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.
It comes as somewhat of a surprise to find this substantial pass in the otherwise flat and mostly featureless expanse of the Kalahari. It is located inside the Tswalu Game Reserve near Hotazel, and traverses a break in a long ridge of mountains called the Korannaberge. The road condition ranges from good in some sections to terrible in others, so this pass should not be attempted without a 4-wheel-drive vehicle.
The scenery is magnificent, provided that you enjoy the wide open spaces of this semi-desert, and as a bonus you are guaranteed to spot a multitude of animals on either side of, and on, the pass itself. This is a public road and no entry fees are applicable, but you required to stay on the main route at all times. Be careful when getting out of your vehicle to open and close the gates – four of the “Big 5” animals (there are no elephant) are present within the reserve.
[Editor's note: As at 1st May, 2021, we have received reliable information that this pass has been severely damaged in a recent flood episode. The game warden at Tswalu has indicated that it will de several months before the road will be repaired]
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.
Vuilnek is located on a minor gravel road to the south-west of Olifantshoek in the Northern Cape, not too far off the N14 national highway towards Upington. This is the area where the Langeberg Rebellion took place in 1897, when the Tswana people rose up in arms to fight for their independence. The road is plagued by severe corrugations, but otherwise is in a fairly good condition and can be driven in any vehicle.
Located in the intermediate zone between the Green Kalahari and the true semi-desert, the pass is not particularly scenic, but it does offer some excellent views over the flat plains that abound in this region. It is not known how this pass obtained its unusual name, which means “Dirty Neck”.
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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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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