The Northern Cape

This off the beaten track gravel pass is part of several gravel passes located along the gravel road between the N7 at Kharkams and Hondeklipbaai. The 5,1 km long pass runs along the NE-SW axis along the flank of a large mountain ridge, from which the pass takes it's name. The pass is not difficult in terms of gradients and bends but the road surface can be rough, depending on recent rainfall, which in this part of the Northern Cape, is a rare occurence. The average gradient is a mild 1:27, with the steepest sections panning out at 1:10 within the final kilometre near the summit. The pass connects the tiny village of Spoegrivier with Hondeklipbaai at the coast.

Although a 4WD vehicle is not necessary, high clearance is important. This road is not suitable for normal cars.

This smallish gravel pass lies between the Bakenshoogte and Komsberg passes on a gravel road (P2243) which forms an eastern loop off the R354 between Matjiesfontein and Sutherland. The pass is straightforward and has only a single, right hand S-bend near the summit. It ascends 176m in altitude to summit at 1236m, producing an average gradient of 1:16 and a maximum gradient of 1:14. Smoushoogte translates into Trader's Heights.

The usual gravel road cautionaries apply of loose gravel on corners, corrugations and a possibility of picking up a puncture. The P2243 is one of the best gravel roads in the region to see the spring flower explosion between August and September.

This remote gravel poort is just under 4 km long and lies in the heart of the Karoo with Sutherland about 50 km to the south and Williston 80 km to the north-east. The road serves to connect the local farming community. It only gains 69 meters in altitude to produce an average gradient of a very easy 1:55 with the steeper sections closer to the summit being at 1:10.

There are two big farms that lie to the north of the road - Snyders Post and Snyders Poort. The pass takes its name from the latter farm.

The geology is stunning as the poort is entered from the south and the cuttings made for the road reveal a natural history of the rock strata. Besides the interesting geology, this is also a very remote road that carries very little traffic, so you will be able to enjoy a sense of solitude, but be well prepared and carry enough fuel, a puncture repair kit and sundry tools in case of a breakdown - you could have a long wait. There is no cellphone reception.

The government administrators of the Northern Cape were very good at the job of naming passes and poorts in an official capacity. This one, although an official 'poort' has absolutely no resemblance to the definition of a poort nor a pass. It is nothing more than a single gentle bend on an otherwise fairly flat, tarred road in the Northern Cape just north-east of Williston. The poort is 3,2 km long and displays an altitude variance of only 32m, which converts into an average gradient of 1:100.

Unless you are a serious pass chaser hell bent on ticking every pass and poort off your list, this one is completely unforgettable. What the Soutpanspoort lacks in scenery and excitement, the nearby town of Williston, more than compensates for.

This pass lives up to it's name in every way, as it's long, packed with corners and steep gradients and more importantly it offers spectacular scenery. It connects the capital town of the Northern Cape (Springbok) with the mining town of Kleinzee and carries the road number P0745 which is a clear indicator that this was once a fairly minor road. It now falls under route number R355, which terminates at Kleinzee in the west at the coast. As Kleinzee is an important diamond mining centre, the road has been upgraded to a high quality standard to carry the heavier traffic associated with mining. At 17,5 km it's amongst the longer South African passes and whilst the average gradient pans out at a mild 1:31, there are several steeper sections at 1:8.

Studers Pass is a serious altitude gaining gravel pass located between Garies and the small settlements of Leliesfontein and Paulshoek in Namaqualand. The pass is the gateway to some of the finest wild-flower displays and forms part of a circular tourism route incorporating the best of Namaqualand. It is a pure and backward part of South Africa, mainly untouched by the heavy hand of progress. A place to rejuvenate your spirit.

Although this is a long pass with a big altitude variance, the average gradients are very reasonable and the pass can be driven in most vehicles, providing the weather is fair. As the case with all gravel passes, conditions can change very quickly for the worse during periods of heavy rain.

This is an official poort, and is marked as such on the 1:50,000 topographical maps, but it is almost impossible to distinguish the actual poort itself from the surrounding landscape. Unless you have a burning desire to drive every pass in South Africa, give this one a miss! It is far off the beaten track, and has no real redeeming features. The road is in a good condition and can be driven in a normal vehicle, provided that the weather is dry. It had rained in the area on the night before the day on which we filmed this pass (not on the pass itself), and the approach roads were a muddy nightmare. Our 4x4 vehicle coped admirably with the conditions, but it was evident that other vehicles had not been so fortunate, judging by the tracks snaking all over the road.

 

The Richtersveld National Park plays host to six official passes and poorts. The Swartpoort is easily the easiest of the six in terms of terrain and gradient and provides a gentle introduction to this stunning mountain desert with its harsh and rocky landscape, sandy plains and absence of plant life - or so it seems to the first time visitor, but to the more astute observer there is a whole world of succulents that thrive in this dry climate, if you take the trouble to look properly.

The Swartpoort is an easy meander along a sandy plain amongst some mountain ridges which display black coloured rocks, hence the name, Swartpoort. The poort starts soon after entering the national park at the Sendelingdrif main gate.

The naming of this long and interesting pass causes plenty of confusion. On the government map it is labelled as Systershoog Pass. This name has been inadvertantly altered by several map sources to read Syfershoog or Syfershoogte Pass. To add to the confusion, it is known locally as the Maermanskloof Pass, the Spoegrivier Pass and the Kharkams Pass. In Namaqualand the manner of word construction is somewhat different to the rest of South Africa and the naming of any word ending in 'heights' is called a 'hoog' as opposed to the more grammatically correct 'hoogte' Thus many names in this region end with the word hoog, which is the correct official name.

This pass is long at 16,2 km and contains 38 bends, corners and curves - some of which are very sharp and have negative banking. The road follows a very different vertical profile to the usual classic pass shape and ends in a steep descent down into the Spoegrivier valley. It connects Kharkams in the east with Spoegrivier in the west and provides an alternative (and much slower) route to Hondeklipbaai.

This beautiful and fairly major pass is located right on the border of the Northern and Western Cape between Leeu-Gamka on the N1 in the south and Fraserburg on the R353 in the north. The geology of this pass comprises both the hard weathering sandstone and the much softer mudstone. This latter layer caused many problems on this pass with rockfalls and damage to the road surface. It was completely revamped in 2006 at a cost of R11,2m. The pass is also spelt as Theekloof in the Dutch format as per the official signage. In keeping with the more popular Afrikaans version, the "h" has been dropped.

 

 

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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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