The Eastern Cape

This beautiful and fairly steep gravel pass on the P3220 link road between Rhodes and Wartrail, offers wonderful high altitude scenery of mountains, valleys and winding rivers in the Eastern Cape highlands about 14 km south-west of Rhodes. Nestled in the midst of the well known Big 8 passes, this little known pass provides a scenic shortcut for those wanting to get to the Bastervoetpad Pass and the Barkly Pass. The pass has a simple high-low vertical profile and is 3,2 km long producing an average gradient of 1:15 with the steepest parts being at 1:8. The road is suitable for all vehicles in fair weather.

This fairly long pass of 9,4 km winds its way over the mountains in the vicinity of the Nonesi village about 17 km north-east of Queenstown in the Eastern Cape. The pass is tarred and is located on the R392 trunk route between Queenstown and Dordrecht

When the pass was rebuilt and realigned, many of the steep gradients and sharp bends were removed, making today's version of the pass is a much safer traverse. During winter, the pass is subject to snowfalls, in which case it's best avoided altogether unless you are in a 4WD vehicle.

As the case with all the roads (tar and gravel) in the old Transkei region, livestock on the road is an ever present threat and these roads are best avoided at night. The Bongolo Dam at the southern end of the pass has an interesting history dating back to the early 1900s and was apparently built making use of donkeys as labour. The word mbongolo means donkey in isiXhosa, hence the name of the dam and the pass.

The Bosnek Pass is a substantial gravel pass of over 9 km in length that descends through a westerly outlying section of the Fort Fordyce Nature Reserve. The altitude variance is 418m and with a summit height of 1121m ASL you can be assured of sweeping views over the reserve with it's densely wooded mountains and attractive dam nestling at the bottom of the valley. The road is nicely engineered with a maximum gradient of 1:8, so the going is fairly comfortable for most vehicles. There are however some very sharp corners including one horseshoe bend and one hairpin, where speed has to be reduced to 30 kph. These are all well signposted with ample warning signs. The road is suitable for all vehicles in fair weather. Like all gravel roads, this road is subject to washaways and corrugations. Adjust your speed according to current conditions.

The Bottelnek Pass is a very steep, gravel pass in a remote part of the Eastern Cape roughly 25 km north of Elliot (as the crow flies). The 5,1 km long pass has an altitude variance of 193 metres to summit at 2204m ASL producing an average gradient of 1:26 with the steepest sections being at 1:5. In wet weather non 4WD vehicles will have traction issues. It snows regularly on this pass during winter and the usual snow-driving cautionaries apply. Although this pass can be driven in a normal sedan, we would rather recommend a high clearance vehicle and definitely a 4x4 in rainy or muddy conditions.

This long gravel pass is located on the R344 - a well maintained gravel road that connects Tarkastad with Adelaide in the Eastern Cape. It's well above average length at 10,4 km and displays an altitude variance of 463m, which converts into a reasonable average gradient of 1:22, but the road never exceeds a gradient of 1:10, which makes this pass suitable for all vehicles.

The pass descends down the Winterberg range and traverses prime game farming sectors, so always be on the lookout for game and more importantly kudu at dusk and dawn, as  they can comfortably clear a 2m fence from a standing start and have caused many accidents all over South Africa - many of them fatal.

The Brakkloof Pass is a mixture of a poort and a mountain pass. It's a fairly long one at just under 13 km and despite the easy average gradient of 1:75, there are some very steep sections at 1:5, especially near the southern end on the approach and descent to the Kouga River valley, which will probably create traction issues for non 4WD vehicles in wet weather. Thr pass has to be driven in tandem with the Kouga-Kleinrivier Pass which lies further to the west. the two passes together form a wide loop with Joubertina as a start and end point. Allow an hour to do the loop.

The kloof is extensively farmed so the usual cautionaries apply of expecting livestock, pedestrians and slow moving farming vehicles on the road. Visually this is a lovely road to explore and note that there are many cattle grids. The pass is located about 33 km to the ENE of the farming town of Joubertina on the R62 route through the fruit farming region known as Die Langkloof.

This a big pass of 14,6 km climbing 436m from the south to summit at Brook's Nek at 1616m ASL which is also the border between the two provinces. There are many sharp bends along the pass and an enforced 80 kph speed limit exists for your safety. The pass forms part of the N2 highway between Mount Ayliff and Kokstad. It's subject to heavy mountain mists in summer and snowfalls in winter.

This pass is located on the tarred R63 between Somerset East and Pearston. Travelling eastwards, the pass starts approximately 20 km east of Pearston. Most of the R63 traverses fairly flat terrain just to the south of a long line of mountains. Bruintjieshoogte is the first significant change in altitude after leaving Graaff Reinet on this road. This region is rich in game farms as can be evidenced by the many kilometres of game fencing on either side of the road and game spotting is almost guaranteed - from the nimble springbok to the majestic kudu - the latter being able to effortlessly scale fences and is a major deterrent to night driving in the Eastern Cape.

This inverted profile pass is situated near the east coast city of East London, and derives its name from the crossing of the Buffalo River, which empties into the harbour a few kilometres downstream. It forms a convenient shortcut from the western suburbs to the airport, as well as to the R72 coastal road which connects the city to Port Alfred and Port Elizabeth. East Londoners of the more mature variety will have fond memories of the infamous nightclub that used to be located next to the river at the bottom of the pass.

The lovely old tarred pass sweeps down into the densely wooded Buffalo River valley and crosses East London's major river via a bridge built in 1955. The road is tarred (although bumpy, potholed and patched these days) and presents a comfortable gradient of just 1:33, with some of the steeper sections at 1:11.

Piles of litter along the road-side spoil the drive and perhaps one of the city's councillors might read this page and do something about cleaning the pass up. It's one of East London's many attractions which has been allowed to degenerate. This pass is dangerous for cyclists and walkers as there are no safety shoulders plus this is a high crime area.

The Buffelshoek Pass lies on the R337 linking Pearston in the south with Cradock in the north-east. This rugged and beautiful pass offers sublime scenery towards the south over well wooded valleys and expansive plains packed with game. The pass quickly deteriotes in heavy rain or snow conditions and becomes dangerous for non 4WD vehicles, but in fair weather the road is perfectly suitable for all cars.

The pass is 3,9 km long and has an altitude variance of a 330m producing a challenging average climb rate of 1:12 with the steeper sections measuring in at 1:6. It's located just 15 kilometres north-east of Pearston.

Nearby Pearston dates back to the mid 1800's and is today one of the prime towns associated with hunting. The village is looking a little dog-eared these days with poverty and unemployment taking its toll on tourism.



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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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