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Mountain Passes

This long gravel route forms an interesting option for off-road explorers who want to drive Gysmanshoek Pass as well as this one. At 15.5 km it's a fairly long drive which takes almost an hour due to the state of the road and the 7 farm gates which must be closed behind you.

This is a road for less hurried traveller. You will be spoilt with fine scenery, technical driving and a feeling of isolation. If you're short of time, rather give this one a miss.

The route traverses four farms and sports 70 bends corners and curves, ranging from easy all the way through to extremely tight. There are at least two corners with arcs greater than 120 degrees.

We recommend driving the route with at least one other vehicle in case of an emergency or breakdown, as you are unlikely to see another vehicle on this route the entire day.

This scenic poort winds its way along the Brandrivier flood plain, mainly keeping on the western side. Like all poorts, this one too is subject to frequent flooding. The altitude variance along this poort is minor, making it a great poort to cycle. The R323 carries very little traffic, making this drive relaxing and enjoyable as the cuttings reveal the local geology as the road passes by a number of attractive Karoo farms.

The road has no paved safety shoulders and has 12 easy bends, corners and curves.

The Toleni Pass is named after the village and river that it traverses. It's located on the busy N2 route roughly 19 km to the south east of Butterworth. The pass is 6.8 km in length and displays an altitude variance of 244m with a maximum altitude at its northern summit of 720m ASL. 

The road is well engineered and modern with 13 bends.corners and curves to contend with. As is the case with many of the passes in this part of the Eastern Cape, drivers need to be aware of livestoick on the road (this is particularly hazardous at night). Other hazards include minibus taxis, very slow moving traffic as well as very fast traffic. Mountain mists are also common here, which adds another element of danger.

Stick to the speed limits or slower and watch out for rampant barrier line infringements

Paardepoort, which carries the road number P0413, is a long gravel road connecting three distinct poorts that cut through the east-west running ridges just north of the R75 main road between Kirkwood and Jansenville. It services a number of farms and provides a lovely gravel alternative from Kirkwood to the Darlington Dam and similarly an enjoyable return route after completing the Bedrogfontein 4x4 route.

It's a long poort at 16.4 km but the ever changing scenery between tall moungtains and craggy outcrops in the poorts to the open farmland between each of the poorts, provides a wonderful variety of scenery. Allow about 40 minutes to drive the poort, excluding stops. It's best to drive on deflated tyres (1.4 bar recommended) for improved traction, a softer ride and a reduced risk of punctures. But do not drive faster than 80 kph on soft tyres and reinflate as soon as you are back on tar.

There are a number of game farms and upmarket hunting lodges in the area, including Koffylaagte.

 

The Tutor Ndamase Pass is a new pass located on the R61 roughly midway between Port St. Johns and Mthatha. The pass offers exceptional scenery, modern engineering and is a joy to drive, but do watch out for speedbumps, livestock, taxis and pedestrians.
At 7.6 km it's well above the national average and displays an altitude variance of 344m, producing an average gradient of 1:22 with the steepest parts being 1:9.

This is one of the newest passes in the region which has greatly improved the time it takes to travel between the two towns. Current news (March, 2021) is that Port St. Johns is scheduled for a major infrastructure revamp with the Eastern Cape government billing it as South Africa's newest coastal city. We welcome this news as the town is currently in a sorry state.

This pass has an inverted vertical profile typical of a pass that drops down into a river valley. There are 44 bends to contend with, including one hairpin. The pass is the first of three back to back passes that drivers have to negotiate that terminate at Port St Johns.

At 7.2 km it's well above the national average and offers an altitude variance of 180m. The pass is quite steep in places with a maximum gradient of 1:6. Although the R61 is in good shape, there are numerous dangers to contend with, which include dense mountain mists, badly behaving minibus taxis, erratic local driver behaviour which can range between ridiculously fast to frustratingly slow, plus the standard Wild Coast hazards of livestock and pedestrians. Commercial vehicles and even large trucks drive here at high speed.

This section of the R61 should be treated with the utmost caution in any weather and drivers should be alert and drive anticipating these dangers at any time.

All the dangers aside, if you have time to glance up from the road, you will see fabulous scenery, so typical of the Wild Coast. The pass is also the access point to head down to the Ntafufu River estuary where the pristine waters offer some of the best fishing in the area in magnificent settings.

This average length pass of 4 km forms a back to back continuous pass with the Umzimvubu Pass on the tarred R61 route between Lusikisiki and Port St Johns. The pass has plenty of corners compressed into those 4 km, so drivers need to be wide awake as the pass traverses three villages - Gemvale, Mdovu and Gcakeni.

Expect pedestrians on the roadway, minibus taxis and the ever present threat of livestock. Some of the locals drive like maniacs, so it's best to let them pass you as quickly as possible. The scenery more than compensates for the Level 3 driving and is typical of the Wild Coast.

Take your time. Stop at the roadside stalls. Support the local crafters and allow the climate and the people to embrace your spirit.

 

As far as scenic beauty goes, this pass is below average for the Wild Coast. That does not in any way detract from the other interesting information connected with the pass and the area. The De Villiers Bridge at the lowest point on the pass withstood an impressive flood level of over 10m during the 1970 flood, where its safety railings were bent horizontal by the raging floodwaters. It is still like that today.

The pass has an inverted vertical profile with the lowest point being in the middle of the pass at the crossing of the Kobonqaba River. The pass is 8.2 km long and displays an altitude variance of 195m with the steepest gradients reaching 1:8 on the western side. The Kentani area was the scene of several historical skirmishes between the British and the Xhosa during the 9th Frontier War,

The town of Kentani is often in the news around initiation schools and dubious medical standards with a number of initiates losing their lives each year.

There are three back to back passes between Tombo and Port St Johns. They are, from west to east Mngazi River Pass, Butyabuse Pass and the Isinuka Poort.  At 7 km it's well above the national average and displays a moderate altitude variance of 138m. It connects the valleys of the Mngazi and Umzimvubu Rivers on the R61..

The pass is modern and well designed, but the local authorities have had to install several traffic calmers (speed bumps) to slow the taxis down, as the pass traverses several villages on its way to the coast. It offers good views of the Mngazi River and towards the middle of the pass the road passes through the villages of Mkanzini, Zitshece and Ndwalane.

There are a number of cautionaries for this road - Pedestrians and especially school children, dogs, livestock, slow and fast moving vehicles,  speed bumps, school buses and minibus taxis. Drive with care.

 

This attractive poort forms the final part of the R61 between Mthatha and Port St. Johns. It is a typical poort following the course of the Umzimvubu River on it's southern bank. Near the western start lies the village of Isinuka after which the poort is named. There is a deep cutting just after the western start as the road slices through the mountain to reach the Umzimubu River Valley.

There are sections of very steep cuttings that tower some 60m above the road, but other than that the road is straight-forward, which is a relative term, as several dangers lurk along this stretch of roadway. Local traffic officers love doing laser speed traps here, where the speed limit jumps several times between 60 and 80 kph. There are also a number of poorly concealed and sharp speed bumps, which require a reduction of speed to 30 kph or lower, Dogs and livestock can appear out of the dense bush without warning and pedestrians tend to wander along the roadway as there is nowhere else for them to walk and of course, last but not least, are the numerous minibus taxis which ply this route and congregate in numbers towards the eastern end of the poort adjacent to the Pondoland Bridge.

The wide and sluggish Umzimvubu River welcomes drivers as it drifts lazily towards the estuary at Port St. Johns' 1st Beach. 

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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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