The pass is named after the small town of Bulembu just inside Swaziland at the southern terminus of the pass. It twists and turns its way through one of Mpumalanga's most beautiful valleys and over some of the oldest mountains on earth. A whole list of attractions make this a bucket list tar pass, which include magnificent scenery, mind boggling geology, a well-engineered road, dense forests and rich mining history. Allow plenty of time to stop at the various tourism points. Any visit to Barberton, should include a traverse of the Saddleback and Bulembu passes to make your visit complete.
The pass contains 124 bends corners and curves within its 26,5 km distance, which equates to a corner every 213 metres! Comply with the 40 kph speed restriction and your trip should go well.
The pass displays an unusual vertical profile with 8 individual summit points, which creates an undulating picture, rather than the usual classic pass profile of up-summit-down. The pass has something of a reputation for fatal accidents, but the frequency has decreased since the road was rebuilt recently.
The Hilltop Pass is a wide, tarred road in good condition and is named after the farm 'Hilltop' at the summit. The 6,24 km long pass offers beautiful views over the De Kaap Valley and the Barberton Nature Reserve. The pass is located on the R40 and connects Barberton in the south with Nelspruit in the north. The pass is peppered with sharp corners, including 3 bends in excess of 120 degrees. It should be noted that there are no lay-bys to stop safely. The pass descends a total of 326 vertical metres producing a stiff average gradient of 1:14 with the steepest parts registering 1:6
The Saddleback Pass is located to the south-east of Barberton and forms part of the R40 which connects with the border post at Bulembo, Swaziland. The pass is tarred and in fair condition with obvious signs of maintenance in a state of ongoing progress. There were however some signs of potholes appearing, but these were not many. It climbs 609 meters in altitude over 10,4 km producing an average gradient of 1:17 - This will put it amongst our upper end list of steepest passes in our Extreme Passes listing.
It is as well that it is tarred, as this road would have been something of a nightmare in wet weather, when it was still gravel. Beyond the summit and Lomati Dam, the tar continues and gets a name change - The Bulembu Pass.
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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