Munro Drive (Jhb)

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An old postcard of Munro Drive An old postcard of Munro Drive - Photo: Heritage portal.co.za

This short suburban pass dates back to Johannesburg's early pioneering gold rush days and is one of only a handful of official passes in South Africa that are shorter than 1 km. Within that 900m of distance you will experience gradients as steep as 1:7, a full hairpin pin and many very old dressed stone walls on either side of the road. It connects Upper Houghton with Houghton. The low, rocky ridge that separates downtown Johannesburg from the northern suburbs is called Linksfield Ridge and this little pass is one of three that were first built to give residents of a rapidly expanding city, access to new places to live to the north. The other two are Stewarts Drive and Sylvia's Pass. The ridges cutting through Yeoville and Observatory/Linksfield are a natural barrier between the northern and southern areas of Johannesburg. These ridges were first populated in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

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[Video footage submitted by Mike Leicester / Video cover photo by Munro Boutique Hotel]

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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 north of Hillbrow head north-east along Louis Botha Avenue, then turn left (north-west) onto Elm Street at GPS26.177312 E28.061807. Continue for 5 city blocks till Elm intersects with St Patrick Road. This is the southern start of Munro Drive.

Dressed stone walls on Munro DriveOne of many dressed stone walls along Munro Drive / Photo: PanoramioThe road starts at an altitude of 1768m and heads north. The first 130m is fairly flat till the intersection with St.Pauls Road. From there it drops quickly down to a sharp left hand bend. On this corner there is a fair widening of the road where ascending cars can pull over to enjoy the views over the lush and leafy suburb of Houghton and the golf course. This space is not suitable for descending traffic to stop at.

The road then heads west for a 40m then enters a full and very sharp 180 degree hairpin bend. It is best driven at 30 kph or slower due to the tightness of the corner.

Once through the hairpin, the gradient steepens out to 1:7 and descends at that gradient tothe 500m point, whereafter, the pitch eases off to a more gentle 1:30 allowing time to admire all the lovely dessed stone walls on either side of the road, rumoured to have been built by Italian Prisoners of War, but this highly unlikely as there were no Italian POW's in the years this pass was built.

Munro DriveMunro Drive from the upper part of the hairpin bend / Photo: Mike Leicester

The pass ends after 900m at a T-junction with Houghton Drive at an altitude of 1727m ASL. The road was named after John Munro, a director of The Johannesburg Consolidated Investment Company and was initially built from stacked stone in 1919. Houghton got its name from Barney Barnato's company - The Houghton Easte Gold Mining Company, which originally purchased the land in 1888. Declared a National Heritage Area, 70% of the suburbs surviving structures are ocated on properties that were developed between 1900 and 1930.

The topography of Johannesburg is distinctive with the rocky mountainous ridges and the line of koppies that runs from east to west. These are the quartzite ridges of the famous Witwatersrand. The geology is unique. Viljoen and Reimold (An Introduction to South Africa’s Geology and Mining Heritage) make the point that this is one of the few localities where the evolution of the granitic crust of Southern Africa has been preserved and can be viewed. There are several places in Johannesburg where approximately 500 million years of the Earth’s history is exposed and displayed. One needs a geological guide, but what one sees is a layering of hard quartzite rock and sediments of shale above the quartzite, within the Witwatersrand super group. To the south is the further layering of conglomerates with the gold bearing reefs, such as the Main Reef, Main Reef Leader, South Reef, Promise Reef, Kimberley Reefs etc.

There is a twist in this tale as on 1st February 1938 the retaining wall collapsed and the road was rebuilt.

[Source - The Heritage Portal]


Fact File:

GPS START 

S26.173746 E28.060269

GPS SUMMIT

S26.173746 E28.060269

GPS END 

S26.170286 E28.063428

AVE GRADIENT

1:22

MAX GRADIENT

1:7

ELEVATION START

1768m

ELEVATION SUMMIT

1768m

ELEVATION END

1727m

HEIGHT GAIN/LOSS

41m

DISTANCE

0,9 km

DIRECTION - TRAVEL

North

TIME REQUIRED

2 minutes

SPEED LIMIT

40 kph

SURFACE

Tar

DATE FILMED

06.09.2015

TEMPERATURE

15C

NEAREST TOWN

Johannesburg (4 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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