This gravel pass provides a link via several Xhosa villages along the old R61 between Mthatha (Umtata) and the coastal resort of Port St. Johns. It used to be part of the main road before the R61 was upgraded and tarred. In the process, this section of the R61 was bypassed. Take 15 minutes out of your day, and drive this little extra loop. You will be richly rewarded.
Spectacular views over almost the entire length of the pass will be your reward over the valley carved out by the Mngazi River with the main attraction being the massive block of rock called Mlengana with its many myths and legends that is the focal point of the pass.
The pass is 7.6 km long and displays an altitude variance of 421m producing an average gradient of 1:18 but it never gets steeper than 1:10 which makes it quite doable in a normal car in fair weather. The usual cautionaries of livestock on the road apply and this pass is also subject to frequent rockfalls, especially after heavy rain.
The Great Kei River Pass has an unenviable record of serious accidents. The section of road both east and west leading down to the Great Kei River is also known as the Kei River Cuttings. The pass is located between the towns of Butterworth and Komga on the tarred N2 highway.
There are 31 bends corners and curves compressed into its 11,8 km length and the 422m altitude drop when travelling from south to north is what causes the momentum gaining problems for heavy vehicles, where brake failure has been the common denominator in most of the serious incidents on this pass.
There are two arrestor beds constructed on the southern descent. The first is at the 2,2 km mark and the second makes an appearance at the 5,2 km point.
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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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