Biesiepoort is located just to the south of the N10, the national road which connects Upington with the Namibian border post at Nakop. The word “biesie” translates from Afrikaans to English as “bulrush”, but it could also refer to any of the family of reeds which are used to weave indigenous household items such as sleeping mats or wicker furniture. The poort itself, although very pretty, is quite insignificant, but the area in which it is located typifies the Kalahari landscape and is an unforgettable drive.
The road is in a good condition and can be traversed in any vehicle, although there are large patches of soft sand. Watch out for small animals such as mongooses, and be particularly careful not to run over the large monitor lizards (leguaans) which are commonly found moving slowly across the road.
This smaller, but very steep pass is located in between the two big Baviaanskloof passes of Grasnek and Holgat. Due to its very steep gradients of 1:4 the road has been recently partially paved to assist with traction. The pass connects the Rooihoek camping area in the west with Doodsklip in the east and offers a wide variety of scenery and some technical driving. It is, in fact, the paving on this road, which has presented drivers with some new challenges.
The pass is short at 3,4 km and despite its misleading average gradient of 1:37, this little pass is packed with sharp corners, steep gradients and technical driving. On the flipside, it offers fabulous scenery and several river crossings before, during and after the pass.
The river crossing at Doodsklip can often be quite deep. Drivers need to be aware of this and follow the standard procedure for deep water crossings (see information lower down).
This unusual gravel pass is located on the coastal plateau between Albertinia and the coastal road connecting Gouritzmond and Stilbaai. The pass has a classic inverted profile (High-Low-High) and traverses a riverless valley called Canca se Leegte. It has some very sharp and awkward (incorrectly banked) corners which can be lethal if your speed is too high.
At 2,6 km it's a short pass (well below the national average) but it packs plenty of variety into that distance. Some of the gradients are steep at 1:7 and the pass zig-zags its way past two prominent rocky outcrops called Eilandskop, after which the pass is named. The pass is best driven in a high clearance vehicle or very carefully in a normal car.
This short gravel pass comes as something of a surprise after the long, flat coastal plains between Riversdale and the coastal town resort of Jongensfontein. It's about 23 km due south of Riversdale on a minor gravel road, the P1523. It's of average length at 4,7 km and displays an altitude variance of 125m, with the steepest parts near the summit getting as steep as 1:7. There are some dangerous corners on this pass with negative banking. It was being rebuilt on the day of filming and many of the dangers have now been re-engineered to make for a safer traverse.
Elandskraal Pass is named after the tiny village on the eastern side. The settlement was established in the late 19th century, and its most prominent feature is the beautiful stone Lutheran Church, built in the 1920s. Funds to build the church were raised by organising a bazaar; this was so successful that a surplus was sent to Germany to look after children orphaned by the Great War (the 1st World War). The village and the pass are located quite close to the Anglo-Zulu battlefields of Rorke’s Drift, Fugitive’s Drift and Isandlwana. The road is in a surprisingly good condition and can be driven in any vehicle, but beware of the local drivers, who seem to view the traverse as their personal racetrack. All of the other hazards associated with rural South Africa also apply.
This attractive and sometimes challenging pass is named after the two river valleys which it traverses on its way to Brandhoek north of Joubertina in the Langkloof. It's a typical farm road and forms a long loop starting just east and ending 10 km west of Joubertina which includes the much longer Brakkloof Pass. Both have to be driven in tandem. Allow about two and a half hours to complete the loop. You will be treated to exceptional mountain views, several river crossings, deep gorges, riverine forests and multiple fruit farms.
This 8,2 km long pass has 42 bends, corners and curves which include two hairpins, of which the second one is severe and requires cautious driving at 20 kph. You will need a high clearance vehicle to drive the route as the road can get rough in places, but a 4x4 is not mandatory, except in wet weather.
The Brakkloof Pass is a mixture of a poort and a mountain pass. It's a fairly long one at just under 13 km and despite the easy average gradient of 1:65, there are some very steep sections at 1:5, especially near the southern end on the approach and descent to the Kouga River valley, which will probably create traction issues for non 4WD vehicles in wet weather. The pass has to be driven in tandem with the Kouga-Kleinrivier Pass which lies further to the west. The two passes together form a wide loop with Joubertina as a start and end point. Allow two hours to do the loop excluding stops.
The kloof is extensively farmed so the usual cautionaries apply of expecting livestock, pedestrians and slow moving farming vehicles on the road. Visually this is a lovely road to explore and note that there are many cattle grids, which are best crossed at 30 kph. The pass is located about 33 km to the ENE of the farming town of Joubertina off the R62 route through the fruit farming region known as Die Langkloof.
This lovely gravel poort winds it's way along the valley carved out by the Luzi River. It's located 9 km south-west of Mount Fletcher as the crow flies. The road can get very slippery when wet and is often badly rutted. At 14,8 km it's a fairly long poort and it's peppered with sharp bends as well as several unbriged river crossings via concreted drifts. There are a total of 21 stream crossings and the 84 bends, corners and curves which requires attentive driving. The road remains on the southern side of the Luzi River throughout.
With a few exceptions, all the stream crossings (which are tributaries of the Luzi River), are via concreted drifts. As these streams have a fast run off down the mountain slopes, and they can become lethal when in flood. Exercise extreme caution under such conditions and never take a chance if you think the depth is too deep and the current too swift. You will be treated to some stunning scenery of sandstone outcrops and colourful tribal villages. Don't be in a hurry on this drive. Luzi Poort is the final of three passes between Rhodes and Mount Fletcher and is often overlooked by the bigger Pitseng Pass and of course Naude's Nek Pass, which is the dominnt pass in the area. We recommend a high clearance vehicle, although a 4WD vehicle is not required, except in muddy conditions.
Uitkykhoogte is a minor gravel road pass, located to the south-east of the small Free State town of Reddersburg. The road is in a good condition, and can be traversed in any vehicle, weather permitting. The route via this pass forms a very scenic alternative to the dreary 70 km stretch of the N6 when travelling between Reddersburg and Smithfield, provided that you don’t mind getting a bit of dust on your vehicle. The name, which translates as “Lookout Heights”, no doubt originated during one of the Anglo-Boer wars, as this area experienced a plethora of military action during this period.
This tough gravel road pass is located entirely within the Grootwater Nature Reserve near Lephalale (formerly Ellisras) in the Limpopo Province, but it is a public road and no restrictions have been applied. It is very long (18 kilometres) and difficult, and could take between 45 and 90 minutes to traverse, depending on your vehicle and your level of experience. It would probably be possible to travel the route in a high-clearance vehicle from east to west, but the opposite direction would require the use of a 4x4. The pass has gained a reputation as a bike killer, and adventure motorcyclists are advised to apply extreme caution and common sense if they attempt this route. Avoid this pass entirely 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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