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Mountain Passes

The Kaaiman's River Pass boasts several records. Although a fairly short pass in terms of distance, the curves are extremely sharp and the gradient is steep. The pass connects George in the west with Wilderness in the east and traverses magnificent scenery with steep mountainsides, where the amber coloured waters of the Kaaimans River are crossed via the first curved bridge built in South Africa in 1952. The pass provides perfect views of the famous rail bridge at the mouth of the estuary and plays host to Dolphin Point - a perennial favourite with tourists offering 270 degree views including one of the best panoramas of Widerness beach. When commissioned in 1952 it ended a 70 year period where the Old Cape Road (including the 7 Passes) became much less used.

"White's Road" meanders gently up Wilderness Heights - a quiet, country road where Welsh ponies on the local stud farm add to the almost English charm.  This lovely drive is also popular with cyclists and walkers. 

The road has gentle gradients, seldom exceeding 1:12 and offers magnificent views of the Touw River Gorge, the estuary, Wilderness beach and village as well as Dolphin Point.

The road is peppered with corners, many which are very sharp, but if you comply with the speed limit, all will be well. Please note that there is a hight restriction halfway along the pass, so don't go and drive this road ina high roof campervan, bus or truck. The lower 2 km close to the village is tarred, but the quality of the tarring is uneven and bumpy - to the point that you will probably find the gravel a more pleasant surface to drive on.

The Grootrivier Poort on the R332, was one of the last passes to be built by South Africa's most famous road engineer, Thomas Bain. This masterpiece opened up the seemingly impassable 200 km mountain wilderness of the Baviaanskloof between Willowmore and Patensie.

The poort only has 16 bends,corners and curves with a very mild descent gradient that appears to be flat when driving it. The topography is magnificent as the river and the road follow each other faithfully through the towering cliffs of the poort amongst dense riverine vegetation. The road is generally quite good throught his section and most people drive too fast, which means you see less. Expect to see a range of animals, like kudu, reedbuck, baboons and monkeys - and more so if you drive through early in the morning. As the road was carved out of the mountainsides, it left an open display of the various rock formations, which range from solid Table Mountain sandstone to the unusual pebble conglomerate.

Of the 7 passes and poorts in the Baviaanskloof, there are five which are proper passes and two which are poorts. These are Studtis Poort and the Grootrivierpoort. Poorts are different to passes in that they generally have very easy gradients as they follow the course of a river through a mountain range. They are also notoriously prone to flooding and Thomas Bain famously recorded in his journal: "There are three major headaches for road builders. They are water, water and water". Bain had a singular dislike for building roads through poorts and ironically, whilst he was building the extraordinary Swartberg Pass, the nearby Meiringspoort all but washed away in a devastating flood. Bain was subsequently called in to realign the road at a higher point than the flood level.

If you are new to the Baviaanskloof, we recommend that you first watch the Baviaanskloof Overview and Orientation video clip. 

The Studtis Poort is exceptionally scenic and typical of all poorts, the gradients are very easy as the road essentially remains next to the river for most of it's length. You will be treated to towering mountains with near vertical cliffs and dense riverine vegetation. If you are able to comfortably clear the first river crossing, all of the other 8 crossings should be OK, as it is the same river and will have roughly the same amount of depth and current.

This lovely and spectacular poort on the R332 between Willowmore and Patensie links the two halves of the western section of the Baviaanskloof, covering 6,4 km and crossing over the Baviaans River nine times. In fair weather most of the main roads in the western Baviaanskloof can be driven in a normal car. Poorts are different to passes in that they usually have very gentle gradients. One of the downsides of this fact, is that water tends to remain in a poort much longer than on a pass and as a consequence, Studtis Poort is often prone to some deep-water crossings after periods of rainfall. We have two videos on offer. A completely dry traverse filmed in December 2017 and a much wetter version filmed in August 2012.

If you are new to the Baviaanskloof, we recommend that you first watch the Baviaanskloof Overview and Orientation video clip.

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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.
 

Master Orientation Map

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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