This steep, gravel road pass lies between Newcastle in KZN and Memel in the Free State. The pass traverses a natural path up the Drakensberg and is located roughly 33 km west-south-west of Newcastle and 15 km north east of the Normandien Pass. It is OK to drive in a normal car subject to conditions being dry. Like most passes in this part of the Drakensberg, it is subject to heavy electrical storms in summer and snowfalls during winter. In such conditions a 4x4 vehicle is much safer.
Murray's Neck Pass is a straightforward tarred pass rising 116m to a neck where fabulous views over the Pongola Nature Reserve can be enjoyed. The pass forms an integral part of the access road from the N2 to the SA/Swaziland border control point at Golela, where there is also a railway station. The road provides tourism access from the eastern end of the pass to some of KZN's finest game reserves. The pass has a steeper descent gradient, but in general this is an easy pass with a good safety record and comfortable gradients with gentle corners. It is suitable for all vehicles.
Nicholson's Nek is a relatively minor and insignificant gravel road pass through a natural break in the mountains just north of Ladysmith, but it is of great historical value and is mentioned frequently during the second Anglo-Boer war. The pass is just 1.4 km long, and has a small height gain of only 58 metres.
The Normandien Pass is without question one of KZN's best gravel passes. It has all the elements of great altitude, gravel surface, lots of twists, turns and switchbacks, breathtaking views, steep gradients and a decent length - to get the adrenaline up a notch or two. This pass is recommended to be driven in a 4x4 or 4x2 bakkie with diff-lock. Off road bikers should have experience before attempting this pass.
This decidely steep gravel pass connects the small settlement of Helpmekaar with Rorke's Drift and descends 353m over 6,38 km producing a fairly stiff average gradient of 1:18, with the steepest sections in the middle registering 1:5. The pass provides access to a number of Anglo-Zulu battle sites including Rorke's Drift, Fugitive's Drift and Isandlwana. The road is suitable for all vehicles, except when heavy rain or snow is experienced, when a 4WD vehicle will be more appropriate (and safe).
This classic tarred 17,2 km long pass sweeps down through the northern Drakensberg past the southern extremeties of the Sterkfontein Dam, to the farming areas north of Bergville in KZN. The road often provides a suitable alternative to Van Reenen's Pass, which is subject to road closures due to trucking accidents and snow. Over the past decade the road has become potholed and deteriorated to such a point that the maximum speed over some sections is 20 kph! Several tourist related establishments have been forced to close their doors as tourists have learned about the state of the R74 and have started avoiding it. (2013)
Nov 2016 - Latest reports confirm that the entire road has now been fully refurbished to excellent standards. The road is open and free of stop/go's.
The oddly named Ping Pong Cutting runs on the east/west axis through the foothills of the Drakensberg in the vicinity of the beautiful Loteni River valley, some 40 km North of the small town of Himeville - itself something of an epicentre for hikers and other Berg adventure junkies. The area is packed with nature and wilderness reserves - a place of refuge to regain strength for the wearied soul, from the mountains and rivers that abound here.
This is an easy gravel drive through the valley of the Bivane river, known as Pivaanspoort. It offers magnificent mountain scenery and if you know where to find them, a few waterfalls as well. The poort is 9,47 km long and presents an easy average gradient of 1:61, but there are a few short sections where things get as steep as 1:11. The poort lies between the R33 north of Vryheid in the east and Utrecht to the west. The road is suitable for all vehicles.
This is a very steep and rough 4x4 only jeep track route in the Drakensberg to the west of the Chelmsford Nature Reserve. It traverses private land and permission to use the route must first be obtained. Together with Brandons pass and Keays Pass, the three form a complex integrated route extending over a large area and can form a challenging circuit for 4x4 groups or club outings. You will need a high clearance 4WD vehicle with low range and recovery equipment for this one and a minimum of three vehicles in the interests of safety.
This is a very minor pass in the far northern sector of KZN. The old pass, which runs higher up the hill, was much more of a pass than the modern version which has been cut out of the hill lower down the slope, closer to the Phongola River. The pass name has officially remained but this little pass is really fairly insignificant. The old pass can no longer be driven, unless permission is obtained from the landowner. We have shown the old road as a yellow line on our video animation clip.
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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