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.
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.
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.
This is a very minor pass in the far northern sector of KZN. The old pass, which runs higher up the hill, was much more of a pass than the modern version which has been cut out of the hill lower down the slope, closer to the Phongola River. The pass name has officially remained but this little pass is really fairly insignificant. The old pass can no longer be driven, unless permission is obtained from the landowner. We have shown the old road as a yellow line on our video animation clip.
This is an interesting gravel pass of moderate length with some sharp corners and steep gradients. It connects Candover in the north with Magudu in the south-west. The pass also functions to serve numerous farms in this mountainous region of KZN. The road is suitable for all vehicles, but things can get decidedly slippery here in wet weather. Adjust your speed accordingly.
This is a serious off-road jeep track over the Drakensberg starting in KZN and ending just over the border in the Free State. It lies on private land and permission has to be obtained from the landowners to complete the route. The pass is 4,91 km long and climbs 465m producing an average gradient of 1:10,55 with the steepest parts being at 1:3,2! This one is not for sissies!
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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