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).
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.
This pass will enthral with it's magnificent scenery. Named after the lichens which grow proliferously on the mountains, the tarred pass of 3,4 km winds its way around the prominent St. Pierre Mountain. The pass is also sometimes called the 'Golden Gate Pass' due to its proximity to the Golden Gate National Park. The pass has 134 vertical metres of altitude variance, producing an average gradient of 1:21 with the steeper sections getting to 1:15. The road has lovely banked corners but some of them are sharp. The speed limit ranges between 60 and 80 kph.
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.
Mount Paul stands as a lonely sentinel, surrounded on all sides by flat plains in the Eastern Free State highlands. Being the only high point in the area, it was an obvious site to erect telecommunication towers, and to do this an access road needed to be built. Originally a rough-and-ready offroad track, the road has been upgraded in a number of phases to now include concrete paving and strips on the steeper sections, vastly improving traction for maintenance vehicles. With maximum gradients of around 1:3, this pass is not for the faint-hearted, but if you can summon up the courage to tackle this daunting traverse, the fantastic views from the summit are well worth the effort.
This poort lies immediately to the North of the Free State town of Clarens. It is on the tarred R712 route between Clarens and Bethlehem. Other than snow from time to time, the pass presents few dangers, but offers lovely scenery of towering sandstone cliffs and tall poplar trees that line the road as you descend into Clarens.
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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