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 western side, is the awe-inspiringly beautiful, high-altitude Hugosrivier Viaduct (the first of its kind to be built in South Africa!) The bridge is simultaneously curved, rising and cambered - constructed by the incremental method. It soars high above the farm-patchworked Hugosrivier Valley. The 4 km-long tunnel reduced the distance of the old pass by 11 km.
The scenery along the pass is amongst the best in the Western Cape and it's arguably the finest pass mountain pass along the entire N1. During the winter rainfall season there are several waterfalls to be seen, some of them falling from such great heights that they disintegrate into mist before reaching the bottom. For most of the eastern section of the pass, the road follows the course of the Molenaars River, making it more of a poort than a pass, but once the Huguenot Tunnel is reached, the road burrows straight through the mountain and then descends rapidly towards the Paarl Valley.
Despite the fabulous scenery, the road carries heavy traffic and trucking accidents are a regular occurence. Most accidents occur on either side of the tunnel, rather than inside it. Drivers need to remain very alert on the pass and note that the maximum speed limit is 100 kph and at other times as low as 60 kph. Speed limits inside the tunnel may vary based on current traffic conditions. At the time of writing (2022) there is a new project to open up the second tunnel to traffic, which will allow double lanes of traffic in each of the dedicated directional tunnels. This new project should take about 3 years to complete.
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.
The Langkloof Poort is a well-known and much-loved route by off-roaders which links the town of Montagu with the Ouberg Pass and the Karoo highlands and gives access to the Anysberg Nature Reserve and the small town of Touws River. The road crosses back and forth across the Kingna river up to 18 times via concreted drifts! It is, to all intents and purposes, a lower extension of the Ouberg Pass; and the two are typically driven as one long pass.
This particular Ouberg Pass (there are another three - one in the Northern Cape near Sutherland and the other near Gifberg (W/Cape) with the fthird being in the Eastern Cape near Graaff-Reinet) is a well-designed gravel pass linking the town of Montagu with the Karoo highlands and remote towns like Sutherland, Matjiesfontein and Touwsrivier as well as providing an access route to the fabulous Anysberg Nature Reserve.
It is a perennial favourite with offroad clubs and touring bikers, but due to its good design and reasonable gradients, is suitable for all vehicles. It contains 38 bends, corners and curves within its 7,8 km length, with an altitude variance of 497m, producing an average gradient of under 1:16.
The relatively unknown Joubertspoort is a 12.8 km farm road, close to Montagu in the Western Cape, and well worth exploring. The route consists of a combination of some rough two spoor track as well as some good quality gravel road. In essence it is a combination of a pass and a poort. Although the average gradient is a mild 1:30 there are one or two short sections in the 4x4 part of this poort which reach gradients as steep as 1:5
This first (northern) section is strictly for 4x4 vehicles only with good ground clearance and low range. It provides magnificent views in complete tranquility and isolation. The southern section takes you past quaint little farm labourers' cottages flanked by green orchards and pastures towards the exit of the poort from where it is a quick drive into Montagu.
Allow about at least an hour to complete the route. Non 4WD vehicles could drive the poort from the south as far as the last farm, then turnaround and retrace the route back to Montagu.
The Cogmanskloof Pass connects the towns of Ashton and Montagu. Its entire 6.5 km stretches through a majestic landscape of towering rock formations and a colourful pastoral patchwork, which delights the eye and invigorates the heart! Renamed after the popular Cape Colonial Secretary, John Montagu, the town's original name of Cogmanskloof is where this pass took its name from.
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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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