The N4 is a national highway that stretches across the entire northern section of South Africa, from the Botswana border in the west, through Pretoria, to the Mozambique border in the east. Astonishingly, there are only four official passes on this road, and Magatasnek is the only one located on the western half. The pass lies just to the west of Rustenburg.
The N4 is heavily tolled, and has a reputation as a dangerous road, in particular the section between Brits and Rustenburg, where there is only a single lane in each direction for much of this route. Impatient motorists tend to overtake slow moving traffic without any regard for the road markings and signs, resulting in a number of injuries and fatalities.
When approaching Olifantsnek from the south, it is said that part of the mountain overlooking the dam looks like the head and trunk of an elephant, hence the name. Alternatively, it is quite possible that herds of wild elephant would have roamed this area long ago. It is the most westerly point of the “3 Dams” route, which is very popular with the motorcycle set as a breakfast run (the 3 dams being Hartbeespoort, Buffelspoort and Olifantsnek). This little pass is just 1.8 km long and gains only 39 metres in height, but what is lacks in statistics it makes up for in scenic beauty.
A pass is usually defined as “a break in a mountain range or other high obstruction, used for transportation from one side to the other”. Perskedraai does not even come close to this definition, as it consists of one long curve on what is essentially a flat section of land, yet multiple sources list it as an official pass. The name, which translates as “Peach Corner”, is most likely derived from the many peach orchards in the area. The pass is situated on the tarred R509 road between the two small villages of Derby and Koster and is 3.6 kms long, gaining just 16 metres in height. It is suitable for any type of vehicle (including bicycles!).
Located in a cleft in the Wiwatersberg - the mountain range that paralells the Magaliesberg to the south, this 4,7 km pass climbs 147 vertical metres offering some fairly steep gradients, gentle curves and sweeping views over the Hartbeespoort Dam and valley. It is however, a very busy road and will continue to carry heavy traffic for the duration of time it takes for the westbound extension of the N4 to be completed.
Sephton’s Nek appears to have been named after Thomas Sephton, a British immigrant that arrived in the Zeerust district in 1860. He worked as a prospector and after finding some traces of gold, was partly responsible for starting a sudden rush on what was to become the Malmani Goldfields, today called Ottoshoop. The pass is situated on the tarred R49 route between Zeerust and Kopfontein, which is the primary border post used by most South Africans when travelling by car to Gaborone, the capital of Botswana. Also located along this road is Madikwe, one of the largest game parks in South Africa.
This relatively unknown poort is one of several which follow the north/south course of rivers through the Witwatersberge. It is located 12 km to the south-west of the Hartbeespoort Dam. The drive is generally over easy gradients, but there are several fairly sharp corners and one short, steep climb of 200m in length. The road offers lovely views over the small valley with the river below the road and to the east. This is a gravel road and is generally maintained to a reasonable standard.
This gravel poort is located on a farm road to the west of Potchefstroom. Many maps do not show this as a public road, but it is accessible, although very difficult to find. The origins of the name have been lost in the mists of time and one can only speculate as to how it came about, but it is an official pass and it is marked on the 1:50000 maps. It surely must be a contender for the title of “most unusual pass name”!
The road itself is in a fairly good condition, although it should not be driven in anything less than a high-clearance vehicle or a 4x4 after heavy rain. The poort is not particularly beautiful and is completely off the beaten track, so only traverse this route if you really feel the need; MPSA drives and films this type of pass so that you don’t have to!
Zilkaats Nek is sometimes also spelled as Silkaatsnek. It runs on the NW-SE axis through a low point in the Magaliesberg range and connects Pretoria and its outlying suburbs with Brits. The pass is straightforward with two gentle curves but it is fairly steep near the summit as well as on the south-eastern descent. Although the average gradient presents at a mild 1:36. the steepest gradient is 1:6 which will definitely tax some of the smaller engined cars in the rarified Highveld air.
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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