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Mountain Passes

The Naauwkloof Pass on the R62 close to Ladismith  is much more of a poort than a true mountain pass. The 8,3 km long poort offers attractive scenery with 12 gentle bends and easy gradients to make this an enjoyable break along the R62, itself touted as the longest wine route in the world.

Towards the northern end of the poort, the Naauwkloof farm entrance can be seen on the right-hand side when travelling south. There's a valley about a quarter of the way through the poort, followed by an ascent to a false summit (516m) at the 4.5 km mark. From this midway summit the road descends continuously till the end of the poort marked by the crossing of the Stassensleegte River.

The Lotheni Pass is the biggest of the four passes clustered around the Lotheni and Mkhomazi Nature Reserves. The other passes are the Bucklands Pass, the Nzinga Pass and the oddly named Ping Pong Cuttings. The Lower Lotheni Road offers wonderful scenery as it follows the foothills of the Drakensberg, offering tranquil scenery and a glimpse of rural life as several villages are traversed.

Being a gravel road, the surface condition is subject to weather conditions and maintenance schedules. Always expect rough sections with ruts, washaways and loose gravel. Other dangers include erratic local driver behaviour, livestock on the road, minibus taxis and pedestrians.

Stick to the speed limit and be particularly careful at blind rises and sharp corners, where some drivers tend to drift onto the wrong side of the road.

Lundy's Hill is a major pass located on the tarred R617 trunk route between Howick and Bulwer. It's 21 km long and contains 35 bends, corners and curves, most of which are easy. The altitude variance of 505m converts into an average gradient of 1:41 with the steepest parts measuring in at 1:9. This pass is unkindly referred to a "hill". During our research of this pass, we could not uncover any meaningful history on the naming of Lundy's Hill.

The pass has a classic inverted vertical profile, typical of a pass that descends down to a river and ascends up the other side. The river in question is the Umkomaas River (Mkomazi). The pass provides access to several rural villages, where the scenery is fabulous, especially during the summer months. 

The pass lies along the footbhills of the Drakensberg at an elevation of roughly 1400m ASL and is subject to electrical thunderstorms in summer and possible snowfalls during winter. Watch out for slow moving and erratic local drivers, pedestrians and livestock plus dogs on the road - and of course the ubiquitous minibus taxis, who write their own rules.

The Nzinga Pass is a long gravel pass located roughly midway between Nottingham Road and Himeville on the Lotheni Road. The road is generally in a reasonable condition and is suitable for all vehicles. There are no shortages of bends on this pass - 43 of them in total. Ten of the corners are in excess of 90 degrees, but there are no true hairpins.

There is an altitude variance of 339m and an unusual feature is the double set of river crossings. Cautionaries include the two narrow single width bridges which are dangerous, even in good weather and best traveresed at 30 kph. Mountain mists can severaly reduce visibility and livestock and pedestrians are always a problem in this area. 

The pass is obviously named after the Mkomazi River (Umkomaas) and displays a typical inverted vertical profile associated with a pass that drops down into a river valley and ascends up the other side. This is a fairly long pass at 11.8 km and has an altiude variance of 521m, which translates into an average gradient of 1:23.

There are 34 bends, corners and curves to contend with, most of which have gentle arcs, but there two sharp 90 degree corners on the northern side, which require careful driving. In earlier times the river was known as the Umkomaas, mainly to suit the Western tongue better, but today the spelling has reverted back to the original Zulu version.

The pass is part of the R56 and connects Ixopo in the south with Richmond in the north. The road is currently (2021) under refurbishment and is generally in a fair condition.

This short little pass is located close to the N2 national road and forms the eastern border of the Indalu Game Reserve between Herbertsdale in the north and Vleesbaai in the south. The pass has some steep gradients and a few very sharp corners, but perhaps the biggest reason for driving this pass is the lovely scenery and the likelihood of spotting some game. When we filmed the pass, we fortunate to come across a rhino family. 

The road forms a short-cut between Herbertsdale and the N2 for travellers wanting to get from herbertsdale to Albertinia. The road is suitable for all vehicles in fair weather and is only 3.6 km in length and contains 7 bends, corners and curves with some long, straight stretches. The name more than likely refers to the prolific number of aloes that are found in the area and translates as Red Flower Heights.

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.

 

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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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