradient. It's well above the national average in terms of length at 9,2 km and offers some steep climbing near the summit at 1:10. It forms one of the most popular routes over the Witwatersberge into the Magaliesberg area for weekend adventure seekers.

Scroll down to view the map & video. It is recommended to watch this video in HD. (Click on the "quality" button on the lower taskbar of the video screen and select 720HD.) Wait a few seconds for the video to display.....

[On-car video material supplied by Mike Liecester / Video cover photo by Magaliesberg Birding]

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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: We filmed this pass from north to south due to available lighting conditions and describe it in this direction as well. Those travelling from the south should invert our directions. From the village of Hartbeespoort to the south of the well known Hartebeespoort Dam, head west on the R512 for 10 km and turn left onto the R560 at the T-junction. Remain on the R560 heading approximately south-west for 21km and take the left hand road, just after the village of Hekpoort marked as the R563 at GPS S25.887646 E27.611020. This is the northern start of Hekpoort.

Hekpoort viewHekpoort view / Photo: Martin HeiganThe first 6,7 km of this poort is a very easy scenic drive with a slight gradient of 1:35, but things change quite dramatically at that point.  First you will pass the SAPS police station on the left, followed by the Hekpoort station a little further - both on the left (east) side of the road. The road is straight for the first 1,9 km, then enters an S-bend. If you comply with the speed limit restrictions, you will have no problems here. After the S-bend the road gets back to its original heading into the SSE and the river is crossed via a concrete bridge and soon the R96 can be seen heading off to the right (west). The road then goes into a 40 degree left hand bend as it follows a cleft in the mountain carved out by the Hekpoortspruit.

Just as the road straightens out, an Anglo-Boer war blockhouse (Bartons Folly Blockhouse) can be seen below the road above the western bank of the river. The building is still in a remarkably good condition and is well worth a few minutes of your time, if have an interest in history.

If an eagle were to fly over the Witwatersberg with the mighty Magaliesberg to the west, it would see an old English blockhouse defending the break in the mountains which de la Rey and his men named ‘Hekpoort’. Bartons Folly is an English Blockhouse built during the Anglo-Boer War (1899 – 1902) referred to by the locals as the ‘English War of Aggression’.

Plenty of 4x4 trails in the areaOne of several 4x4 routes on either side of Hekpoort / Photo: Recht Weyers Barton’s instruction was to build a fort to separate the Boer Commandos in the Brits area from the Witwatersrand. There is some confusion relating to the name: firstly it is argued that the fort did not succeed in its aim – a folly; but more likely because it differed from the typical two storeyed blockhouses of the time and was therefore something ‘foolish in design’ or something other than what it appeared to be.

Barton was a career soldier who served in the Gold Coast, the Zulu War of 1876, Egypt and China. Having been wounded at the Tugela River, he was transferred to Krugersdorp and had to face the military genius of de Wet and de la Rey. Far from the cool meadows of England, he built the fort and one can easily imagine him standing on top of the hill staring at the distant Magaliesburg and thinking of home.

This is his monument – BARTON’S FOLLY.

[History info above courtesy of bartonsfolly.co.za]

A little further a gravel road heads steeply to the right up the mountain. This is a 4x4 route known as the Crocodile Ramble. There are two retreats along the poort here. The first is Bartons Folly Trout and Nature Retreat and the second is Weavers Roost Retreat. Both offer relaxing weekend getaways for stressed out city folk. For campers, there is a caravan park on the left side of the road just before the ascent begins.

There are two false summits along this section. The first one is at 3,7 km and the second at the 4,8 km mark. After the second summit, the road drops slightly in altitude and levels off until the 6,7 km point and then the real climbing begins. The road climbs 196 vertical metres over just under 3 km producing a steep gradient of 1:14 for this section of the pass.

The pass ends at the summit point of 1581m ASL at the 9,6 km mark.

Fact File:

GPS START  S25.887646 E27.611020
GPS SUMMIT S25.947118 E27.667809
GPS END  S25.947118 E27.667809
SURFACE Tar (R563)
DATE FILMED 15.08.2015
NEAREST TOWN Magaliesberg (20 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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