The Eastern Cape

This little-known pass is located in a wild and remote area of the Eastern Cape near Barkly East. It forms the northern access route into Heuningneskloof (“Honey Nest Ravine”), a long valley formed by a tributary of the Kraai River. The use of a 4x4 vehicle is strongly recommended, although a high-clearance vehicle could probably traverse the pass, albeit with some difficulty. It lies far off the beaten track, and some accurate navigational skills and common sense will be required to find it. For those that do make the effort, you will be rewarded with exceptional views, the peace and quiet of an unspoilt environment, and some challenging driving.

Hobbs Hill is located just 3 km north of Cathcart and whilst it's a short pass at only 2,7 km, it descends a substantial 132m over that distance producing an average gradient of 1:20 with the steepest section being just north of the summit at 1:14. This is generally a safe, well designed road and only contains two easy curves. Having a summit altitude of almost 1200m means this pass is sometimes subject to winter snowfalls. The usual snow driving precautionary measures apply.

The tarred Hogsback Pass is located between the Eastern Cape towns of Alice and Cathcart. With an altitude variance of 379  meters, this pass summits at 1200m ASL which means it regularly experiences snow during the winter months. Hogsback is a mystical place, with dense and tall forests and the mountain is frequently shrouded in mist. South African born author J.R.Tolkien is said to have been inspired by these forests when Lord of the Rings was written.

When travelling through the Baviaanskloof from west to east, the Holgat Pass is 5th pass you will need to traverse - the first four being the Nuwekloof  Pass, Studtis Poort, Grasnek Pass and Langkop Pass. The Holgat Pass is often confused with the Combrinks Pass which lies a few kilometers further east. The pass is essentially the ascent up the final big mountain climb for travellers heading eastwards,  interrupted by a high altitude plateau (where the Bergplaas campsites can be found) followed by the Combrinks Pass as the descent. If you are new to the Baviaanskloof, we recommend first watching the Orientation and Overview video.

The pass contains 49 bends, corners and curves within its 4,7 km length and 10 of those corners are greater than 90 degrees. The road is partially strip concreted and sections of the concrete are in poor condition, making for quite a bumpy ride. Most of the pass has steep, unguarded drop-offs and drivers need to be alert. Overtaking is impossible and passing vehicles travelling in the opposite direction will require both vehicles to move over to create sufficient passing space.

The Indwe Poort was formed by the powerful Indwe River and forms a steep sided poort through the mountains south of the town of Indwe. The road, whch carries the route label of R396 connects the town of Indwe with the main tarred road, the R410 just south of the poort, where the Indwe River continues flowing southwards to feed into the large irrigation dam - the Lubisi Dam. The Indwe River provides a lifeline of water to this region as just north of the poort it feeds another large dam - the Doringrivier Dam.

The road follows the course of the poort along it's western side for almost 10 km and is generally an easy drive with gentle gradients. There are two very sharp corners in excess of 110 degrees that need to be approached with caution, but the biggest dangers on this road are corrugations and livestock. Be aware of this before you tackle this poort. The road has a minor summit towards its northern end, followed by no less than 5 smaller false summits along its length.

Janspoort is a very minor tar pass located on the R58 between Burgersdorp and Venterstad near the northern border of the Eastern Cape. It is virtually the only structure to break the monotony of this otherwise featureless road. The surface is in a good condition, probably because there is very little traffic, and can be driven in any vehicle without problems. We have been unable to establish the identity of the “Jan” that this pass was named after, or why he was important enough for this pass to bear his name, but we can be fairly certain that he was a farmer in the area, or an important personage from one of the Anglo-Boer wars.

 

Jouberts Pass is a steep, high altitude gravel road pass located between the towns of Lady Grey and Barkly East in the quiet rural region of the Eastern Cape close to the Lesotho border in the Witteberg Mountains, which is itself a western spur of the mighty Drakensberg. Very few people traverse this pass other than local farmers and avid adventure travellers. We recommend completing the circuit, eventually arriving back at the R58 after quite a long but fabulous gravel road loop, which includes Jouberts Pass. It is best driven in a clockwise direction if the pass is going to be driven at any point after 11 am. The pass is suitable for all vehicles in fair weather, but if there is heavy rain or snow on the pass, a 4x4 will be mandatory.

This gravel pass traverses the Swartwatersberge between Riebeeck East in the north and Alicedale in the south. It has a substantial altitude variance and some very sharp corners, including two hairpins, but is well designed with gradients never exceeding 1:10. The pass offers exceptional views over the New Years River valley and dam and mostly falls within the boundaries of the Frontier Safaris Game Farm. It's named after the Kalmoesfontein farm, which is located at the foot of the pass on the southern side.

Riebeek East  is 42 km west of Grahamstown. It is located in a hilly area, in the midst of game and sheep farming regions. It was founded in 1842, and initially named Riebeek after Jan van Riebeeck, one year after the local church was built. The name was later amended to Riebeeck East to separate it from Riebeeck West near Cape Town. It was erected on a part of the farm Mooimeisjesfontein, that was subdivided and sold by the subsequent voortrekker leader Piet Retief.

A settlement appeared around the church congregation after it was established here in 1830 by the Dutch Reformed Church. Since 1826 the local farmers applied to the colonial government to form a local congregation, as they previously had to travel to Uitenhage, 130 km distant, to attend communion services.  Retief's farmhouse is just east of the village and has been declared a national heritage site.

The dramatic poort traverses a gap through the Grootrivierberge (Great River Mountains), which has been carved out by the Heuningkliprivier (Honey Stone River) which runs along the north/south axis, but via a convoluted path approximating the natural course of the river. It only climbs 58 vertical metres over 14km producing an easy average gradient of 1:241 - The beauty of this pass is its rugged, mountainous scenery.

April, 2017 - Information just received is that this road has been closed off by a locked gate and marked as 'Private'. We don't know if this road has been officially deproclaimed, but we will investigate and publish our findings here. [Source: Pieter Laubscher]

This lovely pass packs a technical and scenic punch well above its category. It provides access over the Kaprivier from the lower altitude land in the south-west to the mountain ridge in the north-east.

Statistically its a moderate pass, but when the details are examined, it shows no less than 19 bends, corners and curves packed into 4,1 kms and lots of variety. It's also well off the beaten track and carries very low traffic volumes, other than the odd farmer. The pass displays a typical inverted clasic profile starting at a high point, then dropping down to a central low point river crossing and rising up the other side.

Be aware that there are some very steep gradients on the northern section, so light FWD vehicles might experience traction issues in wet weather. We recommend driving this pass as a circular loop with it's sister pass a little further to the east, called the Milton Pass or Lower Kaprivier Pass.

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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.
 

Master Orientation Map

Master Orientation Map 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.

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