This lovely pass with its sweeping curves around the buttresses of the Lootsberg, lies in the heart of the Great Karoo some 70km North of Graaff Reinet on the tarred N9. It is the highest pass in the Karoo and was named after Hendrik Loots who died on the old pass, after his carriage overturned. It is the first of a string of poorts and passes starting from the North East near Middelburg, with the final one being the Potjiesberg Pass to the South of Uniondale taking travellers from the high grounds of the Great Karoo down to the Little Karoo towards Oudtshoorn and George. The pass was originally constructed by Andrew Geddes Bain in 1858.
It is unclear how the Kwaaimans Pass acquired its name, which translates from Afrikaans as “Angry Man”. There is an area called Kwaaiman in South Africa, but this is located far from the pass, south-east of Umtata near Coffee Bay. The pass is situated on an unnumbered gravel road which runs on a north-south axis linking Cala in the north with the R61 near Tsomo in the south. The road is in a reasonable condition and shouldn’t present too many issues in dry weather, but a high clearance or 4x4 vehicle is recommended. Hazards include all of the usual rural Transkei problems, primarily free-roaming livestock. This is considered to be a high-crime area, and it would be advisable to tackle this route with at least two vehicles.
The Hemel en Aarde Pass is a tarred road connecting the coastal town of Hermanus with Caledon via the Hemel en Aarde (Heaven and Earth) Valley - well known for its world class wine estates. The pass is longer than the national average at 8,2 km and it descends 231m to produce an average gradient of a mild 1:35, but there is one specific secrtion where things get decidedly steep at 1:8.
The pass offers access to a number of tourist attractions and is very popular amongst the mountain biking set, so be particularly aware of coming across cylists on this road - especially over weekends and holidays. The scenery is varied and includes open heather and fynbos slopes near the summit to neatly cultivated vineyards along the southern section.
The road had no safety shoulders, so bear this in mind when overtaking cyclists, who must be given 1,5m clearance space by law.
Shaw's Mountain Pass is named after Shaw's Mountain over which it traverses on the R320 route between Caledon in the north and Hermanus in the south. The 6 km long pass descends 185m from a maximum altitude of 282m ASL providing sweeping views of the farming valleys to the south. It contains 15 bends, corners and curves of which only one exceeds 90 degrees.
The pass offers attractive scenery over one of the most beautiful valleys of the Overberg, where proteas, fynbos and wildflowers abound. The pass was completely realigned and rebuilt during 2017 and is perfectly safe for all vehicle types. Note that a lower than normal speed limit of 80 kph applies.
The Kumajaba pass is quite a climb, ascending 562m over 9 km producing a stiff average gradient of 1:16 with some sections being as steep as 1:9. It's named after the mountain and village of the same name, which are both traversed by this pass.
This is a typical B-grade gravel road found in the Eastern Cape and drivers can expect corrugations, ruts and washaways. During the summer season mountain mists are a regular occurence, when visibility can be reduced to just a few metres. With a summit height of 1509m snow falls occur during the winter season.
Apply common sense and be practical about what your vehicle is capable of. In addition to the above, always expect livestock on these roads, as well as slow moving vehicles, children and pedestrians. The mountains below and above the pass are dotted with widely spread tribal villages, so keep your speed down and stay sharp.
Killian's Pass is located in the high mountains between Dordrecht and Barkly East on gravel R396. It's a fairly short pass at just 1,3 km and presents an altitude variance of 64m, which produces an easy enough average gradient of 1:20. The pass is generally maintained to a reasonable standard and is suitable for all vehicles, except in very muddy or snow conditions, when a 4WD vehicle would be a better option. The tiny settlement of Rossouw is reached just 2 km from the summit on the northern side of the pass.
The Great Kei River Pass has an unenviable record of serious accidents. The section of road both east and west leading down to the Great Kei River is also known as the Kei River Cuttings. The pass is located between the towns of Butterworth and Komga on the tarred N2 highway.
There are 31 bends corners and curves compressed into its 11,8 km length and the 422m altitude drop when travelling from south to north is what causes the momentum gaining problems for heavy vehicles, where brake failure has been the common denominator in most of the serious incidents on this pass.
There are two arrestor beds constructed on the southern descent. The first is at the 2,2 km mark and the second makes an appearance at the 5,2 km point.
This stunning (4x4 only) gravel pass is located in the heart of the Eastern Cape between Balfour and Whittlesea on the R351 and climbs 699 meters in altitude to summit at 1625m ASL, producing an average climb gradient of 1:15 with some sections as steep as 1:5.
For the adventure biker fraternity the pass is rated orange in good weather and red when it's raining/snowing. The pass is named after the Kat River, which is a tributary of the Great Fish River. The name derives from the wild cats that were abundant along the river banks during the nineteenth century.
This pass is not suitable for normal cars and a high clearance vehicle with 4WD and low range is required along the higher sections. Deflate tyres to at least 1,4 bar (or lower) to create additional traction and a softer ride. The pass is best driven with a minimum of two vehicles in case of a breakdown.
The Kareedouw Pass is a modern, well engineered pass which provides a short cut between the N2 near the seaside hamlet of Skuitbaai and the small town of Kareedouw on the R62 in the Langkloof. There are only 7 bends along this pass and all of them are minor.
The pass offers sweeping views of the Tsitsikamma mountains to the left (west) with the green valley on the right dotted with dams and a small triangular shaped forest near the summit area. There are no obvious dangers on this road, other than heavy rainfall and mist which occurs from time to time.
The small town of Kareedouw after which the pass is named lies at the northern end of the pass. The name is of Khoi origin and means "Path of the Karee trees"
Jouberts Pass is a steep, high altitude gravel road pass located between the towns of Lady Grey and Barkly East in the quiet rural region of the Eastern Cape close to the Lesotho border in the Witteberg Mountains, which is itself a western spur of the mighty Drakensberg. Very few people traverse this pass other than local farmers and avid adventure travellers. We recommend completing the circuit, eventually arriving back at the R58 after quite a long but fabulous gravel road loop, which includes Jouberts Pass. It is best driven in a clockwise direction if the pass is going to be driven at any point after 11 am. The pass is suitable for all vehicles in fair weather, but if there is heavy rain or snow on the pass, a 4x4 will be mandatory.
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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