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The Eastern Cape

This spectacular kloof (which is part of the R332 route) links the western section of the Baviaanskloof with the higher Karoo hinterland, and more specifically, the towns of Willowmore and Uniondale, which are standard Baviaanskloof refuelling points. The pass needs to be driven slowly to best appreciate its dramatic, unique geology. This is a big pass and involves multiple river crossings - none of which are conventionally bridged. Should you find the first two crossings difficult or the current too strong, rather turn back as conditions get much worse the further down the kloof you proceed.

The pass contains 41 bends, corners and curves within it's length, which includes 1 full horseshoe bend and 10 other bends in excess of 100 degrees. The gradients are generally fairly easy and never exceed 1:12, but the road surface can vary between quite good (the road had just been graded on the day of filming) to badly corrugated and rutted and the road is also frequently damaged by floodwaters and especially so at the river crossings.

If you are new to the Baviaanskloof, we recommend that you first watch the Baviaanskloof Overview and Orientation video clip. You will find a comprehensive set of links to accommodation options and other attractions in the Baviaanskloof on that page.

Olifantskop is a beautiful tarred pass located on the N10, a major arterial national road which bisects the country from the Namibian border in the north to Port Elizabeth in the south. Surprisingly, it is one of only three passes which reference elephants in their title, the other two being Olifantspoort near Queenstown and Olifantsnek near Rustenburg. Although the road is in a good condition, it is considered to be one of the most dangerous passes in South Africa for a number of reasons, including severe weather conditions, rockfalls, wild animals, multiple blind corners, steep gradients, and last but not least, the large number of heavy commercial vehicles which ply this route.

Olifantspoort is located on the N6, the national road between Bloemfontein and East London, about 20 km north-west of Queenstown. The road is in an excellent condition and can be traversed in any vehicle and in all weather conditions, with the possible exception of when snow falls, which does happen here from time to time. The poort is undoubtedly named after the herds of elephants which once frequented this area; unfortunately, this is no longer the case, and these giant pachyderms are today restricted to some of the larger game reserves, like the Addo Elephant National Park near Port Elizabeth.

 

Ongeluks Nek was so named in about 1860 after one of the trekkers in the Griqua trek to 'Nomansland' died from a gun-shot wound. This pass is strictly for offroad vehicles only. They must have low range and adequate ground clearance as this track is usually rutted, muddy and quite difficult to negotiate as can be seen in the video footage. With an AVERAGE gradient of 1:9 it slots in at position number 7 in the steepest passes listing. For offroad bikers, mostly this pass is a tough nut to crack and it has humbled many egos. The pass falls within the Ongeluksnek Nature Reserve. GPS co-ordinates of key navigation intersections getting to the start are given further in the text.

 



The word spectacular describes this pass perfectly. It has all the elements of a classic gravel road pass of intrigue, danger, amazing views and technical driving. This pass ranks in position 31 nationally in the 'most altitude gained' category with a walloping 658 vertical metres! This was one of our favourite passes in the Eastern Cape. The pass is driveable in a normal car in fair weather, but when it rains heavily and the surface gets muddy, you will need a 4x4.  Gravel roads can change overnight, so always take this into consideration before attempting this pass. The rather obscure road is neither a short cut, nor a main route to any specific place, but finally the two tiny settlements of Ida in the south and Clifford in the north get a mention, as they just happen to be at either terminus of this pass over the Drakensberg.

The pass was named after Dr. Otto du Plessis, a popular political figure at the time and one time Minister of Health. He was born in 1905 and passed away in 1983. There is a hospital near Bredasdorp named after him, as well as the road down the Gamkaskloof to Die Hel, which also officially bears his name. One of the main roads in Cape Town's Atlantic suburbs is also named the 'Otto du Plessis Drive'.

There are several similarly named passes spread around South Africa - at least 4 in the Western and Eastern Cape alone - so make sure you are not heading off to the wrong pass! This Ouberg Pass, or more accurately named the Oudeberg Pass in the more traditional Dutch style, lies 20km north of Graaff Reinet on the R63 tarred secondary road that connects with the town of Murraysburg.

 

 

The Paardekloof Pass is located approximately 25 km NNE of Graaff-Reinet in the heart of the Great Karoo. It is an easy, short, safe pass that is easily left unnoticed in the vastness of the Karoo. It rises to a maximum altitude of 1223m ASL and is 3,94 km long. It is also known as Amandelshoogte (Almond Heights). The biggest danger facing motorists is fatigue, due to the great distances and arrow straight roads.



This rough poort of 1,7 km in length traverses a natural gap in the mountains about 24 km east of Klaarstroom. Some of the ascending up the northern side has gradients of 1:10, but once the middle point is reached at the 0,6 km point, it's fairly level from there onwards. There are wonderful views of the Groot Swartberg mountains to the south as you crest the summit. The road leads to the Haggas farm, about 1,5 km beyond the southern end of the poort. This is a poort for the more serious pass hunter and forms an out and back route, although are there a number of circular options if you want to explore the area in more depth.

This is a basic farm road and is sometimes little more than a jeep track. We recommend being in a 4WD vehicle or at least in a high clearance bakkie. This is a dead-end road, so you will need to retrace your route back to the R407.

This gravel road pass is located in the Hogsback area and connects the tiny settlement of Lower Hopefield and Alice a few km further south on the R345 with the town of Seymour on the R67 some 40 km to the north. The 6,3 km long pass has an altitude variance of 300m, summiting at 985m ASL, producing an average gradient of 1:21. The pass is suitable for all vehicles in fair weather. In very wet weather, things could get slippery in the upper half of this pass making a 4WD vehicle a safer option.

The Penhoek Pass is a well engineered, high altitude tarred pass forming part of the N6 highway between Queenstown in the south and Jamestown in the north. The 5.6 km long pass traverses through the aptly named Stormberg to assert itself as one of South Africa's dangerous tarred passes. In earlier days (circa 1846) the original pass was known as the Stormberg Pass and featured some impressive retaining walls with very steep drop-offs. Some of the original lines can still be seen on the satellite imagery. Traversing the old pass was a major event, compared to the easy drive over today's version with it's perfectly banked corners, deep cuttings and easy 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.
 

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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