This 19km long, gravel pass winds northwards up the Amathola escarpment through the beautiful Mpofu Nature Reserve, offering not only stunnng scenery and wildlife, but also some rich history and folklore. Entrance is free (at the time of writing in June, 2016) but there are gated control points at the foot and summit of the pass, where one has to sign in and out. This is the longest of the three local passes that traverse the Mpofu and Fort Fordyce Nature Reserves - the other two passes being the Fullers Hoek Pass and the Bosnek Pass. All three can be driven in a single day making for a feast of gravel road driving through some of the finest Eastern Cape scenery you will find. This pass is suitable for most vehicles in fair weather, but drive slowly as there are a few sections which get a bit rough. In very wet weather, a 4x4 would be best.
The Boesmanshoek Pass is located on the tarred R397 road between the towns of Sterkstroom in the south and Molteno in the north. The pass is 3,8 km long and has an altitude variance of 264m producing an average gradient of 1:14 making it a stiff gradient by modern standards. Although the pass is fairly short, it offers attractive vistas to the north over a wide and deep valley. One of the features of this pass is that it shares the mountainside with the railway line, which it underpasses near the foot of the pass. The road is showing signs of deterioration, but it is cheduled for maintenance (Jan 2017).
This beautiful and fairly steep gravel pass on the P3220 link road between Rhodes and Wartrail, offers wonderful high altitude scenery of mountains, valleys and winding rivers in the Eastern Cape highlands about 14 km south-west of Rhodes. Nestled in the midst of the well known Big 8 passes, this little known pass provides a scenic shortcut for those wanting to get to the Bastervoetpad Pass and the Barkly Pass. The pass has a simple high-low vertical profile and is 3,2 km long producing an average gradient of 1:15 with the steepest parts being at 1:8. The road is suitable for all vehicles in fair weather.
This fairly long pass of 9,4 km winds its way over the mountains in the vicinity of the Nonesi village about 17 km north-east of Queenstown in the Eastern Cape. The pass is tarred and is located on the R392 trunk route between Queenstown and Dordrecht
When the pass was rebuilt and realigned, many of the steep gradients and sharp bends were removed, making today's version of the pass is a much safer traverse. During winter, the pass is subject to snowfalls, in which case it's best avoided altogether unless you are in a 4WD vehicle.
As the case with all the roads (tar and gravel) in the old Transkei region, livestock on the road is an ever present threat and these roads are best avoided at night. The Bongolo Dam at the southern end of the pass has an interesting history dating back to the early 1900s and was apparently built making use of donkeys as labour. The word mbongolo means donkey in isiXhosa, hence the name of the dam and the pass.
Bosnek is a substantial gravel pass of over 9 km in length that descends through a westerly outlying section of the Fort Fordyce Nature Reserve. The altitude variance is 418m and with a summit height of 1121m ASL you can be assured of sweeping views over the reserve with it's densely wooded mountains and attractive dam nestling at the bottom of the valley. The road is nicely engineered with a maximum gradient of 1:8, so the going is fairly comfortable for most vehicles. There are however some very sharp corners including one horseshoe bend and one hairpin, where speed has to be reduced to 30 kph. These are all well signposted with ample warning signs. The road is suitable for all vehicles in fair weather. Like all gravel roads, this road is subject to washaways and corrugations. Adjust your speed according to current conditions.
The Bottelnek Pass is a very steep, gravel pass in a remote part of the Eastern Cape roughly 25 km north of Elliot (as the crow flies). The 5,1 km long pass has an altitude variance of 193 metres to summit at 2204m ASL producing an average gradient of 1:26 with the steepest sections being at 1:5. In wet weather non 4WD vehicles will have traction issues. It snows regularly on this pass during winter and the usual snow-driving cautionaries apply. Although this pass can be driven in a normal sedan, we would rather recommend a high clearance vehicle and definitely a 4x4 in rainy or muddy conditions.
This long gravel pass is located on the R344 - a well maintained gravel road that connects Tarkastad with Adelaide in the Eastern Cape. It's well above average length at 10,4 km and displays an altitude variance of 463m, which converts into a reasonable average gradient of 1:22, but the road never exceeds a gradient of 1:10, which makes this pass suitable for all vehicles.
The pass descends down the Winterberg range and traverses prime game farming sectors, so always be on the lookout for game and more importantly kudu at dusk and dawn, as they can comfortably clear a 2m fence from a standing start and have caused many accidents all over South Africa - many of them fatal.
There are four passes in South Africa containing the word Braam, which is Afrikaans for Bramble. Besides this one there is also a Braambos Pass near Adelaide, as well as a Braamhoek Pass in KZN and another Braamnek in North West Province. It's easy to get confused!
As far as technical driving goes, Braamnek has become a mild pass, as once the new road was built over the neck, most of the bends and steep gradeints were removed when the old road was realigned and rebuilt. It has just 4 very gentle bends and the pass holds no apparent dangers from a design point of view.
However, this is the Eastern Cape, an area notorious for having free roaming livestock on the road. The behaviour of the local drivers is also a concern, as driver behaviour can best be described as erratic. On this road you will find modern cars being driven extremely fast and conversely there will be many very old unroadworthy vehicles crawling along at a snails pace.
Unless you earmark this mass with GPS cordinates, you might easily drive straight over it without realsing you have just driven an official pass.
The Brakkloof Pass is a mixture of a poort and a mountain pass. It's a fairly long one at just under 13 km and despite the easy average gradient of 1:75, there are some very steep sections at 1:5, especially near the southern end on the approach and descent to the Kouga River valley, which will probably create traction issues for non 4WD vehicles in wet weather. Thr pass has to be driven in tandem with the Kouga-Kleinrivier Pass which lies further to the west. the two passes together form a wide loop with Joubertina as a start and end point. Allow an hour to do the loop.
The kloof is extensively farmed so the usual cautionaries apply of expecting livestock, pedestrians and slow moving farming vehicles on the road. Visually this is a lovely road to explore and note that there are many cattle grids. The pass is located about 33 km to the ENE of the farming town of Joubertina on the R62 route through the fruit farming region known as Die Langkloof.
This a big pass of 14,6 km climbing 436m from the south to summit at Brook's Nek at 1616m ASL which is also the border between the two provinces. There are many sharp bends along the pass and an enforced 80 kph speed limit exists for your safety. The pass forms part of the N2 highway between Mount Ayliff and Kokstad. It's subject to heavy mountain mists in summer and snowfalls in winter.
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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