The Free State

Victoria Nek is a tar road pass situated on the S109, an obscure road which leads to nowhere significant except the small airport which used to serve Thaba Nchu (now abandoned) and the Maria Moroka Game Reserve. The pass was named after Queen Victoria, and is mentioned numerous times in chronicles of both the Great Trek and the 2nd Anglo-Boer War. With a height gain/loss of just 58 metres and a length of just 3.3 kilometres, this is a small pass, but it is very scenic, and worth the slight detour off the N8 if you are in the area.

This is a minor pass on a gravel road through a neck, north-west of Memel, on a farm road with moderate gradients and no corners. The only time you need worry about driving here would be in heavy rain or snow conditions, as the summit occurs at 1853m ASL and it does occassionally snow here in winter, when temperatures are regularly well below 0C.

Wilgeboomnek (“Willow Tree Pass”) is a fairly significant pass, located near Thaba Nchu on the N8 national highway which connects Bloemfontein in the west to the capital of Lesotho, Maseru, in the east. It is the only official pass on this highway. The pass is dominated by the huge mountain on the southern side called Thaba Nchu (which translates as “Black Mountain”), so named because it looms over the settlement below, causing it to fall into shadow.

Windnek is a minor gravel road pass which weaves its way through the conical koppies and flat plains in the heart of the Karoo. Situated some distance off the beaten track, the pass offers the intrepid traveller some stunning semi-desert scenery, and an insight into the hardships of farming in this arid region. Paradoxically, it is also located adjacent to the largest inland body of water in South Africa – the Gariep Dam. The road is in a good condition and can be driven in any vehicle, weather permitting.

This impressive pass has a lot to offer. It edges along a ridge of the Drakensberg range and requires a fairly big detour to drive it. The pass consists of a mix of tar and gravel and is 13,3 km long and falls mostly within the boundaries of the Witsieshoek Transfrontier Park. It's an out and back pass which ends at the Witsieshoek viewpoint, which is the springboard for a number of hiking and climbing routes. Parts of the road cross into the Royal Natal National Park World Heritage Site.

The pass is peppered with bends - 72 of them in total, of which 12 exceed 90 degrees radius. This is a big ascent of 658m, but the fairly long distance takes the sting out of the average gradient which measures in at 1:20, but be aware that some of the steeper sections are very steep at 1:5. An overnight stay at the well run Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge is the main reason most people drive this road, and for hikers and climbers the end of the road is Sentinel peak car park which gives acces to the Amphitheatre - a springboard to the raw beauty of the Drakensberg.

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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.
 

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