Although dwarfed by the many huge passes in this area, Grondnek is in fact a fairly significant pass, with a height difference of 112 metres and a length of 4.3 kilometres. Despite its name, which when translated from Afrikaans means Ground or Gravel Neck, the pass is tarred and is suitable for all vehicles in most weather conditions, but a summit altitude of 1997 metres ASL means that it is sometimes subject to snowfalls in winter. Located on the very scenic R58 between Lady Grey and Barkly East in the Eastern Cape highlands, the pass offers up spectacular views of the towering sandstone mountains, rolling meadows, fast-flowing rivers and isolated farmsteads that abound along this route.
Amandelhoogte (“Almond Heights”) is located on the tarred R58 between Aliwal North and Lady Grey in the Eastern Cape highlands. The pass itself is very minor and would not be noticed by most people as they drive along this very scenic stretch of road, as it consists of only one shallow corner with a height difference of just 34 metres.
Magnificent views of the cordon of mountains which surround Lady Grey are presented from the summit when travelling from west to east, providing a preview of the plethora of huge gravel passes which abound in this area. The name is popular in several places in South Africa, with the primary word Amandel being used in at least four passes spread around South Africa.
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.
We are as passionate about maps as we are about mountain passes. A good map is a thing of beauty that can transport you into the mists of time or get your sense of adventure churning. It is a place to make discoveries about deserts and seas, mountains and lakes; of roads leading into places you have not been before; a place to pore over holiday destinations or weekend camping trips. A map is your window to the world.