Sand River Heights (Sandrivierhoogte) is located on the national N1 highway between the small towns of Ventersburg and Winburg, and is one of only three passes on this highway north of Bloemfontein. The road is wide, with two lanes in either direction, and is extremely well designed and built, so it presents few dangers, except for the “surprise” factor. After travelling on long straight roads for many kilometres, especially if approaching from the south, the pass seems to appear out of nowhere, and can catch an unsuspecting driver unawares.
This short poort of only 1.48 km climbs just 50 meters as it dives through a natural cleft in the Soutpansberg. There is very little information available on who Maskekwa is (or was) and why the poort was so named.
Ranking closely alongside the notorious Kaaimans River Pass as one of the Western Cape's most dangerous passes for trucking accidents, it is not so much the gradient that is problematic, but the long, straight, momentum-gathering descent which leads suddenly into a dangerously sharp, left-hand bend. Thankfully, a substantial crash-barrier prevents out-of-control vehicles from crossing over into the oncoming traffic. A strategically place arrestor bed halfway down the pass has also helped to reduce the dangers of trucks experiencing brake failure. There are so many scars on that crash barrier that it leaves one wondering what story each scar has to tell!
Passing through the Soutpansberg, Wyllie's Poort (part of the N1 between Louis Trichardt - Makhado and Musina) boasts a rich archeaological, geological and cultural heritage, and is also a bird-watching hotspot! It lays claim to being the second northern-most tarred pass in South Africa and offers attractive scenery with lots of twists and turns over a distance of 3,57 km with a small altitude drop of just 57 vertical metres.
This relatively new pass was constructed between 1984 and 1988 at the then staggering cost of R125,000,000. Leading up to the Huguenot Tunnel from its south side, is the awe-inspiringly beautiful, high-altitude Miaspoort Viaduct (the first of its kind to be built in South Africa!) The bridge is simultaneously curved and cambered --constructed by the incremental method. It soars high above the farm-patchworked Miaspoort Valley. The 4 km-long tunnel drastically reduced the distance of the old pass by 11km. (Please note that the Google Earth satellite imaging cannot 'read' a tunnel; it instead follows the track of the road, so ignore the steep spike in the middle of the vertical profile.)
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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