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KwaZulu-Natal

Lombardskop Nek is an easy tarred traverse along the east/west axis just outside Ladysmith in KZN with a minor change in altitude of just 53m. The road routes between a series of peaks and hills which have great historical value and in this instance the peak called Lombardskop takes us back to the Battle of Lombardskop in 1899. We spend most of our research into the history of the Anglo-Boer war, rather than the technical side of this very easy drive.

The Lotheni Pass is the biggest of the four passes clustered around the Lotheni and Mkhomazi Nature Reserves. The other passes are the Bucklands Pass, the Nzinga Pass and the oddly named Ping Pong Cuttings. The Lower Lotheni Road offers wonderful scenery as it follows the foothills of the Drakensberg, offering tranquil scenery and a glimpse of rural life as several villages are traversed.

Being a gravel road, the surface condition is subject to weather conditions and maintenance schedules. Always expect rough sections with ruts, washaways and loose gravel. Other dangers include erratic local driver behaviour, livestock on the road, minibus taxis and pedestrians.

Stick to the speed limit and be particularly careful at blind rises and sharp corners, where some drivers tend to drift onto the wrong side of the road.

Lundy's Hill is a major pass located on the tarred R617 trunk route between Howick and Bulwer. It's 21 km long and contains 35 bends, corners and curves, most of which are easy. The altitude variance of 505m converts into an average gradient of 1:41 with the steepest parts measuring in at 1:9. This pass is unkindly referred to a "hill". During our research of this pass, we could not uncover any meaningful history on the naming of Lundy's Hill.

The pass has a classic inverted vertical profile, typical of a pass that descends down to a river and ascends up the other side. The river in question is the Umkomaas River (Mkomazi). The pass provides access to several rural villages, where the scenery is fabulous, especially during the summer months. 

The pass lies along the footbhills of the Drakensberg at an elevation of roughly 1400m ASL and is subject to electrical thunderstorms in summer and possible snowfalls during winter. Watch out for slow moving and erratic local drivers, pedestrians and livestock plus dogs on the road - and of course the ubiquitous minibus taxis, who write their own rules.

This is a substantial gravel pass of 8,8 km long that connects the N11 to the north of Laings Nek pass with the R34 near Memel and runs along the SW/NE axis. The pass climbs 266m to summit at 1848m and produces an average gradient of 1:33, but there are some very steep sections at 1:5. We issue the usual KZN gravel pass cautionary of "slippery when wet" as well as the occurrence of frequent mountain mists which can become extremely dangerous when visibility is reduced.

Mayaba Pass is located just to the south of Tugela Ferry, a large scattered town which straddles the Tugela River in KwaZulu-Natal, north of Greytown on the R33 trunk route. When it comes to hazards, this pass ticks all of the boxes; terrible road conditions, steep unguarded drop-offs, lots of traffic, pedestrians, children, domestic animals and livestock on the road. There is some evidence that work has commenced to upgrade this road, but in the meantime we strongly recommend that you avoid this pass altogether if possible, particularly at night. It can be driven in any vehicle, but extreme care will need to be exercised. The pass is named after the small village located at the summit.

It contains 26 bends, corners and curves within its 10,4 km length and produces an average gradient of 1:21, but many sections especially on the northern side of the summit point reach gradients as steep as 1:7.

 

Mhlwane Pass is named after the river which marks the start of the pass on the eastern side, also sometimes spelled as “Mhlwana”. It would usually be driven in conjunction with Collings Pass, as they are on the same road and follow one another almost back-to-back. The pass has a simple low-high profile and has fairly mild gradients throughout, making it an easy drive for most vehicles in good weather. It offers excellent views over the KwaZulu-Natal grasslands towards the high mountains in the west and to the north, where the nearby Normandien Pass is located.

The Middledale Pass is a 6.3 km tarred pass running through the Drakensberg on a North/South axis. It is known as the S1101 route and connects the farming areas north of Bergville with the upper plateau of the Free State around Swinburne, Van Reenen and Harrismith. Some references show the Middledale and Tintwa Passes as being the same pass, whereas they are actually two separate passes on the same road separated by a short plateau. There is a similar scenario in the Western Cape with the Wildehondskloofhoogte and Op de Tradouw Passes being the same pass, with the former being the ascent and the latter the descent.

Mielietuinspruit Pass - which translates as Corn Garden Stream - is named after the large beef farm situated near its summit, just off the N11 on a minor gravel road between Ladysmith and Newcastle in KwaZulu-Natal. Although not technically challenging, the pass offers the intrepid traveller a “surprise” element, in that it is a much better pass than its name or location would suggest. The road can be used as a shortcut access route from the N11 to the far more significant Mhlwane and Collings passes, which are located to the west. The road is in a good condition, and can be driven in any car, although wet weather might be a problem.

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.

The pass is obviously named after the Mkomazi River (Umkomaas) and displays a typical inverted vertical profile associated with a pass that drops down into a river valley and ascends up the other side. This is a fairly long pass at 11.8 km and has an altiude variance of 521m, which translates into an average gradient of 1:23.

There are 34 bends, corners and curves to contend with, most of which have gentle arcs, but there two sharp 90 degree corners on the northern side, which require careful driving. In earlier times the river was known as the Umkomaas, mainly to suit the Western tongue better, but today the spelling has reverted back to the original Zulu version.

The pass is part of the R56 and connects Ixopo in the south with Richmond in the north. The road is currently (2021) under refurbishment and is generally in a fair condition.

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Mountain Passes South Africa is a website dedicated to the research, documentation, photographing and filming of the mountain passes of South Africa.
 

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