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The Eastern Cape

This is one of many poorts in the mountainous region between Steytlerville and Willowmore in the Eastern Cape. It runs along the NW/SE axis and is unusual in that it is much wider than most poorts in South Africa at between 1,2 and 1,4 km. Topographically it looks much more like a valley than a poort. In addition it doesn't display the one key element of all poorts in that there is no river bisecting it.

It's an official poort, so it gets indexed here, regardless of how small or insignificant it might appear. It's 4,5 km long and displays an altitude variance of 68m producing an average gradient of 1:66 with the steepest section just east of the summit, measuring in at 1;14.

Mgwalana Pass takes its name from a small village on the eastern side of the traverse. It is also sometimes spelled as uMgwalana. The pass is located on an unnamed gravel road which connects the R410 near Cala to the R58, which is the main access route between Elliot and Engcobo in the Eastern Cape. The road is not regularly maintained and is in a poor condition, but could be driven in any high-clearance vehicle, provided that the weather conditions allow. Like most of the roads in this area, the pass offers up some beautiful views over the surrounding landscape, as well as a delightful glimpse into the lifestyle of true rural South Africans.

Michel's Pass is located in the Eastern Cape between Hogsback in the east and Seymour in the west. The 6,5 km gravel pass is in excellent condition (as at April 2018) but is subject to severe thunderstorms in summer and snowfalls in winter with a summit altitude of 1442m ASL. The track is marked strictly for 4WD vehicles with high ground clearance and low range, but since it has been recently repaired it is now doable in a 4x2. It is best to check with local busineses and B&B's in Hogsback whether the road is passable or not.

 

This gravel pass is fairly long at 8,5 km but quite easy to traverse. It is suitable for most vehicles with the possible exception of cars with low clearance. It is only the first 1,6 km which has two sharp bends, stiff gradients and some rough and stony sections. Once through that section the going is easy. The pass has a substantial altitude variance of 286m, but due to it's length the average gradient is an easy 1:30 with the steepest parts being at 1:10. The pass lies on a minor gravel road (P2398) that connects Nieu Bethesda with the tarred R63 road near the summit of the Oudeberg Pass. This is primarily a farming road that serves the local farming community to the west of Nieu Bethesda.

The pass is named after the farm in the middle of the traverse of the same name and is located roughly 45 km ESE of Grahamstown. It is also sometimes locally reffered to as the Lower Kaprivier Pass, but with the Kaprivier Pass itself being just 11 km further to the north-west, having such a similar name can only cause confusion.

The pass is virtually a twin of the Kaprivier Pass displaying similar statistics and traversing the same mountain and river valley. It is slightly longer at 4,6 km and contains 16 bends, corners and curves within that distance to produce an average gradient of 1:35, but don't be fooled by that number as there are some steep sections that get as steep as 1:6.

The pass runs along the east-west axis and if your'e driving it in that direction, you will be treated to lovely views over the Lower Kaprivier valley.

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, 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 north-west, the Kaprivier Pass, which will provide a fabvulous circuit of mixed scenery in tranquil and quiet surroundings.

This remote and spectacular pass is one of our best discoveries of 2018. It's located on the coastal escarpment about 15 km due west of the Langeni Pass. The pass, which is named after the Mkonkota Mountain along which it descends offers a smorgasbord of amazing scenery, including deep valleys with fast flowing rivers, towering cliffs and a winding gravel road of dubious quality which traverses open crags as well as deeply wooded forests.

It contains 93 bends, corners and curves along its 12 km length which includes 1 hairpin and 7 bends sharper than 90 degrees. It displays a big altitude variance of 670m and an average gradient of 1:18. 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 gravel pass provides a link to tribal trust lands with the R61 between Mthatha (Umtata) and the coastal resort of Port St. Johns. It used to be part of the main road before the R61 was upgraded and tarred. In the process, this section of the Mlengana Pass was bypassed. Take 15 minutes out of your day, and drive this little extra loop. You will be richly rewarded. The pass is also sometimes known as the Tutor Ndamase Pass - after a local political leader. A school at nearby Nyandeni also bears his name.

This is quite a unique pass as it holds a number of extreme statistics under its rutted gravel surface. It's a short pass at only 2,5 km but packs a staggering 47 bends, corners and curves into that length, which works out at one bend every 53 metres! There is no other pass in South Africa to equal this!

Besides the large number of corners, this pass is also steep with an average gradient of 1:14 and some very steep sections at 1:5. The scenery is fantastic as the pass follows the path of a tributary of the Nooitgedacht River, but the cherry on top of all these impressive figures is the ghoulish history of this pass, where a murder took place about 200 years ago - and it's how the kloof got it's name. There are other passes in South Africa with similar names, like Moordenaarsnek (EC) and Moordenaarspoort (NC).

Moordenaarsnek (“Murderer’s Neck”) has a very unusual profile, in that the road rises and falls through a series of false summits over its full length of 12.3 km. The road had recently been refurbished at the time of filming in April 2017, and was in an excellent condition. As usual, hazards in this part of the Eastern Cape include pedestrians, livestock and slow-moving traffic. It is also not advisable to traverse this pass at night or in inclement weather, but if this is unavoidable, reduce your speed to below the posted speed restrictions and be prepared to brake suddenly at a moment’s notice.

This record breaking pass has rocketed into the No.1 position as the steepest pass in South Africa with an average gradient of 1:5,567 and to add to this impressive statistic is that it is gravel all the way. It's a short pass at just 2,6 km but it packs no less than 9 hairpin bends into that short distance. We recommend a high clearance 4x4 for this pass.

It's named after the peak that forms the horseshoe bend near the confluence of the Tsitsa and Tina Rivers, called Mpindweni which has a summit height of 408m. The pass presents dense indigenous bush along the first half, wherafter it breaks out into open grassland where magnificent views of the three main rivers can be seen.

This is a road that ends at the last village at the north-western end of the horseshoe bend in the Tsitsa River. Only the most dedicated pass hunters will seek this one out as it involves a long and complex route to get here - and then you have to retrace your path all the way back to Libode. But for those who dare, the rewards will be immeasurable.

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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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