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Mountain Passes

The spectacular Abel Erasmus Pass, named after a very prominent citizen of the area, was officially opened on the 8th of May 1959, and navigates the Manoutsa section of the Limpopo Drakensberg. It is regarded as an engineering triumph, with a sequence of bends and twists that can only give rise to admiration for the gold rush pioneers of the late 19th century that carved this route through the mountains with their wagons. The pass has 62 bends, corners and curves of which 12 exceed an arc of 90 degrees.

The pass also includes a 133 metre-long tunnel, named after J.G. (Hans) Strydom, who served as the prime minister of South Africa from 1954 to 1958. This huge pass is over 24 km long and has an altitude variance of 737 metres; the road surface is in a good condition, but the pass is sometimes plagued by heavy traffic. It can be very difficult to pass slow-moving trucks – please exercise a degree of tolerance and patience, and give yourself plenty of time to traverse this route.

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 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 maps by accident, whilst scouring for another pass in the area. So finally, we have the Amandelnek Pass pinned down and properly mapped. 

We filmed this insignificant little pass during September, 2018.  The altitude gain is minor, as are the bends and distance. There is one farm gate to open and close right at the summit, but if you enjoy going to remote places then at least the scenery here will be appealing in this big and spacious landscape. Every pass has its own story to tell and this one too, leaves one with a sense of peace, with only the sound of birdsong and insects to keep you company once you switch your vehicle's engine off.

The Northern Cape cartographers were a diligent bunch, naming every climb through every neck, no matter how small, with an official name. This pass is a perfect example.

Franschhoek Pass is also called Lambrechts Road, though - more poetically - a hundred and fifty years ago it was known as Olifantshoek ("Elephants Corner') after the now mythical herds of elephant which once roamed these valleys and mountains. This long, steep and dramatic pass with its variety of scenery was South Africa's first properly engineered road. During weekends city folk stream to the pass on bicycles, motorcycles, skateboards, cars and SUV's to enjoy it's sheer magnificence.

 

The gently-graded, tarred Horns Nek Pass (M17) cuts through the picturesque and much loved Magaliesberg mountain range just west of Pretoria. At 3.8 km in distance, it rises at a moderate gradient of 1:20, from 1312m ASL to 1452m, but there are some steeper sections near the summit at 1:14. Gauteng is the smallest of South Africa's provinces geographically, but it has a dense population statistic and is also the seat of economic power. The province was established on the rich gold reefs originally discovered in the Johannesburg area and led to a massive sprawling complex of towns and cities covering a vast area, which does not have much in terms of big mountain ranges and consequently (other than the Magaliesberg), there are few official mountain passes in this province.

This is one of the great historical gravel passes which winds its way through the Outeniqua Mountains north of Mossel Bay. It has subsequently been replaced by a significantly more convenient, tarred pass (Robinson Pass). Attaquaskloof Pass is now frequented mostly by die-hard 4x4 enthusiasts and a few local farmers.

However, the 22,3 km of gravel road is definitely worth each and every meter of its history-rich length! A permit is required to drive this route and there are locked gates. Keys are obtained on issue of your permit at the start point, which is the Bonniedale farm. Note - this route can only be driven in one direction (west to east).

30th May, 2017 - News just in from Bonniedale farm: "The Attaquaskloof is part of the old Ox-Wagon Route from Heidelberg to de Vlugd. There is a section of it (20km) that goes through the Attaquaskloof to the R328. Unfortunately Cape Nature has now closed their section of the road. You can still do part of the Trail on Bonniedale. (As well as other 4x4 Trails on Bonniedale), but you are not able to go all the way through. You can however use the alternate route (public road), from Bonniedale to the R328, and meet up again with the Ox-Wagon Route from there again."

This excellent new pass connects the university town of Stellenbosch with the R45, Pniel and Franschoek and is designated as route R310. The pass has been upgraded several times, with the old pass (also tarred) traversing in a much more complex route of twists and turns to the  northern side of the current pass. The old pass can still be accessed on foot or on bicycle. To be fair, the old pass was far more scenic than the new pass - that is the price of progress. Not that the scenery from the new pass is in any way poor of course!

The Akkedisberg Pass translates from Afrikaans into Lizard Mountain Pass. It's an easy drive along this tarred coastal pass on the R326 links the small farming town of Riviersonderend with the quaint coastal hamlet of Stanford and the coastal road to Hermanus. The original gravel road dates back to 1776 and is amongst the very oldest passes in South Africa.

The pass had mild gradients and only 13 bends, corners and curves, none of which are particularly sharp or dangerous. It's a fairly long pass at 12,5 km and produces a gentle average gradient of only 1:86 with the steepest sections getting up to 1:18. The views are lovely with the tall mountains keeping watch over the green valley on the right. There is at least one excellent wine estate that leads off the pass.

 

Despite the romantic, historical connotations of its name "Ou Kaapse Weg" ('Old Cape Road'), this is actually a relatively modern road, which was opened in 1968. There is a jeep track that runs more or less paralell, but higher up the northern side of the pass, which is purportedly an old wagon road road used to cart ore from the silver mine lower down the mountain in the late 1800's, and which is still accessible to hikers who walk the many beautiful routes available on both sides of the pass within the Silvermine Nature Reserve.

The pass is a major one covering a distance of 10,6 km and in that length contains 26 bends, curves and corners including 3 full horseshoe bends and another 3 corners in excess of 90 degrees. The pass offers a modern, well bult road with superb views over it's entire length of both False Bay and the Atlantic Ocean with the Steenberg Mountains and Silvermine Nature Reserve with its winter waterfall keeping travellers entertained through the middle section. It gives access to Fish Hoek, Noordhoek, Kommetjie, Simonstown and the Cape Point Nature Reserve. 


 

The Blinkberg Pass (translated as 'Glittering or Shining Mountain') is a fairly long pass, found on the much revered gravel road (the P1482) through the southern Cederberg. The Grootrivierhoogte Pass and Blinkberg Pass run concurrently for a distance of almost 20km through magnificent and rugged scenery.

The pass has an unusual vertical profile in that it has two false summits located approximately at the 1/3 and 2/3 points. Each of these is marked by a short tarred section to cope with the very steep gradients. At 11,8 km this a long pass and is peppered with corners, but most of these are fairly easy. There are however, some really nasty ones, which can catch unsuspecting drivers by surprise.

The road traverses spectacular Cederberg mountain scenery and follows a narrow kloof for most of its length. Earmark this one if you've never driven it, as it's one of the nicest gravel roads in South Africa.

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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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Master Orientation Map 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.

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