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Mountain Passes

Howison's Poort (also spelled as Howieson's Poort) is a well known cave like rock shelter halfway up a cliff in the poort. It has considerable archeological signiificance. The 8.8 km long poort bisects the mountains through dense forests and plantations just to the south-west of Grahamstown on the N2 national road.

The poort has more pass like statistics and descends a respectable 300m producing an average gradient of 1:29. The road is nicely engineered with correctly banked corners and double lanes for overtaking along most of its length. There are only 10 bends along the poort, all of them insignificant in terms of speed reduction, except for the first one right near the summit which has a turning angle of 150 degrees and it's quite sharp as well.

Grahamstown has an astonishing amount of 1820 Settler history and is of course, the seat of higher learning in the area, at the well known Rhodes University.

This major pass is located on the N2 national route between Grahamstown and King William's Town. It's 21 km long and has an altitude variance of 528m. The road is beautifully engineered to the point that at times drivers don't even realize they are on a major pass. There are surprisingly few bends on this pass and none of them exceed a radius of 80 degrees. One can maintain a steady speed throughout.

That said, there is time to enjoy the scenery and please note that the speed limit changes between 80 and 100 kph along several sections. As the case with all passes on national routes, increased traffic volumes create their own hazards and this pass carries plenty of heavy duty trucks, so be aware that if you end up behind one of these slow moving vehicles on the uphill sections, that you need to exercise patience and wait for a break in the barrier lines. 

Cautionary: The road has no overtaking lanes on the ascents. Be aware of minibus taxis and courier delivery vehicles who regularly flaunt the regulations.

Coney Glen Road is a short, scenic suburban pass located on East Head at Knysna Heads. The road is narrow and attracts tourist traffic as well as local traffic. The 12 bends are almost all very sharp, so a speed of lower than 40 kph is appropriate. There is a well managed view site about halfway up the pass but you need to park and walk 50m or so to access the view site which offers sweeping views of the heads and the lagoon.

Once the southern descent commences the road is brick paved and also quite steep. The many speed bumps and water channels ensure a low speed is maintained. The pass ends at the parking area servicing the Coney Glen beach. The popular restaurant East Head Cafe requires booking if you want to get a table and is very popular with tourists and locals alike.

The Qora River Pass is a typical inverted profile pass with a low point in the middle at the crossing of the Qora River. Although a little difficult to find, this pass will remain one of your travel treasures once you've driven it. It traverses unspoilt Wild Coast scenery through a remote part of the old Transkei, yet there is life in abundance as the locals go about their daily chores and livestock make themselves comfortable on the road. There are many passes similar to this one, yet each one has its own special charm.

At 8.5 km it's a substantial pass and you will experience an altitude variance of 247m via 48 bends corners and curves and of those 6 are greater than 90 degrees, but there are no hairpin bends. The going is fairly slow, due to the constant need to slow down for livestock on the road. The local cattle are particularly fond of spending time on the bridges and are reluctant to move out of the way.

Cautionary: In very wet weather, the roads in this region quickly become extremely slippery. Under such conditions a 4WD vehicle is a very good option.

This official pass hardly conforms to the definition of a pass and if you were not aware of it, you would barely notice it as you cruise along the R60 between Ashton and Robertson. The 'pass' only has three gentle bends and climbs just 39m in altitude over 3 km.

It provides access to a number of points of interest in the Robertson Valley, which include the historic Rietvallei Wine Estate and the well known Sheilam Cactus Farm.

The hill is named after a settler farmer in the area - Gideon Francois Malherbe who lived from 1854 to 1922. The farms in the area remain in the Malherbe family to this day.

Gouwsberg Pass is located on the western border of the Mpumalanga province, close to Loskop Dam and the Ezemvelo Nature Reserve. There are only 9 bends, corners and curves on the pass, 4 of which have a turn angle which exceeds 90 degrees; however, all of these corners have a very wide radius, and do not present a problem to negotiate at the posted speed limit of 100 kph.

There is a substantial height difference of 346 metres, but this is spread out over a length of 8.2 kilometres, resulting in a fairly easy average gradient of 1:23. Although a little bumpy, the tarred road is in a good state, and can be driven in any vehicle and in all weather conditions. Local drivers appear to be in the habit of cutting the corners and encroaching onto the wrong side of the road on a regular basis, so be aware of this when traversing the pass.

This official pass is located on the tarred 60 route just west of Robertson. The pass has a single S-curve with a deep cutting near the summit. The average gradient of 1:46 is watered down by the classic profile with some sections being fairly steep at 1:12.

It has recently (2019) undergone reconstruction and resurfacing and has overtaking lanes on both sides of the pass for vehicles ascending. The road carries heavy traffic and a lot of slow moving trucks frequent the route. There are no apparent dangers on the pass and drivers travelling in either direction can enjoy sweeping views of the Robertson Winelands. At the western end of the pass is the well known wine farm - Graham Beck wines, which you can't miss as it has a huge South African flag at the entrance.

The pass is named after the original farm over which it traverses - one of several old Dutch farms dating back to the 1700's.

The tiny little town of Blouputs is located on the northern banks of the Orange River between Augrabies and Riemvasmaak, in an enclave of the Northern Cape close to the border with Namibia. There are a number of grape and citrus farms in the area, and most of the community derive their income from seasonal employment on these farms.

To access this region, a tarred road, which cuts right through the middle of the Augrabies Falls National Park, was built, parts of which involved constructing a steep pass into the valley and a bridge over the river. The pass offers spectacular views of the typical rocky landscape, the vineyards and of the Orange River itself, particularly when driven in the descending mode. The road is in an excellent condition, and can be traversed in any vehicle and in any weather.

Trichardtspoort is located in the Wilge River Valley, a tiny enclave of the Gauteng Province situated on the north-eastern side of Bronkhorstspruit. The area is particularly beautiful, especially in summer, and although the access road is mostly gravel, it is well worth the trip to get there. The road is in a fairly good condition, but motorcyclists should take note that there are some soft and powdery sand sections. The poort is named after Louis Tregardt (his surname is often incorrectly spelled as “Trichardt”), as this valley was part of the route followed by the wagons of Tregardt and Andries Hendrik Potgieter on their way to the north of the country during the Great Trek. The ravine is also sometimes referred to as Wilgepoort or Kranspoort.

 

Sprinkaannek is a very minor gravel pass located near Thaba Nchu in the south-eastern Free State. It is difficult to locate, and is a major disappointment when seeing it for the first time, but it is an official pass and is marked as such on the 1:50000 topographical maps. The name translates as “Grasshopper Neck” or “Locust Neck”.

The road is nothing more than a farm track, but there is evidence that it is being maintained, most likely by the local farmers. This pass should not be attempted in anything less than a high clearance vehicle fitted with all terrain tyres, but a 4x4 is probably not required except in wet weather.

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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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