Griffin’s Hill is a straightforward official tarred pass with a simple low/high profile, located on the R103 between Estcourt and Mooi River in KwaZulu-Natal. It only has one significant corner, a long S-bend in the middle of the pass, and is suitable for all traffic. We have not been able the establish the identity of the person after whom the pass is named, but it is likely that this would have been a farmer that owned property in the area, or the name of the prominent person from one of the Anglo-Boer wars.
The Grobbelaarskloof Pass is named after a farm which is actually in the next kloof to the east. This pass is also commonly known as Colenso Heights. It descends into Colenso from the north-west and is part of the old tarred main road (R103) between Colenso and Ladysmith. The road drops just under 200m in altitude over 5.7 km producing an easy average gradient of 1:29, with the steepest parts being at 1:10. It's a fairly minor pass in the greater scheme of things, but like many of the smaller neks and passes in this area, it's jam packed with battlefields history.
Hattingshoogte is located on a minor gravel road, the P43, which connects Wakkerstroom in Mpumalanga with Utrecht in northern KwaZulu-Natal. The surname “Hattingh” is a common one in the area, so it is difficult to ascertain with any certainty as to which member of these clans the pass is named after. It is particularly scenic and visually appealing, offering splendid views over the rolling green hills and grasslands in the vicinity. The road is in a good condition and can be driven in any vehicle, although there could be some difficulty after heavy rain. This would apply in particular to the northern approach road, which involves a steep climb up towards the start from the tiny settlement of Groenvlei, as well as to a very steep section near the summit.
This pass lies on the tarred R68 between Melmoth in the east and Babanango in the west and traverses large commercial lumber plantations mostly above 1000m ASL. The road is quite narrow and motorists should always be wary of large logging trucks on this road, which might encroach over the barrier lines on corners, due to their size. The pass has an average gradient of 1:14 which puts it firmly into the 'steep' category. The steepest sections are at 1:7. The pass is also subject to mountain mists which can severely reduce visibility.
This is a gravel road pass for the purist! With a major altitude gain of 651 vertical meters over 7,2 km, the average gradient is a steep 1:11 - but wait, there's more....... You will be dealing with gradients of 1:6 along certain sections of the pass and if it's raining, prepare yourself for some slippin' n slidin' if you're not in a 4x4. The road traverses the deep valley carved out by the Umkomaas River, which is also known in Zulu as the Mkomazi River.
This is a gravel road and it is lethal when wet, so take it nice and easy and enjoy the incredible views as you gain altitude. About 3/4 way up, there is a 145 degree left hand hairpin. This is a good spot to stop and absorb the grandeur and wide panorama of the river valley far below.
This steep pass forms part of the tarred R33 route between Dundee and Pomeroy. Translated it means "Help Each Other Pass" and dates back to the pioneering days when farmers needed to help each other to get their wagons up the steep inclines of this pass. The pass climbs 427 m over 9,8 km producing an average gradient of 1:23, but there are some steep sections at 1:7. The tiny settlement of Helpmekaar is located on the left hand side of the road, about 2 km after the summit point.
Highmoor Mountain Reserve is located to the west of Nottingham Road and Rosetta in the KZN Midlands, close to Kamberg and Giant’s Castle. The pass itself is the access route up to the main campsite and trout dams located on the summit of the Little Berg. The road surface consists of gravel, concrete and broken tar sections, but it can be traversed in any vehicle, provided that the weather conditions allow. With a summit altitude of just under 2000 metres, the area is often blanketed in snow during the winter months, sometimes forcing closures of the pass. When snow is around, or during heavy rain, do not attempt the pass at all, or at the very least not without being in a 4-wheel drive vehicle.
This pass, located on the N11 between Newcastle and Ladysmith, is usually known as “Ikhupe” in modern times, although the more correct and traditional spelling is “Mkupe”, an old Zulu name meaning “Eagles Nest”. To this day, black eagles roost along the cliffs in this vicinity. To add to the confusion, nobody seems to be quite sure of the actual names of the mountains on either side of the pass. Some maps and charts show the flat-topped mountain on the western side as “One Tree Hill” and others as “Mkupe Mountain”; this is reversed when using different references. To make matters worse, both One Tree Hill and Mkupe Mountain are also the names of other peaks in the Drakensberg near Cathedral Peak and Nkandla respectively.
This pass is named after the Ngogo River, which flows from west to east on the southern side. Derived from Zulu, the name has been explained as an onomatopoeic rendering of water gurgling over stones, but the phrase is also used as a term of respect for an older woman. This area was especially vulnerable during the Boer struggle for independence from Britain in the 1880’s, commonly known as the First Anglo-Boer War. Decisive battles were fought in the vicinity of Volksrust at Lang’s Nek and Ingogo, followed by the Boer victory at the Battle of Majuba, where the British commander, General Colley, was fatally wounded.
This one is not for the faint-hearted. It is essentially a very rough 4x4 track, often not even visible - involving scouting ahead on foot at times. There are 15 stream crossings and a climb through a neck towards the northern side involving gradients of 1:3! The pass is basically a northern extension of Rogers Pass and is used by local farmers to manage their fire-breaks. It is also a dead end at its northern side and the only way to head east or west from the end of the pass is on foot. For those willing to take the risks of driving this very remote pass, you will be rewarded with absolute isolation and some of the best scenery the Drakensberg has on offer.
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