Mike's Pass is a rough, high altitude, 4x4 pass in the Drakensberg in KZN. You will be rewarded with incredible views and mountain top fresh air to invigorate your senses. Snow in winter is common, in which case the pass will probably be closed to the public. Some sections have concrete strips.
Latest info: As at September, 2014 we have it on good authority that this pass is now only accessble in a NCS vehicle (the nature reserve's own vehicles) at a cost of R60 per person - minimum 4 persons. Trips are on offer 4 times per day - at 0900; 1200 and 1600. The controlling authority must have had good reason to have made this decision and I doubt very much it would have been based on profit. We invite them to contact us with an explanation as there appear to be many disappointed gravel pass fans who would have loved to drive this pass in their own vehicle.
This is a short, but fairly steep gravel pass between between Newcastle in the south and Volksrust in the north and provides an alternative to the tarred main road - the N11. The pass is just over 1 km long, but it climbs steeply at an average gradient of 1:14 over that distance with the steepest sections presenting at 1:10. This one will be very slippery when wet.
A straight-forward climb up the foothills of the Mpate mountain to the north-west of Dundee. This mountain played a major role in the first big battle of the Anglo-Boer war in 1899 - The Battle of Dundee or more accurately the Battle of Talana. The pass climbs steeply at a maximum gradient of 1:10 towards the summit of 1361m ASL, where it splits, with the left hand fork continuing as the R68 towards Newcastle, whereas the right hand fork (the R621) heads north to Hattingspruit and Dannhauser.
This steep, gravel road pass lies between Newcastle in KZN and Memel in the Free State. The pass traverses a natural path up the Drakensberg and is located roughly 33 km west-south-west of Newcastle and 15 km north east of the Normandien Pass. It is OK to drive in a normal car subject to conditions being dry. Like most passes in this part of the Drakensberg, it is subject to heavy electrical storms in summer and snowfalls during winter. In such conditions a 4x4 vehicle is much safer.
Murray's Neck Pass is a straightforward tarred pass rising 116m to a neck where fabulous views over the Pongola Nature Reserve can be enjoyed. The pass forms an integral part of the access road from the N2 to the SA/Swaziland border control point at Golela, where there is also a railway station. The road provides tourism access from the eastern end of the pass to some of KZN's finest game reserves. The pass has a steeper descent gradient, but in general this is an easy pass with a good safety record and comfortable gradients with gentle corners. It is suitable for all vehicles.
Nicholson's Nek is a relatively minor and insignificant gravel road pass through a natural break in the mountains just north of Ladysmith, but it is of great historical value and is mentioned frequently during the second Anglo-Boer war. The pass is just 1.4 km long, and has a small height gain of only 58 metres.
Normandien Pass is named after the farm and small settlement located near the foot of the pass on the eastern side, which consists of just of few buildings, a shop and a police station. It is without question one of the best gravel passes in KwaZulu-Natal, and one which many avid off-road enthusiasts aspire to conquer. It has all of the elements that make up a great pass – altitude (at 1995 metres ASL, this is the second highest pass in KZN, after Sani Pass), steep gradients, difficult road conditions, lots of twists and turns, and breath-taking views. Depending on the time of year and the weather conditions, this pass could be driven in a high clearance vehicle, but a 4x4 is strongly recommended.
This decidely steep gravel pass connects the small settlement of Helpmekaar with Rorke's Drift and descends 353m over 6,38 km producing a fairly stiff average gradient of 1:18, with the steepest sections in the middle registering 1:5. The pass provides access to a number of Anglo-Zulu battle sites including Rorke's Drift, Fugitive's Drift and Isandlwana. The road is suitable for all vehicles, except when heavy rain or snow is experienced, when a 4WD vehicle will be more appropriate (and safe).
This classic tarred 17,2 km long pass sweeps down through the northern Drakensberg past the southern extremeties of the Sterkfontein Dam, to the farming areas north of Bergville in KZN. The road often provides a suitable alternative to Van Reenen's Pass, which is subject to road closures due to trucking accidents and snow. Over the past decade the road has become potholed and deteriorated to such a point that the maximum speed over some sections is 20 kph! Several tourist related establishments have been forced to close their doors as tourists have learned about the state of the R74 and have started avoiding it. (2013)
Nov 2016 - Latest reports confirm that the entire road has now been fully refurbished to excellent standards. The road is open and free of stop/go's.
The oddly named Ping Pong Cutting runs on the east/west axis through the foothills of the Drakensberg in the vicinity of the beautiful Loteni River valley, some 40 km North of the small town of Himeville - itself something of an epicentre for hikers and other Berg adventure junkies. The area is packed with nature and wilderness reserves - a place of refuge to regain strength for the wearied soul, from the mountains and rivers that abound here.
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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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