The Northern Cape

The Thyshoogte Pass is named after the Thyskraal farm, through which it passes. This pass precedes the Jukhoogte pass to it's south-west in fairly quick succession on the gravel R356 route between Sutherland and Ceres.. Like the Jukhoogte Pass, this pass similarly has a few nasty surprises with negative banking, and some sharp dips and corners. There is one hairpin bend which also hosts the steepest gradient. This pass gets extremely slippery after rain or snow and it has no safety rail on the drop side, where the drops offs are very steep. Drive slowly and with caution.

The pass is 4,5 km long and has an altitude variance of 152m which converts into an average gradient of 1:30, but the steepest section near the summit gets as steep as 1:6

Vaalheuwel is an Afrikaans word, which translates into 'Dun Coloured Hills'. The pass is so named after the farm near the foot of the pass. It is particularly apt as the entire vista consists of a large mass of scattered hills which form a broken escarpment towards the west-coast near the diamond mining town of Kleinsee.

This is mining country and the vast bulk of the economic activity revolves around the extraction of minerals, and especially diamonds, from the earth. There is very little agricultural activity, due to the very low rainfall. When driving here on these back roads, be extremely aware of access restrictions near diamond mines as you could end up being in serious trouble if you ignore warning signs.

The pass is of average length at 4,2 km and has a steep average gradient of 1:13 which reaches 1:7 towards the western end of the pass. The steep average gradient is a result of an impressive altitude variance of 314m over a fairly short distance. Other than the usual gravel road precautionaries, be aware of loose gravel on the many corners of this pass and the biggest issue will invariably be corrugations, which is the most common reason drivers roll their vehicles.

This beautiful tarred pass forms part of the R27 between Vanrhynsdorp and Nieuwoudtville and was originally built and designed by Thomas Bain.  It is just under 9 km in length and climbs 595m to summit at 825m ASL,  producing an average gradient of 1:15 with the steepest sections being at l:12. This is a well engineered pass with a good safety record providing you stick to the speed limits. This is amongst the top 10 passes of the Northern Cape and is a must drive offering grand views, tight chicane style corners and lots of variety. The pass is named after Petrus Benjamin Van Rhyn - a clergyman, politician and member of parliament in the old mission settlement of Troe-Troe. The town's name was changed in 1881 to Vanrhynsdorp.

 

Venterspoort is located near Philipstown, a small town which lies about 50 kilometres north-east of De Aar in the Northern Cape. It is difficult to establish exactly which Venter the poort is named after, as this was a very common surname in the area around about the middle to latter part of the 19th century, which is when the town was established. The actual poort is almost indistinguishable from the surrounding landscape, and unless you know precisely where it is, you would probably miss it altogether when driving on the R48. The tarred road is in a good condition, and should not present any problems other than the normal hazards associated with rural South Africa.

 

The Verlatenkloof Pass (translates into 'Desolate Pass') is a substantial altitude gaining tarred pass on the R354/R356 some 30 km south of Sutherland in the Northern Cape. It winds its way laboriously down the Roggeveld Mountains via the Verlatenkloof. It is often still referred to in the original Dutch format of Verlatenkloof Pass, but mostly the "n" has been dropped in favour of the local Afrikaans version - 'Verlatekloof''. Either version will get you to the same pass! You will descend 668 meters in altitude over 14,4 km producing an average gradient of 1:22, with the steeper parts at 1:8. This statistic makes it the 26th longest pass in South Africa as well as 10th biggest altitude gaining pass.

The pass has one or two exceptionally dangerous corners and drivers need to concentrate the whole way down and comply with the speed limits and warning signs. The pass offers wonderful Karoo views, some clever engineering, a guest farm and the geology has been laid bare through the multiple cuttings.

Named after the largest flightless bird in the world, the Volstruispoort (Ostrich Poort) Pass is a minor poort where the road runs between two Karoo "koppies" on the newly tarred R384 between Carnarvon (75km to the SW) and Vosburg (20km to the ENE). It only falls17 vertical meters over 4,5 km to produce a very easy average gradient of 1:264. The maximum gradient of 1:24 is reached between the two peaks.

Vyfmylpoort translates from Afrikaans into Five Mile Passage or in metric terms 'Eight Kilometre Passage' and that is exactly what it is - an 8 km poort close to the South African-Namibia border at Vioolsdrift. The scenery is mountainous and rugged, barren and cork dry as the N7 winds its way through the rugged poort carved out over the millenia by the Kowiep River, which is a typical desert river - wide and shallow and seldom has any water in it. The pass is on the national route N7 and in excellent condition. The surface is smooth and the corners and curves are wide and comfortable, allowing a steady speed to be maintained throughout. The poort has an altitude variance 172m and displays typical easy average poort type gradients of 1:50. The road is suitable for all vehicles.

The rough gravel surfaced Wildeperdehoek Pass forms part of the Caracal Eco Route in the Namaqua National Park, with the the grassy flats of Namaqualand lying to the west and glimpses of the coast beyond. The 4,8 km pass is around 120 years old and has reasonable average gradients of 1:20

('Wildeperdehoek' roughly translates as 'wild horses corner'.) This pass is not suitable for vehicles lacking ground clearance. The pass was originally named Wildepaardehoek in the old Dutch style, but is today more commonly referred to in the Afrikaans version. This pass should be viewed in tandem with the Messelpad Pass as they are inseparably linked, both geographically and historically.

Some locals also refer to this pass as the Bandietpas, which translates into Convict's Pass.

When travelling from Sutherland to Ceres via the Tankwa Karoo, this is the first of three small passes that have to be negotiated, with the other two being Thyshoogte and Jukhoogte. The pass is moderate in all respects with an altitude variance of 172m over 3,7 km producing an average gradient of 1:22, with the steepest sections being on the eastern side near the summit where things ramp up to 1:8.

Despite the moderate statistics, there are a few dangers on this pass. There is one sharp right hand bend leading into the ravine section which has some negative cross-flow and there are also some unguarded drop-offs on the left, which would cause serious damage if your vehicle left the road. During the week you are unlikely to come across any other vehicles on this road, but over weekends it could be a little busier, when dust and overtaking suddenly become major issues. It's best not to be in a hurry on this road and take the time to stop frequently and savour the timeless beauty of the Tankwa Karoo.

Connecting Port Nolloth with Steinkopf on the N7 near Springbok, this low-altitude tarred poort on the R382 passes through the endless, arid plains and rocky outcrops of the Windpoort farm after which it was named. It is one of three passes and poorts along the R382 with the other two being the Anenous Pass to the east and Gemsbokpoort to the west. 

As far as dramatic corners and steep gradients go, this pass has little to offer other than the desolate, dry plains of the Northern Cape's semi-desert known simply as Namaqualand - in itself offering it's own kind of beauty, that not everyone appreciates. 

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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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