The Eastern Cape

The e-Roma pass is named in the Xhosa tongue, where many English words are prefixed by an "e". This steep gravel pass sweeps up the western ridge of a mountain just north of the small town of Cala and to the west of the Tsomo River valley. The pass is just under 5 km in length and climbs 267 vertical metres to summit at 1423m. Some of the gradients are quite steep at 1:7 and in rainy weather smaller cars might have some traction issues. In fair weather the pass is suitable for all vehicles. Watch out for local vehicles, which seem to disregard the rules of the road. They can often be encountered completely on the wrong side of the road (avoiding corrugations) or driving very fast or very slowly. Be prepared for all eventualities and remain alert. There is also the standard problem of encountering livestock.

East Poort is an easy 9 km traverse along the southern side of the Great Fish River just to the east of Cookhouse on the tarred N10 route to Cradock. The poort is suitable for all traffic and presents no obvious dangers. The road is in excellent condition with smoothly banked corners and easy gradients, with some impressive side cuttings for those interested in road engineering, counterpointed with lovely river and mountain views. Cookhouse has an interesting history with its most famous event being the Slagtersnek Rebellion. In modern times, the area is being widely utlitised to generate electricity via extensive wind farms. 

The Ecca Pass is located 15 kilometers north of Grahamstown on the tarred R67. The road links Grahamstown in the south with Fort Beaufort in the north. The pass has great geological and historical value. The name Ecca is of Khoi origin and means "salty or brackish river"

The pass is named after the Ecca River, which is a tributary of the Great Fish River. Andrew Geddes Bain built the road (the Queens Road as it was known) northwards towards Fort Beaufort in the early 1800's. There is a plaque in his honour at the head of the pass. Bain was also a renowned geologist and named the rock type at the foot of the pass the 'Ecca Group' - comprising 250 million old sedimentary blue shales and mudstones.

Elandsberg Pass is located on the N6 just to the south of the historic town of Aliwal North, which straddles the border between the Eastern Cape and Free State provinces. The road has been beautifully engineered, is in an excellent condition, and should not present problems for any vehicle in all weather conditions, provided that the speed limit is adhered to. The pass is named after the imposing mountain which dominates the skyline on the western side. It is one of at least nine passes which contain within their title a reference to the Eland, the largest of the southern African antelope and which was, and still is, commonly found throughout the country.

 

This very long pass of 26,3 km essentially is more of a poort than a pass as it faithfully follows the course of the Broederstroom (Brother's Stream) as it cascades down the kloof losing 463m of altitude. The average gradient of 1:59 is mild and regardless of whether you are ascending or descending this pass, you will find the change in altitude gradual. It has 33 bends, corners and curves but none of them are significantly dangerous or sharp.

The road is a farming road that forms a long crescent shape to the east of the N9 national road starting and ending at different points on the N9. The bulk of the pass falls within the borders of the farm, officially named Erasmuskloof 259 and this is obviously where the pass takes it's name from.

The pass is regularly maintained and despite the gravel surface is suitable for all traffic. This is mainly due to the arid climate where lack of rainfall ensures the roads remain in good condition.

We have not physically driven this pass ourselves as yet, so our description and research is based on available resources and government maps.

When you're on your way to Rhodes and heading for the major gravel passes in this mountainous part of the Eastern Cape, this is the first little pass that gets you off the R58 main route and into the remoter part of the southern Drakensberg. From here you won't see tar again for a long time.

At 5,7 km the pass is of moderate length, and it has an equally moderate altitude variance of 156m. The steepest parts are at 1:9 and should present no problems for any type of vehicle in fair weather. However, with a summit altitude of 2088m ASL this pass is regularly smothered under a thick blanket of snow. It's best avoided under those circumstances. On the day of filming, after heavy rain, the road was slippery requiring 4WD.

Fincham’s Neck is a minor gravel road pass located just to the south of Queenstown in the Eastern Cape. Getting to the pass from the northern side is relatively easy, but the approach from the south involves a number of twists and turns on corrugated gravel roads. The pass is named after George Thornton Zacharias Charles Fincham, who was born in Roydon, Norfolk in 1814. George emigrated to South Africa and acquired a farm in the Queenstown district in 1858, which he named after his birthplace. The farm is located on the eastern side of the pass. George died in 1889 at the age of 74, and is buried in a private cemetery on the farm itself.

 

As per the official 1:50000 topographical maps, the name of this pass is usually spelled with an “s”, as opposed to the more grammatically correct “Fonteinkloof”. It is a located on the tarred R72, a coastal road which starts off on its eastern side near East London and then stretches via Port Alfred, Kenton-On-Sea and Alexandria to end on the western side at the confluence of the N2 and the N10 near Nanaga, about 50 km from Port Elizabeth. The road surface is in an excellent condition, and can be traversed in any vehicle and in all weather conditions. The pass takes its name from a farm located on the eastern side of the summit.



This beautiful, modern and well designed pass is situated just north of the small town of Stutterheim on the national N6 highway. The pass derives its name from the small fort and telegraph office built in 1878 towards the end of the 9th (and last) Frontier War, and which was named after General Sir Arthur Cunynghame, commander of the British forces in South Africa from 1874 to 1879. The pass presents magnificent views over the forests which abound in the area, holds no apparent dangers, and can be driven in any vehicle.

The Fullers Hoek Pass is a well designed gravel road pass within the Fort Fordyce Nature Reserve, starting at 556m and summiting at 1173m ASL. This produces a gradient of 1:13 with some sections being a fairly steep 1:8. The pass is surpsingly well designed and maintained to a reasonably high standard. This allows it to be driven in normal sedan vehicles in reasonable weather conditions. In heavy rain or snow conditions, a 4WD vehicle will be necessary, especially near the summit area with its sharp switchbacks and steeper gradients.

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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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