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The Eastern Cape

This tough little gravel road pass has some seriously steep sections, and could present a significant challenge in the ascending mode for both adventure bikers and 4x4 enthusiasts, particularly during or after inclement weather. The pass is located south of Cala on an unnamed dirt road in the backwaters of the Eastern Cape, on the access route between the KwaGoniwe Tyaliti Pass and the Kwaaimans Pass, and takes its name from the river which marks the eastern extremity. It is worth seeking out if you enjoy the peacefulness and beauty of rural South Africa, but we recommend that you make use of a high-clearance or 4-wheel drive vehicle.

 

It is unclear how the Kwaaimans Pass acquired its name, which translates from Afrikaans as “Angry Man”. There is an area called Kwaaiman in South Africa, but this is located far from the pass, south-east of Umtata near Coffee Bay. The pass is situated on an unnumbered gravel road which runs on a north-south axis linking Cala in the north with the R61 near Tsomo in the south. The road is in a reasonable condition and shouldn’t present too many issues in dry weather, but a high clearance or 4x4 vehicle is recommended. Hazards include all of the usual rural Transkei problems, primarily free-roaming livestock. This is considered to be a high-crime area, and it would be advisable to tackle this route with at least two vehicles.



This relatively unknown tarred pass forms part of four passes along the R410 route between Queenstown and Elliot in the the high altitude region of the Eastern Cape - the others being from west to east the Nonesi's Nek Pass, the MacKay's Nek Pass, this pass and finally the Cala Pass forming a set of huge stepping stones towards the highest region of the Eastern Cape and the gateway to all the major gravel passes close to the southern Drakensberg and Lesotho. The pass offers lovely mountainous scenery and a traverse alongside a river filled with white water during summer. It's modern, well engineered and is suitable for all traffic. It's 12,3 km long and has an altitude variance of 323 vertical metres to summit at 1566m ASL producing an average gradient of 1:38 with the steepest section being at 1:11 The pass is subject to winter snowfalls.

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.

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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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