The Northern Cape

Neuspoort is unusual in that it consists of two distinct sections, separated by a flat plateau in the middle. It is named after the small range of mountains through which it traverses, called the Neusberge. It is located on the N14, the national road which connects Johannesburg in the east with Springbok in the west. The road is in an excellent condition and should not present any problems, provided that the speed limits are adhered to. The route between Keimoes and Kakamas is incredibly scenic, with spectacular contrasts between the Kalahari Desert on the northern side of the road and the hundreds of green vineyards located all along the Orange River on the southern side. The western portion of this road is also locally known as Bobbejaankrans or Baviaanskrans, which both mean the same thing.

 

Ottaspoort Pass is a secondary farm style gravel road designated as the P2937, that connects farms with Garies in the north-west and Loeriesfontein in the south-east. It is located about 35 km south-east of Garies and is accessible off the R358 or the the N7 depending on your direction of approach. The poort runs on the east/west axis close the border of the Western and Northern Cape.

The Ouberg Pass is a much revered gravel road pass by adventure travellers and is questionably the most impressive gravel pass in the Northern Cape. It is an impressive pass with an altitude gain of 820 meters over 10,4 km to produce a stiff average gradient of 1:13 but the steepest parts are at 1:6 - which is steep! It traverses a ridge of the Roggeveld Mountains north-west of the Verlatenkloof Pass (which is on the R354), and summits at 1402m on the upper Karoo plateau and it's a 40 km drive from the summit into Sutherland.

This is a major pass by South African standards and contains 44 bends, corners and curves, which include 8 hairpins and another 4 corners sharper than 90 degrees, as the road snakes its way laboriously down the mountain. Despite the size and scope of this pass, the gradients, although steep, are fairly consistent and the designer plotted a good line, making the pass safe to drive.

There is one large viewsite about 1/4 way down the pass, which provides a safe, level stopping point for many vehicles, where the views are spectacular. The pass does get snow from time to time in which case it should be avoided completely (even in a 4x4) as the drop offs are extreme and unguarded where an uncontrolled slide could spell disaster.

The Oukloof Pass is a basic gravel farm style road running through the Nuweveld Mountains on the North/South axis about 40 km SSE of Fraserburg in the Northern Cape. It's just under 9km in length and climbs 340m in altitude to summit at 1536m ASL. The average gradients are a comfortable 1:26 with the steepest bits being at 1:7 - The pass is subject to snow in winter and can be very dangerous during heavy rain as the pass makes use of a river course and has no bridges.

 

This 6,7 km long gravel pass is located on the R354 between Sutherland and Middelpos in the Northern Cape. It is a fairly minor pass with an altitude variance of only 82 metres and an average gradient of 1:82 which makes it a very easy drive, but be especially careful of corrugations, which can become severe towards the southern side, once the gradients flatten out next to the river bank. The pass summits at an altitude of 1251m ASL and it does sometimes get snow in winter. The steepest section just before the summit has a gradient of 1:14

This is the Karoo, where there is plenty of space and the layers of sedimentary rock that make up the mountains, provide a perfect backdrop to the vast dun coloured plains dotted with low shrubs, but good enough to sustain sheep farming. The name Oupoort simply means Old Path and relates back to the original sheep trekking routes between Sutherland and Calvinia.

This is a rough gravel pass so typical of this part of the Northern Cape, where the road follows a dry river bed, either in it or next to it, with fairly easy gradients through a rugged landscape of blackened rocks through a true mountain desert. The road connects the little settlement of Pella with the water purification works on the banks of the Orange/Gariep River 4,2 km to the north.

The pass displays a modest altitude variance of 86m with an easy average gradient of 1:49 with the steepest parts reaching 1:12. It might have been more appropriate naming this road Pellapoort, as the geographical layout is far closer to a poort than a pass.

The biggest issues on these roads are corrugations, soft sand and punctures. We recommend a 4WD vehicle for this one with adequate ground clearance. Travelling in these parts is best done with two spare wheels, a good puncture repair kit and the knowledge to use it (and a decent GPS loaded with T4A).

This short and rough pass is surprisingly scenic and requires a high clearance vehicle to drive it. At just 2,1 km it displays an altitude variance of 68m, producing an average gradient of 1:31 but there are several sections that are as steep as 1:6, but these are short-lived. The pass traverses a rocky plateau where the main agricultural activity is sheep farming. The pass forms part of a public servitude road that connects with the R354 just north-west of Middelpos and traverses two big farms along the way - Droekloof and Otterkuil.

At the foot of the pass at a farm gate (which is usually open) there is a large sign, depicting a rifle and a 'Trespassers will be prosecuted / Private Property' message. This board creates the impression that this is a private road, which it is unlikely to be. The farmer  has clearly suffered stock theft in the past and the sign is there to discourage strangers from traversing his farm. This pass is incorrectly marked on some maps as Prinseshoogte.

This easy gravel poort meanders through a cluster of low granite hills on the R355 between Springbok to the west and Loeriesfontein which is 200 km to the south. The gradients are easy and the corners are wide, making this poort relatively safe. The only cautionaries worth noting are those of corrugations - the severity which depends on when last the road was graded - and dust. This part of the Northern Cape is seldom windy, so dust trails tend to 'hang' over the road for quite a while, which can severely reduce visibility.

At 10,3 km the poort is well above the national average and it only displays an altitude variance of 116m, resulting in a very mild average gradient of 1:89, with the steepest parts being at 1:20.

Prieskapoort carves its way through a long diagonal set of mountains called the Doringberge (Thorn Mountains). It is also sometimes referred to as Prieska’s Poort. This provides a clue as to how the poort got its name, in that it was probably named after the town itself; it would have formed the primary route to this little Karoo settlement back at the end of the 19th century. There are only two minor corners on this pass, which is basically a straight, flat traverse. The road is tarred and wide with open views, so there are no potential hazards other than occasional livestock, slow-moving vehicles and pedestrians.


 

This is a remote and 'off the beaten track' poort 40 km to the east of Kamieskroon. There is a small tricky section near the summit, but for most of the rest of this poort it's fairly easy going with very few sharp corners. There is a fair amount of soft sand and in the summer months, vehicles without 4WD might well experience traction issues here. The poort is 5,7 km long and displays an altitude variance of 138m, which converts into an easy average gradient of 1:41. The steeper parts near the summit are at 1:7. The big attraction to drive this remote poort is the substantial quiver tree forest that it traverses.

Many respected resources on the internet list Baillie's Pass (Bailey's Pass sic) with Pypmaker se Poort in brackets as the alternative name. This is completely incorrect, as Pypmaker se Poort, although fairly close to Baillie's Pass, is on a different road altogether. The only site that got this one right, is Tracks4Africa. Also note the correct spelling of Baillie.

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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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