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Mountain Passes

This very steep pass takes one from the coastal plateau down to the beach at Mbotyi. The pass is immersed inside the dense forest canopy for most of its length which is almost a pity as the views would be tantalizingly beautiful if visible. The pass has some very sharp corners and steep gradients as one gets to the halfway point. There is one particularly nasty hairpin bend which needs to be treated with respect.

Any pass that has an average gradient lower than 1:16 is steep and this pass at 1:13 will have your passengers reaching for their imaginary brake pedal and especially so on the very steep sections in the middle of the pass where the gradients get steeper than 1:5. This pass would be very difficult to drive if it wasn't paved. Although we have mapped it as a gravel pass, the steepest parts have been concreted, which provides essential traction to normal vehicles in wet conditions. The road is a cul de sac so it will always be driven from NE-SE first (descending). Due to available light we had to film the pass in the opposite direction, in the ascending mode.

This short, but scenic gravel pass is located on the same road as the Qora River Pass, but a little further east. Its short at just 1,7 km and sports and average gradient of 1:14 with the steepest parts reaching 1:9. Despite its relatively small altitude gain of  118m, the pass offers very attractive views over the surrounding countryside of Wild Coast hills and pasturage. 

The pass is named after the village that it services near its summit and forms the eastern ascent over a long spine which eventually leads into the Qora River Pass. The two passes will always be driven in tandem. 

The usual Eastern Cape cautionaries apply of being aware of the high likelihood of finding livestock and pedestrians on the road.

This spectacular and very steep pass is well known to many locals who have been up to the top of the mountain on the popular Protea Farm Tractor ride. This takes place on Wednesdays and Saturdays, but on any other day of the week, it's possible to book a self-drive trip up the mountain (at a fee).

The views are some of the best you will experience anywhere in the Western Cape, where from the summit you can look down on the town of Robertson and eastwards towards Worcester. The opposing view is over the Keisie Valley with its backdrop of tall mountains and neat orchards.

The road is mostly concrete strip paved, so traction is not a problem and it is possible to drive up in a normal car, but a reasonable level of ground clearance is important.

The statistics are impressive too. You will climb 540m over just 4.1 km which produces an average gradient of 1:8 but there are some sections which are as steep as 1:4

This road is not recommended for inexperienced drivers or acrophobia sufferers.

This lovely country road goes under the official road number P1660. To the locals and on many maps it's labelled as the Kliprivier Road, which is something of a misnomer as the Kliprivier is merely one of the tributaries of the main river along the kloof, which is of course, the Keurboomsrivier. The official name is the Klein Langkloof as it is to all intents and purposes a smaller version of the actual Langkloof, which lies directly to the north. This is technically not really a pass. It's more of a poort as the road more or less follows the course of the river for most of its length.

The road offers exceptionally attractive scenery as it follows the course of the Keurboomsrivier Valley. There are fruit farms, misty mountains, tree filled kloofs and dozens of small streams. Whilst it cannot be compared to the Langkloof section of the Prince Alfred's Pass, it offers a wonderful alternative and in some instances, a substantial shortcut and saving in time.

It's a fairly long drive at 25.3 km and displays an altitude variance of 254m with the higher elevation being at its western end. The primary point of interest along this road is Burchell's Oxwagon Route. The road has lots of sharp bends - 115 in total, of which 14 are greater than 90 degrees and 5 of them are very tight hairpins.

Despite these impressive statistics, this road is much more a scenic drive than a proper mountain pass. It is nonetheless officially recorded as a pass, and as such it is documented and indexed into our database.

Like the Great Fish River Pass, this pass can easily slip by unnoticed as one travels over the beautifully built N2 highway between Peddie and King William's Town. It's actually a fairly big pass and is long by national standards at 12.3 km displaying an altitude variance of 145m.

It only has 16 bends, corners and curves and none of them are dangerous. The pass is suitable for all traffic, but do be cautious when the mountain mists roll in, which can reduce visibility down to just a few metres. The locals don't seem to worry about this and carry on driving at high speeds. This presents the only real danger on this pass and of course, the possibility of finding livestock on the road.

This short and steep little pass is close to the tarred R56 route between Matatiele and Cedarville and can be driven in any vehicle in fair weather. It's just 3.2 km long and climbs 131m to summit at 1672m ASL from where you can enjoy excellent vistas in peace and quiet due to the very low traffic volume on this road. During adverse weather this little pass could become very challenging, so in snow or after or during heavy rain, it's best avoided unless you have a 4WD vehicle.

If you intend continuing further, make sure you've done your navigational homework well, as after the southern end of the pass, the road forks, and forks again and then there are multiple intersections which will get the average driver horribly lost, due to becoming disoriented. Very few of the roads are adequately signposted but most do have administrative numbers (Not that that's going to prevent you getting lost!). Exit routes must be carefully planned on Google Earth or Google Maps and each intersection noted and mapped.

The nearby village of Cedarville was established in 1912 and has been an orphan village for much of its history. It was included in the old Cape Province until 1978, when it was handed over to Natal and then again in 2006 it was handed over to the Eastern Cape - probably the only town or village in South Africa to hold that record.

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.

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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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