In most parts of South Africa, this pass would be noticed, but this pass with its incongruous name and 112m altitude variance is dwarfed by its much bigger and famous challenge passes all around it, so it usually slips by unnoticed by most.
Despite the moderate nature of the pass it has four significant corners, two of which exceed 90 degrees. It is located on the R58 route between Lady Grey and Barkly East and is surrounded by towering mountains, rolling meadows, fast flowing streams and is also subject to snowfalls in winter with a hefty summit altitude of 1997m ASL.
There is one fairly steep section just to the east of the summit point where the gradients reach 1:10, but in normal weather this pass is doable in any vehicle. The irony of this pass is that the name, when translated from Afrikaans means Ground/Earth or Gravel Neck, turns out to be a tarred pass.
The Eastern Cape Highlands spawned many great gravel passes, but the Weenen Pass is amongst the least known of those. It lies along the R392 route between Lady Grey in the north and Dordrecht in the south. It's well above the national average in terms of length at 8,4 km and displays an altitude variance of 378m, which produces an average gradient of 1:22.
The pass never gets steeper than 1:11 at any point making the road suitable for all vehicles except in very heavy rain or snow conditions. The usual gravel road cautionaries apply - such as corrugations, loose gravel on the corners, ruts and washaways and of course every Eastern Cape pass is automatically coded red for livestock on the road.
Most of the 16 bends, corners and curves are well below 90 degrees radius and what is different about this pass is that it does not display a dominant direction, but runs north-south as well as east-west in equal proportions.
The north-eastern part of the Eastern Cape arguably spawned the finest collection of big gravel passes in South Africa. In the last decade various magazines and publications have touted these passes as the "The Big 8 Passes Challenge" and perhaps a little more dramatically "Riding the tail of the Dragon" with the dragon part being a reference to the last south-westerly segment of the Drakensberg. Yet other sources call this place "Wild Mountain Country"
Whatever the terms of reference are, there can be no doubt that the great passes on offer are all gravel with a single exception - the Barkly Pass. The others are Naude's Nek Pass (often misquoted as the highest pass in South Africa, which honour actually goes to the Sani Pass), Baster Voetslaan, Otto du Plessis, Volunteershoek, Carlislehoekspruit, Lundin's Nek and Joubert Pass.
We bring you one of these passes today in the form of a triple video set, which provides the viewer with a realistic asessment of whether they would try driving the pass or not.
Benjaminshoogte Pass is a high altitude pass with a summit of just under 2000m ASL. It follows a natural kloof into the north-west, which later follows the Karringsmelkspruit (Butter Milk Stream) valley, as it descends from the high mountains in the east from Glen Doone and Lupela Lodge. On the left hand side of the road is the well known (and now defunct) 6 part rail reversing sections, which can be seen from the pass. The pass has a fairly comfortable average gradient of 1:23 and drops 336 metres in altitude over 7,8 km. The steepest sections are near the bottom of the pass at 1:11.
This beautifully scenic, high altitude, modern tarred pass is located on the R58 between Barkly East and Lady Grey. The 10 km long pass descends steadily through majestic mountain scenery to cross the dominant local river, the Kraai River (Crow River) at approximately the halfway point. The descent down the western side offers fabulous views of the Kraai River which has carved a series of serpentine like bends through the landscape. This is a safe, well-engineered road, providing the speed limits are adhered to, but dangerous when there is snow or ice on the road.
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.
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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