Michell's Pass (frequently misspelt as Mitchell's Pass) was named after Charles Michell who planned the original route through the Skurweberg & Witzenberg Mountains from Tulbagh and Wolseley through to Ceres. He was a talented military engineer, who perhaps gained more fame for his exploits by eloping with the 15 year old daughter of a French colonel. This might explain why he was "transferred" to the Cape of Good Hope! Michell went on to become the Surveyor-General for the Colony and designed and built several prominent Cape passes and bridges and was a major influence in road construction in the Cape, together with the popular Colonial Secretary, John Montagu, had the vision to plan a network of roads through the Cape Colony that would pave the way to a successful growth in the region's economy.
Chapman's Peak Drive dates back to the early 1900's and is without question one of Cape Town's Top 10 tourist destinations. Its popularity is due to the incredible scenery on offer, viewed from a road which has been been literally hewn out of the almost vertical cliff faces on the Cape Peninsula's western side.
The 10 km long pass connects Hout Bay in the north with Noordhoek in the south and was converted into a toll road in 2003 to cover the high costs of maintaining the road to a safe standard. Along its length you will drive through more than 80 bends, corners and curves and see some impressive modern engineering, including massive steel catch nets and two semi-tunnels. Many sections of unstable rock-face have been reinforced with shotcrete.
This pass is loaded with drama and history dating back to 1910 and is best appreciated driven slowly. It must have seemed an impossible task building a road on such an inhospitable and dangerous cliff face, but the road building pioneers did the job!
The more observant viewers will notice that we have not included our standard vertical profile nor simulated fly-past clips in the first video. The reason for this is that Google Earth simply cannot 'read' the road correctly and the results are too distorted to provide an accurate simulation. This is the only pass in South Africa, where this has occurred.
Meiringspoort is a Top 10 destination. The poort bears a tough history of floods and landslides amongst incredible hardships, yet our engineers and road builders mastered the art of building a magnificent road through this awe-inspiring poort. Part 1 covers the first 8 km. of the poort. The second video covers the final 8 km and and includes the Interpretive Centre and main waterfall and ends near the charming village of De Rust.
The pass is in superb condition and offers typically gentle poort gradients, but the 63 bends, corners and curves do require a high level of concentration. It's easy to become mesmerised by the mind boggling scenery, so drivers need to remain focused and understand that the lack of safety shoulders and large volume of heavy trucks means a certain level of danger is always present. It's best to drive this poort on a weekend or public holiday, when there are fewer trucks. Stop often and enjoy one of South Africa's finest poorts which is packed with history.
This spectacular kloof (which is part of the R332 route) links the western section of the Baviaanskloof with the higher Karoo hinterland, and more specifically, the towns of Willowmore and Uniondale, which are standard Baviaanskloof refuelling points. The pass needs to be driven slowly to best appreciate its dramatic, unique geology. This is a big pass and involves multiple river crossings - none of which are conventionally bridged. Should you find the first two crossings difficult or the current too strong, rather turn back as conditions get much worse the further down the kloof you proceed.
The pass contains 41 bends, corners and curves within it's length, which includes 1 full horseshoe bend and 10 other bends in excess of 100 degrees. The gradients are generally fairly easy and never exceed 1:12, but the road surface can vary between quite good (the road had just been graded on the day of filming) to badly corrugated and rutted and the road is also frequently damaged by floodwaters and especially so at the river crossings.
If you are new to the Baviaanskloof, we recommend that you first watch the Baviaanskloof Overview and Orientation video clip. You will find a comprehensive set of links to accommodation options and other attractions in the Baviaanskloof on that page.
Like its neighbouring pass, Katbakkies Pass, the Peerboomskloof Pass was originally carved out by the local Khoi people as a cattle path. Farmers later used it as a wagon road to cross over the mountains from the Koue Bokkeveld to the Ceres Karoo. Only recently tarred and 4,5 km long, it provides picture-perfect views of the open, rugged expanse of the Tankwa Karoo and the mountain range separating it from the Koue Bokkeveld.
The first 2 km of the pass are tarred and sports a stiff gradient of 1:7. This tarring was done fairly recently and the road remains narrow with no road markings, so don't be fooled by the tar surface as it is still a dangerous pass. The pass initially enters the bottom end of the poort via an S-bend. The second part of the bend is very sharp and immediately a gravel track leads off to the left which goes to a picnic area. Once the top of the tarred section is reached at 704m ASL, the surface is once again gravel, but the gradient initially remains steep as the road heads up towards the plateau section, whereafter the gradients ease off to a more comfortable 1:20. The upper portion of the pass is relatively easy.
The decisively steep Katbakkies Pass traces over what was once an old sheep-trekking route over the Skurweberge mountains. It joins the Koue Bokkeveld with the Ceres Karoo and Tankwa Karoo. It was recently (1999) tarred and although fairly short, it has a serious average gradient of 1/13 which will tax many an underpowered vehicle and especially the two sections about quarter way up the western ascent, which measure out at UNDER 1:4! The pass is sometimes covered in snow during winter as the snow line of 1000m ASL is well below this pass's maximum altitude of 1200m. It's a narrow road and has no road markings, so take it slowly and enjoy the spectacular barren landscape.
This relatively new pass was constructed between 1984 and 1988 at the then staggering cost of R125,000,000. Leading up to the Huguenot Tunnel from its south side, is the awe-inspiringly beautiful, high-altitude Miaspoort Viaduct (the first of its kind to be built in South Africa!) The bridge is simultaneously curved and cambered --constructed by the incremental method. It soars high above the farm-patchworked Miaspoort Valley. The 4 km-long tunnel drastically reduced the distance of the old pass by 11km. (Please note that the Google Earth satellite imaging cannot 'read' a tunnel; it instead follows the track of the road, so ignore the steep spike in the middle of the vertical profile.)
This gently meandering tar road along the valley between the impressive Slanghoek Mountains and the smaller Badsberg mountain showcases a restfully pastoral landscape of vineyards and fruit farms. A wine-tasting tour at the popular wine farms is a must for wine connoisseurs - locals and tourists alike! The drive through the valley is a visual feast, but watch out for pedestrians, animals, cyclists and slow moving farm vehicles.
The Bain's Kloof Pass (R301) provided a more direct route from the town of Wellington to the more northern towns of Ceres and Worcester, in the Western Cape.
It is 26,8 km in length from the bridge over the Breede River to the outskirts of Wellington. Built circa 1849 by Andrew Geddes Bain, this pass was a tough nut to crack, working with convicts and raw, rough materials and methods. As always seemed to be the case with Bain, he oversaw a marvellous job of the pass which, having stood the test of time, is now a national monument.
The more dramatic, northern section of the pass roughly follows the course of the Witte River, a raging torrent during the wet winter season.
The old Du Toits Kloof Pass (officially designated as the R101) is 11km longer than the newer N1 route, and is certainly worth choosing over the new route if you're not in a hurry! Its grand, dramatic mountain views and elegantly constructed, tunnel whisks one back in time to an older, almost forgotten era -- when World War 2 impactfully changed the world with its bombs, genocide and bittersweet victories.
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.
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.