There are three passes that allow access to Lesotho from Matatiele. From west to east these are Ongeluksnek (4x4 only), then the bigger, more popular pass, which is Qachas Nek, but a little further to the east is the much more difficult and spectacular Ramatselitso's Pass. All three passes end at the RSA/Lesotho border posts of the same names. With Ramatselitso being something of a tongue twister, the border post is locally known as Rama's Gate and no doubt over time, the connecting pass will also adopt the name of Rama's Pass. The official government large scale map lists it as Ramatseliso (without the 't'), so there are already a number of versions, but we are indexing it as per the spelling on the notice board at the border post.
It's a major pass at 14 km length displaying an altitude variance of 682m and an average gradient of 1:25, but there are many very steep sections that get up to 1:5. Three of the steepest sections have been concreted which include both hairpin sections as well as a section close to the summit, which now makes this pass accessible to normal vehicles.
When we drove this pass in 2012 it was a serious 4x4 route only doable by high clearance 4x4's with low range, but the road has now been upgraded to the point that a 4x2 utility vehicle (bakkie) will manage without a problem. Unless you have plans (and a valid passport) to enter Lesotho, you will need to turn around at the SA border control point and return the same way to Matatiele.
Ongeluks Nek was so named in about 1860 after one of the trekkers in the Griqua trek to 'Nomansland' died from a gun-shot wound. This pass is strictly for offroad vehicles only. They must have low range and adequate ground clearance as this track is usually rutted, muddy and quite difficult to negotiate as can be seen in the video footage. With an AVERAGE gradient of 1:9 it slots in at position number 7 in the steepest passes listing. For offroad bikers, mostly this pass is a tough nut to crack and it has humbled many egos. The pass falls within the Ongeluksnek Nature Reserve. GPS co-ordinates of key navigation intersections getting to the start are given further in the text.
This steep gravel road pass is located approximately 15 km South west of Matatiele in the Eastern Cape and rises 188 vertical meters over a distance of 4,8 km through rugged mountainous scenery. The average gradient is 1:12, with some of the steeper sections at 1:4. The pass is well designed and presents few dangers, except in wet or snow conditions.
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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