The Dontsa Pass is a 5,9 km long gravel road pass forming part of the R352 route on a western loop from the R63 in the south to the R30 in the north near Stutterheim. The pass is close to the Sandile Dam, the Hogsback mountains as well as the Gubu dam further to the east. The pass was originally built in 1857. Besides some very sharp corners and steep, unguarded drop-offs, motorists should be aware of large timber trucks which ply this pass at sometimes alarming speeds. Be ready to move out of the way at any time as this is a heavily used used road for forestry purposes.
This high altitude pass can be found after summiting the Katberg Pass. It starts at 1623m ASL and summits at 1713m before dropping through through a series of switchbacks through the Winterberg Mountains to the next plateau of farms. We recommend a high clearance 4WD vehicle for this pass. It connects the summit of the Katberg Pass with the towns of Sada, Whittlesea and Queenstown further to the north.
The road (or rather the track) is mostly badly rutted with some deep washaways and large stones to get over. After rain, the summit area can be very slippery with large pools of muddy water over the road, which have to be traversed. Don't attempt this road without a backup vehicle and recovery equipment. Also make sure you have Tracks4Africa loaded on your GPS otherwise you will more than likely get lost. This is one of those roads very much less travelled.
This high altitude pass is a little difficult to find, but offers rich rewards to the traveller seeking out the more remote passes. It lies to the east of a deep valley between Cookhouse (30km) and Tarkastad and connects a range of farms from the Bedford side with the R344. The pass has a significant altitude gain of 289m over a distance of 6,1 km producing an average gradient of 1:21 with the steeper sections measuring in at 1:14
This is one of those remote farm roads, less travelled, where the more adventurous traveller will be rewarded with wonderful scenery and quiet roads where you are unlikely to see another vehicle over the entire route.
Daggaboers Nek is a long tarred pass, located south of Cradock on the N10. The upgraded road is in an excellent condition, and features a double lane on the ascents of both the southern and northern approaches. Gradients are gentle and all of the corners have a wide radius, allowing motorists to easily maintain the designated speed limit of 100 kph. The pass offers beautiful views over the undulating Karoo landscape, particularly on the northern side once the summit has been crested. The pass has a history dating back to the 19th century.
Colonanek (also known as Colananek) is situated in the high mountainous area of the Eastern Cape, close to the KZN border between the towns of Mount Frere and Cedarville. The pass, which is gravel surfaced, contains 19 bends, corners and curves withing it's 4,4 km length, producing an average gradient of 1:30 with the steepr sections measuring in at 1:11.
The pass traverses the substantial rural settlement of Colana (from which it takes it's name) so drivers need to be aware of livestock, pedestrians, slow moving vehicles and minibus taxis throughout this traverse. The scenery is lovely with colourful mud huts bedecked with thatch adding a splash of colour to the scenery. This quiet country road is a long and slow drive. If you're in a hurry, rather avoid this one.
Cat's Pass can be found on the gravel road between Butterworth and tiny coastal resort of Mazeppa Bay. The pass is a typical Transkei road of dubious quality and should be driven with care - especially in terms of livestock, minibus taxis, dogs and children on the roads, where most of the rural lands are unfenced.
The pass contains 22 bends, corners and curves within its 6,5 km length and offers sweeping views over forest clad hills and green valleys on both sides of the road. None of the corners are too sharp, but it is rather the nature of the road surface which will determine the speed you are able to travel. There are some sections which get as steep as 1:7. There are four distinct summit points along the pass of which the first one is the true summit.
This fairly extreme pass is for the more experienced driver. It descends/ascends 739 meters over 14,4 km producing some exceptionally steep gradients, with some of the sections an adrenaline pumping 1:3. This pass is the main access road to the Tiffindell Ski Resort and is generally well maintained with the steepest sections either having been strip concreted or fully concreted. We have filmed the pass from north to south in the descending mode for maximum scenic value, although this is not the way most first timers will travel the pass.
This pass is not recommended for novice drivers, but it is quite doable in a normal sedan vehicle in fair weather. Should you have booked accommodation at Tiffindell and arrive in a spell of bad weather, the ski resort can make arrangements to get you to the top of the mountain via a 4x4 shuttle service.
The impressive Cala Pass winds its way up a deep cleft in the mountains north of the village of Cala gaining almost 300 meters in altitude over 5,8 km, producing a gradient of 1:19 with some sections at 1:9. This a reasonably safe road for most vehicles, but it a high altitude pass and is subject to winter snowfalls, heavy summer electrical storms and regular mountain mists. It is one of four passes along the R410 between Queenstown and Elliot forming a set of giant stepping stones towards the high altiude part of the Eastern Cape around Barkly East.
Buys Poort can be found between Uniondale and Willowmore in the Karoo on the tarred N9 national route. The road runs on the north-south axis through a natural poort between hills of approximately 1100m each, adjacent to the farm of the same name, before levelling out in a southerly direction towards Uniondale (30 kms). The road presents an easy gradient of 1:48 with a peak gradient of 1:20.
This is such a minor poort that the average motorist wouldn't even be aware of it unless the waypoints have been inserted to provide advance notice. What it lacks in vital statistics, it more than compensates for in the form of tranquil Karoo scenery.
The Bulhoek Pass is a gravel road with a stiff gradient averaging out at 1:15 with some of the steeper sections at 1:10. The road links the R390 via the Bulhoek farm with the R56 south of Steynsberg. Sheltering within the magnificent Eastern Cape Zuurberg mountain range, Steynsburg is a quiet little Karoo town where the air is clean and the local sheep farming community are very friendly.
The man who took on the mighty British Empire, Oom Paul Kruger, and another Afrikaans legend, Marais Steyn, were both born here. So if you fancy a bit of heritage, mountains, grassy plains, strange geological formations, blue cranes and some arts and crafts, this is a lesser road worth seeking out.
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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