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This attractive gravel pass of 11,8 km length has a classic inverted profile of a pass that drops down into a river valley and rises up the other side. The river in question is the Mkomazi River - a small but powerful river that drains a sizeable portion of the Drakensberg escarpment. The pass forms part of the long and winding Lotheni Road that connects Nottingham Road in the north-east with Underberg and Himeville in the south-west.

Despite being a gravel pass, the road engineering is sound and the gradients never exceed 1:10. The usual gravel road cautionaries apply of wash-board corrugations, ruts, washaways, livestock on the road and loose gravel on the corners. The pass is named after the Bucklands farm over which it traverses and worth noting that a small nature reserve is crossed on the south-western side of the pass, called the Vergelegen Nature Reserve.

In fair weather this pass can be driven in any vehicle.

Published in KwaZulu-Natal

This fairly long gravel pass on the secondary MR00668 road, measures in at 9,9 km and displays an altitude variance of 229m. It has 13 bends, corners and curves of which only one is fairly sharp at 80 degrees. The pass connects Burgersdorp in the north-west with Jamestown and Dordrecht in the south-east.

It's not a specifically dangerous or technical pass, but like all gravel passes, it can quickly deteriorate in rainy weather and especially after snow. It has an impressive summit altitude of 1853m ASL which classifies it into the second highest group of passes in South Africa. If you enjoy lonely, remote passes then add this one to that list. It ticks the right boxes.

Cautionaries: Loose gravel, ruts, wash-aways, corrugations, livestock on the road, dangerous at night.

Published in The Eastern Cape

This pass should not be confused with Botha's Pass in Mpumalanga. It's located near the beautiful Vondo Dam in the northern sector of Limpopo Province and is to all intents and purposes more of a forestry access road than a commuter pass, but for those willing to seek out the roads less travelled, this pass packs a big punch within its 5,7 km, featuring no less than 49 bends, corners and curves, of which 9 exceed an arc of 100 degrees. The folklore and myths that abound in this area are legendary and fascinating to read.

During fair weather periods, this pass can be driven in any high clearance vehicle, but in rainy weather, the roads become muddy and impassable for normal vehicles. Rather use a 4x4 in wet weather. During week days logging vehicles and heavy machinery dominate these roads. Drive with your lights on bright at all times and give way to forestry vehicles.

Finding this pass requires precise navigation. Make sure you have all the waypoints entered in your GPS in the directions sections below, otherwise you will more than likely get lost. As we have not yet physically filmed this pass, there might be locked gates or no access issues on some of the roads. Drive at your own risk.

Published in Limpopo

This is an official pass, marked accordingly on all the government maps. Quite how this minor little dip down over a bridge ever got classified as a pass, is beyond our comprehension, but the reality is that there are at least 50 similar minor dips in roads all over South Africa, which some government official or cartographer decided it was good enough to get an official name.

The 'pass' has a classic inverted profile synonomous with a road that drops down to cross a river and then climbs up the far bank. It is just 1,7 km long, has only bends and a very mild average gradient. Common cautionaries here include livestock on the road and slow local trafiic.

Published in The Eastern Cape

There are three Blounek passes in South Africa and all of them are of a minor nature. This one is located on the gravel road between Merweville in the north and the Koup railway siding off the N1 in the south. It's not much of a pass at 2 km in length with a small altitude variance of 42m producing an easy average gradient of 1:48 with the steepest sections reaching 1:11.

The pass only has 2 bends and if you have not plotted the start and end points into your GPS, you might drive over it without realising it's an official pass.

The best reason for driving this pass is that it will take you to the little village of Merweville, which is packed with interesting buildings, fascinating history and earthy, friendly people.

We have not physically driven this pass ourselves as yet, so our description and research is based on available resources and government maps. The possibility exists that you might encounter locked farm gates. Make sure you have sufficient fuel to backtrack.

