Bezuidenhout's Pass, KZN

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Bezuidenhouts Pass, KZN Bezuidenhouts Pass, KZN - Photo: Pic courtesy of home.telkomsa.net

A gravel pass in KZN between Harrismith and Bergville - in the vicinity of the Sterkfontein Dam. The pass starts at 1349m ASL and summits at 1751m. It is 5,6 km long producing an ascent gradient of 1/14 making it very steep. Be prepared to crawl along this road at less than 10 kph and allow plenty of time. Probably between 60 and 90 minutes to cover the 5 km. It is only suitable for 4x4 vehicles with good ground clearance and low range! Remember to drop your tyre pressures to around 1,0 to 1,2 bar to prevent punctures and improve traction. This road is a rough one!

 

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Diggging into the details:

Cautionary: 4x4 only with low range descending or ascending. Adventure motorcyclists should be experienced.

Getting there: Head north-west out of Bergville on the tarred R74. Just as the town ends, turn right onto the tarred R616 at GPS S28.730921 E29.344797, which heads north-east. Remain on this road for 2,2 km and turn left at the fork at GPS S28.710645 E29.348598. Continue on this road for 19,4 km. Initially it traverses a suburb of Bergville, called Bethany, then clears into open land, where the tar gives way to gravel. Most of this next section is in a northerly heading. Turn left at GPS S28.567553 E29. 324161.

Rocks, mud and donghas - all have to be negoatiated on this passDespite this 4WD vehicle lacking ground clearance, with careful driving it did negotiate the entire pass / Photo: Gary Duggan 2015 This is the access road to Bezuidenhouts Pass when ascending from the south. Remain on this road till you reach the start of the pass 10 km after this last left hand turn. The road follows the western side of a small stream - Venterspruit as it ascends from 1179m to 1345m ASL.

Before the bottom of the pass, the road passes a small settlement called Kwaggashoek as the heading switches into the west. The further north you drive, the more the condition of the road deteriorates. After Kwaggashoek, there is a fork in the road - keep right and continue ascending a ridge which forms the western flank of a valley carved out by a tributary of the Venterspruit, the Ngcongcosi River.

The gradient increases rapidly to 1:6 at the 1,4 km mark, where the first S-bend is encountered. It's sharp, steep and rough and the angles of these two bends is in excess of 110 degrees. After the S-bend, the road heads into the north-west and ascends up the contours of the ridge maintainng a steady direction, with lovelt views of the valley opening up on the right. The gradients along this section are easier at 1:15.

When the going gets rough...This road is about as rough as things can get . It looks more like a river bed than a road! / Photo: Gary Duggan 2015At the 2,34 km mark, the road swings sharply to the left (west) and the gradient increases a bit to 1:12. At the 3,0 km mark, the direction changes back into the north-west, and the going is easy as the spine of the ridge is followed. A fork in the road appears at the 3,4 km mark - keep right!

At the 3,55 km mark, there is another left hand bend coupled with an increase in gradient to 1:5. It's only 300m long - this is the steepest section of the pass. Once the road levels off, this is a good place to take a breather from the strenouos driving and enjoy the incredible Drakensberg scenery. During the summer months, the valleys are cloaked in green grasslands, making the spectacle sublime. It is also the main rainy season, where you are likely to encounter very slippery conditions on this pass. During winter, it snows here and then this pass is a no-no for everyone as conditions become lethal with ice and snow on the road.

There is another 1,5 km of climbing to do. The gradients are much easier, but the condition of the road is poor to terrible as large rocks and donghas pepper the roadway, making for painfully slow progress, with frequent stops to check lines and do some rock packing (aka road building).

It's wild and roughNot for the feint-hearted / Photo - Gary Duggan 2015
Just before the summit of 1749m ASL is reached, there is a single brutally sharp S-bend, but dont worry about slowing down for it, as you will only be doing around 5 kph anyway. The summit point is also the precise line demarcating the border between the Free State and KZN.

Views along the entire length of the pass are magnificent. This is truly a pass worth going out of your way for. Dont be in a  hurry - it will be a slow drive. It is in close proximity to the Sterkfontein Dam - itself worth a visit with its deep, dark waters and wild summer wind storms.

The pass ends 400m after an easy descent to the crossing of a small stream. To get back to the main road continue on this road for 14,2 km till you reach a T-junction at GPS S28.443184 E29.112905.

Bezuidenhouts Pass x overland.co.zaA rough road to be tackled by 4x4 only! / Photo courtesy of overland.co.za
Here you have some options. If you wish to return to Bergville - Turn left and drive for 4 km. Turn right and drive for 3,5 km to the R74. Turn left again to head for Bergville along the banks of the Sterkfontein Dam.

For those wishing to head north - from the T-junction mentioned earlier at GPS S28.443184 E29.112905, turn right and drive for 6 km to a T-junction. Turn left and drive for 14,5 km which will get into Harrismith, where you can connect with the N3.
 
Cautionary: We strongly recommend that novice and intermediate offroad drivers as well as motorcyclists without sufficient experience, do not drive or ride this pass. There is a high probability of vehicle damage or in the case of motorcyclists - a fall. The rocks are hard here! Getting assitance will be difficult due to the nature of the road. For off-road vehicles we recommend riding in a small group - minimum of two vehicles in case of a breakdown.


Fact File:

GPS START

S28.551317 E29.242059

GPS SUMMIT

S28.535595 E29.202992

GPS END

S28.532752 E29.200235

AVE GRADIENT

1:14

MAX GRADIENT

1:8

ELEVATION START

1339

ELEVATION SUMMIT

1749m

ELEVATION END

1719m

HEIGHT GAIN/LOSS

410m

DISTANCE

5.6 km

DIRECTION - TRAVEL

North

TIME REQUIRED

90 minutes

SPEED LIMIT

None (Self limiting)

SURFACE

Gravel

DATE FILMED

23.05.2013

TEMPERATURE

14C

NEAREST TOWN

Bergville (15km)


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Mountain Passes South Africa is a website dedicated to the research, documentation, photographing and filming of the mountain passes of South Africa.
 

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