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Mountain Passes

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.

The Tlaeeng Pass has a fairly minor altitude gain of 140m and only one hairpin chicane section. Other than those, the pass is easy enough to traverse, but what makes this pass stand out from the rest is it's maximum altitude of 3262m which makes it the 2nd highest pass in Lesotho. This road is also known as the Oxbow-Mapholaneng Road.

Together with the Moteng, Mahlasela and Khalo La Lithunya Passes, it forms a quartet of altitude gaining passes on the A1 route between Butha Buthe and Mokhotlong. The main point of interest occurs at the southern end of the pass which is the Letseng Diamond Mine.

This tar road pass is located near Prieska in the Northern Cape, and follows a loop in the Orange River known locally as “Wonderdraai” (which translates as “amazing corner”). This horseshoe-shaped bend, together with its surroundings, creates an optical illusion that the river is flowing uphill. The pass itself gains just 77 metres in height and has a total of 9 corners, only one of which exceeds an angle of 90 degrees. The road is in a fairly good condition, with just a few minor potholes, and can be driven in any vehicle and in all weather conditions.

The pass is situated only about 22 km from the town on a good tarred road, so it is worth making a slight detour to get to if you are in the area. Speak to one of the locals and ask about the location of the best viewpoint for the Wonderdraai phenomenon.

This official pass on the tarred B24 route is of a very minor nature. It connects a number of villages in the north with the town of Mafeteng about 8 km to the south. It only has 3 minor bends and displays an altitude variance of just 35m with a pleasant average gradient of 1:51.

The usual urban Lesotho cautionaries apply of children and livestock on the road.


 

Vuilnek is located on a minor gravel road to the south-west of Olifantshoek in the Northern Cape, not too far off the N14 national highway towards Upington. This is the area where the Langeberg Rebellion took place in 1897, when the Tswana people rose up in arms to fight for their independence. The road is plagued by severe corrugations, but otherwise is in a fairly good condition and can be driven in any vehicle.

Located in the intermediate zone between the Green Kalahari and the true semi-desert, the pass is not particularly scenic, but it does offer some excellent views over the flat plains that abound in this region. It is not known how this pass obtained its unusual name, which means “Dirty Neck”.

This lovely pass has two unusual features. Firstly its indigenous name is very long at 21 letters and secondly it has the English name of God Help Me Pass, which conjures up instant images of fear and alarm. The reality is that today's version of the pass is actually quite easy to traverse along the tarred A3 main route.

The pass is one of several big passes on the A3 between Maseru and Mohale. It has a summit height of 2332m and like most passes in Lesotho is subject to winter snowfalls and ice on the road. It has 31 bends, corners and curves of which 8 are greater than 90 degrees and of those 8 there are 4 bends of 180 degrees.

 

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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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