The Eastern Cape

This 5,1 km long pass descends into the Umnga River valley via one U bend and two very sharp hairpins. The pass descends from 1291m ASL at the village of Dalibango through an altitude drop of 342m producing a stiff average gradient of 1:15 to end at the crossing of the Umnga River at a low level bridge.

You will be treated to views of towering cliffs and steeply wooded slopes with the Umnga River winding its way down the centre of this fabulous scene.

It contains 14 bends, corners and curves and requires vigilant driiving. We recommend driving this road in a small convoy of two to three vehicles in case of emergency. Be aware of personal safety at all times and make sure you leave the nearest town with full fuel tanks and that your vehicle is serviced and reliable.

 

This high altitude pass is a little difficult to find, but offers rich rewards to the traveller seeking out the more remote passes. It lies to the east of a deep valley between Cookhouse (30km) and Tarkastad and connects a range of farms from the Bedford side with the R344. The pass has a significant altitude gain of 289m over a distance of 6,1 km producing an average gradient of 1:21 with the steeper sections measuring in at 1:14

This is one of those remote farm roads, less travelled, where the more adventurous traveller will be rewarded with wonderful scenery and quiet roads where you are unlikely to see another vehicle over the entire route.

This easy tarred pass is located about halfway between Middeldrift and King Williams Town on the R63 main road. The pass offers scenic views of the forests around Keiskammahoek and Pirie and gives access to the R354 as well as to two railway stations and the busy industrial developement of Dimbaza. The pass is 9 km long, has two gentle curves and only climbs 75 vertical metres. There's plenty of time to enjoy the beautiful forested mountains and rural village scenery.

Unlike most other poorts in South Africa which are generally quite flat, Debruinspoort does have a significant altitude gain of 225 metres. It is located on the gravelled R344 road between Adelaide and Grahamstown, just south of the crossing of the Great Fish River at Piggott’s Bridge and to the west of the Kwandwe Private Game Reserve. Other than some wash-board corrugations, the pass is well maintained and in a good condition, and should present no problems for any type of vehicle.

This high altitude pass can be found after summiting the Katberg Pass. It starts at 1623m ASL and summits at 1713m before dropping through through a series of switchbacks through the Winterberg Mountains to the next plateau of farms. We recommend a high clearance 4WD vehicle for this pass. It connects the summit of the Katberg Pass with the towns of Sada, Whittlesea and Queenstown further to the north.

The road (or rather the track) is mostly badly rutted with some deep washaways and large stones to get over. After rain, the summit area can be very slippery with large pools of muddy water over the road, which have to be traversed. Don't attempt this road without a backup vehicle and recovery equipment. Also make sure you have Tracks4Africa loaded on your GPS otherwise you will more than likely get lost. This is one of those roads very much less travelled.

This big pass is a mixture of a pass and a poort. It's fairly long at 12,8 km and runs along the east-west axis along a valley on the northern side of the Didima Range and the Katberg Mountain. The eastern section gets steep and the first 6 km is where the bulk of the altitude is lost (or gained). This pass forms a western approach to the summit of the Katberg Pass and is a perfect approach for those wanting to drive the Katberg Pass in the descending mode. It also provides access to the summit of the Devils Bellows Pass.

The road can get very tricky in wet weather where a 4WD vehicle will be mandatory but in fair weather most 4x2 vehicles with reasonable ground clearance will manage the road. You will be treated to excellent high altitude scenery. The usual gravel road cautionaries apply - Mountain mists with low visibility, electrical storms in summer, high rainfall, snow in winter, rockfalls, washaways, deep ruts, loose rocks and stones, livestock on the road.

The Dontsa Pass is a 5,9 km long gravel road pass forming part of the R352 route on a western loop from the R63 in the south to the R30 in the north near Stutterheim. The pass is close to the Sandile Dam, the Hogsback mountains as well as the Gubu dam further to the east. The pass was originally built in 1857. Besides some very sharp corners and steep, unguarded drop-offs, motorists should be aware of large timber trucks which ply this pass at sometimes alarming speeds. Be ready to move out of the way at any time as this is a heavily used used road for forestry purposes.

The gravel Doringnek Pass is the sequel to the Suurberg/Zuurberg Pass on the same road (R335) when travelling towards the south. It is 9,2 km long and displays an altitude variance of 387 meters to summit at 598m ASL near the Zuurberg Mountain Village. The pass has a history dating back as far as 1850. It connects Somerset East in the north with Addo / Kirkwood in the south. The road is maintained to a good standard and can be driven in any vehicle. Be careful of mountain mists and wild animals. If you intend driving the entire route, please make sure that you read up the page on the Suurberg/Zuurberg Pass, which is much more difficult and requires a 4WD vehicle with high clearance. 

The Doringnek Pass is a big gravel pass and offers 63 bends, corners and curves to keep drivers busy, plus it has magnificent scenery; a spectacular double sided cutting and an historic hotel near the summit. It can be driven in any vehicle in fair weather, but beyond the Zuurberg Mountain Inn, a high clearance vehicle is necessary. This road existed long before the Suurberg Pass was built and construction of the latter was accessed and commenced from the summit of the Doringnek Pass.

Dulcie’s Nek is a minor pass located in a forgotten corner of South Africa, in a triangle formed by the borders of the Eastern Cape, Free State and Lesotho. No trace can be found to indicate who the “Dulcie” was that the pass is named after. The road is tarred, is in an excellent condition, and can be driven in any vehicle. The area is the birthplace of Olive Schreiner, one of South Africa’s best-known and beloved authors, and the creator of a classic tale about pastural life in the Karoo, “The Story of an African Farm”.

This steep pass is 5,9 km long and lies just a few kilometres east of it's twin pass, the Buwani Pass. The Dungu pass is longer and has a bigger altitude variance, but both join up in a common road along the northern bank of a big loop in the Umzimvubu River, about 57 kms SSE of Mount Frere in the heart of the old Transkei region.

It forms a perfect circular loop where both these passes can be driven in tandem. The Dungu Pass has an exceptionally steep average gradient of 1:10, but some sections get very steep at 1:5. In wet weather this pass should only be tackled in a 4WD vehicle.

Panoramic scenery, steep cliffs, deeply wooded mountain slopes and birds eye views of the Umzimvubu River valley are all on the menu. There are 59 bends, corners and curves which include 2 tight hairpins and 4 corners greater than 90 degrees.

We issue our standard cautionary for all Eastern Cape rural roads, and especially those in the old Transkei area: We recommend driving this road in a small convoy of two to three vehicles in case of emergency. Be aware of personal safety at all times and make sure you leave the nearest town with full fuel tanks and that your vehicle is serviced and reliable.

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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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