There are three passes that traverse the Gouritz River. From south to north these are the Gouritz River Pass on the N2 national road, the Jan Muller Pass (Gravel) which bridges the river some 32 km further north (as the crow flies) and lastly the Uitspan Pass, which crosses the Gouritz River another 16 km northwards.
The Gouritz River is an interesting river which has caused farmers and road and rail builders many problems over the years. Its gorge is deep and wide, yet for most of the year it is dry and dormant, but when the rains come, this river can be savagely lethal. Both the Jan Muller and Uitspan passes cross the Gouritz by means of low level causeways. In times of flood, these crossings are extremely dangerous. If there's a strong current running, it's better to retreat and use an alternative route. The crossings are wide and one wrong move and your vehicle could be washed off the causeway with disastrous consequences.
The Uitspan Pass is both a pass (at its western side) and a beautiful poort on its eastern side. It's 7.2 km long and contains 53 bends, corners and curves, many of which are extremely sharp, including 3 full hairpin bends. Although the average gradient is a mild 1:100, there are a few sections that get as steep as 1:6.
The pass can be driven in any high clearance vehicle in fair weather.
This fairly steep gravel pass is one of four passes on the DR1649 road between Vanwyksdorp and Armoed. It has a high-low profile and offers wide views as the descent drops down into a narrow valley where the Perdebont farm is located. The pass is named after the farm and translates into English as "Pie-bald horse"
This is a safe pass provided speed is moderate. It can be driven in any vehicle with reasonable ground clearance in fair weather.
The Klein Karoo offers untold surprises of succulent plant-life coupled with dazzling mountain views. The best time to travel here is in winter or early spring for the best flowers and of course, the aloes bloom in winter, making for an attractive vista. If you're one of those that doesn;t mind hot weather, then go here in midsummer where daily maximums often reach above 35C
The Kleinfontein Poort is in very close proximity to the Kleinfontein Pass - separated be just 500m. Despite its relatively short length the little poort has a lot to offer in terms of some very tight corners, but the real attraction here is the magnificent succulent plant life that flourishes in the poort.
The poort is just 2.1 long and contains 11 bends, corners and curves, including four very sharp and tightly radiused bends in excess of 90 degrees each.
The poort (like it's twin - the Kleinfontein Pass) falls within the boundaries of the Kleinfontein farm, itself located in the very heart of the Klein Karoo about midway between Vanwyksdorp and the R328 near Oudtshoorn. This is a very quiet and remote road but it is doable in any vehicle with decent ground clearance (in fair weather).
This delightful little pass offers a very scenic and pleasant drive amongst isolated farms, with thousands of aloes and amazing succulent plantlife. Even though the traverse is short at just 2.7 km, the pass offers some tight corners and inclines reaching 1:7.
There are a number of passes along this road which make this drive particularly enjoyable for those not in a hurry. The going is slow and there are numerous farm gates that need to be closed behind you.
The rule with farm gates is to leave the gate as you found it. The DR1469 is fairly long drive that takes about 2.5 hours to complete from Van Wyksdorp to Armoed (near the R328). The road is not suitable for normal sedan vehicles but a 4x4 is not mandatory.
Kliphoogte is a minor pass on the Barrydale-MR00322 road, but it should not be taken lightly as there are several dangers lurking on this road to catch unwary drivers. The pass is short at just 2.4 km and displays a classic middle summit profile with an altitude variance of 65m and a maximum gradient of 1:8
The pass falls within the main road between Barrydale and the tarred R323 to the north of Garcia's pass, providing travellers with a lovely, scenic route which is about 50/50 gravel and tar. The road also provides access to the Gysmanshoek Pass (northern end) and the Brandrivier Pass (southern end)
Regardless of which direction you are driving the pass the major bend towards the western side is where things become tricky. The road is poorly engineered on this bend, as not only does it reach its steepest gradient here, but there is reverse camber present as well. To add to this this, the bend is almost always badly corrugated and a loss of traction is highly likely to occur even in a 4WD vehicle. If tyres have not been deflated this corner is waiting for an accident to happen. Slow right down to about 30 kph and gear down.
This long gravel route forms an interesting option for off-road explorers who want to drive Gysmanshoek Pass as well as this one. At 15.5 km it's a fairly long drive which takes almost an hour due to the state of the road and the 7 farm gates which must be closed behind you.
This is a road for less hurried traveller. You will be spoilt with fine scenery, technical driving and a feeling of isolation. If you're short of time, rather give this one a miss.
The route traverses four farms and sports 70 bends corners and curves, ranging from easy all the way through to extremely tight. There are at least two corners with arcs greater than 120 degrees.
We recommend driving the route with at least one other vehicle in case of an emergency or breakdown, as you are unlikely to see another vehicle on this route the entire day.
This scenic poort winds its way along the Brandrivier flood plain, mainly keeping on the western side. Like all poorts, this one too is subject to frequent flooding. The altitude variance along this poort is minor, making it a great poort to cycle. The R323 carries very little traffic, making this drive relaxing and enjoyable as the cuttings reveal the local geology as the road passes by a number of attractive Karoo farms.
The road has no paved safety shoulders and has 12 easy bends, corners and curves.
The Toleni Pass is named after the village and river that it traverses. It's located on the busy N2 route roughly 19 km to the south east of Butterworth. The pass is 6.8 km in length and displays an altitude variance of 244m with a maximum altitude at its northern summit of 720m ASL.
The road is well engineered and modern with 13 bends.corners and curves to contend with. As is the case with many of the passes in this part of the Eastern Cape, drivers need to be aware of livestoick on the road (this is particularly hazardous at night). Other hazards include minibus taxis, very slow moving traffic as well as very fast traffic. Mountain mists are also common here, which adds another element of danger.
Stick to the speed limits or slower and watch out for rampant barrier line infringements
Paardepoort, which carries the road number P0413, is a long gravel road connecting three distinct poorts that cut through the east-west running ridges just north of the R75 main road between Kirkwood and Jansenville. It services a number of farms and provides a lovely gravel alternative from Kirkwood to the Darlington Dam and similarly an enjoyable return route after completing the Bedrogfontein 4x4 route.
It's a long poort at 16.4 km but the ever changing scenery between tall moungtains and craggy outcrops in the poorts to the open farmland between each of the poorts, provides a wonderful variety of scenery. Allow about 40 minutes to drive the poort, excluding stops. It's best to drive on deflated tyres (1.4 bar recommended) for improved traction, a softer ride and a reduced risk of punctures. But do not drive faster than 80 kph on soft tyres and reinflate as soon as you are back on tar.
There are a number of game farms and upmarket hunting lodges in the area, including Koffylaagte.
The Tutor Ndamase Pass is a new pass located on the R61 roughly midway between Port St. Johns and Mthatha. The pass offers exceptional scenery, modern engineering and is a joy to drive, but do watch out for speedbumps, livestock, taxis and pedestrians.
At 7.6 km it's well above the national average and displays an altitude variance of 344m, producing an average gradient of 1:22 with the steepest parts being 1:9.
This is one of the newest passes in the region which has greatly improved the time it takes to travel between the two towns. Current news (March, 2021) is that Port St. Johns is scheduled for a major infrastructure revamp with the Eastern Cape government billing it as South Africa's newest coastal city. We welcome this news as the town is currently in a sorry state.
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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