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The Free State

Jagpoort is an obscure gravel road pass, situated close to the small central Free State town of Winburg. The name, which translates as “Hunting Passage”, probably stems from the hunts which would have taken place to feed the Voortrekkers as they settled in and around this area. Vast herds of game used to roam these huge open grassland plains; sadly, this is no longer the case, and wild animals in the present day are restricted to the public and private game reserves scattered around the region. The road is in a good condition, and can be driven in any vehicle, weather permitting.

This is a minor pass located 11 km south-east of Bethlehem in the Free State on the N5 route to Harrismith. The pass is short and only gains 50m in altitude with a single S-curve near the summit. The steepest gradients are at 1:14 and this one is suitable for all vehicles, except when it snows, which it does from time to time at these high altitudes on the rim of the Drakensberg escarpment. All along the N5 one can can enjoy fabulous scenery of unusual sandstone outcrops. This is also the Gateway to the Golden Gate National Park.

Kommandonek is located on the tarred R26 road between the small Eastern Free State towns of Fouriesburg and Ficksburg. Although it traverses an area that is sprinkled with spectacular sandstone mountains, the pass itself is not particularly impressive, being only 4 kilometres long and with a height gain of only 77 metres. The R26 has a notoriously bad reputation for the numerous potholes which plague sections of this road, but the pass can be driven in any vehicle. The name of the pass is no doubt derived from the frenetic military activity in this region during the 2nd Anglo-Boer War.

Like so many of the poorts in South Africa, Kommissiepoort is fairly flat and has no significant corners. It is situated on the tarred R26 in the eastern Free State, more or less equidistant between Ladybrand and Hobhouse. This road, the western part of the Maloti Mountain Route, also hosts three other passes, Retiefsnek near Bethlehem, Kommandonek near Ficksburg, and Tienfontein Se Hoogte near Zastron. The name is sometimes spelled as “Commissie Poort” or “Commissiepoort”.

This little known tarred pass is located on the R703 between Excelsior and Clocolan. It offers mountainous scenery and summits at 1684m ASL having climbed 160 meters over 8,3 km. Although it is a fairly mild pass with an average gradient of an easy 1:28, there one or two sections where the gradient gets to 1:8. The Korannaberg mountain range runs on the north-south axis and there is a 4x4 route available to offroad enthusiasts which can be accessed from the northern side of the range via a gravel road. (Google Korannaberg Adventures for contact details).

Kranspoort is a beautiful little poort located to the west of Fouriesburg, a small town situated very close to the Lesotho border in the eastern Free State. The scenery in this area is breath-taking, with magnificent sandstone mountains interspersed with rivers, dams, pastures, orchards, and the ever-present poplar trees which seem to have made this corner of the country their special domain.

The road through the poort is in a relatively bad condition and is poorly maintained, like so many other backwater roads in the Free State, but can still be driven in any vehicle provided that there has not been heavy weather. The poort is named after the original farm through which it traverses.

 

This is a short, steep, but minor climb over a hill on the gravel road linking Newcastle in KZN with Memel in the Free State. The pass has an average gradient of 1:16, but the climb up the steeper eastern side is as steep as 1:7. The  road is important for gravel pass fans as it gives access to both the Normandien and Mullers Passes.

Langersnek is an official pass located on a secondary gravel road (the S385) in the eastern Free State highlands. Although the pass itself is not particularly memorable, the road does traverse right through the middle of the Moolmanshoek Private Game Reserve, offering spectacular sandstone mountain scenery and an excellent opportunity to do some free game viewing.

The road surface is in a reasonable condition and can be driven in any vehicle, except in really bad weather. It has not been possible to establish the origins of the name of this pass, but it is probably derived from the original owner of the farm on the north-eastern side, or perhaps from a local hero of the Anglo-Boer War. The spelling of this pass is taken from the official government maps, but locally the name is always spelled as “Langesnek”.

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The Golden Gate Highlands National Park is very unusual, in that it has a public road (the R712) which runs right through the middle of it. Starting from the western entrance gate, there is an official pass called Lichens Pass (also sometimes referred to as the Golden Gate Pass) which winds through some of the most spectacular scenery that South Africa has to offer.

Located just 3½ hours from Johannesburg and Pretoria, it is within reach even as a day trip destination, but most people prefer to spend more time taking in the many additional attractions whilst they are in the area. There are a host of excellent and varied accommodation options, ranging from hotels and chalets to guest farms and mountain retreats, as well as activities such as golf, horse riding, hiking, 4x4 trails and white-water rafting.

We have produced the video in two formats. The first video is the unedited full version of the entire pass in real time. The narration corresponds exactly to the points of interests described below. There are another two videos, which are the same format as all our other videos (ie. with Google Earth animations and shortened/edited for quicker viewing.

 

Gravel passes hold a strange and fascinating attraction to a certain group of adventure travellers and this pass will become one of those that the glitterati will want to add to their bucket list. The reason is that it is absurdly out of the way and is a dead-end for anyone except those travelling to Lesotho. For the enthusiasts, you will be rewarded with glorious mountain scenery, fresh air aplenty and some challenging driving/riding. The pass has steep gradients of under 1:5 and is very stony, which adds to the drama with frequent loss of traction for non 4WD vehicles. It's a long, dusty, high altitude drive with a high probability of experiencing bad weather at any time of year.

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Mountain Passes South Africa

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.
 

Master Orientation Map

Master Orientation Map 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.

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