This pass has an inverted vertical profile typical of a pass that drops down into a river valley. There are 44 bends to contend with, including one hairpin. The pass is the first of three back to back passes that drivers have to negotiate that terminate at Port St Johns.
At 7.2 km it's well above the national average and offers an altitude variance of 180m. The pass is quite steep in places with a maximum gradient of 1:6. Although the R61 is in good shape, there are numerous dangers to contend with, which include dense mountain mists, badly behaving minibus taxis, erratic local driver behaviour which can range between ridiculously fast to frustratingly slow, plus the standard Wild Coast hazards of livestock and pedestrians. Commercial vehicles and even large trucks drive here at high speed.
This section of the R61 should be treated with the utmost caution in any weather and drivers should be alert and drive anticipating these dangers at any time.
All the dangers aside, if you have time to glance up from the road, you will see fabulous scenery, so typical of the Wild Coast. The pass is also the access point to head down to the Ntafufu River estuary where the pristine waters offer some of the best fishing in the area in magnificent settings.
There are three back to back passes between Tombo and Port St Johns. They are, from west to east Mngazi River Pass, Butyabuse Pass and the Isinuka Poort. At 7 km it's well above the national average and displays a moderate altitude variance of 138m. It connects the valleys of the Mngazi and Umzimvubu Rivers on the R61..
The pass is modern and well designed, but the local authorities have had to install several traffic calmers (speed bumps) to slow the taxis down, as the pass traverses several villages on its way to the coast. It offers good views of the Mngazi River and towards the middle of the pass the road passes through the villages of Mkanzini, Zitshece and Ndwalane.
There are a number of cautionaries for this road - Pedestrians and especially school children, dogs, livestock, slow and fast moving vehicles, speed bumps, school buses and minibus taxis. Drive with care.
This attractive poort forms the final part of the R61 between Mthatha and Port St. Johns. It is a typical poort following the course of the Umzimvubu River on it's southern bank. Near the western start lies the village of Isinuka after which the poort is named. There is a deep cutting just after the western start as the road slices through the mountain to reach the Umzimubu River Valley.
There are sections of very steep cuttings that tower some 60m above the road, but other than that the road is straight-forward, which is a relative term, as several dangers lurk along this stretch of roadway. Local traffic officers love doing laser speed traps here, where the speed limit jumps several times between 60 and 80 kph. There are also a number of poorly concealed and sharp speed bumps, which require a reduction of speed to 30 kph or lower, Dogs and livestock can appear out of the dense bush without warning and pedestrians tend to wander along the roadway as there is nowhere else for them to walk and of course, last but not least, are the numerous minibus taxis which ply this route and congregate in numbers towards the eastern end of the poort adjacent to the Pondoland Bridge.
The wide and sluggish Umzimvubu River welcomes drivers as it drifts lazily towards the estuary at Port St. Johns' 1st Beach.
This pass is well above the national average length at 8.7 km and is one of three back to back passes along the R61 between Lusikisiki and Port St.Johns. There are 58 bends, corners and curves compressed into that length and many of them exceed 90 degrees through tight arcs. It is necessary for drivers to have a high level of concentration on this pass, as it's a busy road and the many courier and delivery trucks and minibus taxis have scant regard for barrier lines.
The pass name is of course taken from the Umzimvubu River which is crossed at the foot of the pass near Port St.Johns. Drivers who do this route for the first time will be in for a few nasty surprises in that here you will find some of South Africa's severest speed bumps. These are unfortunately necessary to slow the wild drivers down - especially near villages and schools. There is one specific speed bump designs which consists of 5 sharp speed bumps, spaced about 1m apart.
Despite all the dangers, the pass offers fabulous scenery and especially towards the middle of the pass where the Gates of St. John start making an appearance. The Xhosa version of the river and pass exclude the U - so "Mzimvubu" For Western tongues having the M and the Z following each other, make it difficult to pronounce. For purposes of indexing we have used the older version of Umzimvubu.
