Bloubank Nek (P187)

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Memorial at Elandslaagte Memorial at Elandslaagte - Photo: Wikipedia

This is a very minor pass close to Ladysmith in KZN of only 2.6 km, with an easy average gradient of 1:55 and the steepest parts along the eastern descent being only 1:20. The pass has only a few minor bends and very little to offer the enthusiastic pass hunter other than the Anglo-Boer War history in nearby Ladysmith. The road roughly parallels the N11 which is 3 km to the south as well as the course of the Sandrivier about the same distance to the north, and provides a quieter alternative to the busy N11.

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[On-car video footage supplied by Mike Leicester]

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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: To approach from the west, travel down Van Reenen’s Pass on the N3. At the bottom of the pass, turn right onto a gravel road, the P409, at S28.439297 E29.490621 – the Zandspruit Padstal marks this intersection. Travel along this road for 8.1 kms to S28.481594 E29.545177, then turn right onto the P187. Travel for 21.3 kms to S28.566339 E29.702686, which is the western start of the pass.

To approach from the east, travel from Ladysmith along the N11 until you reach the intersection of the N11 and the R103 at S28.571166 E29.749888. Do not turn left or right, but continue straight on along the P187 for 2.2 kms to S28.570506 E29.728752, which is the eastern start of the pass.

British War memorialBritish War memorial / Photo: Nico Fourie

The north-south ridge which this road crosses at its northern extremity is known as Rifleman's Ridge and there is another very similar pass a little further to the south that crosses the southern end of the same ridge, which is called Lancers Nek.

We have filmed the pass from east to west. The road rises gently to the summit of 1088m ASL with no bends or changes in direction and descends just as quickly down the western side of a small hill. The entire pass is over in under 3 minutes. There are no dangers and the road is suitable for all vehicles.

The history of Ladysmith starts in 1847, when a number of Boers bought land from the Zulu king Mpande and settled in the area. They called it the Republic of Klip River, and appointed Andries Spies as their commandant. The “republic” was annexed by the British in the same year, and on 20 June 1850 they proclaimed a township called Windsor. On 11 October 1850 the name was changed to Ladysmith, after Juana Maria de los Dolores de Leon Smith (also known as Lady Smith), the Spanish wife of Sir Harry Smith, who was the British governor general of the Cape Colony and the high commissioner in South Africa from 1847 to 1852.

Ladysmith is located on the banks of the Klip River ("Stone River"), with the central business district and a large part of the residential areas located within the flood basin. Since it was established, the town has suffered severely from flooding, and during the 110 years up to 1997, with the completion of the Qedusizi Dam, 29 serious floods have occurred. Minor flooding occurs almost every year. In 1949 the Windsor Dam was completed, but this dam silted up very quickly and was not an effective means of flood control. The worst flood in 30 years occurred in 1996 leading to R500 million in damages and the evacuation of 400 families.

[Written by Trygve Roberts & Mike Leicester]

Fact File:


S28.570506 E29.728752


S28.567668 E29.712179


S28.566339 E29.702686














2,6 km




2 minutes


80 kph


Tar (P187)






Ladysmith (10 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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