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The Eastern Cape

This is the newest major tarred pass in South Africa with a 2008 construction date. The pass descends an impressive 751m down the escarpment through the Langeni Forest. It has an average gradient of 1:22 but most of the southern portion is fairly steep at 1:10. Modern engineering is evident throughout this pass, of which probably the most impressive feature is the 235m long viaduct over a section of the indigenous forest, which is built at the same gradient as the road - steep! The road connects Ugie in the north with Mthatha in the south-east.

This smaller, but very steep pass is located in between the two big Baviaanskloof passes of Grasnek and Holgat. Due to its very steep gradients of 1:4 the road has been recently partially paved to assist with traction. The pass connects the Rooihoek camping area in the west with Doodsklip in the east and offers a wide variety of scenery and some technical driving. It is, in fact, the paving on this road, which has presented drivers with some new challenges.

The pass is short at 3,4 km and despite its misleading average gradient of 1:37, this little pass is packed with sharp corners, steep gradients and technical driving. On the flipside, it offers fabulous scenery and several river crossings before, during and after the pass.

The river crossing at Doodsklip can often be quite deep. Drivers need to be aware of this and follow the standard procedure for deep water crossings (see information lower down).

This is one of the shortest passes on our database at just under 1 km - (881 metres to be exact), but it offers magnificent and rugged scenery, despite being so short. It's name is something of a misnomer, as the topography and statistics are those of a poort and not a pass. Judging by it's name, lions no doubt once roamed this path.

What makes this drive even more dramatic is the obvious path of the substantial river which charges through this kloof after good rain, making this road a potential death trap as can be clearly seen in the video footage. The final river crossing on the northern side is the most dangerous spot. For the vast majority of the year, the river is nothing more than a dry, stony path as this is after all, the Karoo, but every adventure traveller should know and understand that the Karoo rivers are prone to flash floods, so if the weather is looking ominous, drive with your wits about you and dont take unneccesary risks.

This lovely pass with its sweeping curves around the buttresses of the Lootsberg, lies in the heart of the Great Karoo some 70km North of Graaff Reinet on the tarred N9. It is the highest pass in the Karoo and was named after Hendrik Loots who died on the old pass, after his carriage overturned.  It  is the first of a string of poorts and passes starting from the North East near Middelburg, with the final one being the Potjiesberg Pass to the South of Uniondale taking travellers from the high grounds of the Great Karoo down to the Little Karoo towards Oudtshoorn and George. The pass was originally constructed by Andrew Geddes Bain in 1858.

 



This gravel pass is one of the great gravel passes of the Eastern Cape and is held in awe by adventure travellers to the same extent as Joubert's Pass, Naude's Nek, Carlisleshoekspruit, Volunteershoek, Bastervoetpad, and Otto du Plesses passes. Lundin's Nek (which is also often spelled as Lundean's Nek) is a much bigger pass technically than any of the others and must rank as the most underrated big gravel pass in South Africa.

Not that many people have driven this pass as it really doesn't lead to anywhere significant, other than the Tele River border post with Lesotho. The pass is steep and peppered with 101 bends, corners and curves including four hairpins, several unbridged stream crossings and very steep, unguarded drop-offs. It's also long at 14,5 km and concentration levels need to be maintained throughout. The pass is not suitable for normal sedan vehicles. Whilst we recommend a 4x4 for this road, it is possible to complete it in a high clearance 4x2 vehicle in fair weather. It connects the small farming community of Wartrail with the Tele River border post at Lesotho.

This lovely gravel poort winds it's way along the valley carved out by the Luzi River. It's located 9 km south-west of Mount Fletcher as the crow flies. The road can get very slippery when wet and is often badly rutted. At 14,8 km it's a fairly long poort and it's peppered with sharp bends as well as several unbriged river crossings via concreted drifts. There are a total of 21 stream crossings and the 84 bends, corners and curves which requires attentive driving. The road remains on the southern side of the Luzi River throughout.

With a few exceptions, all the stream crossings (which are tributaries of the Luzi River), are via concreted drifts. As these streams have a fast run off down the mountain slopes, and they can become lethal when in flood. Exercise extreme caution under such conditions and never take a chance if you think the depth is too deep and the current too swift. You will be treated to some stunning scenery of sandstone outcrops and colourful tribal villages. Don't be in a hurry on this drive. Luzi Poort is the final of three passes between Rhodes and Mount Fletcher and is often overlooked by the bigger Pitseng Pass and of course Naude's Nek Pass, which is the dominnt pass in the area. We recommend a high clearance vehicle, although a 4WD vehicle is not required, except in muddy conditions.

MacKay's Nek Pass on the tarred R410 route between Queenstown in the west and Lady Frere in the east, is a fairly short, but dramatic pass that can surprise unwary drivers with its steep gradients and very sharp bends. It's only 3,8 km long, but crammed into the first 2,5 km are two full horseshoe bends and one ninety degree right hand curve. The gradients are steep on the western side of the pass, reaching 1:7 and when added to an already high altitude of over 1200m ASL, many vehicles will experience a sensation of feeling underpowered.

This difficult to get to and remote gravel pass is well worth the effort of seeking it out. It's a long pass at 14 km and offers high views of deeply incised and heavily wooded valleys, several Transkei villages and the crossing of the powerful Mbashe (Bashee) River. Perhaps more importantly it is also the access road to the birthplace of Nelson Mandela at Mveso Village on the eastern rim of the Mbashe River canyon. He was buried near Qunu - a short distance from Mveso.

The pass has a typical inverted profile with a low point in the middle and contains 101 bends, corners and curves to keep drivers very busy. Ten of those are sharper than 90 degrees. With gradients that get as steep as 1:6 this will be a tricky drive in wet weather if not in a 4WD vehicle.

As is the general rule in this part of the Eastern Cape, most of the area is unfenced, so finding livestock on the road is the norm. Add in slow vehicles, taxis, rutted, potholed and corrugated roads and you have a recipe for having to stay wide awake on this pass. 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 scenic 4,5 km gravel poort has a classic ascent/descent profile, but as poorts go, this one also doesn't have much of an altitude gain at just 88m. The average gradient pans out at a very gentle 1:51, but there are a couple of sections with slightly steeper gradients. The pass meanders along the course of a tributary of the Grootrivier, which itself has a massive drainage area sourcing in the Great Karoo. The poort lies 30 km WNW of Steytlerville in the Eastern Cape. The attraction of this poort is its complete feeling of isolation in the heartlands of the Karoo.

The Grootrivier has spawned several exceptional gravel passes, besides cutting itself out a canyon of great length, depth and beauty from the highlands of the Karoo all the way to the confluence of the Gamtoos River at Patensie, this is the same Grootrivier that you will traverse on the Antoniesberg Pass further south and it also plays host to the fabulous Grootrivier Poort, which is the final pass at the eastern end of the Baviaanskloof. 

This is a typical pass through a low point or neck. It climbs quickly from 493m in the east to reach the 545m high summit point after 0,8 km, then follows a longer descent into the west losing 122m of altitude. The road runs along the east-west axis and be very rough due to lack of maintenance and rainfall. This is also the last pass you will traverse before reaching the Baviaans Lodge and the southern start of the Baviaans-Kouga 4x4 Trail.

The term 'meide' is Afrikaans and refers to a female servant. In this context in the previous century, the term would not have been in the slightest way derogatory, but in modern South Africa the word is seldom used and is considered offensive.

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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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