Mgwalana Pass takes its name from a small village on the eastern side of the traverse. It is also sometimes spelled as uMgwalana. The pass is located on an unnamed gravel road which connects the R410 near Cala to the R58, which is the main access route between Elliot and Engcobo in the Eastern Cape. The road is not regularly maintained and is in a poor condition, but could be driven in any high-clearance vehicle, provided that the weather conditions allow. Like most of the roads in this area, the pass offers up some beautiful views over the surrounding landscape, as well as a delightful glimpse into the lifestyle of true rural South Africans.
This tough little gravel road pass has some seriously steep sections, and could present a significant challenge in the ascending mode for both adventure bikers and 4x4 enthusiasts, particularly during or after inclement weather. The pass is located south of Cala on an unnamed dirt road in the backwaters of the Eastern Cape, on the access route between the KwaGoniwe Tyaliti Pass and the Kwaaimans Pass, and takes its name from the river which marks the eastern extremity. It is worth seeking out if you enjoy the peacefulness and beauty of rural South Africa, but we recommend that you make use of a high-clearance or 4-wheel drive vehicle.
This relatively unknown tarred pass forms part of four passes along the R410 route between Queenstown and Elliot in the the high altitude region of the Eastern Cape - the others being from west to east the Nonesi's Nek Pass, the MacKay's Nek Pass, this pass and finally the Cala Pass forming a set of huge stepping stones towards the highest region of the Eastern Cape and the gateway to all the major gravel passes close to the southern Drakensberg and Lesotho. The pass offers lovely mountainous scenery and a traverse alongside a river filled with white water during summer. It's modern, well engineered and is suitable for all traffic. It's 12,3 km long and has an altitude variance of 323 vertical metres to summit at 1566m ASL producing an average gradient of 1:38 with the steepest section being at 1:11 The pass is subject to winter snowfalls.
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.
It is unclear how the Kwaaimans Pass acquired its name, which translates from Afrikaans as “Angry Man”. There is an area called Kwaaiman in South Africa, but this is located far from the pass, south-east of Umtata near Coffee Bay. The pass is situated on an unnumbered gravel road which runs on a north-south axis linking Cala in the north with the R61 near Tsomo in the south. The road is in a reasonable condition and shouldn’t present too many issues in dry weather, but a high clearance or 4x4 vehicle is recommended. Hazards include all of the usual rural Transkei problems, primarily free-roaming livestock. This is considered to be a high-crime area, and it would be advisable to tackle this route with at least two vehicles.
The impressive Cala Pass winds its way up a deep cleft in the mountains north of the village of Cala gaining almost 300 meters in altitude over 5,8 km, producing a gradient of 1:19 with some sections at 1:9. This a reasonably safe road for most vehicles, but it a high altitude pass and is subject to winter snowfalls, heavy summer electrical storms and regular mountain mists. It is one of four passes along the R410 between Queenstown and Elliot forming a set of giant stepping stones towards the high altiude part of the Eastern Cape around Barkly East.
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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