This week we've been filming in the Central Karoo between Prince Albert and Meiringspoort on some minor gravel roads, where we uncovered no less than six fantastic new passes. These will all be produced over the next few weeks. We were thoroughly impressed with the quality of these roads, with most of them either currently being resurfaced or having recently been repaired and it's heartening to see local government investing in good roads for our farmers. It paints a very positive picture compared to all the doom and gloom available on most of the news sources and especially on social media, where the doomsayers are in full song.
Our featured pass this week will appeal to all motorists who enjoy an easier gravel pass and this one holds a special allure to kayakers and white water rafters. It's located close to Vryheid in the northern sector of KZN and provides a long, easy drive along the Bivane River - well known for it's quantity of good rapids and small waterfalls.
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Scheepersnek is a minor climb over a smallish hill with two tiny changes in direction and an altitude gain of only 64m. It is located 15 km south-west of Vryheid on the tarred R33 route. If you did not make a note of precisely where it is, this little "pass" would probably go by unnoticed. What it lacks in physical presence, it counters with some interesting battlefields history, as this is where the Battle of Scheepersnek took place on the 20th May, 1900.
This steep, tarred pass has the classic low-high-low profile rising 262m over 6 km producing an average gradient of 1:23, but many parts of this pass are at a stiff 1:7. The road, which has a summit altitude of 1351m ASL, connects Vryheid with the Black Umfolozi Valley. The pass is a mix of tar and gravel with all of the western ascent being tarred and most of the eastern descent, being gravel, except for three short tarred sections on the steepest sections most prone to water damage. The name Leeunek translates into Lions Neck.
This fairly minor tarred pass connects the town of Vryheid with Paulpietersburg in the north. It climbs 43m in altitude and is 2,79 km long, producing a comfortable average gradient of 1:33, with the steepest part being at 1: 13. The descent on the northern side is much steeper and loses 71m in altitude.
Gregory’s Nek appears to have been named after James Jenkins Gregory, a prominent citizen of the area around about the 1850s. As there were four generations of Gregorys that all produced sons named James Jenkins, it is a little unclear as to which of these men achieved the honour of having the pass named after him – it could even have been named after the family itself, or their farm, which is located nearby. The pass has a classic profile and is situated on the R33 between Vryheid and Dundee, about 15 km from the latter town. The road is not in a particularly good condition, but it is tarred and as such is suitable for all vehicles.
The Devil's Pass is a rough jeep track only suitable for 4x4 vehicles. It runs from east to west up the Southern slopes of the historical Mhlobane Mountain to summit at 1562m ASL, offering 360 degree panoramic views. This is a not track to be tackled lightly as it is a dead end at the summit, which means you have to back-track to where you started. Allow plenty of time (4 hours) to complete the circuit. It is probable that a permit is required to do this route and it might even be closed to vehicles and only accessible on foot. Inquire at Vryheid Tourism.
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.
We are as passionate about maps as we are about mountain passes. A good map is a thing of beauty that can transport you into the mists of time or get your sense of adventure churning. It is a place to make discoveries about deserts and seas, mountains and lakes; of roads leading into places you have not been before; a place to pore over holiday destinations or weekend camping trips. A map is your window to the world.