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The Eastern Cape

The gravel Doringnek Pass is the sequel to the Suurberg/Zuurberg Pass on the same road (R335) when travelling towards the south. It is 9,2 km long and displays an altitude variance of 387 meters to summit at 598m ASL near the Zuurberg Mountain Village. The pass has a history dating back as far as 1850. It connects Somerset East in the north with Addo / Kirkwood in the south. The road is maintained to a good standard and can be driven in any vehicle. Be careful of mountain mists and wild animals. If you intend driving the entire route, please make sure that you read up the page on the Suurberg/Zuurberg Pass, which is much more difficult and requires a 4WD vehicle with high clearance. 

The Doringnek Pass is a big gravel pass and offers 63 bends, corners and curves to keep drivers busy, plus it has magnificent scenery; a spectacular double sided cutting and an historic hotel near the summit. It can be driven in any vehicle in fair weather, but beyond the Zuurberg Mountain Inn, a high clearance vehicle is necessary. This road existed long before the Suurberg Pass was built and construction of the latter was accessed and commenced from the summit of the Doringnek Pass.

Dulcie’s Nek is a minor pass located in a forgotten corner of South Africa, in a triangle formed by the borders of the Eastern Cape, Free State and Lesotho. No trace can be found to indicate who the “Dulcie” was that the pass is named after. The road is tarred, is in an excellent condition, and can be driven in any vehicle. The area is the birthplace of Olive Schreiner, one of South Africa’s best-known and beloved authors, and the creator of a classic tale about pastoral life in the Karoo, “The Story of an African Farm”.

This steep pass is 5,9 km long and lies just a few kilometres east of it's twin pass, the Buwani Pass. The Dungu pass is longer and has a bigger altitude variance, but both join up in a common road along the northern bank of a big loop in the Umzimvubu River, about 57 kms SSE of Mount Frere in the heart of the old Transkei region.

It forms a perfect circular loop where both these passes can be driven in tandem. The Dungu Pass has an exceptionally steep average gradient of 1:10, but some sections get very steep at 1:5. In wet weather this pass should only be tackled in a 4WD vehicle.

Panoramic scenery, steep cliffs, deeply wooded mountain slopes and birds eye views of the Umzimvubu River valley are all on the menu. There are 59 bends, corners and curves which include 2 tight hairpins and 4 corners greater than 90 degrees.

We issue our standard cautionary for all Eastern Cape rural roads, and especially those in the old Transkei area: 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.

The e-Roma pass is named in the Xhosa tongue, where many English words are prefixed by an "e". This steep gravel pass sweeps up the western ridge of a mountain just north of the small town of Cala and to the west of the Tsomo River valley. The pass is just under 5 km in length and climbs 267 vertical metres to summit at 1423m. Some of the gradients are quite steep at 1:7 and in rainy weather smaller cars might have some traction issues. In fair weather the pass is suitable for all vehicles. Watch out for local vehicles, which seem to disregard the rules of the road. They can often be encountered completely on the wrong side of the road (avoiding corrugations) or driving very fast or very slowly. Be prepared for all eventualities and remain alert. There is also the standard problem of encountering livestock.

East Poort is an easy 9 km traverse along the southern side of the Great Fish River just to the east of Cookhouse on the tarred N10 route to Cradock. The poort is suitable for all traffic and presents no obvious dangers. The road is in excellent condition with smoothly banked corners and easy gradients, with some impressive side cuttings for those interested in road engineering, counterpointed with lovely river and mountain views. Cookhouse has an interesting history with its most famous event being the Slagtersnek Rebellion. In modern times, the area is being widely utlitised to generate electricity via extensive wind farms. 

The Ecca Pass is located 15 kilometers north of Grahamstown on the tarred R67. The road links Grahamstown in the south with Fort Beaufort in the north. The pass has great geological and historical value. The name Ecca is of Khoi origin and means "salty or brackish river"

The pass is named after the Ecca River, which is a tributary of the Great Fish River. Andrew Geddes Bain built the road (the Queens Road as it was known) northwards towards Fort Beaufort in the early 1800's. There is a plaque in his honour at the head of the pass. Bain was also a renowned geologist and named the rock type at the foot of the pass the 'Ecca Group' - comprising 250 million old sedimentary blue shales and mudstones.

Elandsberg Pass is located on the N6 just to the south of the historic town of Aliwal North, which straddles the border between the Eastern Cape and Free State provinces. The road has been beautifully engineered, is in an excellent condition, and should not present problems for any vehicle in all weather conditions, provided that the speed limit is adhered to. The pass is named after the imposing mountain which dominates the skyline on the western side. It is one of at least nine passes which contain within their title a reference to the Eland, the largest of the southern African antelope and which was, and still is, commonly found throughout the country.

 

Elandshoogte is a long rambling pass on the R396, which connects Maclear with Rhodes. The pass traverses the majestic forested intermediate area between the lower escarpment and the high mountains of the Drakensberg range. The road is usually in a reasonable condition and in fair weather can be driven in most vehicles, but in heavy rain or snow, a 4WD vehicle will be mandatory.

The pass contains 61 bends, corners and curves within its 10.7 km length and of those 16 are greater than 90 degrees and one is a full hairpin of 180 degrees. The road presents as an undulating road with no less than 3 false summits and routes through a commercial forestry zone, so please drive with your headlights on at all times to make your vehicle more visible to forestry vehicles that commonly use this road.

The road precedes the Naude's Nek Pass when driving from south to north and is itself preceded by the Pot River Pass. Cautionaries include dense mountain mists with poor visibility, slippery surfaces in wet weather, forestry vehicles, ruts, wash-aways and corrugations.

This very long pass of 26,3 km essentially is more of a poort than a pass as it faithfully follows the course of the Broederstroom (Brother's Stream) as it cascades down the kloof losing 463m of altitude. The average gradient of 1:59 is mild and regardless of whether you are ascending or descending this pass, you will find the change in altitude gradual. It has 33 bends, corners and curves but none of them are significantly dangerous or sharp.

The road is a farming road that forms a long crescent shape to the east of the N9 national road starting and ending at different points on the N9. The bulk of the pass falls within the borders of the farm, officially named Erasmuskloof 259 and this is obviously where the pass takes it's name from.

The pass is regularly maintained and despite the gravel surface is suitable for all traffic. This is mainly due to the arid climate where lack of rainfall ensures the roads remain in good condition.

We have not physically driven this pass ourselves as yet, so our description and research is based on available resources and government maps.

When you're on your way to Rhodes and heading for the major gravel passes in this mountainous part of the Eastern Cape, this is the first little pass that gets you off the R58 main route and into the remoter part of the southern Drakensberg. From here you won't see tar again for a long time.

At 5,7 km the pass is of moderate length, and it has an equally moderate altitude variance of 156m. The steepest parts are at 1:9 and should present no problems for any type of vehicle in fair weather. However, with a summit altitude of 2088m ASL this pass is regularly smothered under a thick blanket of snow. It's best avoided under those circumstances. On the day of filming, after heavy rain, the road was slippery requiring 4WD.

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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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