In January 1900 commander of the British forces, General Buller and his troops stormed a Boer stronghold at the top of the Drakensberg escarpment between Newcastle in KZN and Memel in the Free State - a position the Boers had successfully held for a long time, but on that day the British were victorious. Near the summit a memorial site has been erected in honour of those soldiers who lost their lives during that battle.
Today, Boer and Brit stand side by side, in defense against a new enemy - a Spaniard called El Nino:
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Masjiennek (which translates from Afrikaans into Machine Neck) is to all intents and purposes the western connecting pass between Lydenburg and the Long Tom Pass. It starts 4 km west of the Long Tom Pass summit point and descends through 609 meters of altitude to end just outside Lydenburg over an 11,9 km traverse. This produces a comfortable average gradient of 1:20, but some sections are fairly steep at 1:10.
The road is in good condition and has been well engineered. It includes 27 bends, corners and curves, most of which have an easy radius, but there a few bends requiring a reduction in speed down to 50 kph. It is subject to heavy mountain mists with the accompanying low visibility risks and carries heavy traffic, which includes articulated mining and logging trucks. Together with the Koffiehoogte on the eastern side of the Long Tom Pass, the trio of passes form one long continious pass between Lydenburg and Sabie.
This is undoubtedly the most famous pass in Mpumalanga - and with good reason too. It is 26,2 km long (and even longer depending on where one starts measuring), plus it displays an altitude variance of 671 vertical meters through a complex network of curves as it ascends up the Drakensberg escarpment between Sabie in the east and Lydenburg in the west. The pass forms part of the Mpumalanga Panoramic Route and carries appropriately heavy traffic - both tourist and commercial. It is prone to heavy mist and can be dangerous in low visibility conditions. It is named after the famous Long Tom cannon.
With 66 bends, corners and curves and a fairly easy average gradient of 1:39 and no part being steeper than 1:10 this pass is a magnificent spectacle with grand views and rugged frontier and Anglo-Boer War history adding to its allure.
Chunie's Poort is located on the tarred R37 road, about 40 km south of Polokwane (formerly known as Pietersburg). There are various spellings of the name, including Chuene and Tshwene, which translates as “Baboon”, but most sources and the signboards use the spelling as shown above. The pass follows the course of the Tudumo River, which flows southwards out of the Chuniespoort Dam. At the northern end, the river has cut its way through a narrow gorge, and an unusual feature of this pass is that the bridge over which the road is built does not cross the river, but parallels its path through this gorge, directly above the water.
This long, tarred pass connects the two old mining towns of Lydenberg - better known today as the premiere fly-fishing centre of South Africa, and Burgersfort on the R37. Lydenburg is another town which has had a recent name change and is today officially called Mashishing. No doubt because of the difficulty of pronouncing the new name, the vast majority of South Africans still call it Lydenburg.
Packed into its 19,6 km length are 51 bends, corners and curves - some of which are extremely sharp and include two hairpins and another two dangerous 90 degree bends. This is a high altitude pass with a summit height of 1621m ASL and offers excellent views, but is sorely lacking in places to stop safely. Despite the statistics, the gradients on this pass never exceed 1:16. There are a number of cautionaries for this pass, which include heavy mountain mists, lots of slow moving heavy vehicles, and some very sharp bends. Despite the dangers, the road is generally in a good condition and can be driven in any vehicle, but watch out for the occassional pothole.
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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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