Burgers Pass is a typical forestry gravel road with a classic midpoint summit. It's just above the national average at 5,7 km and has an altitude variance of 175m, which produces an average gradient of 1:32, but don't be fooled by that statistic as some of the gradients on the eastern side reach 1:5. There are plenty of bends corners and curves to keep drivers busy - 36 of them of which 10 have a turning arc of greater than 90 degrees and 5 of those exceed 150 degrees. There is one very sharp hairpin bend at the 3,8 km mark.
If you enjoy driving through dense forests, then this pass will tick most of the boxes, plus it carries very little traffic, other than forestry vehicles, so you should enjoy peace and quiet. This pass is best driven on a Sunday or public holiday, which will ensure an absence of forestry vehicles.
Cautionaries: This pass is in the very heart of the prime forestry zone around Graskop and Sabie. If you intend driving it in the week, expect forestry vehicles. Remember in forestry areas to always switch your headlights (not your parks) on. In bright sunlight the road is in a constant state of flux changing rapidly between deep shadows and bright sunlight. It takes a second or two for driver's eyes to adjust to these rapid changes, so by having your lights on, it makes you much more visible to other vehicles.
It's much easier approaching this pass from the eastern side, so although we filmed it from the west, the eastern approach is the better option, unless you enjoy navigational challenges.
Take a 23 km drive along the rim of South Africa's most spectacular canyon - The Blyderivierspoort or nowadays known as the Molatse Canyon - and marvel at the scenic wonders the poort has on offer - like the Three Rondavels, God's Window, the Pinnacle and Bourke's Luck Potholes. The road (R532) connects the northern towns accessible from the R36 (Hoedspruit, Burgersfort and Orighstad) with the southern towns of Graskop and Sabie. There is a significant altitude gain of 480 vertical metres, but due to the length of the pass, the average gradient is a mild 1:47. The steepest gradient you will experience is on the eastern sector, where it gets to 1:10.
This is an unusual pass/poort in many respects. Firstly it does not in any way resemble the normal pattern of a road through a poort, where the incising river is always in close proximity. In this case the road follows to the southern rim of the canyon and for most of the drive the true beauty of the canyon remains unseen. Therefore it's important to stop wherever you can and explore the views on foot.
Secondly the vertical profle is much more of a pass than a poort with a large altitude gain, but there are 5 separate summit points, progressively getting higher from west to east. The road has 44 bends, corners and curves of which 6 exceed 90 degrees radius, but none of them are significantly sharp. If you follow the speed limits, it should be a perfectly safe drive. Be aware that this is a densely populated area, so you have the erratic behaviour of local drivers (some fast, some very slow), as well as tourist traffic, which can be equally erratic. There is also the chance of finding livestock on the road and mountain mists with the associated reduced visibility is also common along this road.
This beautiful, long, tarred pass winds it's down the escarpment on the R533 between Graskop in the east and Pilgrim's Rest in the west. The scenery is breathtaking, with forests, waterfalls, ghost towns, old mines and birdlife in abundance. This is a fairly steep pass, especially on the eastern side with gradients around 1:10.
With 59 bends, corners and curves, drivers need to stay alert and be particularly wary of oncoming vehicles appearing on the wrong side of the road on some of the blind corners. The single, continuous barrier line is badly faded which adds to some drivers essentially ignoring the overtaking restrictions. Having no safety shoulders and dense vegeattion which grows right up to the tarmac, adds to the dangers. There are a number of cautionaries for this pass which include a fairly narrow, shoulderless surface with the occasional pothole, some extremely sharp corners, negative banking, rain, dense mountain mists as well as heavy trucks and minibus taxis that use the road. To add to this the pass offers hardly any opportunities for overtaking. Drivers who end up behind slow moving trucks, tend to become frustrated and end up taking huge risks, which can results in a head on collision. There are very few places to stop safely.
This is another of the Top 10 Mpumalanga passes with stunning views and an altitude drop of 512m through the Drakensberg escarpment over 7,8 km., producing an average gradient of 1:15. This is a steep pass in places with gradients in excess of 1:11 and is on route R533. It was was completed in October 1959 and named after a local Sotho chief, Koveni who controlled the land along the track. The name, Koveni, became Anglicized to Kowyn. The area around the pass is truly 'out of this world' with a wide range of attractions for the traveller.
At the time of its original construction, the engineering work on this pass was one of the most advanced in South Africa with the half tunnel and cantilevered roadway with a concrete surface forming a stable structure near the summit ridge. Today (2018) the once proud pass is taking strain where many potholes have made an appearance. The Mpumalanga roads authorities appear to have no funds to appear the road and potholes are being filled with gravel (which obviously only lasts till the next rainshower). Drive carefully on this pass which is prone to thick mountain mists, but the biggest danger is opposing traffic that crosses the median line in an effort to avoid the potholes.
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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