Waterval Pass is located on a minor gravel road which connects Amersfoort in the west with Dirkiesdorp in the east, in the southern part of the Mpumalanga province. The pass is named after a farm in the area, which in turn derives its name from a small waterfall which cascades over a hollow bluff on the southern side of the road. Although a big pass by any standards (it is nearly 6 km long and gains over 300 metres in height), it is marked on very few maps and is relatively unknown, possibly because of its remote location. The road is in a good condition and can be driven in any vehicle, but like all gravel roads in South Africa, the surface can deteriorate rapidly in wet weather.
This gravel pass traverses the Swartwatersberge between Riebeeck East in the north and Alicedale in the south. It has a substantial altitude variance and some very sharp corners, including two hairpins, but is well designed with gradients never exceeding 1:10. The pass offers exceptional views over the New Years River valley and dam and mostly falls within the boundaries of the Frontier Safaris Game Farm. It's named after the Kalmoesfontein farm, which is located at the foot of the pass on the southern side.
Riebeek East is 42 km west of Grahamstown. It is located in a hilly area, in the midst of game and sheep farming regions. It was founded in 1842, and initially named Riebeek after Jan van Riebeeck, one year after the local church was built. The name was later amended to Riebeeck East to separate it from Riebeeck West near Cape Town. It was erected on a part of the farm Mooimeisjesfontein, that was subdivided and sold by the subsequent voortrekker leader Piet Retief.
A settlement appeared around the church congregation after it was established here in 1830 by the Dutch Reformed Church. Since 1826 the local farmers applied to the colonial government to form a local congregation, as they previously had to travel to Uitenhage, 130 km distant, to attend communion services. Retief's farmhouse is just east of the village and has been declared a national heritage site.
On most maps, Sebico Pass is designated as a public road, but it is obvious when you arrive at the location that the traverse is across privately-owned land. We cannot discover any clues as to how this pass got its name. On the official 1:50000 topographical maps, the name is spelled as “Sebiko Pass”, with a “k”, but we can find no other references on the internet with this spelling. It is situated about 40 km south-east of Britstown, a small town located at the intersection of the N10 and the N12 in the Northern Cape. The “road” is nothing more than a rough track, and should not be attempted without a 4x4 vehicle. Although difficult to find and with potential permission issues, it is worth the effort if you are an avid pass-chaser, off-road enthusiast or adventure motorcyclist.
This is one of the shortest passes on our database at just under 1 km - (881 metres to be exact), but it offers magnificent and rugged scenery, despite being so short. It's name is something of a misnomer, as the topography and statistics are those of a poort and not a pass. Judging by it's name, lions no doubt once roamed this path.
What makes this drive even more dramatic is the obvious path of the substantial river which charges through this kloof after good rain, making this road a potential death trap as can be clearly seen in the video footage. The final river crossing on the northern side is the most dangerous spot. For the vast majority of the year, the river is nothing more than a dry, stony path as this is after all, the Karoo, but every adventure traveller should know and understand that the Karoo rivers are prone to flash floods, so if the weather is looking ominous, drive with your wits about you and dont take unneccesary risks.
Duiwelsnek is located just on the outskirts of the lovely Northern Cape town of Kakamas, very close to the banks of the mighty Orange River. There is no indication on the official topographical maps as to how this pass was named, but there is a good chance that the rocky hill on the northern side of the summit is called Duiwelskop, or something similar. The road is in a good condition and should not present problems for any type of vehicle, except perhaps in wet weather. There are few hazards on the pass other than the usual livestock and farm vehicles, but beware of the local farmers that seem to drive a little faster than they should!
This fairly easy gravel pass is well off the beaten track about midway between Kleinpoort in the east and Steytlerville in the west and bears the oddly out of character name of Seekoeinek (Hippopotamus Neck). This is in a very dry part of the Karoo and it's hard to believe that there were ever hippos in this part of South Africa. The pass is located on a secondary farm link road, the P1852, and can be used as an alternative route to get to Steytlerville via the tarred R329. The road is signposted as Haaspoort (Rabbit or Hare Ravine), which is a much more likely animal to find in these parts.
The road condition is reasonable and can be driven in any vehicle. As is the case with all gravel roads, beware of corrugations and washaways and we recommend you lower tyre pressures to 1,4 bar to improve traction and to provide a softer ride, as well as reduce the risk of punctures.
Biesiepoort is located just to the south of the N10, the national road which connects Upington with the Namibian border post at Nakop. The word “biesie” translates from Afrikaans to English as “bulrush”, but it could also refer to any of the family of reeds which are used to weave indigenous household items such as sleeping mats or wicker furniture. The poort itself, although very pretty, is quite insignificant, but the area in which it is located typifies the Kalahari landscape and is an unforgettable drive.
The road is in a good condition and can be traversed in any vehicle, although there are large patches of soft sand. Watch out for small animals such as mongooses, and be particularly careful not to run over the large monitor lizards (leguaans) which are commonly found moving slowly across the road.
This smaller, but very steep pass is located in between the two big Baviaanskloof passes of Grasnek and Holgat. Due to its very steep gradients of 1:4 the road has been recently partially paved to assist with traction. The pass connects the Rooihoek camping area in the west with Doodsklip in the east and offers a wide variety of scenery and some technical driving. It is, in fact, the paving on this road, which has presented drivers with some new challenges.
The pass is short at 3,4 km and despite its misleading average gradient of 1:37, this little pass is packed with sharp corners, steep gradients and technical driving. On the flipside, it offers fabulous scenery and several river crossings before, during and after the pass.
The river crossing at Doodsklip can often be quite deep. Drivers need to be aware of this and follow the standard procedure for deep water crossings (see information lower down).
This unusual gravel pass is located on the coastal plateau between Albertinia and the coastal road connecting Gouritzmond and Stilbaai. The pass has a classic inverted profile (High-Low-High) and traverses a riverless valley called Canca se Leegte. It has some very sharp and awkward (incorrectly banked) corners which can be lethal if your speed is too high.
At 2,6 km it's a short pass (well below the national average) but it packs plenty of variety into that distance. Some of the gradients are steep at 1:7 and the pass zig-zags its way past two prominent rocky outcrops called Eilandskop, after which the pass is named. The pass is best driven in a high clearance vehicle or very carefully in a normal car.
This short gravel pass comes as something of a surprise after the long, flat coastal plains between Riversdale and the coastal town resort of Jongensfontein. It's about 23 km due south of Riversdale on a minor gravel road, the P1523. It's of average length at 4,7 km and displays an altitude variance of 125m, with the steepest parts near the summit getting as steep as 1:7. There are some dangerous corners on this pass with negative banking. It was being rebuilt on the day of filming and many of the dangers have now been re-engineered to make for a safer traverse.
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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