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 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.
This substantial suburban pass is 5,2 km long and descends 435m producing an average gradient of 1:12 with the steepest parts registering in at 1:5. The road connects a wide range of suburbs, both residential and commercial with Inanda Dam and environs. Its located approximately 23 km north-west of the Durban. The pass offers some fabulous bends and even better views over the Inanda Dam.
The traverse includes 32 bends corners and curves of which 2 sections are chicane style bends which include tight hairpins of 180 degrees and another horseshoe bend of the same arc. The road is tarred and is also sometimes confusingly known as the Inanda Pass. Inanda Road traverses a different valley near this pass a little further south, so calling it Inanda Pass can only cause confusion.
This is a high crime zone, so be fully aware of your personal safety at all times and preferably drive in a group.
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.
“Noustrop” literally translates into English as “narrow strap”, but the term is most often used colloquially in Afrikaans as a word meaning “to struggle”. This is not surprising, as this difficult pass must have presented a formidable obstacle to the Voortrekkers when they first arrived here, similar to the nearby Helpmekaar Pass (“Help Each Other Pass”). The signs which bookend this pass on either end spell the name as “Knostrope Pass”, which is also the name of a farm in the vicinity. The gravelled road is in a fairly good condition, but there are sections which could present a problem in wet weather. It is located close to the Anglo-Zulu War battlefields of Rorke’s Drift, Fugitive’s Drift and Isandlwana.
The R74 regional road offers a beautifully scenic alternative to the N3 for travellers between Johannesburg and Durban. The route starts off near Harrismith, then traverses Oliviershoek Pass, Bergville and Winterton, before rejoining the N3 just north of Estcourt. For many years, the 23 km section from the R712 to the summit of Oliviershoek Pass was in a terrible state of disrepair due to a dispute between the provincial government and the company contracted to do a complete revamp, to the point where the road was virtually impassable. This was eventually resolved, and in 2016 the restoration work was completed. The road is now in an excellent condition.
Oliviershoek Pass straddles the border between the Free State and KwaZulu-Natal, but the majority of the pass falls within the latter province. This big pass, which has a height difference of 471 metres and a length of 13.5 km, is arguably one of the best and most scenic tar passes in the country. The road is suitable for all vehicles, and its wide sweeping bends make it particularly beloved by motorcyclists. If travelling in winter, make sure before you go that the pass has not been closed due to snowfalls.
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.
This is an easy gravel drive through the valley of the Bivane river, known as Pivaanspoort. It offers magnificent mountain scenery and if you know where to find them, a few waterfalls as well. The poort is 9,47 km long and presents an easy average gradient of 1:61, but there are a few short sections where things get as steep as 1:11. The poort lies between the R33 north of Vryheid in the east and Utrecht to the west. The road is suitable for all vehicles.
This is a very steep and rough 4x4 only jeep track route in the Drakensberg to the west of the Chelmsford Nature Reserve. It traverses private land and permission to use the route must first be obtained. Together with Brandons pass and Keays Pass, the three form a complex integrated route extending over a large area and can form a challenging circuit for 4x4 groups or club outings. You will need a high clearance 4WD vehicle with low range and recovery equipment for this one and a minimum of three vehicles in the interests of safety.
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.