Ceres has an abundance of passes connecting it to the outside world. One of the oldest is the Hottentots Kloof Pass, which was the original wagon route between Cape Town and the Karoo through Ceres, long before the N1 was thought about. Together with the Karoo Poort these two passes carried considerable wagon traffic to the northern areas. The modern pass we drive on today does not follow the original wagon route, which is slightly further south, a little lower down the slope.
Houw Hoek Pass was built shortly after Sir Lowry's Pass was completed in 1833. The distance between the two passes is approximately 25km and covers some beautiful mountainous terrain. This middle section was known as Coles Pass - so named after the very same Sir Lowry Cole. The name Houw Hoek translates into 'Hold Corner' and is derived from the need to hold back, or slow down the ox-wagons whilst negotiating the steep descent down the pass.
This lovely, old (and very well designed) pass, which is also known as the Railway Pass, is unfortunately only suitable for 4WD vehicles with good ground clearance. There were a total of four passes built down the mountainside since the 1700's. This was the third road towards the Overberg and was constructed in 1904 to compliment the railway line. The line chosen was very cleverly done allowing for a major climb to take place at very comfortable gradients. The old pass is in a pictureque setting as it follows the course of the Jakkals River, which is a tributary of the Bot River. The Jakkalsrivier shares the narrow ravine with the road and the railway line. Sections of the pass falls within or close to, the Houw Hoek Nature Reserve.
This fairly steep gravel pass lies on the east/west axis on the southern side of the Swartberg Mountains and connects the Kruisrivier farming area in the west with the Swartberg Private Game Lodge at the eastern end of the pass. Continuing eastwards along this road (P363) will bring you to the foot of the Swartberg Pass as well as ultimately to the Cango Caves.
The 13.4 km long Huisrivier pass lies on the R62 between two valleys in the Little Karoo between the towns of Ladismith in the west and Calitzdorp in the east. This pass is unique in that its geology is unusually unstable and several pioneering engineering techniques had to be applied to successfully build a safe all-weather pass.
This short and fairly steep gravel pass is located on an isolated farm access road a few kilometers to the east of Redelinghuys in the Sandveld region. This pass is mainly used by 4x4 enthusiasts to access the Jakkalskloof 4x4 route - a tough and tricky route down steep inclines and through deep sand. The road is a dead-end, but a normal car will mange the pass to the farm house at the summit without any problems, but cars with low ground clearance might have some issues.
The Jan Muller Pass is a short, steep pass, with a descent and ascent over the low level bridge over the Gouritz River which is also named after Jan Muller. This rugged gravel road pass is fairly short at 3,63km and descends in a series of tight switchbacks from the eastern approach to cross the Gouritz River over a low level concrete bridge (which is subject to regular flooding). The western ascent is very steep with a gradient of 1:4, but the authorities have concrete-stripped this section allowing for good traction. It makes the road driveable in a normal car.
The Jan Phillips Mountain Road (or more correctly Jan Phillips Bergpad) runs along the eastern flank of the famous Paarlberg Mountain approximately 3/4 of its height and along the 300m contour - and provides access to the Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve, Meulwater picnic site and a vast number of hiking and mountain bike trails at the summit of the mountain. Jan Phillips was a respected wagon maker in the town in the 1800's. It's a fairly long gravel road of 10,8 km that starts and ends at either end of the town of Paarl. The northern descent has been closed for several years after severe flood damage and the chances of that section ever being opened up again, seem slender. So for now it has to be driven as an out and back route. It's an easy enough drive for any vehicle, but the road is quite narrow in places. If you comply with the 30 kph speed limit (which very few people do) you will not have any problems.
This fairly long gravel road pass connects the Moravian village of Goedverwacht with Bo-Piketberg and is a delight to drive for its exquisite scenery and remote feeling. It lies on the western flank of a big valley formed between two mountain ranges to the west of Piketberg. At the foot of the pass lies the pretty missionary village of Goedverwacht which offers a fascinating look into the region's history. The pass is 8,6 km long and sports an average gradient of 1:16 with a few short sections as steep as 1:5. The pass is not suited to normal cars. We recommend a vehicle with decent ground clearance, especially over the first 2 km near the northern summit. Several internet references quote this pass as being called "Klok se Poort". This is incorrect as Klok se Poort is a hiking trail that ascends the eastern flank of the valley and is not doable in a vehicle.
The relatively unknown Joubertspoort Pass is an 11.8km farm road, close to Montagu in the Western Cape, but well worth exploring. It takes you past quaint little farm labourers' cottages and green pastures to the head of the poort from where it is 4x4 only territory up a steep jeep track. Once you reach the last farm, a rough jeep track winds up into the mountains and exits about halfway up the famous Ouberg Pass. This last section is strictly for 4x4 vehicles only --- good ground clearance and low range is essential! It provides magnicicent views in complete tranquility and isolation. It is best tackled with a minimum of two vehicles.
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.
We are as passionate about maps as we are about mountain passes. A good map is a thing of beauty that can transport you into the mists of time or get your sense of adventure churning. It is a place to make discoveries about deserts and seas, mountains and lakes; of roads leading into places you have not been before; a place to pore over holiday destinations or weekend camping trips. A map is your window to the world.