Named after the little town of Van Reenen, which seems to stand guard at the top of this majestic pass which winds its way through the Drakensberg mountains between Ladysmith and Harrismith along the N3 between Durban and Johannesburg. Unfortunately, the only record that the pass can lay claim to is that of the most dangerous pass in South Africa. Despite this, the long pass provides beautiful scenery as it descends towards Ladysmith in the KZN Midlands from the Free State.
This steep, high altitude gravel pass is situated between the N9 route and the village of Nieu-Bethesda, where artist Helen Martins turned her Karoo home into a fantastical landscape, with concrete and ground-glass sculptures of owls, camels and angels. The town was established in 1875 and is dominated by the peak known as Kompasberg (Compass Mountain) which is the 6th highest mountain in the Eastern Cape and forms part of the Sneeuberg range. The town is very secluded and as such has become something of a retreat for artists and writers.
Viljoen's Pass was named after Dr Antonie Viljoen who founded the area's famous apple industry in 1902. It is a well designed modern pass with a good accident track record, not withstanding the extreme hairpin bend on the northern side of the pass. The pass was originally built to a different line in 1860.
Also known as 'Breedt's Nek', this gravel pass can be found just off the R763, near the Magaliesberg Nature Reserve. It provides a link across the Magaliesberg from the settlement of Maanhaarrand to Buffelspoort and the town of Mooinooi to the north-east. The road bears an official number (D568), and the condition ranges from poor to terrible. Expect gradients of 1:10 and deeply rutted and rocky sections. However, providing you are in a 4x4 vehicle or at least a commercial vehicle with good ground clearance, it is most certainly doable, but it is a long, slow drive. Don't drive this road if you're in a hurry.
A gravel pass in KZN between Harrismith and Bergville - in the vicinity of the Sterkfontein Dam. The pass starts at 1349m ASL and summits at 1751m. It is 5,6 km long producing an ascent gradient of 1/14 making it very steep. Be prepared to crawl along this road at less than 10 kph and allow plenty of time. Probably between 60 and 90 minutes to cover the 5 km. It is only suitable for 4x4 vehicles with good ground clearance and low range! Remember to drop your tyre pressures to around 1,0 to 1,2 bar to prevent punctures and improve traction. This road is a rough one!
Winding gently through the picturesque province of Mpumulanga, Botha's Nek Pass -- on the R38 -- is 13.8km long, starting at 853m ASL and rising to 1441m - resulting in a moderate gradient of 1/22. It connects Barberton in the east with Badplaas which is 38 km to the west. The pass is tarred, well engineered and in good condition. It contains 26 curves, bends and corners of which six are greater then 90 degrees.
Forming part of the R36 near the Kruger National Park and the Molatse Canyon (or 'Blyde River Canyon') the pass starts at 1011m ASL, then drops down the Drakensberg escarpment to the Olifants River at 508m ASL. It can be found between the towns of Orighstad (40 km to the South) and Tzaneen (95km to the North East) and incorporates the Strijdom Tunnel. This is a major pass with a big altitude variance and incorporates 26 bends, corners and curves over its length of 9,8 km, producing an average gradient of 1:20.
This short, easy pass is located close to the junction of the N1 and the R70, near Winburg in the Free State. The official route designation is the R70. This tarred road was in poor condition at the time of filming in February, 2016. It presents moderate gradients and only four very gentle curves. It lies to the east of the large irrigation dam - the Erfenis Dam, which is a popular weekend destination for locals offering fresh water angling, camping as well as a nature reserve at its north-western end near the dam wall.
On a minor gravel road between Ceres and Sutherland, this minor pass caused our team many hours of frustrating research, due to the fact that it appears in the incorrect place on most maps - including some very official ones! When we went to film this pass, we found nothing even vaguely resembling a poort or a pass at the designated place. We finally tracked it down on the 1:50,000 Government Raster maps by accident whilst scouring for another pass in the area. So finally, we have the Amandelnek Pass pinned down and properly mapped. The records show that was built by Thomas Bain in 1858.
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.
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.