This is an extremely high altitude pass. It's lowest point is higher than the highest pass in South Africa. You will start at 3012m ASL and climb streadily to summit at 3246m ASL. Despite the extreme altitudes, the pass itself only contains 16 bends corners and curves and only two have an arc greater than 90 degrees.
Assuming fine weather, the pass should present no problems other than a lack of power in your vehicle due to the oxygen starved air and the very real possibility of experiencing headaches and nose bleeds. Many visitors to Lesotho experience altitude sickness and especially those that have travelled up from the coast. If you normally suffer from AS, please vsit your pharmacist for advice before setting off on your journey.
In the colder months, this pass will have snow and ice on it. If you're not in a 4WD vehicle it's best to choose an alternative route or wait a day or two for conditions to improve. Snow is less of a problem than ice. Ice creates extremely dangerous conditions on tar (much worse than gravel) which can quickly cause a total loss of control.
The pass connects Mokhotlong in the east with the northern villages, as well as the Afriski Resort via the main route - the A1.
This big pass is located on the A3 main route between Maseru in the west and the much smaller village of Fosi in the east. It displays an altitude variance of 487m over a distance of 11.9 km producing an average gradient of 1:27, but there are several very steep sections at 1:5.
The pass is also commonly known as Bushman's Pass or Bushmen's Pass. Most maps use the spelling Bushman's, but the official sign at the summit is spelled as Bushmen's Pass.
The pass has 65 bends, corners and curves compressed within its length and with a summit height of 2277m ASL it receives regular snowfalls. During very cold conditions ice might be present on the roadway, which is extremely dangerous - even for 4WD vehicles. Being one of the main routes in Lesotho the road carries a steady flow of traffic. Be wary of large trucks and buses that need the whole roadway to negotiate the sharper bends.
Although its is only 1.8 km long, the beautiful little poort packs 10 corners into its short length as it sinuously tracks the course of the Little Caledon River through a deep canyon. The poort terminates at the Caledonspoort Border Control Post, which manages access in to and out of Lesotho. This route can get very busy, particularly on Friday and Sunday afternoons, so avoid it during these times if you can.
The road surface is good for the most part, but there are a couple of sections where the tar has broken up. It is a real pity that the poort is so close to the border post, as the sheer stunning beauty of the surrounding area is not really noticed by most people as they rush through it in preparation for the border crossing.
This major pass is located between the town of Kala in the west and the Afriski Resort in the north in the northern quartile of Lesotho. It has a huge altitude gain of 896m that stretches over a distance of 15.3 km which converts into an average gradient of 1:17, but don't be fooled by that figure as it includes the descent. Most of the ascent from the western approach is between 1:5 and 1:8.
The 91 bends, corners and curves will require your full concentration. Amongst those there are 4 extreme hairpin bends and one full horseshoe. The A1 road is the major route across the northern sector of Lesotho and as such carries a fair volume of traffic including some very large trucks. These need the full width of the road to negotiate the hairpin bends, so be fully aware of this as you proceed along this pass.
The pass has been the scene of numerous accidents, mostly involving trucks and buses. All the passes in Lesotho are above the snow line, so driving here in winter invariably means having to deal with snow and ice, which is to be avoided if possible - and especially so if you are not in a 4WD vehicle.
Although dwarfed by the many huge passes in this area, Grondnek is in fact a fairly significant pass, with a height difference of 112 metres and a length of 4.3 kilometres. Despite its name, which when translated from Afrikaans means Ground or Gravel Neck, the pass is tarred and is suitable for all vehicles in most weather conditions, but a summit altitude of 1997 metres ASL means that it is sometimes subject to snowfalls in winter. Located on the very scenic R58 between Lady Grey and Barkly East in the Eastern Cape highlands, the pass offers up spectacular views of the towering sandstone mountains, rolling meadows, fast-flowing rivers and isolated farmsteads that abound along this route.
Amandelhoogte (“Almond Heights”) is located on the tarred R58 between Aliwal North and Lady Grey in the Eastern Cape highlands. The pass itself is very minor and would not be noticed by most people as they drive along this very scenic stretch of road, as it consists of only one shallow corner with a height difference of just 34 metres.
Magnificent views of the cordon of mountains which surround Lady Grey are presented from the summit when travelling from west to east, providing a preview of the plethora of huge gravel passes which abound in this area. The name is popular in several places in South Africa, with the primary word Amandel being used in at least four passes spread around South Africa.
This pretty little pass is located on the R500 regional road between Fochville and Parys, in the North West province. The small hill on the western side does not have an official name, but for many years it has been known as “Ertjiesberg”, because this is where legendary South African cyclist Ertjies Bezuidenhout first honed the climbing skills that would make him so famous later in life. The road is quite bumpy and narrow, but overall is in a good condition with only a few potholes. There are just four corners on the pass, but it does have a fairly substantial 126 metre height difference over its 4.8 km length. Excellent views over the valley formed by the Vaal River are presented on the southern side.
The pass is named after the small town of Bulembu just inside Swaziland at the southern terminus of the pass. It twists and turns its way through one of Mpumalanga's most beautiful valleys and over some of the oldest mountains on earth. A whole list of attractions make this a bucket list tar pass, which include magnificent scenery, mind boggling geology, a well-engineered road, dense forests and rich mining history. Allow plenty of time to stop at the various tourism points. Any visit to Barberton, should include a traverse of the Saddleback and Bulembu passes to make your visit complete.
The pass contains 124 bends corners and curves within its 26,5 km distance, which equates to a corner every 213 metres! Comply with the 40 kph speed restriction and your trip should go well.
The pass displays an unusual vertical profile with 8 individual summit points, which creates an undulating picture, rather than the usual classic pass profile of up-summit-down. The pass has something of a reputation for fatal accidents, but the frequency has decreased since the road was rebuilt recently.
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 fairly long pass of 9,4 km winds its way over the mountains in the vicinity of the Nonesi village about 17 km north-east of Queenstown in the Eastern Cape. The pass is tarred and is located on the R392 trunk route between Queenstown and Dordrecht
When the pass was rebuilt and realigned, many of the steep gradients and sharp bends were removed, making today's version of the pass is a much safer traverse. During winter, the pass is subject to snowfalls, in which case it's best avoided altogether unless you are in a 4WD vehicle.
As the case with all the roads (tar and gravel) in the old Transkei region, livestock on the road is an ever present threat and these roads are best avoided at night. The Bongolo Dam at the southern end of the pass has an interesting history dating back to the early 1900s and was apparently built making use of donkeys as labour. The word mbongolo means donkey in isiXhosa, hence the name of the dam and the pass.
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