The Northern Cape

This minor little pass of only 2,5 km has an altitude variance of 63m producing a mild average gradient of 1:40 and no point ever exceeds 1:12, making this an easy enough traverse. The Northern Cape government cartographers were keen to name every poort and pass that they could possibly find and this is one of many official passes, which barely comply with the basic definition of a pass, but it's official, so we have produced and indexed it for the sake of thoroughness.

There is a certain kind of pleasure in actually navigating your way successfully to locate these out of the way passes and poorts, so if you hunt this one down, remember to enjoy the 'getting there' part to the full. This part of the Northern Cape is achingly dry, barren and underpopulated. Drive well prepared for punctures and make sure you have enough fuel.

We have not physically driven this pass ourselves as yet, so our description and research is based on available resources and government maps. The possibility exists that you might encounter locked farm gates. Make sure you have sufficient fuel to backtrack.

The Bloukrans Pass on the R355 some 20 km south of Calvinia, is one of four Bloukrans Passes in South Africa. It is named after the majestic Bloukransberge over which foothills the pass traverses. This is a safe, well designed road in all, but very wet conditions and snow does sometimes fall on the pass's upper reaches (1029m ASL)

The pass only has 15 bends, corners and curves, most of which are fairly gentle but the average gradient is 1:19, which is on the steep side. The road is wide and the gravel surface has good run-off, so even in rainy weather, this pass should present few issues to normal cars. However it is the approach sections on either side,which can get extremely muddy and slippery, so if its been raining heavily in the area, it is best avoided unless in a 4WD vehicle.

The Blounek Pass runs through a very gentle curve on the tarred R63 between Williston and Carnarvon between a series of slightly raised 'koppies'. It holds no apparent dangers and only gains 36 meters of altitude over 3,9 km, giving an average gradient of 1:49, with the steepest parts being at 1:13. The best feature of this little pass is that it is just 10 km West of Carnarvon - a Karoo sheep farming town which sees soaring summer temperatures above 40C and where the lure of ice cold drinks is bound to find favour with thirsty travellers.

The Bloupoort Pass lies on the east-west axis through a natural poort just beyond the Vaalpunt Mountain, some 30km due east of Sutherland in the Northern Cape. The pass is very short at only 1.16 km and presents no dangers other than the usual wet weather cautionary - but this is the Great Karoo and rains seldom fall here. The average gradient is a gentle 1:34. In the greater scheme of passes and poorts, this one is right at the bottom of the scale. The road is designated as P2259.

This remote little poort is difficult to find and is located approximately 40 km south-east of Springbok. Bobbejaanpoort translates from Afrikaans into Passage of the Baboons. The road is not much more than a sandy jeep track these days and if you're heading here in summer, you'll need to deflate your vehicles tyres as well as engage 4WD drive to cope with the soft sand. The poort is 3,2 km long and has the typical easy gradients synonymous with poorts at 1:49 with some of the gradients near the summer getting to 1:14. The scenery consists of fairly flat,sandy plains dotted with low scrubland and peppered with low granite hills. At the summit, which is reached after 1,1 km, there is a sturdy, locked farm gate, which means one has to turn around at the summit and retrace your route.

This short poort is located on a minor gravel road between Victoria West and Loxton. It's only just over a kilometre long and has a small altitude variance of 33m. It's a very long drive locating this little poort and only the most dedicated pass hunters will make the big effort to drive it.

To make up for its relatively unimpressive statistics, you will experience an intense of isolation and the wide and barren expanses of the Karoo always has landscapes of note to enjoy.

The usual gravel road cautionaries apply of corrugations, ruts and washaways as well as loose gravel on the corners. IT's best to expect to get a puncture. If you don't have two spare wheels, travel with a repair kit and know how to use it. A portable compressor is a useful addition to your tool kit.

The Botterkloof pass is a fairly substantial altitude gaining pass in the Northern Cape between Clanwilliam and Calvinia. It is the third of a trio of passes on the R364 route for those travelling from west to east. In rainy weather or snowy conditions, this pass can become very tricky; even in a 4WD vehicle. The pass descends a total of 345m over a distance of 11,3 km producing an average gradient of 1:33 with the steepest parts measuring in at 1:10. There are sections near the summit with near vertical, unguarded drop-offs, which can be a bit intimidating for drivers unaccustomed to feeling so exposed. The more dramatic part of the pass is in the first 2,5 km near the summit.

The origins of the name are probably due to the large number of Botterbome that grow in the kloof. Tylecodon paniculatus can reach heights of 2 m, making it the largest of the tylecodons.  It is summer deciduous. The plants conserve energy by photosynthesising through their greenish stems during the hot dry summer months. The yellowish-green, papery bark is a very attractive feature of this plant and has given rise to the common name. During the winter, plants are covered with long, obovate, succulent leaves clustered around the apex of the growing tip.The botterboom is poisonous to stock, causing 'krimpsiekte'. In the past, the smooth, slippery stems were sometimes used to slide or ski at great speed down smooth rock faces or dam walls, adrenaline rushes before the days of bungy jumping!

This pass is located on the N7 national road between Garies and Kamieskroon, more commonly known as the Cape-Namibia Route. It gains 186 vertical metres over 4,6 km producing a fairly easy average gradient of 1:25 with the steepest parts presenting at 1:11. This is relatively new version of the pass, with the original road still being clearly visible to the west (left) of the new road. The road offers at least four substantial cuttings, two of them which are quite deep with almost vertical sides, as is the case with the most of the passes in this region where the hard granite rocks make for stable rock faces.

Burke's Pass is a good quality, tarred road on the N7 highway about 24 km South West of the Northern Cape town of Springbok. The pass is 4,9 km long and has an altitude variance of 184 vertical meters with a summit height of 701m. It falls within the Namaqualand region and is ablaze with the most wondrous wild flower displays in springtime (August and September).

This current pass along the N7 is a far cry from the original Burke's Pass which took a completely different line through the granite mountains circa 1850 and then a 100 years later a much better road (also gravel) took a line up the next kloof to the west, but over a more convoluted and complex routing. The latest version of the pass along the N7 dates back to around 1995, which itself has been realigned and improved to better geometric standards a number of times. (See the aerial photo lower down of the three routes)


This well engineered pass connects the Karoo towns of Noupoort and Middelburg on the N9 route. With fairly easy gradients, the 7 km long traverse through stunning Karoo landscape is well worth the effort. The pass is named after the large mountain to the south of Noupoort, known as Carlton Hills.

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Mountain Passes South Africa

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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