Moordenaarsnek (“Murderer’s Neck”) has a very unusual profile, in that the road rises and falls through a series of false summits over its full length of 12.3 km. The road had recently been refurbished at the time of filming in April 2017, and was in an excellent condition. As usual, hazards in this part of the Eastern Cape include pedestrians, livestock and slow-moving traffic. It is also not advisable to traverse this pass at night or in inclement weather, but if this is unavoidable, reduce your speed to below the posted speed restrictions and be prepared to brake suddenly at a moment’s notice.
This steep, narrow and twisting gravel pass is located on the P1661 route between Van Wyksdorp and Calitzdorp. It is frequently mistakenly called the Rooiberg Pass - and with good reason, as it forms the western section of the much bigger Rooiberg Pass, the latter which is separated from the Assegaaibosch Pass by a substantial plateau. The pass is just 3 km in length and displays an altitude variance of 178m, which converts into an average gradient of 1:18, but there are one or two steep sections which get as steep as 1:5
The pass is single width along certain sections which means passing is impossible and one of the vehicles will need to reverse back to a wider point. The pass contains 22 bends, corners and curves which includes two full hairpin bends. The road gets quite rough in places and whilst we recommend a high clearance vehicle, it is possible to drive it in a normal car (cautiously) in good weather.
Mgwalana Pass takes its name from a small village on the eastern side of the traverse. It is also sometimes spelled as uMgwalana. The pass is located on an unnamed gravel road which connects the R410 near Cala to the R58, which is the main access route between Elliot and Engcobo in the Eastern Cape. The road is not regularly maintained and is in a poor condition, but could be driven in any high-clearance vehicle, provided that the weather conditions allow. Like most of the roads in this area, the pass offers up some beautiful views over the surrounding landscape, as well as a delightful glimpse into the lifestyle of true rural South Africans.
Braamnek is located on the northern banks of the Vaal River, in a corner formed by the borders of the Gauteng, Free State and North West provinces. This minor tarred pass only has two very gentle corners, and although the road surface is in a poor condition, presents no apparent dangers for any vehicle. Good views over the surrounding hills and koppies are presented from the summit, and the pass forms a scenic alternative route when travelling from Johannesburg towards Parys. The pass was probably named after the farmer who owned the property over which the pass traverses.
Lang’s Nek was named after William Timothy Lang, who bought a farm located to the north and east of Mount Majuba in Northern Natal in 1874. This is extremely well documented and cannot be disputed, but for the last 130 years, the pass itself, the road, the railway and the battlefield have all been erroneously spelled as “Laing’s Nek”. How this occurred is a mystery – perhaps a battlefield reporter or a cartographer made a careless mistake, and this has somehow been brought forward in perpetuity. Early maps of the region all have the correct spelling. The road is in an excellent condition and can be driven in any vehicle.
This tough little gravel road pass has some seriously steep sections, and could present a significant challenge in the ascending mode for both adventure bikers and 4x4 enthusiasts, particularly during or after inclement weather. The pass is located south of Cala on an unnamed dirt road in the backwaters of the Eastern Cape, on the access route between the KwaGoniwe Tyaliti Pass and the Kwaaimans Pass, and takes its name from the river which marks the eastern extremity. It is worth seeking out if you enjoy the peacefulness and beauty of rural South Africa, but we recommend that you make use of a high-clearance or 4-wheel drive vehicle.
Highmoor Mountain Reserve is located to the west of Nottingham Road and Rosetta in the KZN Midlands, close to Kamberg and Giant’s Castle. The pass itself is the access route up to the main campsite and trout dams located on the summit of the Little Berg. The road surface consists of gravel, concrete and broken tar sections, but it can be traversed in any vehicle, provided that the weather conditions allow. With a summit altitude of just under 2000 metres, the area is often blanketed in snow during the winter months, sometimes forcing closures of the pass. When snow is around, or during heavy rain, do not attempt the pass at all, or at the very least not without being in a 4-wheel drive vehicle.
Rietpoort is located directly to the south of the small town of Lephalale (formerly Ellisras) in the Limpopo province. It parallels the course of the Rietspruit river, which has carved its way through the low hills surrounding the area, on the tarred R510 road. The pass is a little longer than the national average and, unlike most other poorts, has a significant altitude gain of 145 metres. There are no apparent dangers other than some sharpish corners, and the poort can be driven in any vehicle, irrespective of the weather conditions.
This is a very minor official pass (as per the government maps) which is just over 2 km long and has a single S bend where the gradients get as steep as 1:10 for a brief period, but the whole pass has a very mild average of only 1:68. The pass is named after a local indigenous bush - the Harpuis [Euryops abrotanifolius]. The pass is located about 40 km north-east of Fraserburg.
This is one of several Northern Cape passes and poorts which have been officially listed, but when driving them, they hardly resemble a pass in any way. Finding this one is quite tricky and you need to be a more serious pass hunter with good GPS skills to locate it.
This 3,6 km long official pass lies along the north-south axis, adjacent to the western side of a large, dark rocky outcrop about 70 km north-east of Fraserberg. This is a very minor pass and only has an average gradient of 1:72 and is much more of a simple farm road, than a mountain pass, but it's an official pass, so we filmed and documented it. There are no real dangers, like steep descents, drop-offs or sharp corners, but like all gravel roads, it can change its mood instantly after rain. Be wary of corrugations, ruts, washaways and as always livestock on the road.
What this little pass lacks in vital statistics, it more than compensates for in its isolated location and spectacularly open vistas, the likes of which can only be found in the Karoo. The name translates into Honey Nest Heights or Beehive Heights.
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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