Todays featured pass is a virtually unknown gravel pass that offers a big altitude gain, sharp corners, slow and technical driving, fabulous scenery, a waterfall, a traverse through a natural heritage site and the option of returning via a remote and spectacular kloof with over one hundred water diversion channels.
During our recent Eastern Cape filming trip, this pass was one of the real gems and we highly recommend it to any adventure traveller. It is driveable in a normal car, although cars with very low ground clearance might have an issue. Watch the videos and decide for yourself.
[To access the pass page, expand this page by clicking on the photo, the title or the green READ MORE button]
The name Waainek translates into 'Windy Neck' and windy it was on the day of filiming, making the name perfectly appropriate! Every now and again we come across a humdinger of a pass that not many people even know about. The Waainek Pass is one of those hidden gems. Tucked into the well wooded ravines of the Boschberg, Graskop and Witkrans mountains north of Somerset East and mostly falling within the boudaries of the Glen Avon Falls Kloof Natural Heritage Site, this long gravel pass will hold you spellbound, with breathtaking views, sharp corners, technical driving and a big altitude gain. You might even be lucky and spot some wildlife, as we did on the day of filming when a large group of warthogs sauntered over the road near the summit. There were also klipspringers, rhebuck and rooibok about. If you're in this part of the Eastern Cape and you have a few hours to spare, go and drive this one. It's a beauty!
This gravel road passes is fairly long at 20,8 km. It is (as the name suggests), virtually an extension of the Tarka Pass which ends where this pass starts. The road meanders on an East-West axis, through the mountains starting at an altitude of823m and traces the course of a small river past several isolated farms, before summiting at 1343m.
This 15,6 km gravel pass runs on the North/South axis approximately paralell (and to the West) of the tarred N10. The road mainly serves the local farming communities. Despite it's ascent/descent range of 353 vertical meters, the average gradient is a leisurely 1:44 with the steeper sections being 1:20. The pass is not a tarred pass, nor is it on the N10 as indicated by several well respected websites.
This long and sometimes extreme gravel pass is located on a secondary road (the R335) in the Eastern Cape approximately 35 km north of Addo and 75 km south of Somerset East. At 27,5 km it is one of the longer passes in South Africa and traverses all four tiers of the dominant Zuurberg Mountain range. It was originally constructed by Henry Fancourt White in 1849, but White resigned during the construction phase to take up a post in parliament, leaving the project in the capable hands of the assistant roads engineer, Mr. Matthew Woodifield, whose name appears carved into a rock slab near the southern end of the pass.
The pass contains within its length 158 bends, corners and curves. As progress is made northwards, the road surface deteriorates to the point where low range and high clearance is required. Allow two hours (excluding stops) to complete the pass and be patient and careful as this is true puncture country. Changing a spare wheel on a steep incline is a risky affair, so it's better to drive slower and choose your driving lines with care.
Note ~ Due to technical reasons we were only able to film the middle section of the pass from the 10th to the 20th km.
The gravel Doringnek Pass is the sequel to the Suurberg/Zuurberg Pass on the same road (R335) when travelling towards the south. It is 9,2 km long and displays an altitude variance of 387 meters to summit at 598m ASL near the Zuurberg Mountain Village. The pass has a history dating back as far as 1850. It connects Somerset East in the north with Addo / Kirkwood in the south. The road is maintained to a good standard and can be driven in any vehicle. Be careful of mountain mists and wild animals. If you intend driving the entire route, please make sure that you read up the page on the Suurberg/Zuurberg Pass, which is much more difficult and requires a 4WD vehicle with high clearance.
The Doringnek Pass is a big gravel pass and offers 63 bends, corners and curves to keep drivers busy, plus it has magnificent scenery; a spectacular double sided cutting and an historic hotel near the summit. It can be driven in any vehicle in fair weather, but beyond the Zuurberg Mountain Inn, a high clearance vehicle is necessary. This road existed long before the Suurberg Pass was built and construction of the latter was accessed and commenced from the summit of the Doringnek Pass.
This pass is located on the tarred R63 between Somerset East and Pearston. Travelling eastwards, the pass starts approximately 20 km east of Pearston. Most of the R63 traverses fairly flat terrain just to the south of a long line of mountains. Bruintjieshoogte is the first significant change in altitude after leaving Graaff Reinet on this road. This region is rich in game farms as can be evidenced by the many kilometres of game fencing on either side of the road and game spotting is almost guaranteed - from the nimble springbok to the majestic kudu - the latter being able to effortlessly scale fences and is a major deterrent to night driving in the Eastern Cape.
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.