Charles' Pass is a 2.9 km rough gravel pass that connects the missionary town of Pella with the Orange River a few kilometers further North. These are rough roads in a semi-desert environment and a high clearance SUV or 'bakkie' would be the better transport option in these parts. This part of the Northern Cape appears to be burned black by the sun. There is very little vegetation and for the most part it is a desert or semi-desert region. The Orange River provides a vital resource to survival with some of the finest grapes and dates coming from this area.
Darters Poort is one of those official passes that leaves you wondering if you're in the right place. The pass has only one gentle curve towards it's northern end and climbs a fairly insignificant 62m over it's 3,6 km length. The poort does however have significant historical value as it is is named after a British sharpshooter Lt. Charles James Darter who was ambushed and killed near the poort in 1902 right at the end of the second Anglo-Boer war. His grave is located just south of Kamieskroon on the N7 and is popularly referred to as the smallest part of Britain in the world.
The poort is located on the N7 Cape-Namibia route approximately 14 km south of Kamieskroon. It forms part of a quartet of altitude gaining passes and poorts between Garies and Springbok - the others being Garieshoogte, Brakdam se Hoogte and Burke's passes. You will need to enter the GPS coordinates so that you realise you are at the poort.
During our extensive filming trips through all nine provinces we have seem them all - the long and the short and the tall. (rhyme intended). We travelled a very long way to locate and film this one and it would be fair to say that any sense of expectation was dashed when we drove it. Whilst the pass is fairly short at 3,2 km it hardly fits the definition of a mountain pass and is essentially just a gravel road that contains one S-bend and rises only 28m up a tiny little ridge. Why the provincial authorities decided to officially name this road as a pass is something of a mystery, but we present it here for you to decide whether you want to seek this one out and add it to your list.
If you didn't know it had a name, this little poort (wisely listed in the Afrikaans diminutive, so as not to be taken seriously) would be gone in the blink of an eye and you would be none the wiser. Some maps and references also call this poort "Die Poort se Nek" This is about as obscure as any pass can get. It lies on a remote gravel road (the P2259) about 40 km due east of Sutherland. It is of some significance in that together with its sister poort (Bloupoort) a few kilometers to the west, these two little poorts are important landmarks on your journey to the fabulous Karelskraal Pass a little further on.
The Richtersveld National Park plays host to six official passes and many more unofficial ones. Of the six official passes, the Domorogh Pass is easily the most technical, as well as being the shortest. The pass connects the upper plateau area of the Richtersveld with the Gariep River valley and was originally built by hand by a small handful of local men to create an access route down the small escarpment for their livestock to move between the winter and summer grazing areas. The pass is 1,4 km long and has an altitude variance of 139m of producing a steep average gradient of 1:10 with the steepst parts being at 1:4. This pass should not be driven in any vehicle other than a high clearance 4WD vehicle with low range. We issue a 'danger' cautionary for this pass, especially in the descending mode.
The pass is obviously named after the Doornrivier which course it follows for some distance. It is also sometimes called the Doringrivier Pass in the more Afrikaans style. The most notable feature of this pass is that the Nieuwoudtville waterfall is located close to the southern end of the pass. At 8,8 km this is a moderately long pass with a total altitude variance of 245m which produces an easy average gradient of 1:36, with the steepest parts being just after the summit point at 1:9. This is a safe, well engineered road with gentle curves and nicely banked corners and presents no obvious dangers in fair weather. It is suitable for all vehicles.
This short, steep pass is located 7 km north-west of Leliefontein and 14 km ESE of Kamieskroon on a minor gravel road - the P2943 in the mountainous part of Namaqualand and is a prime wild-flower spotting zone. At just 1,4 km the pass is fairly short, but it climbs 96 vertical metres, producing a stiff average gradient of 1:14, with the steepest parts being just before the summit, where things get as steep as 1:5. During wet weather, light front wheel drive cars will experience traction issues here, but at all other times of the year, the pass is suitable for all vehicles. The pass is named after the Draaiklip (or Turning Stone) which can be seen on the right hand side (west) of the road, just after the sharp left hand bend.
Droevoetspoort is a minor poort about 10 km west of Fraserburg on the gravel R356. The poort offers a smattering of greenery as it follows the course of the river for 2.2 km descending a scant 16 metres in altitude. The average gradient pans out at a negligible 1:140. There is a solitary farm nestled in a shady part of the poort close to a copse of bluegum trees. No matter how insignificant it appears in the greater scheme of things, it will seem like an oasis after the flat, dry scenery in every direction.
Duiwelsnek is located just on the outskirts of the lovely Northern Cape town of Kakamas, very close to the banks of the mighty Orange River. There is no indication on the official topographical maps as to how this pass was named, but there is a good chance that the rocky hill on the northern side of the summit is called Duiwelskop, or something similar. The road is in a good condition and should not present problems for any type of vehicle, except perhaps in wet weather. There are few hazards on the pass other than the usual livestock and farm vehicles, but beware of the local farmers that seem to drive a little faster than they should!
This scenic gravel poort is located about 10 km to the south-east of Springbok on the gravel R355 road to Loeriesfontein. It's named after the Eendoring farm near the western end of the poort. The R355 is a wide, gravel road which is generally maintained to a good standard, but it is prone to corrugations. The poort lies just south of the well known Goegap Nature Reserve and is 5,5 km long with an easy average gradient of 1:51, but there are one or two short sections where things get as steep as 1:11. The scenery is excellent, regardless of what time of year you drive along this road. The wide, sandy plains, interspered with jumbled granite peaks and ridges, perfect northern sunshine and the ubiquitous kokerbome, provides photographers with ample opportunities for great photography and for the rest - simply a place to enjoy the peace and tranquility.
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.
We are as passionate about maps as we are about mountain passes. A good map is a thing of beauty that can transport you into the mists of time or get your sense of adventure churning. It is a place to make discoveries about deserts and seas, mountains and lakes; of roads leading into places you have not been before; a place to pore over holiday destinations or weekend camping trips. A map is your window to the world.