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KwaZulu-Natal

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 long tarred pass connects the town of Jozini with the N2 national highway and traverses the mountains on the south eastern side of the Pongolapoort Dam. Although the average gradients are a gentle 1:49 there are some fairly steep sections that reach 1:7 closer to the summit point.

This is a fairly modern pass with good engineering standards, but there are a number of cautionaries to be aware of, which include, slow moving vehicles, barrier line transgressions, pedestrians, minibus taxis and livestock on the road. The road traverses a number of rural villages, so pay attention to a variety of changes in the speed limit. This is an all weather pass which is suitable for all traffic.

The main attraction is the wonderful scenery which includes a range of vistas over the dam from the comfortable height of the ridge. If you're a fisherman, you can catch Tiger fish here.

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.

Both this pass and the mining village situated at its northern end were named after a large farm which sprawls across the hills and valleys in this remote part of northern KwaZulu-Natal. The road is in a good condition and can be driven in most vehicles, although difficulties could arise in wet weather. Located in the middle of a triangle formed by the towns of Wakkerstroom, Utrecht and Paulpietersburg, this is one of those passes that you would be unlikely to find or traverse unless you actively look for it, or you have some other reason to be in the area. It has a classic up-and-down profile, gaining 222 metres in height over a distance of nearly 6 kilometres.

 

The name of this pass is no doubt a tongue-in-cheek reference to the famous Khyber Pass which connects Afghanistan and Pakistan in Central Asia. The pass descends from the upper ridges of the mountains near Curry’s Post down into the Karkloof Valley, and is located on a public road designated as the D293. As it is used primarily for logging operations, the condition of the road can vary greatly, especially after heavy rain. Under normal circumstances, the pass can be traversed in any vehicle, but it would be wise to check with the locals before attempting this route. Avoid it completely in wet weather.

The Kingscote Cutting is an average length pass with gentle bends and doesnt present any real dangers. It's named after the nearby Kingscote farm and lasts for 4,3 km ascending a total of 260 vertical metres, producing an average gradient of 1:17. It's located on the tarred R617 route between Kokstad and Underberg with sublime views of the Drakensberg for most of the distance.

Despite this little pass having the title 'cutting' in its name, The reality is that they are not particularly steep or impressive. Rather shift your focus onto the lovely KZN Midlands scenery. The only cautionaries for this pass is the likelihood of finding livestock on the road and of course thick mountain mist is common in this part of KZN, which can reduce visibility to just a few metres. Switch all your lights on!

Many of the historical documents relating to the Utrecht area in KwaZulu-Natal make mention of a Knight’s Hill located to the east of the town, with a property called Knight’s Farm situated on its summit. Although the appropriate links have been difficult to establish, it is very likely that this farm belonged to either Humphrey Evans Knight or his son, Marthinus Mortimer Knight, and that this is the origin of the name of the pass. The gravelled road, like many of the backroads in KZN, is well maintained and is in a fairly good condition. It can be driven in any vehicle in good weather, although a 4x4 might be required after heavy rain.

Koffiekloof Pass is one of those official but technically insignificant passes that you would barely notice unless you know exactly where it is, and is hardly worth going out of your way for unless you intend to tick the pass off a list. It is highly unlikely that coffee was ever grown here, so the name is probably derived from the likelihood that this location was used as a stop-over or break area during treks. The gravel road is in an excellent condition and can be driven in any vehicle, and few hazards other than the probability of farm animals in the road are likely to present themselves. The scenery is however lovely and its proximity to the Chelmsford Dam means you will probably see game and birdlife.

Kwaggasnek is a short and straightforward gravel pass which straddles the border between the Free State and KwaZulu-Natal near Volksrust. It would usually be driven in conjunction with Majubanek, a much bigger pass located to the north-east on the same route. The road is not in a particularly good condition, but can be traversed in any vehicle, provided that the weather allows. The pass is probably named after the now-extinct Quagga, which once roamed these hills in vast herds, but the name could also refer to the Burchell’s Zebra which is sometimes called a Kwagga in Afrikaans.

This insignificant little climb up a small hill with three slight changes in direction is an officially recognized pass on government maps, despite the fact that it does not meet any of the defined requirements of a true mountain pass. This area is, of course, rich in battlefields history and most of the hills, ridges and mountains around the town of Ladysmith have a military connotation - in this case, we have Rifleman's Ridge forming the northern part of the neck, whilst a small peak called Lancer's Peak [1202m] is the highest point of a series of hills forming the southern part of the neck.

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