Lang’s Nek was named after William Timothy Lang, who bought a farm located to the north and east of Mount Majuba in Northern Natal in 1874. This is extremely well documented and cannot be disputed, but for the last 130 years, the pass itself, the road, the railway and the battlefield have all been erroneously spelled as “Laing’s Nek”. How this occurred is a mystery – perhaps a battlefield reporter or a cartographer made a careless mistake, and this has somehow been brought forward in perpetuity. Early maps of the region all have the correct spelling. The road is in an excellent condition and can be driven in any vehicle.
This steep, mixed surface pass has the classic low-high-low profile rising 262m over 6 km producing an average gradient of 1:23, but many parts of this pass are at a stiff 1:7. The road, which has a summit altitude of 1351m ASL, connects Vryheid with the Black Umfolozi Valley. The pass is a mix of tar and gravel with all of the western ascent being tarred and most of the eastern descent being gravel, except for three short tarred sections on the steepest sections most prone to water damage. The name Leeunek translates into Lions Neck.
1. Livestock on the road
2. Mountain mists
3. Barrier lines almost invisible
4. Some deep potholes
Lombardskop Nek is an easy tarred traverse along the east/west axis just outside Ladysmith in KZN with a minor change in altitude of just 53m. The road routes between a series of peaks and hills which have great historical value and in this instance the peak called Lombardskop takes us back to the Battle of Lombardskop in 1899. We spend most of our research into the history of the Anglo-Boer war, rather than the technical side of this very easy drive.
The Lotheni Pass is the biggest of the four passes clustered around the Lotheni and Mkhomazi Nature Reserves. The other passes are the Bucklands Pass, the Nzinga Pass and the oddly named Ping Pong Cuttings. The Lower Lotheni Road offers wonderful scenery as it follows the foothills of the Drakensberg, offering tranquil scenery and a glimpse of rural life as several villages are traversed.
Being a gravel road, the surface condition is subject to weather conditions and maintenance schedules. Always expect rough sections with ruts, washaways and loose gravel. Other dangers include erratic local driver behaviour, livestock on the road, minibus taxis and pedestrians.
Stick to the speed limit and be particularly careful at blind rises and sharp corners, where some drivers tend to drift onto the wrong side of the road.
Lundy's Hill is a major pass located on the tarred R617 trunk route between Howick and Bulwer. It's 21 km long and contains 35 bends, corners and curves, most of which are easy. The altitude variance of 505m converts into an average gradient of 1:41 with the steepest parts measuring in at 1:9. This pass is unkindly referred to a "hill". During our research of this pass, we could not uncover any meaningful history on the naming of Lundy's Hill.
The pass has a classic inverted vertical profile, typical of a pass that descends down to a river and ascends up the other side. The river in question is the Umkomaas River (Mkomazi). The pass provides access to several rural villages, where the scenery is fabulous, especially during the summer months.
The pass lies along the footbhills of the Drakensberg at an elevation of roughly 1400m ASL and is subject to electrical thunderstorms in summer and possible snowfalls during winter. Watch out for slow moving and erratic local drivers, pedestrians and livestock plus dogs on the road - and of course the ubiquitous minibus taxis, who write their own rules.
This is a substantial gravel pass of 8,8 km long that connects the N11 to the north of Laings Nek pass with the R34 near Memel and runs along the SW/NE axis. The pass climbs 266m to summit at 1848m and produces an average gradient of 1:33, but there are some very steep sections at 1:5. We issue the usual KZN gravel pass cautionary of "slippery when wet" as well as the occurrence of frequent mountain mists which can become extremely dangerous when visibility is reduced.
Mayaba Pass is located just to the south of Tugela Ferry, a large scattered town which straddles the Tugela River in KwaZulu-Natal, north of Greytown on the R33 trunk route. When it comes to hazards, this pass ticks all of the boxes; terrible road conditions, steep unguarded drop-offs, lots of traffic, pedestrians, children, domestic animals and livestock on the road. There is some evidence that work has commenced to upgrade this road, but in the meantime we strongly recommend that you avoid this pass altogether if possible, particularly at night. It can be driven in any vehicle, but extreme care will need to be exercised. The pass is named after the small village located at the summit.
It contains 26 bends, corners and curves within its 10,4 km length and produces an average gradient of 1:21, but many sections especially on the northern side of the summit point reach gradients as steep as 1:7.
Mhlwane Pass is named after the river which marks the start of the pass on the eastern side, also sometimes spelled as “Mhlwana”. It would usually be driven in conjunction with Collings Pass, as they are on the same road and follow one another almost back-to-back. The pass has a simple low-high profile and has fairly mild gradients throughout, making it an easy drive for most vehicles in good weather. It offers excellent views over the KwaZulu-Natal grasslands towards the high mountains in the west and to the north, where the nearby Normandien Pass is located.
The Middledale Pass is a 6.3 km tarred pass running through the Drakensberg on a North/South axis. It is known as the S1101 route and connects the farming areas north of Bergville with the upper plateau of the Free State around Swinburne, Van Reenen and Harrismith. Some references show the Middledale and Tintwa Passes as being the same pass, whereas they are actually two separate passes on the same road separated by a short plateau. There is a similar scenario in the Western Cape with the Wildehondskloofhoogte and Op de Tradouw Passes being the same pass, with the former being the ascent and the latter the descent.
Mielietuinspruit Pass - which translates as Corn Garden Stream - is named after the large beef farm situated near its summit, just off the N11 on a minor gravel road between Ladysmith and Newcastle in KwaZulu-Natal. Although not technically challenging, the pass offers the intrepid traveller a “surprise” element, in that it is a much better pass than its name or location would suggest. The road can be used as a shortcut access route from the N11 to the far more significant Mhlwane and Collings passes, which are located to the west. The road is in a good condition, and can be driven in any car, although wet weather might be a problem.
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.
We are as passionate about maps as we are about mountain passes. A good map is a thing of beauty that can transport you into the mists of time or get your sense of adventure churning. It is a place to make discoveries about deserts and seas, mountains and lakes; of roads leading into places you have not been before; a place to pore over holiday destinations or weekend camping trips. A map is your window to the world.