Named after the little town of Van Reenen, which seems to stand guard at the top of this majestic pass which winds its way through the Drakensberg mountains between Ladysmith and Harrismith along the N3 between Durban and Johannesburg. Unfortunately, the only record that the pass can lay claim to is that of the most dangerous pass in South Africa. Despite this, the long pass provides beautiful scenery as it descends towards Ladysmith in the KZN Midlands from the Free State.
This road is often mistakenly called the Old Van Reenen’s Pass, which is incorrect because the original pass mostly followed the course of the present-day N3 route. The road tracks the course of the railway line, which follows a series of contorted loops and tunnels in an effort to keep the gradient to a reasonable level. There does not appear to be an official name for this pass, so it can be confusing to research and to locate. The road, which is mostly gravel, is in a surprisingly good condition and can be driven in any high-clearance vehicle, provided that the weather allows; like Van Reenen’s Pass, the route is subject to both snow in winter and violent thunderstorms in summer.
Van Tonder’s Pass is a gravel road pass located just to the west of the R33 between Dundee and Helpmekaar in northern KwaZulu-Natal. Details of the Van Tonder families that migrated to this area during the Great Trek are a little hazy, but it is most likely that the pass was named after Johannes Van Tonder (1788–1855), who owned the farm “Goedekeus”, located on the western extremity of the pass. The road is in a fairly good condition and can be driven in any vehicle, but this would depend on the prevailing weather conditions. There are some steep sections, and the pass could be decidedly slippery when wet!
Visierkerfnek, which translates as “Gunsight Notch Neck”, is minor pass which connects Newcastle with the Vulintaba Country Estate and Hotel. Although recently tarred, poor workmanship has resulted in a bumpy surface riddled with potholes, but the pass can be negotiated in any vehicle. There are no apparent dangers, other than the tight curves on the southern side of the pass where the speed limit has been reduced to 40 kph, obviously because problems have been experienced here in the past. The pass is 3 km long and there is a height gain of just 105 metres.
This is a straight-forward climb up a steep hill about midway between Newcastle and Normandien on a tarred road and has only one slight bend in the road. It is suitable for all traffic and is named for its proximity to the well known iNcandu Waterfall, which is very close to the summit of the hill.
Wesselsnek is a minor gravel road pass located just off the main route between Ladysmith and Dundee in KwaZulu-Natal. It is mentioned in numerous accounts of the Second Anglo-Boer War, and both the pass itself and the railway station occupied key strategic positions during this conflict. The area is perhaps best known for the Battle of Elandslaagte, which is a small village and station located just to the south of Wesselsnek. The road is in a good condition and can be driven in any vehicle, except perhaps in wet weather.
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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