Bakenkop Pass is named after the prominent mountain near its western extremity, which is easily identifiable whilst driving the pass itself from the host of radio towers on its summit. The route forms part of one of the original trails which bisect the lower section of the Drakensberg escarpment, and is located just to the south-east of Sabie, running in a generally west-east configuration towards Kiepersol and Hazyview. The gravel track is extremely rough and rutted, and we strongly recommend the use of a high-clearance vehicle, or a 4x4 during or after wet weather. This is logging country, and the road traverses both pine and eucalyptus plantations for its entire length, also offering up some splendid views over the Lowveld.
Moodies Pass is not known by many and taken for granted by those who use it on a daily basis. It is situated on the gravel road designated as the R322, and connects the Moravian settlement of Suurbraak to the West with Heidelberg to the East. It primarily serves the farming community and those adventure and nature lovers wanting to access the Boosmansbos Wilderness area and Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve. The pass is on the short side at 3,34 km but it rises a substantial 185m vertical meters over that distance to produce an average gradient of 1:18 with the steeper sections being at 1:6.
This well maintained gravel road pass lies on the northern side of the Swartberg Mountains close to the Seweweeks Poort. It connects the Seweweeks Poort area and farms eastwards and up to the Gamkapoort Dam with Laingsburg. The 6 km long pass is subject to winter snowfalls with a summit altitude of 1202m ASL and an altitude variance of 341m, producing an average gradient of 1:18, with the steepest parts being at 1:8. Two waterfalls on the Swartberg side of the pass makes this a great detour off the busier R62 route.
The Tintwa Pass is a 4.7 km gravel road running through the Drakensberg on the North-West / South-East axis. It is known as the S1101 and connects the farming areas north of Bergville with the upper plateau of the Free State around Swinburne, Van Reenen and Harrismith. Some references list the Middledale Pass and the Tintwa Pass as being the same pass. Together they are virtually one long pass with a plateau joining them in the middle. Although it has an average gradient of just 1:48, this figure is somewhat misleading, as the pass rises and falls a number of times over its length, and the pass is more demanding than would first appear.
The Bo-Swaarmoed Pass is located to the north of the much bigger Swaarmoed Pass, 3,5 km kilometers after the Matroosberg/Erfdeel turn-off. It is a gravel road that connects the summit area of the Swaarmoed Pass with the farm Uitkomst (Matjiesrivier) in the lower valley to the north. The pass is also sometimes called the Uitkomst Pass and the Bloubank Pass by locals. This is a very old farm with old buildings, dry packed stone walls and a unique and completely intact slave bell dating back to the early 1700's.
Most of the passes aound Ceres are tarred which tends to lull drivers into a false sense of security. When adding very steep gradients, sharp corners and several bends which have negative banking, this pass has the potential to become very dangerous and doubly so during snow or after heavy rain for unattentive drivers. Don't be fooled by the mild statistics or how easy it looks on the video. It is safer to ascend this pass than descend it. Speed needs to be drastically reduced if you have approached from the south via the Swaarmoed Pass.
The oddly named Ping Pong Cutting runs on the north-south axis through the foothills of the Drakensberg along the beautiful Lotheni River valley, some 40 km north-east 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 weary soul from the mountains and rivers that abound here.
We have not been able to establish the source of the name of these cuttings, but suffice to say it's probably the most peculiarly named pass or poort in South Africa. At 3.7 km its below the national average in terms of length and the altitude variance of only 37m makes this a minor pass in every sense of the word. The cuttings appear in the middle third of the pass and are quite substantial in terms of gravel passes.
The best feature of this pass is the scenery and sense of isolation. It's a good one to to tick off your bucket list, if for no other reason than to say "I've driven the most oddly named pass in South Africa!"
This remote gravel poort is just under 4 km long and lies in the heart of the Karoo with Sutherland about 50 km to the south and Williston 80 km to the north-east. The road serves to connect the local farming community. It only gains 69 meters in altitude to produce an average gradient of a very easy 1:55 with the steeper sections closer to the summit being at 1:10.
There are two big farms that lie to the north of the road - Snyders Post and Snyders Poort. The pass takes its name from the latter farm.
The geology is stunning as the poort is entered from the south and the cuttings made for the road reveal a natural history of the rock strata. Besides the interesting geology, this is also a very remote road that carries very little traffic, so you will be able to enjoy a sense of solitude, but be well prepared and carry enough fuel, a puncture repair kit and sundry tools in case of a breakdown - you could have a long wait. There is no cellphone reception.
Ottaspoort Pass is a secondary farm style gravel road designated as the P2937, that connects farms with Garies in the north-west and Loeriesfontein in the south-east. It is located about 35 km south-east of Garies and is accessible off the R358 or the the N7 depending on your direction of approach. The poort runs on the east/west axis close the border of the Western and Northern Cape.
This minor pass is located some 35 km north-east of Calvinia in the Northern Cape. The name is interesting and a little misleading as this road does not conform to the definition of a poort and is much more of a classic 'down-up-down' profile type road over a nek. It's one of those roads not many people know about and is a perfect road to explore by car, 4x4 or bike. The road connects the farms to the north of Calvinia with Brandvlei as well as Calvinia itself. With an average gradient of 1:54 no-one will struggle to climb over this little pass. The road reaches its steepest point on the northern side of the summit where the gradient reaches 1:11.
We filmed this little pass very early in the morning in the late autumn of 2017. There is a remarkable sense of space, peace and solitude and the views of the mountains around the northern side of Calvinia are absolutely breathtaking. The road is generally in a reasonable condition, but as is the case with all gravel roads, this can change rapidly after rain, so drive below 80 kph and beware of corrugations. The shakiness in our video is evidence of the corrugations on this road (this despite deflated tyres and operatring in full 4WD).
This is a gravel road pass for the purist! With a major altitude gain of 651 vertical meters over 7,2 km, the average gradient is a steep 1:11 - but wait, there's more....... You will be dealing with gradients of 1:6 along certain sections of the pass and if it's raining, prepare yourself for some slippin' n slidin' if you're not in a 4x4. The road traverses the deep valley carved out by the Umkomaas River, which is also known in Zulu as the Mkomazi River.
This is a gravel road and it is lethal when wet, so take it nice and easy and enjoy the incredible views as you gain/lose altitude. About 3/4 way up, there is a 145 degree left hand hairpin. This is a good spot to stop and absorb the grandeur and wide panorama of the river valley far below.
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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