Kiewiet Se Hoogte is a minor gravel road pass located near Loxton in the Northern Cape. “Kiewiet” is the Afrikaans name for a species of bird, originally called a plover in English, but more recently referred to as a lapwing. It is most likely that the subspecies which gave its moniker to the pass is the Blacksmith Lapwing, whose vernacular name is derived from its repeated metallic “tink, tink, tink” alarm call, reminiscent of the sound a blacksmith’s hammer makes as it strikes an anvil.
Despite some diligent research, we have been unable to establish the origins of the name of this pass, but it seems logical that it would have been named after a telegraph station established here in the early days of the region. It is located in the southern Free State province near Smithfield, in the centre of the sheep farming district of the Grassy Karoo. The pass itself is typical of the others that are scattered around this part of the country, with no significant corners and only a small gain in height of 68 metres.
Like so many of the poorts in South Africa, Kommissiepoort is fairly flat and has no significant corners. It is situated on the tarred R26 in the eastern Free State, more or less equidistant between Ladybrand and Hobhouse. This road, the western part of the Maloti Mountain Route, also hosts three other passes, Retiefsnek near Bethlehem, Kommandonek near Ficksburg, and Tienfontein Se Hoogte near Zastron. The name is sometimes spelled as “Commissie Poort” or “Commissiepoort”.
The Bosnek Pass is a substantial gravel pass of over 9 km in length that descends through a westerly outlying section of the Fort Fordyce Nature Reserve. The altitude variance is 418m and with a summit height of 1121m ASL you can be assured of sweeping views over the reserve with it's densely wooded mountains and attractive dam nestling at the bottom of the valley. The road is nicely engineered with a maximum gradient of 1:8, so the going is fairly comfortable for most vehicles. There are however some very sharp corners including one horseshoe bend and one hairpin, where speed has to be reduced to 30 kph. These are all well signposted with ample warning signs. The road is suitable for all vehicles in fair weather. Like all gravel roads, this road is subject to washaways and corrugations. Adjust your speed according to current conditions.
This 19km long, gravel pass winds northwards up the Amathola escarpment through the beautiful Mpofu Nature Reserve, offering not only stunnng scenery and wildlife, but also some rich history and folklore. Entrance is free (at the time of writing in June, 2016) but there are gated control points at the foot and summit of the pass, where one has to sign in and out. This is the longest of the three local passes that traverse the Mpofu and Fort Fordyce Nature Reserves - the other two passes being the Fullers Hoek Pass and the Bosnek Pass. All three can be driven in a single day making for a feast of gravel road driving through some of the finest Eastern Cape scenery you will find. This pass is suitable for most vehicles in fair weather, but drive slowly as there are a few sections which get a bit rough. In very wet weather, a 4x4 would be best.
The Wolf River Pass connects the mountain-top village of Hogsback with the Sandile Dam and Keiskammahoek to the south east. The pass is named after the Wolf River which is a tributary of the Keiskamma River, both of which feed into the Sandile Dam at the foot of the pass. The 27 km long pass offers a wide range of varying and often spectacular scenery descending a total of 667m producing an average gradient of 1:41 with some of the steeper parts presenting at 1:6. Allow plenty of time to drive this road and expect rich visual rewards. Watch out for logging operations, falling trees, livestock and wild animals. Although the entire pass is gravel, it can be driven in a normal sedan vehicle in dry weather conditions.
Wienandsnek is a gravel pass on a farm road between Bedford and Tarkastad coded as the MR 00641. It has an altitude variance of 274m and summits well above 1000m. It contains several sharp bends towards the summit section and some unprotected and steep drop-offs. The average gradient is at 1:27 with the steepest sections on the southern side presenting at 1:7. The pass is well worth exploring for its wonderful views and sense of solitude. It is easily accessible off the tarred R63 main road between Bedford and Cookhouse and is suitable for all vehicles in dry weather.
This easy tarred pass is located about halfway between Middeldrift and King Williams Town on the R63 main road. The pass offers scenic views of the forests around Keiskammahoek and Pirie and gives access to the R354 as well as to two railway stations and the busy industrial developement of Dimbaza. The pass is 9 km long, has two gentle curves and only climbs 75 vertical metres. There's plenty of time to enjoy the beautiful forested mountains and rural village scenery.
East Poort is an easy 9 km traverse along the southern side of the Great Fish River just to the east of Cookhouse on the tarred N10 route to Cradock. The poort is suitable for all traffic and presents no obvious dangers. The road is in excellent condition with smoothly banked corners and easy gradients, with some impressive side cuttings for those interested in road engineering, counterpointed with lovely river and mountain views. Cookhouse has an interesting history with its most famous event being the Slagtersnek Rebellion. In modern times, the area is being widely utlitised to generate electricity via extensive wind farms.
The Slagtersnek (or Butcher's Neck) is an easy gravel road that descends very gently from a natural neck between the two prominant mountains north-east of Cookhouse in the Eastern Cape. The road first crosses the Great Fish River near the start, then approximates the river's course along it's western bank at a higher contour, in a south westerly direction, where it terminates after 3 km at the crossing of a small stream. The pass is insignificant in terms of statistics, but it has a major historical connection - the Slagtersnek Rebellion, which was the major instigator of the Great Trek.
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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