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The Eastern Cape

Janspoort is a very minor tar pass located on the R58 between Burgersdorp and Venterstad near the northern border of the Eastern Cape. It is virtually the only structure to break the monotony of this otherwise featureless road. The surface is in a good condition, probably because there is very little traffic, and can be driven in any vehicle without problems. We have been unable to establish the identity of the “Jan” that this pass was named after, or why he was important enough for this pass to bear his name, but we can be fairly certain that he was a farmer in the area, or an important personage from one of the Anglo-Boer wars.

 

Jouberts Pass is a steep, high altitude gravel road pass located between the towns of Lady Grey and Barkly East in the quiet rural region of the Eastern Cape close to the Lesotho border in the Witteberg Mountains, which is itself a western spur of the mighty Drakensberg. Very few people traverse this pass other than local farmers and avid adventure travellers. We recommend completing the circuit, eventually arriving back at the R58 after quite a long but fabulous gravel road loop, which includes Jouberts Pass. It is best driven in a clockwise direction if the pass is going to be driven at any point after 11 am. The pass is suitable for all vehicles in fair weather, but if there is heavy rain or snow on the pass, a 4x4 will be mandatory.

This gravel pass traverses the Swartwatersberge between Riebeeck East in the north and Alicedale in the south. It has a substantial altitude variance and some very sharp corners, including two hairpins, but is well designed with gradients never exceeding 1:10. The pass offers exceptional views over the New Years River valley and dam and mostly falls within the boundaries of the Frontier Safaris Game Farm. It's named after the Kalmoesfontein farm, which is located at the foot of the pass on the southern side.

Riebeek East  is 42 km west of Grahamstown. It is located in a hilly area, in the midst of game and sheep farming regions. It was founded in 1842, and initially named Riebeek after Jan van Riebeeck, one year after the local church was built. The name was later amended to Riebeeck East to separate it from Riebeeck West near Cape Town. It was erected on a part of the farm Mooimeisjesfontein, that was subdivided and sold by the subsequent voortrekker leader Piet Retief.

A settlement appeared around the church congregation after it was established here in 1830 by the Dutch Reformed Church. Since 1826 the local farmers applied to the colonial government to form a local congregation, as they previously had to travel to Uitenhage, 130 km distant, to attend communion services.  Retief's farmhouse is just east of the village and has been declared a national heritage site.

The dramatic poort traverses a gap through the Grootrivierberge (Great River Mountains), which has been carved out by the Heuningkliprivier (Honey Stone River) which runs along the north/south axis, but via a convoluted path approximating the natural course of the river. It only climbs 58 vertical metres over 14km producing an easy average gradient of 1:241 - The beauty of this pass is its rugged, mountainous scenery.

April, 2017 - Information just received is that this road has been closed off by a locked gate and marked as 'Private'. We don't know if this road has been officially deproclaimed, but we will investigate and publish our findings here. [Source: Pieter Laubscher]

This lovely pass packs a technical and scenic punch well above its category. It provides access over the Kaprivier from the lower altitude land in the south-west to the mountain ridge in the north-east.

Statistically its a moderate pass, but when the details are examined, it shows no less than 19 bends, corners and curves packed into 4,1 kms and lots of variety. 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 on the northern section, 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 east, called the Milton Pass or Lower Kaprivier Pass.

The Kareedouw Pass is a modern, well engineered pass which provides a short cut between the N2 near the seaside hamlet of Skuitbaai and the small town of Kareedouw on the R62 in the Langkloof. There are only 7 bends along this pass and all of them are minor.

The pass offers sweeping views of the Tsitsikamma mountains to the left (west) with the green valley on the right dotted with dams and a small triangular shaped forest near the summit area. There are no obvious dangers on this road, other than heavy rainfall and mist which occurs from time to time.

The small town of Kareedouw after which the pass is named lies at the northern end of the pass. The name is of Khoi origin and means "Path of the Karee trees"

This stunning (4x4 only) gravel pass is located in the heart of the Eastern Cape between Balfour and Whittlesea on the R351 and climbs 699 meters in altitude to summit at 1625m ASL, producing an average climb gradient of 1:15 with some sections as steep as 1:5.

For the adventure biker fraternity the pass is rated orange in good weather and red when it's raining/snowing. The pass is named after the Kat River, which is a tributary of the Great Fish River. The name derives from the wild cats that were abundant along the river banks during the nineteenth century.

This pass is not suitable for normal cars and a high clearance vehicle with 4WD and low range is required along the higher sections. Deflate tyres to at least 1,4 bar (or lower) to create additional traction and a softer ride. The pass is best driven with a minimum of two vehicles in case of a breakdown.

Katkop Pass is located on the tarred R56 in the Eastern Cape, almost equidistant between Mount Fletcher in the north and Maclear in the south. It is named after the Katkop mountain, which dominates the western side of the pass. The road has been refurbished, and is in an excellent condition. It is a relatively minor pass, dwarfed by the many huge passes scattered around this vicinity, but nevertheless holds its own in terms of scenic beauty. Besides one very tight hairpin corner, there are no real dangers on the pass other than animals and pedestrians. Many people (especially locals) confuse this pass with the Moordenaarsnek Pass, which is on the same road, but a few kilometres away.

The Great Kei River Pass has an unenviable record of serious accidents. The section of road both east and west leading down to the Great Kei River is also known as the Kei River Cuttings. The pass is located between the towns of Butterworth and Komga on the tarred N2 highway.

There are 31 bends corners and curves compressed into its 11,8 km length and the 422m altitude drop when travelling from south to north is what causes the momentum gaining problems for heavy vehicles, where brake failure has been the common denominator in most of the serious incidents on this pass.

There are two arrestor beds constructed on the southern descent. The first is at the 2,2 km mark and the second makes an appearance at the 5,2 km point.

Killian's Pass is located in the high mountains between Dordrecht and Barkly East on gravel R396. It's a fairly short pass at just 1,3 km and presents an altitude variance of 64m, which produces an easy enough average gradient of 1:20. The pass is generally maintained to a reasonable standard and is suitable for all vehicles, except in very muddy or snow conditions, when a 4WD vehicle would be a better option. The tiny settlement of Rossouw is reached just 2 km from the summit on the northern side of the pass.

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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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