Abel Erasmus Pass (R36)

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Abel Erasmus Pass, Limpopo Abel Erasmus Pass, Limpopo - Photo: Wikipedia

Forming part of the R36 near the Kruger National Park and the Molatse Canyon (or 'Blyde River Canyon') the pass starts at 1011m ASL, then drops down the Drakensberg escarpment to the Olifants River at 508m ASL. It can be found between the towns of Orighstad (40 km to the South) and Tzaneen (95km to the North East) and incorporates the Strijdom Tunnel. This is a major pass with a big altitude variance and incorporates 26 bends, corners and curves over its length of 9,8 km, producing an average gradient of 1:20.


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Digging into the details:

In the middle of the pass there is a plateau where you will find the small settlement of Morulaneng. The route actually follows an old Voortrekker wagon route dating back to to 1840. The road clings to the eastern flank of the ravine and enters the J.G.Strijdom Tunnel, which cuts through a prominent, but awkward nose on the mountain. You will experience a 501m drop in altitude as the pass ends near the Olifants River at an altitude of 508m ASL. This is a scenically stunning pass and makes for a grand entrance into the Lowveld.

Superb photograph by Hougaard Malan of the pass viewsStunning view from the pass by our favourite outdoor photographer - Hougaard MalanThe pass was named after a local farmer Abel Erasmus, who owned the nearby farm 'Graskop'. Erasmus was a prominent figure and peacekeeper in the Lowveld area and the naming of the pass was a fitting manner to honour his efforts amongst the community.

The pass starts at its eastern end at 1011m ASL and drops immediately at a fairly stiff gradient of 1:11 via a wide left hand curve, which arcs through 100 degrees, changing the direction into the south-west.

It drops continiously down the side of the mountain dropping in and out of the many side ravines and finally has a major change in direction at the 3 km mark, as it enters a long straight section over a wide plateau, which plays host to the village of Morulaneng. After clearing the northern end of this village, the road sweeps through an easy curve to the right and heads into the north-east - directly for a dramatic looking V-shaped neck in the mountains ahead. This is a more technical section to drive, but it also offers some spectacular views.

This section has many sharp corners, but the signage on the road is good and all you need do is comply with the speed limits and there shouldn't be any issues. This next section of approximately 2 km heads into a big ravine, which it enters and changes direction through a very sharp left hand bend of 110 degrees. There are two bridges and a couple of cantilevered sections propping the road up.

One more kilometre and the tunnel appears after another sharp right hand bend. The road is supported up here by a very high retaining wall and there are road side vendors occupying the space on either side of the space with locals plying their wares to tourists.

Once through the tunnel, the road changes direction to the right again and heads into the north-east for the final 2 km, with wide views of the Olifants River to the left. The pass ends 9,8 km after the start at an altitude of 509m ASL

Fact File:


S24.468634 E30.626133


S24.468634 E30.626133


S24.433299 E30.621223














9,8 km




20 minutes


60 to 80 kph


Tar (R36)






Orighstad (40km)

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