Published in The Western Cape

This minor little pass of only 2,5 km has an altitude variance of 63m producing a mild average gradient of 1:40 and no point ever exceeds 1:12, making this an easy enough traverse. The Northern Cape government cartographers were keen to name every poort and pass that they could possibly find and this is one of many official passes, which barely comply with the basic definition of a pass, but it's official, so we have produced and indexed it for the sake of thoroughness.

There is a certain kind of pleasure in actually navigating your way successfully to locate these out of the way passes and poorts, so if you hunt this one down, remember to enjoy the 'getting there' part to the full. This part of the Northern Cape is achingly dry, barren and underpopulated. Drive well prepared for punctures and make sure you have enough fuel.

We have not physically driven this pass ourselves as yet, so our description and research is based on available resources and government maps. The possibility exists that you might encounter locked farm gates. Make sure you have sufficient fuel to backtrack.

Published in The Northern Cape

The Eastern Cape Highlands spawned many great gravel passes, but the Weenen Pass is amongst the least known of those. It lies along the R392 route between Lady Grey in the north and Dordrecht in the south. It's well above the national average in terms of length at 8,4 km and displays an altitude variance of 378m, which produces an average gradient of 1:22.

The pass never gets steeper than 1:11 at any point making the road suitable for all vehicles except in very heavy rain or snow conditions. The usual gravel road cautionaries apply - such as corrugations, loose gravel on the corners, ruts and washaways and of course every Eastern Cape pass is automatically coded red for livestock on the road.

Most of the 16 bends, corners and curves are well below 90 degrees radius and what is different about this pass is that it does not display a dominant direction, but runs north-south as well as east-west in equal proportions.

Published in The Eastern Cape

Vaalheuwel is an Afrikaans word, which translates into 'Dun Coloured Hills'. The pass is so named after the farm near the foot of the pass. It is particularly apt as the entire vista consists of a large mass of scattered hills which form a broken escarpment towards the west-coast near the diamond mining town of Kleinsee.

This is mining country and the vast bulk of the economic activity revolves around the extraction of minerals, and especially diamonds, from the earth. There is very little agricultural activity, due to the very low rainfall. When driving here on these back roads, be extremely aware of access restrictions near diamond mines as you could end up being in serious trouble if you ignore warning signs.

The pass is of average length at 4,2 km and has a steep average gradient of 1:13 which reaches 1:7 towards the western end of the pass. The steep average gradient is a result of an impressive altitude variance of 314m over a fairly short distance. Other than the usual gravel road precautionaries, be aware of loose gravel on the many corners of this pass and the biggest issue will invariably be corrugations, which is the most common reason drivers roll their vehicles.

Published in The Northern Cape

This very long pass of 26,3 km essentially is more of a poort than a pass as it faithfully follows the course of the Broederstroom (Brother's Stream) as it cascades down the kloof losing 463m of altitude. The average gradient of 1:59 is mild and regardless of whether you are ascending or descending this pass, you will find the change in altitude gradual. It has 33 bends, corners and curves but none of them are significantly dangerous or sharp.

The road is a farming road that forms a long crescent shape to the east of the N9 national road starting and ending at different points on the N9. The bulk of the pass falls within the borders of the farm, officially named Erasmuskloof 259 and this is obviously where the pass takes it's name from.

The pass is regularly maintained and despite the gravel surface is suitable for all traffic. This is mainly due to the arid climate where lack of rainfall ensures the roads remain in good condition.

We have not physically driven this pass ourselves as yet, so our description and research is based on available resources and government maps.

Published in The Eastern Cape

This long gravel pass is located on the R344 - a well maintained gravel road that connects Tarkastad with Adelaide in the Eastern Cape. It's well above average length at 10,4 km and displays an altitude variance of 463m, which converts into a reasonable average gradient of 1:22, but the road never exceeds a gradient of 1:10, which makes this pass suitable for all vehicles.

The pass descends down the Winterberg range and traverses prime game farming sectors, so always be on the lookout for game and more importantly kudu at dusk and dawn, as  they can comfortably clear a 2m fence from a standing start and have caused many accidents all over South Africa - many of them fatal.

Published in The Eastern Cape

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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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