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Mountain Passes

The Buffelshoek Pass lies on the R337 linking Pearston in the south with Cradock in the north-east. This rugged and beautiful pass offers sublime scenery towards the south over well wooded valleys and expansive plains packed with game. The pass quickly deteriotes in heavy rain or snow conditions and becomes dangerous for non 4WD vehicles, but in fair weather the road is perfectly suitable for all cars.

The pass is 3,9 km long and has an altitude variance of a 330m producing a challenging average climb rate of 1:12 with the steeper sections measuring in at 1:6. It's located just 15 kilometres north-east of Pearston.

Nearby Pearston dates back to the mid 1800's and is today one of the prime towns associated with hunting. The village is looking a little dog-eared these days with poverty and unemployment taking its toll on tourism.



This inverted profile pass is situated near the east coast city of East London, and derives its name from the crossing of the Buffalo River, which empties into the harbour a few kilometres downstream. It forms a convenient shortcut from the western suburbs to the airport, as well as to the R72 coastal road which connects the city to Port Alfred and Port Elizabeth. East Londoners of the more mature variety will have fond memories of the infamous nightclub that used to be located next to the river at the bottom of the pass.

The lovely old tarred pass sweeps down into the densely wooded Buffalo River valley and crosses East London's major river via a bridge built in 1955. The road is tarred (although bumpy, potholed and patched these days) and presents a comfortable gradient of just 1:33, with some of the steeper sections at 1:11.

Piles of litter along the road-side spoil the drive and perhaps one of the city's councillors might read this page and do something about cleaning the pass up. It's one of East London's many attractions which has been allowed to degenerate. This pass is dangerous for cyclists and walkers as there are no safety shoulders plus this is a high crime area.

This pass is located on the tarred R63 between Somerset East and Pearston. Travelling eastwards, the pass starts approximately 20 km east of Pearston. Most of the R63 traverses fairly flat terrain just to the south of a long line of mountains. Bruintjieshoogte is the first significant change in altitude after leaving Graaff Reinet on this road. This region is rich in game farms as can be evidenced by the many kilometres of game fencing on either side of the road and game spotting is almost guaranteed - from the nimble springbok to the majestic kudu - the latter being able to effortlessly scale fences and is a major deterrent to night driving in the Eastern Cape.

The Boesmanshoek Pass is located on the tarred R397 road between the towns of Sterkstroom in the south and Molteno in the north. The pass is 3,8 km long and has an altitude variance of 264m producing an average gradient of 1:14 making it a stiff gradient by modern standards. Although the pass is fairly short, it offers attractive vistas to the north over a wide and deep valley. One of the features of this pass is that it shares the mountainside with the railway line, which it underpasses near the foot of the pass. The road is showing signs of deterioration, but it is cheduled for maintenance (Jan 2017).

The pass can be found on the R67 tarred road between Grahamstown and Port Alfred, also commonly known as the Port Alfred Road. The pass is 4.8 km long and has an average gradient of 1:38 which is gentle. However there are a few sections that present at 1:9. It contains 13 bends corners curves within it's length, but most of them have a wide enough radius to negate the need to lower speed. The pass presents an inverted vertical profile typical of a pass that descends thorugh a river valley and rises up the far side.

The pass is bisected by the Bloukrans River which flows in an easterly direction at this point. The original farm through which the road traverses is listed as BLAAUWKRANTZ OUTSPAN and from which the pass takes its name. The spelling is in the oriiginal Dutch format, but the 1:50,000 government topographical maps spell it the modern way as Bloukranspas. (Afr). We are indexing this pass as Blaauwkrantz Pass to avoid confusion with the other 2 passes of the same name. This pass should not be confused with Thomas Bain's classic Bloukrans Pass near Natures Valley, nor with the Bloukrans Pass south of Calvinia in the Northern Cape..

Sir Lowry's Pass was named after Sir Galbraith Lowry Cole, Governor of the Cape in 1828. Today's modern, cantilevered four-lane highway is a far cry from the original pass, which was recklessly dangerous and steep. Prior to the pass being built, all wagon traffic from the Overberg routed through the Franschoek Pass - the preferred route for many years with its kinder gradients for wagons and oxen. 

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. It has 39 bends,corners and curves packed into that distance, which requires vigilant driving. Not only is this a fairly long pass, but it has many sharp corners, steep gradients and exceptionally attractive scenery. Many lovely rest areas have been provided by the road builders. The perfectly banked corners will be a joy to ride on a motorcycle.

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. The pass, which includes three river crossings, is not particularly steep, where the engineers have managed to limit the speepest gradients to a fairly comfortable 1:12. The pass is suitable for all vehicles with the only natural dangers being rockfalls, but the substantial catch walls appear to be taking care of that as well. The road carries heavy trucking traffic and overtaking is sometimes difficult. Patience is required if you get stuck behind a slow moving truck.

The 11,7 km long Garcia's Pass has a long and winding history predating 1860. It connects the farming town of Riversdale on the coastal plateau, with the inland Karoo town of Ladismith. The effective combination of Garcia's Pass and its sister-pass, the Tradouw Pass, did much to extend trade into the interior during the pioneering days of the 1820 Settlers.

This lesser known, Southern Cape pass is often ignored in favour of the much more famous Tradouw Pass 30 km to the west, between Suurbraak and Barrydale. It is a beautiful drive at any time of year - particularly the upper-plateau section where the road winds gently between the hills, mimicking the course of the river.

It's a long pass at 11,6 km and has an altitude variance of 397m with mostly easy gradients, but the southern side closer to Riversdale can get a bit steep at 1:10. The road is maintained to a high standard and has a good safety record. It is suitable for all vehicles.

Combrink's Pass and the Holgat Pass are the descent and ascent respectively of the high plateau where the Bergplaas camping sites are found. Regardless of which direction you drive the pass, it is a visual feast. It is also the biggest of the five Baviaanskloof  passes (Nuwekloof, Grasnek, Langkop, Holgat and Combrinks) in terms of altitude gain/loss. This is the last pass you will encounter before exiting the bio-reserve and entering the Cambria valley.

Compressed within its 5,5 km length the road descends 333m via 73 bends, corners and curves, resulting in an average gradient of 1:16, but there are some sections as steep as 1:8. The road is single width for most of its length making overtaking impossible and passing difficult, where one of the vehicles will need to reverse back to a wider point.

This pass is a winner with stunning views for its entire length, however for anyone suffering from acrophobia, the very steep and completely unguarded drop-offs could be quite intimidating.

If you are new to the Baviaanskloof, we recommend watching the Orientation Overview video first. 

When travelling through the Baviaanskloof from west to east, the Holgat Pass is 5th pass you will need to traverse - the first four being the Nuwekloof  Pass, Studtis Poort, Grasnek Pass and Langkop Pass. The Holgat Pass is often confused with the Combrinks Pass which lies a few kilometers further east. The pass is essentially the ascent up the final big mountain climb for travellers heading eastwards,  interrupted by a high altitude plateau (where the Bergplaas campsites can be found) followed by the Combrinks Pass as the descent. If you are new to the Baviaanskloof, we recommend first watching the Orientation and Overview video.

The pass contains 49 bends, corners and curves within its 4,7 km length and 10 of those corners are greater than 90 degrees. The road is partially strip concreted and sections of the concrete are in poor condition, making for quite a bumpy ride. Most of the pass has steep, unguarded drop-offs and drivers need to be alert. Overtaking is impossible and passing vehicles travelling in the opposite direction will require both vehicles to move over to create sufficient passing space.

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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.
 

Master Orientation Map

Master Orientation Map 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.

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