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.
There are four passes in South Africa containing the word Braam, which is Afrikaans for Bramble. Besides this one there is also a Braambos Pass near Adelaide, as well as a Braamhoek Pass in KZN and another Braamnek in North West Province. It's easy to get confused!
As far as technical driving goes, Braamnek has become a mild pass, as once the new road was built over the neck, most of the bends and steep gradeints were removed when the old road was realigned and rebuilt. It has just 4 very gentle bends and the pass holds no apparent dangers from a design point of view.
However, this is the Eastern Cape, an area notorious for having free roaming livestock on the road. The behaviour of the local drivers is also a concern, as driver behaviour can best be described as erratic. On this road you will find modern cars being driven extremely fast and conversely there will be many very old unroadworthy vehicles crawling along at a snails pace.
Unless you earmark this mass with GPS cordinates, you might easily drive straight over it without realsing you have just driven an official pass.
This fairly long pass of 9,4 km winds its way over the mountains in the vicinity of the Nonesi village about 17 km north-east of Queenstown in the Eastern Cape. The pass is tarred and is located on the R392 trunk route between Queenstown and Dordrecht
When the pass was rebuilt and realigned, many of the steep gradients and sharp bends were removed, making today's version of the pass is a much safer traverse. During winter, the pass is subject to snowfalls, in which case it's best avoided altogether unless you are in a 4WD vehicle.
As the case with all the roads (tar and gravel) in the old Transkei region, livestock on the road is an ever present threat and these roads are best avoided at night. The Bongolo Dam at the southern end of the pass has an interesting history dating back to the early 1900s and was apparently built making use of donkeys as labour. The word mbongolo means donkey in isiXhosa, hence the name of the dam and the pass.
This long tarred pass connects the town of Jozini with the N2 national highway and traverses the mountains on the south eastern side of the Pongolapoort Dam. Although the average gradients are a gentle 1:49 there are some fairly steep sections that reach 1:7 closer to the summit point.
This is a fairly modern pass with good engineering standards, but there are a number of cautionaries to be aware of, which include, slow moving vehicles, barrier line transgressions, pedestrians, minibus taxis and livestock on the road. The road traverses a number of rural villages, so pay attention to a variety of changes in the speed limit. This is an all weather pass which is suitable for all traffic.
The main attraction is the wonderful scenery which includes a range of vistas over the dam from the comfortable height of the ridge. If you're a fisherman, you can catch Tiger fish here.
This is a safe and easy pass that descends from the coastal plateau down the eastern flank of the Goukou River towards the coastal town of Still Bay. Everything about the pass is moderate but the views to the west are lovely over the river and valley. This is a safe all weather pass with very few dangers and is suitable for all vehicles. On the day of filming there were extensive road works with lengthy delays, so we have yet to film this pass.
The pass only has 5 easy corners and displays an altitude variance of 134m producing an average gradient of a mild 1;29, but there are some steeper sections near the summit area of 1:9
This easy pass on the N2 just east of Plettenberg Bay climbs 225m up the eastern portal of the Keurbooms River valley via 7 gentle and evenly graded bends. It's exactly 5 km long and produces an average gradient of 1:22 with the steepest section registering 1:10. The road is generally in excellent condition and is safe with 80% of the ascent featuring an overtaking lane. However the N2 is generally a very busy road, so expect heavy traffic day and night and be particularly aware of slow moving trucks in either direction.
To the east of the pass is a beautiful section of the Garden Route which includes The Crags, Kurland, Natures Valley and of course there is access to both the Grootrivier Pass as well as the Bloukrans Pass (the latter currently being closed to traffic).
This short pass of 1,7 km descends 99m in altitude producing an average gradient of 1:17 but it never gets steeper than 1:14. The pass falls under the category of a suburban pass and offers excellent views of the eastern side of Plettenberg Bay as well as the Keurbooms River estuary and beach zone, known as Lookout Beach.
It carries heavy traffic being on the N2 and there a number of cautionaries on offer. Be on the lookout for minibus taxis, jaywalkers, livestock, road blocks and speed traps as well as slow moving heavy trucks. This is a high accident zone, so stay sharp!
Hendriksdal Pass is located just to the south of Sabie, on the tarred R37 route which connects the little town with Nelspruit (Mbombela). The pass is fairly long at 9,5 km and presents an altitude variance of 218m via 22 bends, corners and curves, most of which have an easy radius.
The pass is named after the original farm in the area, which later also gave its name to a railway station dating back to the 1920s. The road is in a good condition (unlike many of the other roads in this area) and presents very few hazards, provided that the speed limit is adhered to. The pass offers up magnificent elevated views of Sabie itself, as well as the mountains and tree plantations which abound in this area.
This lovely tarred pass with its sweeping curves and grand views is located midway between Sabie and Graskop on the R532 and also provides access to the renowned Mac Mac Falles as well as the Mac Mac Pools just a few kilometres further south. The road is in a good condition and is suitable for all vehicles, on the proviso that barrier line restrictions and speed limits are adhered to. It's not a major pass in the greater scheme of things but it does provide magnificent scenery in a picture perfect Lowveld setting.
The entire area around Graskop and Sabie is prone to heavy rainfall and frequent mountain mists. In such low visibility conditions, adapt your speed according to conditions, put on all your lights (in daylight hours) including your hazards. At night switch your main beams off and use your fog lights to reduce glare.
This easy tarred pass is located on the tarred R75 route about midway between Kirkwood in the east and Jansenville in the west. It's of average length at 4,7 km and displays an altitude variance of 135m and an average gradient of 1:35 with the steepest section being near the summit at 1:9.
Strangely there are two Soutpansnek Passes on the R75 just 43 km apart. This was always going to cause confusion, so we have labelled the two passes with a suffix to separate them distinctly. This one is the Soutpansnek Pass (Wolwefontein) and the more northern one is the Soutpansnek Pass (Ravelskloof).
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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