The short but interesting pass offers gorgeous scenery, twisting and steep curves on a brand new road, but it also has several cautionaries which include two sets of fearsome speed bumps, several schools, slow intersection traffic and livestock on the road,
The pass has a typical inverted vertical profile expected of a pass that descends into a river valley and climbs out the other side. The modern engineering on this brand new road is interesting and almost unexpected considering the humble rural surroundings.
It's only 5 km long and drops 248m to the river crossing with steep gradients of 1:7. The winding R61 is peppered with small passes, some of them unnamed, so it's best to pre-mark the GPS coordinates on your unit, so that you know when it's coming up on your journey to the coast.
This lovely little poort comes as something of a surprise when driving along the R61 between Tarkastad and Cradock after many kilometres of flat Karoo driving. It only takes 4 minutes to drive it and the gradients are gentle, so typical of a poort. Lovely sandstone formations are visible during the second part of the descent and there is one well designed layby worth stopping at at the halfway point at the apex of a big right hand bend at the confluence of the two streams.
The poort is named after the Rasfontein farm over which land it traverses and is approximately midpoint between the Karoo towns of Tarkastad and Cradock. There is a blanket speed limit of 80 kph throughout the length of the poort, which is a sensible speed to cope with all the bends which come thick and fast during the lower part of the poort.
There are four passes in South Africa containing the word Braam, which is Afrikaans for Bramble. Besides this one there is also a Braambos Pass near Adelaide, as well as a Braamhoek Pass in KZN and another Braamnek in North West Province. It's easy to get confused!
As far as technical driving goes, Braamnek has become a mild pass, as once the new road was built over the neck, most of the bends and steep gradeints were removed when the old road was realigned and rebuilt. It has just 4 very gentle bends and the pass holds no apparent dangers from a design point of view.
However, this is the Eastern Cape, an area notorious for having free roaming livestock on the road. The behaviour of the local drivers is also a concern, as driver behaviour can best be described as erratic. On this road you will find modern cars being driven extremely fast and conversely there will be many very old unroadworthy vehicles crawling along at a snails pace.
Unless you earmark this mass with GPS cordinates, you might easily drive straight over it without realsing you have just driven an official pass.
This interesting little pass is named after the Plankfontein farm, which it traverses and forms part of the R61 tarred route between Tarkastad and Cradock. It's a mixture of a pass and a poort, with the first section displaying the big pass-like cuttings, whilst the second half after the bridge near the farmstead, displays more poort like characteristics as the road mimics the course of the river down the kloof.
It takes just 4 minutes to drive the pass, which is 3,5 km long and has an altitude variance of 128m, producing a comfortable average gradient of 1:27, but the steepest part, immediately after the start and summit is quite steep at 1:8. The pass lies about 15 km north-east of Cradock and is suitable for all vehicles.
This long pass of 33 km runs on the east/west axis between Graaff Reinet and Cradock on the tarred R61 route. This is a tarred, high altitude pass summiting at 1768m ASL which puts it firmly into the snow belt. The average gradient is a mild 1:58, but there are sections where the gradients get as steep as 1:10, which translates into slow moving heavy trucks for ascending traffic. The engineering is excellent and double lanes have been provided for most of the steeper ascending sections. The pass is named after the mountain range over which it passes. Most of the corners have a comfortable arc and the deep cuttings ensure that the gradients have been kept to a level which prevents blind rises. This is a wonderful pass to drive at any time of the year and is suitable for all vehicles.
All Saints Neck is located on the outskirts of Engcobo (also sometimes spelled as Ngcobo), a small town in the Eastern Cape between Queenstown and Mthatha on the R61. The pass is named after the All Saints mission station, which was founded in 1860 and which is located to the north of the pass, about 8 km from the town. The road has been refurbished and upgraded and is in an excellent condition, but as always in the Eastern Cape, care must be exercised when driving this pass due to the abundance of traffic, pedestrians and animals in the roadway.
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