In most parts of South Africa, this pass would be noticed, but this pass with its incongruous name and 112m altitude variance is dwarfed by its much bigger and famous challenge passes all around it, so it usually slips by unnoticed by most.
Despite the moderate nature of the pass it has four significant corners, two of which exceed 90 degrees. It is located on the R58 route between Lady Grey and Barkly East and is surrounded by towering mountains, rolling meadows, fast flowing streams and is also subject to snowfalls in winter with a hefty summit altitude of 1997m ASL.
There is one fairly steep section just to the east of the summit point where the gradients reach 1:10, but in normal weather this pass is doable in any vehicle. The irony of this pass is that the name, when translated from Afrikaans means Ground/Earth or Gravel Neck, turns out to be a tarred pass.
This very scenic pass is located on a minor gravel road - the P3222 - that connects farms in the Wartrail and New England areas with Rhodes and the R393 in the east and Barkly East and the R58 main road in the west. It has an unusual inverted vertical profile with a steep drop down into a valley bisected by a river, followed by a climb up the eastern side, which is a false summit. Despite it being a remote country road, the pass is well designed and has fairly easy gradients of 1:10 and higher. It will always be driven in tandem with the Wintersnek Pass a few kilometres further to the west. The pass is suitable for all vehicles in fair weather, but like all gravel roads, it can deteriorate rapidly in heavy rain or snow conditions.
Wintersnek is located on a minor gravel road - the P3222 - about 21 km north of Barkly East, as the crow flies. It's a fairly straight-forward pass, with a long, almost straight climb to the 1991m high summit, after which there is a direction change into the east, followed by a short double apexed left hand curve to the end of the pass next to an unmistakable group of very tall cypress trees close to the roadside. The pass is 5 km long and has gradients of 1:11. It offers spectacular views over the New England area and the Witteberg mountains. However, due to the gentle nature of this pass, it would be best to plot its position on your GPS otherwise you might miss it. It can be driven in any vehicle in fair weather, but will be slippery when wet.
The Bottelnek Pass is a very steep, gravel pass in a remote part of the Eastern Cape roughly 25 km north of Elliot (as the crow flies). The 5,1 km long pass has an altitude variance of 193 metres to summit at 2204m ASL producing an average gradient of 1:26 with the steepest sections being at 1:5. In wet weather non 4WD vehicles will have traction issues. It snows regularly on this pass during winter and the usual snow-driving cautionaries apply. Although this pass can be driven in a normal sedan, we would rather recommend a high clearance vehicle and definitely a 4x4 in rainy or muddy conditions.
This little-known pass is located in a wild and remote area of the Eastern Cape near Barkly East. It forms the northern access route into Heuningneskloof (“Honey Nest Ravine”), a long valley formed by a tributary of the Kraai River. The use of a 4x4 vehicle is strongly recommended, although a high-clearance vehicle could probably traverse the pass, albeit with some difficulty. It lies far off the beaten track, and some accurate navigational skills and common sense will be required to find it. For those that do make the effort, you will be rewarded with exceptional views, the peace and quiet of an unspoilt environment, and some challenging driving.
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.
Pitseng Pass is dwarfed by the nearby Naude’s Nek Pass, but nevertheless it is a substantial pass in its own right. In good conditions the pass can be driven in any high-clearance vehicle, but in wet weather or snow a 4x4 will definitely be required. Together with its sister pass, Luzi Poort, the road is often used as a shortcut by travellers wishing to get from Mount Fletcher to Rhodes or vice versa; it is a much shorter route than going via Maclear, and it is certainly more scenic. Either way, Naude’s Nek still has to be negotiated. There is a significant height gain / loss of 368 metres, and the pass is 8 kilometres in length.
Killian's Pass is located in the high mountains between Dordrecht and Barkly East on gravel R396. It's a fairly short pass at just 1,3 km and presents an altitude variance of 64m, which produces an easy enough average gradient of 1:20. The pass is generally maintained to a reasonable standard and is suitable for all vehicles, except in very muddy or snow conditions, when a 4WD vehicle would be a better option. The tiny settlement of Rossouw is reached just 2 km from the summit on the northern side of the pass.
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.
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