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Mountain Passes

This official pass hardly conforms to the definition of a pass and if you were not aware of it, you would barely notice it as you cruise along the R60 between Ashton and Robertson. The 'pass' only has three gentle bends and climbs just 39m in altitude over 3 km.

It provides access to a number of points of interest in the Robertson Valley, which include the historic Rietvallei Wine Estate and the well known Sheilam Cactus Farm.

The hill is named after a settler farmer in the area - Gideon Francois Malherbe who lived from 1854 to 1922. The farms in the area remain in the Malherbe family to this day.

Gouwsberg Pass is located on the western border of the Mpumalanga province, close to Loskop Dam and the Ezemvelo Nature Reserve. There are only 9 bends, corners and curves on the pass, 4 of which have a turn angle which exceeds 90 degrees; however, all of these corners have a very wide radius, and do not present a problem to negotiate at the posted speed limit of 100 kph.

There is a substantial height difference of 346 metres, but this is spread out over a length of 8.2 kilometres, resulting in a fairly easy average gradient of 1:23. Although a little bumpy, the tarred road is in a good state, and can be driven in any vehicle and in all weather conditions. Local drivers appear to be in the habit of cutting the corners and encroaching onto the wrong side of the road on a regular basis, so be aware of this when traversing the pass.

This official pass is located on the tarred 60 route just west of Robertson. The pass has a single S-curve with a deep cutting near the summit. The average gradient of 1:46 is watered down by the classic profile with some sections being fairly steep at 1:12.

It has recently (2019) undergone reconstruction and resurfacing and has overtaking lanes on both sides of the pass for vehicles ascending. The road carries heavy traffic and a lot of slow moving trucks frequent the route. There are no apparent dangers on the pass and drivers travelling in either direction can enjoy sweeping views of the Robertson Winelands. At the western end of the pass is the well known wine farm - Graham Beck wines, which you can't miss as it has a huge South African flag at the entrance.

The pass is named after the original farm over which it traverses - one of several old Dutch farms dating back to the 1700's.

The tiny little town of Blouputs is located on the northern banks of the Orange River between Augrabies and Riemvasmaak, in an enclave of the Northern Cape close to the border with Namibia. There are a number of grape and citrus farms in the area, and most of the community derive their income from seasonal employment on these farms.

To access this region, a tarred road, which cuts right through the middle of the Augrabies Falls National Park, was built, parts of which involved constructing a steep pass into the valley and a bridge over the river. The pass offers spectacular views of the typical rocky landscape, the vineyards and of the Orange River itself, particularly when driven in the descending mode. The road is in an excellent condition, and can be traversed in any vehicle and in any weather.

Trichardtspoort is located in the Wilge River Valley, a tiny enclave of the Gauteng Province situated on the north-eastern side of Bronkhorstspruit. The area is particularly beautiful, especially in summer, and although the access road is mostly gravel, it is well worth the trip to get there. The road is in a fairly good condition, but motorcyclists should take note that there are some soft and powdery sand sections. The poort is named after Louis Tregardt (his surname is often incorrectly spelled as “Trichardt”), as this valley was part of the route followed by the wagons of Tregardt and Andries Hendrik Potgieter on their way to the north of the country during the Great Trek. The ravine is also sometimes referred to as Wilgepoort or Kranspoort.

 

Sprinkaannek is a very minor gravel pass located near Thaba Nchu in the south-eastern Free State. It is difficult to locate, and is a major disappointment when seeing it for the first time, but it is an official pass and is marked as such on the 1:50000 topographical maps. The name translates as “Grasshopper Neck” or “Locust Neck”.

The road is nothing more than a farm track, but there is evidence that it is being maintained, most likely by the local farmers. This pass should not be attempted in anything less than a high clearance vehicle fitted with all terrain tyres, but a 4x4 is probably not required except in wet weather.

Telemachus Poort (also known as Modderpoort) is located near the tiny Eastern Cape town of Jamestown, about 60 km from Aliwal North. It is named after the Telemachusspruit which tracks the pass on the western side along its southern half. The poort is quite unusual in that it consists of two distinct sections; a “poort” section which follows the stream, and a “neck” section which climbs up a hill towards its summit on the northern side.

The road is in a good condition, and should present no problems for any vehicle in all weather conditions. There are only four corners on the pass, one of which is a big loop of 120 degrees, but this curve has a very wide radius and is easily negotiated.

 

This short little pass winds up a small ridge and more or less follows the course of the Breede River on the outskirts of the dairy farming town of Bonnievale. There are just two easy bends along the 1.6 km length and the total height gain is 28m. Unless you are aware that it's a pass, you would drive over it not being any the wiser, but it is an official pass, duly recorded on the government 1:50,000 maps..

The pass lies on the tarred R317 route that connects Robertson and Bonnievale, the latter town being well known for the Parmalat dairy/cheese factory on the eastern side of town, a major employer in the valley, but Bonnievale also produces a lot of wine. There are a number of excellent wine estates along this route.

Padkloof Pass is located on a secondary road which connects the N14 near Olifantshoek in the north with the N8 in the south. The primary attraction along this route is the Witsand Nature Reserve, which is situated about 20 km away on the northern side of the pass. The road is in a good condition and can be driven in any vehicle, but there are some severe corrugations in a few places.

This area is known as the “Green Kalahari” and is quite densely vegetated, in stark contrast to the red sand landscape of the true semi-desert close by. Keep a lookout for the thousands of Sociable Weaver nests which populate many of the trees and telephone poles, and for the smaller arid-region animals such as squirrels, mongooses, meerkats and dassies which pop up out of nowhere.

 

Paardekraal Pass traverses a long unnamed ridge, a spur of the Magaliesberg, that separates Krugersdorp from the south-western suburbs of Johannesburg. It derives its name from the original farm on which both the pass, and Krugersdorp itself, was established. The road carries a very high volume of traffic, even at night and over weekends, as this is the primary route which connects Krugersdorp to Pretoria, so try to avoid it at peak times if you can.

Fortunately, it has been constructed as a double highway, with multiple lanes in both the ascending and descending directions, so unless you get stuck behind trucks that are overtaking one another (a common occurrence), you should not encounter any problems. Magnificent views over the farms and smallholdings of the Muldersdrift area to the north are presented, but it would be both illegal and highly dangerous to stop anywhere along the length of the pass.

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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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