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Mountain Passes

This pass should not be confused with Botha's Pass in Mpumalanga. It's located near the beautiful Vondo Dam in the northern sector of Limpopo Province and is to all intents and purposes more of a forestry access road than a commuter pass, but for those willing to seek out the roads less travelled, this pass packs a big punch within its 5,7 km, featuring no less than 49 bends, corners and curves, of which 9 exceed an arc of 100 degrees. The folklore and myths that abound in this area are legendary and fascinating to read.

During fair weather periods, this pass can be driven in any high clearance vehicle, but in rainy weather, the roads become muddy and impassable for normal vehicles. Rather use a 4x4 in wet weather. During week days logging vehicles and heavy machinery dominate these roads. Drive with your lights on bright at all times and give way to forestry vehicles.

Finding this pass requires precise navigation. Make sure you have all the waypoints entered in your GPS in the directions sections below, otherwise you will more than likely get lost. As we have not yet physically filmed this pass, there might be locked gates or no access issues on some of the roads. Drive at your own risk.

This is one of several small poorts that have been carved through the east-west running mountains to the north of the R329 and R407 over a long distance stretching from Klaarstroom in the west to Steytlerville in the east. All of these poorts run along the north-south axis and many of them look like carbon copies of the previous one, yet there are subtle differences in each poort's geographical and geological features which sets one apart from the other.

Witpoort is a perfect example of one of these poorts. It is just 1,8 km long, has two minor bends and a tiny altitude variance of 19m. The railway line, road and river all compress within the confines of the poort and as is the case with all of these poorts, this one too is prone to flash floods.

The usual gravel road cautionaries apply of corrugations, loose gravel on corners, ruts, washaways, livestock on the road and ever present danger of punctures. Travel here well prepared and make sure you have pre-planned your route carefully noting all the intersections. Many of them have no signage, so it's easy to get lost.

This fairly long pass of 9,4 km winds its way over the mountains in the vicinity of the Nonesi village about 17 km north-east of Queenstown in the Eastern Cape. The pass is tarred and is located on the R392 trunk route between Queenstown and Dordrecht

When the pass was rebuilt and realigned, many of the steep gradients and sharp bends were removed, making today's version of the pass is a much safer traverse. During winter, the pass is subject to snowfalls, in which case it's best avoided altogether unless you are in a 4WD vehicle.

As the case with all the roads (tar and gravel) in the old Transkei region, livestock on the road is an ever present threat and these roads are best avoided at night. The Bongolo Dam at the southern end of the pass has an interesting history dating back to the early 1900s and was apparently built making use of donkeys as labour. The word mbongolo means donkey in isiXhosa, hence the name of the dam and the pass.

This is an official pass, marked accordingly on all the government maps. Quite how this minor little dip down over a bridge ever got classified as a pass, is beyond our comprehension, but the reality is that there are at least 50 similar minor dips in roads all over South Africa, which some government official or cartographer decided it was good enough to get an official name.

The 'pass' has a classic inverted profile synonomous with a road that drops down to cross a river and then climbs up the far bank. It is just 1,7 km long, has only bends and a very mild average gradient. Common cautionaries here include livestock on the road and slow local trafiic.

This scenic drive provides an interesting and easy traverse of the poort that has been carved out by the Trakarivier. Although the road is virtually flat with only a 20m altitude variance over the 4,1 km length, it does include 4 crossings of the same river. For 99% of the year, these bridgeless crossings are very easy as the river bed is usually bone dry. The road forms a complex network of farm roads that service the remote farms west and north of Willowmore through a range of ridges and hills 15 km north the Swartberg mountains. It's easy to get lost here and many of the intersections have no signage. Travel well prepared with waypoints pre-plotted in your GPS.

Cautionaries: Like all gravel roads, conditions can change very quickly during or after heavy rain. Rivers in the Karoo are universally shallow and wide and prone to flash floods. If you're trapped inside a poort during a flash flood, it could prove to be life threatening. There are many similar poorts in this region and most of them display the same geographical tendencies.

This short poort is located on a minor gravel road between Victoria West and Loxton. It's only just over a kilometre long and has a small altitude variance of 33m. It's a very long drive locating this little poort and only the most dedicated pass hunters will make the big effort to drive it.

To make up for its relatively unimpressive statistics, you will experience an intense of isolation and the wide and barren expanses of the Karoo always has landscapes of note to enjoy.

The usual gravel road cautionaries apply of corrugations, ruts and washaways as well as loose gravel on the corners. IT's best to expect to get a puncture. If you don't have two spare wheels, travel with a repair kit and know how to use it. A portable compressor is a useful addition to your tool kit.

This hidden poort is well off the beaten track yet not that far from main routes and towns. It's located along the east-west axis and approximately 5 km north of the R407 between Prince Albert and Klaarstroom. This is a typical farm road that carries very low traffic volumes, so you will enjoy a sense of isolation and tranquility.

As is the case with all gravel roads, be prepared for punctures, and expect corrugations (depending on when last rain fell or maintenance took place). Livestock on the road is also an ever present danger.

We have not physically driven this poort ourselves as yet, so our description and research is based on available resources and government maps. The possibility exists that you might encounter locked farm gates. Make sure you have sufficient fuel to backtrack.

There are three Blounek passes in South Africa and all of them are of a minor nature. This one is located on the gravel road between Merweville in the north and the Koup railway siding off the N1 in the south. It's not much of a pass at 2 km in length with a small altitude variance of 42m producing an easy average gradient of 1:48 with the steepest sections reaching 1:11.

The pass only has 2 bends and if you have not plotted the start and end points into your GPS, you might drive over it without realising it's an official pass.

The best reason for driving this pass is that it will take you to the little village of Merweville, which is packed with interesting buildings, fascinating history and earthy, friendly people.

We have not physically driven this pass ourselves as yet, so our description and research is based on available resources and government maps. The possibility exists that you might encounter locked farm gates. Make sure you have sufficient fuel to backtrack.

This minor little pass of only 2,5 km has an altitude variance of 63m producing a mild average gradient of 1:40 and no point ever exceeds 1:12, making this an easy enough traverse. The Northern Cape government cartographers were keen to name every poort and pass that they could possibly find and this is one of many official passes, which barely comply with the basic definition of a pass, but it's official, so we have produced and indexed it for the sake of thoroughness.

There is a certain kind of pleasure in actually navigating your way successfully to locate these out of the way passes and poorts, so if you hunt this one down, remember to enjoy the 'getting there' part to the full. This part of the Northern Cape is achingly dry, barren and underpopulated. Drive well prepared for punctures and make sure you have enough fuel.

We have not physically driven this pass ourselves as yet, so our description and research is based on available resources and government maps. The possibility exists that you might encounter locked farm gates. Make sure you have sufficient fuel to backtrack.

Basterspoort is about as minor a poort as what a poort can get. It is just 1,9 km long and only has a 12m altitude variance. It's located on a farm track which is barely discernable on the satellite imagery close to the border between the Western and Northern Cape.  This is an official poort as listed on the government 1:50,000 maps. It should not be confused with Bastards Poort about 80 km further south.

The road follows the valley of a natural poort along the south-western side of a mountain named Beesberg. (Cattle Mountain) and connects a few remote farms. It is possible to drive from the R381 to the R356 using this road and a combination of other roads. There is a possibility that this road (and others) might be gated and locked, so if you're an uber pass hunter, drive here at your own risk and make sure you have enough fuel in case you have to retrace your route.

We have not physically driven this pass ourselves as yet, so our description and research is based on available resources and government maps.

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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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