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.
Witnek is a very minor gravel pass located approximately halfway between the towns of Paul Roux and Rosendal in the Eastern Free State highlands. The name is derived from the exposed slabs of white and light-brown sandstone which are prominently visible all around the summit area of the pass. The road is in a reasonable condition, although the surface is quite badly rutted and covered with small sharp stones. It can be driven in any vehicle, but a high clearance vehicle fitted with all terrain tyres is recommended. In wet weather, a 4x4 would probably be required.
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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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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