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The Eastern Cape

This lovely little poort comes as something of a surprise when driving along the R61 between Tarkastad and Cradock after many kilometres of flat Karoo driving. It only takes 4 minutes to drive it and the gradients are gentle, so typical of a poort. Lovely sandstone formations are visible during the second part of the descent and there is one well designed layby worth stopping at at the halfway point at the apex of a big right hand bend at the confluence of the two streams.

The poort is named after the Rasfontein farm over which land it traverses and is approximately midpoint between the Karoo towns of Tarkastad and Cradock. There is a blanket speed limit of 80 kph throughout the length of the poort, which is a sensible speed to cope with all the bends which come thick and fast during the lower part of the poort.

The Red Hill Pass is located on the tarred R352 in the dense forests of the Amatola Mountains between Keiskammahoek and the main trunk route - the R63 which it joins about midway between Alice and King Williams Town. The pass is  a fairly safe one in fine weather with a gradient of 1:21,but it is subject to frequent misty conditions and heavy rainfall and of course, you can expect stray cattle on the roadway at any time of the day or night. There are a total of 23 bends, corners and curves to negotiate, three of them which are in excess of 90 degrees with very tight radii.

A long mountain curves to the south at right angles to the N2, forcing the Gamtoos River towards the Indian Ocean. To the east is a substantial kloof along which the Remkloof Pass has been built. As far as dramatic passes with multiple curves and steep gradients go, this pass is fairly docile and only hosts three very gentle corners, but the it does rise from 3m above sea level at the crossing of the Gamtoos River in the west, via a substantial climb of 206m over 5 km to summit at 209m ASL producing a mild average gradient of 1:24.

This is the N2 and the road is in good condition with triple lanes and adequate safety shoulders. It's suitable for all vehicles in all weather, but it's a busy road, so drive with that in mind.

The Gamtoos River winds its way through the Eastern Cape bushveld, providing warm, calm waters in which to swim, frolic and fish. It is a fabulous base for those exploring Port Elizabeth, Jeffrey’s Bay, Humansdorp and St Francis Bay. The vistas from the river are magnificent, and include the local farmlands, mountain ranges and coastal dunes.

 

This easy tarred pass sweeps up the northern flank of a double horseshoe bend in the Gamtoos River about midway between the two citrus farming towns of Patensie and Hankey. The pass is 7,9 km long and has an altitude variance of 155m converting into an average gradient of 1:51 with the steepest sections measuring in at 1:14

The pass traverses attractive scenery of mountains and the Shumba Game Farm occupies most of the western side of the pass. Once over the summit and approaching the outskirts of Hankey, the sides of the road have lot of litter which detracts somewhat from the natural scenic beauty of the area. This is especially obvious if you have just completed the pristine Baviaanskloof.

The pass is suitable for all vehicles but it should be noted that there are no safety shoulders - not even a gravel shoulder. It makes this road very dangerous for cyclists due to the large trucks that frequent this pass.

This steep, tarred pass connects Graaff-Reinet with the village of Nieu-Bethesda. Rubidgekloof was named after the Rubidge family that have been farming in the area since 1838. It lies on a tarred road (P0605) to Nieu-Bethesda, about 35 Km North of Graaff Reinet. It has a stiff average gradient of 1:15, with the steeper parts being at 1:10. The pass has an altitude variance of 283m over 4,28 km and with a summit of 1535m, you can expect plenty of snow on this pass during the winter frontal systems.

This easy gravel poort is located roughly midway between Steytlerville and Willowmore. It is the first pass or poort on this pleasant gravel road (the P1861) which is followed by a number of poorts of various lengths. The gradients are very easy through this poort, which average out at 1:178 which is about as close to flat as you can get. The road carries minimal traffic (mainly local farmers) and you will immediately experience a sense of solitude. Watch out for animals on the road - both domestic and wild animals.

The road is in reasonable condition, but like all gravel roads, it is subject to corrugations, washaways, loose gravel and flash floods. We recommend tyre deflation to 1.4 bar for improved traction, a softer ride and a reduction in the chance of getting a puncture.

Satansnek is a big pass by any standards, as it is almost 17 km long and has an altitude variance of over 500 metres. It traverses the spine of a mountain to connect the Eastern Cape Highlands with the lower valleys near Engcobo. Its most outstanding feature is the Xuka River Canyon, an astonishing gorge which cuts through the mountains and which is visible on the eastern side.

The road is tarred but is badly maintained, so there are numerous potholes. Other hazards include local traffic and livestock. The pass is sometimes closed in winter because of heavy snowfalls, and under these conditions it should be avoided altogether, or only tackled with extreme caution using a 4x4. It is not as well-known as some of the other famous passes in the area, but is worth taking a little bit of extra effort to get to, and should be on any serious pass-chaser’s bucket list.

This very minor nek is located on the P2563 gravel road between Doornvlei in the north and Cradock in the south. The 'pass' is just 1,7 km long and has an altitude variance of 47m, which converts into an average gradient of 1:36, with no part being steeper than 1:25. There are no sharp corners or other obvious dangers, other than the chance of finding livestock on the road. This is one of those official passes that completely mystifies logic and does not fall within the parameters of a mountain pass, yet it is well marked on all official government maps, so it must have some historical significance - none of which we were able to track down. If you don't mark it on your GPS as a waypoint, you probably won't even realise you have just driven over a pass.

This fairly easy gravel pass is well off the beaten track about midway between Kleinpoort in the east and Steytlerville in the west and bears the oddly out of character name of Seekoeinek (Hippopotamus Neck). This is in a very dry part of the Karoo and it's hard to believe that there were ever hippos in this part of South Africa. The pass is located on a secondary farm link road, the P1852, and can be used as an alternative route to get to Steytlerville via the tarred R329. The road is signposted as Haaspoort (Rabbit or Hare Ravine), which is a much more likely animal to find in these parts.

The road condition is reasonable and can be driven in any vehicle. As is the case with all gravel roads, beware of corrugations and washaways and we recommend you lower tyre pressures to 1,4 bar to improve traction and to provide a softer ride, as well as reduce the risk of punctures.

The Skaapkraalpoort is a fairly minor gravel pass located just north of Tarkastad on the R344 route and connects Tarkakastad in the south with Sterkstroom 65 km further north. The pass only has 7 bends, corners and curves, two of which are sharp and in excess of 70 degrees.  With a fairly low altitude variance of 49 m and a total length of 4,5 km this little pass presents and average gradient of a very gentle 1:92

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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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