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Mountain Passes

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.

This is another big tarred pass covering 16.2 km. It is one of several big passes along the A25 and connects Seshute in the north with the Katse Dam complex in the south. There are 95 bends corners and curves to contend with, of which 23 have angles greater than 90 degrees, but there are no hairpins.

The altitude variance of 624m means lots of ascending and descending and although the road is tarred, caution needs to be exercised in terms of traffic volumes and the very real possibility of finding livestock on the road. All of Lesotho's passes are subject to winter snowfalls to varying degrees.

The pass offers very good elevated views of sections of the Katse Dam. It gives access to two airports - Katse Airport at the southern end and Seshutes airport at the northern end.

Naauwpoort is a minor but very scenic poort located just off the R24, a regional road which connects Rustenburg in the North West province to Krugersdorp in Gauteng. It is relatively close to the Olifantsnek Dam (21 km) and to Magaliesburg, which is 26 km away. The gravel road is in a good condition and appears to be regularly maintained, but an all-wheel-drive vehicle might be required in very wet weather. Like most poorts, Naauwpoort is generally quite flat and only has a height difference of 59 metres. There are 17 bends, corners and curves on the pass, but, other than one sharp corner of 90 degrees, most of these are very shallow and will not cause any problems, provided that you stick to a speed of 60 kph or less.

 

This fairly long pass runs along the north-south axis on a gravel road which forms the longer and arguably more scenic route along the southern side of the Quthing River. This route ultimately intersects with the A4 main tarred road a little further from the northern end of the pass.

It contains 82 bends, corners and curves within its 10.4 km length, which equates to 1 corner every 126 metres. With a summit altitude of 2532m it is almost as high as most of the South African high altitude passes and displays an altitude variance of 373m. The unusual vertical profile shows a classic profile up to the 7.7 km point, after which there is a gentle undulating climb of almost 3 km.

The steepest parts occur between the summit (4.5 km mark) and the 6.8 km point, where you will experience gradients as steep as 1:6. This pass will be very tricky in heavy rain or snow conditions. This route would be best driven ina high clearance vehicle and preferably in a 4WD vehicle.

Metzpoort is a minor pass located in the south-eastern corner of the Free State province, fairly close to Jagersfontein and Fauresmith. It is unlikely that you would find this poort unless you actively look for it, as it is situated on an obscure road in the middle of a huge farming area.

Like many backwater roads in the Free State it does not appear to be regularly maintained, and at the time of filming the surface was plagued by severe corrugations, but it can be driven in any vehicle and in most weather conditions. The poort was named after the original farm on which it is located.

 

This is one of the longest passes on the tarred A3 route between Maseru and Mohale at 18.3 km. Although the average gradient is a mild 1:40, those numbers are diluted by the long plateau section in the middle. The reality is that the gradients get steep at either end - as steep as 1:6.This is another high altitude pass reaching a maximum of 2642m ASL. The pass is also commonly called the Blue Mountain Pass. This is one of the coldest parts of Lesotho in winter and summer.

There are plenty of bends, corners and curves to keep you busy - a total of 95 of them and of those 12 are greater than 90 degrees, which include two hairpin bends.

The road is in a good condition and can be driven in any vehicle, but the usual Lesotho cautionaries apply of ice and snow on the road in winter, free roaming livestock, slow moving trucks and the ubiquitous herdsmen. The area can be subject to severe electrical storms in the summer months.

Langersnek is an official pass located on a secondary gravel road (the S385) in the eastern Free State highlands. Although the pass itself is not particularly memorable, the road does traverse right through the middle of the Moolmanshoek Private Game Reserve, offering spectacular sandstone mountain scenery and an excellent opportunity to do some free game viewing.

The road surface is in a reasonable condition and can be driven in any vehicle, except in really bad weather. It has not been possible to establish the origins of the name of this pass, but it is probably derived from the original owner of the farm on the north-eastern side, or perhaps from a local hero of the Anglo-Boer War. The spelling of this pass is taken from the official government maps, but locally the name is always spelled as “Langesnek”.

Kranspoort is a beautiful little poort located to the west of Fouriesburg, a small town situated very close to the Lesotho border in the eastern Free State. The scenery in this area is breath-taking, with magnificent sandstone mountains interspersed with rivers, dams, pastures, orchards, and the ever-present poplar trees which seem to have made this corner of the country their special domain.

The road through the poort is in a relatively bad condition and is poorly maintained, like so many other backwater roads in the Free State, but can still be driven in any vehicle provided that there has not been heavy weather. The poort is named after the original farm through which it traverses.

 

Our research was unable to reveal who Mr. Daneel was after whom this pass was named, but it can safely be assumed he was a prominent person in the area - probably a farmer, magistrate, politician or other public figure. This road is in good condition and far quieter than the N2 which parallels it 4 km to the south.

The road essentially follows the spine of a low ridge and consists of 13 bends, corners and curves, none of which are particularly sharp. There is a modest altitude variance of 118m over its 6.3 km length producing a gentle average gradient of 1:53 with the steepest part being on the eastern side at 1:10.

The tarred surface is good and it's suitable for all vehicles. Be on the alert for slow moving farm vehicles.

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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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