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The Northern Cape

The name of this pass translates from Afrikaans to English as “Swirling Winds Passage”, which would be typical of the weather in this area, usually hot, dry and windy. Although it is located in a fairly remote region of the Northern Cape, it is worth the time and effort it requires to get there, if you enjoy driving quiet country roads dotted about with sheep, cattle and game farms.

The poort itself is a very minor one, with only one corner and a height gain of just 16 metres, but the magnificent Karoo scenery makes up for this deficiency. The gravel road is an excellent condition and can be driven in any vehicle.

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.

The Gannaga Pass is a magnificent gravel road ascending 548 meters through the Roggeveld Mountains from the endless plains of the Tankwa Karoo to the high plateaux near Middelpos. The pass does not break any records in terms of altitude, gradient or length, but it possesses an almost ethereal quality from a combination of graceful curves, raw mountain beauty and scope of vision that is rarely repeated in other passes.

It contains 45 bends, corners and curves which include 4 extremely sharp hairpins and another three corners sharper than 90 degrees. The quality of this road can vary greatly depending on recent rainfall and snow and especially when last it was maintained. On the day of filming it was in good condition, but is not always in this state.

Although it can be driven in a normal car, it is the roads leading to the pass in the Tankwa that can be a bit rough for a vehicle without adequate ground clearance. The approach from the south via the south and R355 is often a real tester for tyres that are not in top condition. Come well prepared in terms of the real possibility of picking up a puncture and carry two tins of 'Tyre Weld' or similar product with you.

Garieshoogte is a substantial altitude gaining pass on the N7 national route, just north of the town of Garies. It has an altitude variance of 284m over 5,7 km producing an average gradient of 1:20 with the steepest parts being at 1:11. This road is relatively new and in excellent condition. There are several deep and near vertical cuttings that provide a showcase of the local geology. The old gravel road, which follows a far more winding road just to the right of the new road can still be seen clearly from the new pass, but it is no longer publicly accessible. The pass is suitable for all traffic and holds no apparent dangers in its design.

The poort is named after the Oryx antelope which used to roam these plains until mining changed the landscape more than 100 years ago. This is a very minor poort on the tarred R382 route between Steinkopf and Port Nolloth. It clears a natural gap through a ridge of mountains, which are a southern extension of the Vyftien Myl se Berge, where the altitudes range between 250 and 400m. The poort is 4,4 km long and has an easy average gradient of 1:133. It is the third of three passes and poorts between the two towns - the other two being the Anenous Pass and Windpoort. The poort is suitable for all vehicles.

This tar road pass is located near Prieska in the Northern Cape, and follows a loop in the Orange River known locally as “Wonderdraai” (which translates as “amazing corner”). This horseshoe-shaped bend, together with its surroundings, creates an optical illusion that the river is flowing uphill. The pass itself gains just 77 metres in height and has a total of 9 corners, only one of which exceeds an angle of 90 degrees. The road is in a fairly good condition, with just a few minor potholes, and can be driven in any vehicle and in all weather conditions.

The pass is situated only about 22 km from the town on a good tarred road, so it is worth making a slight detour to get to if you are in the area. Speak to one of the locals and ask about the location of the best viewpoint for the Wonderdraai phenomenon.

This is the longest of the trio of passes in the higher sections of Namaqualand, east of Garies and Kamieskroon along the north-south axis on the P2943. The aptly named Groenkloof Pass traverses a narrow valley compressed between tall granite mountains. This valley is surprisingly well watered and green and becomes a flower wonderland in spring. The 5,9 km long pass gets quite steep on its southern side with gradients around 1:7 and there are one or two very sharp corners to contend with. The road is suitable for all vehicles, except in very wet weather when a 4WD would be a better option. Keep a look out in thevideo clip at 1.32 for the pair of 'meerkatte' playing chicken in the road.

 

This steep gravel pass connects the high plateau near Kamieskroon with the lower coastal belt and Killians Pass to the Namaqua National Park, Hondeklipbaai and Soebatsfontein. The pass descends 277 vertical metres over 3,83 km, producing a stiff average gradient of 1:14 with some steep sections at 1:5. Despite the steep gradients, the pass is generally in a dry condition, due to the arid climate and can be driven in a normal sedan vehicle. Together with its sister pass, Killians Pass, they form the southern gateway to the Namaqua National Park.

This fairly tricky pass is the second pass one encounters when entering the Richterveld National Park at Sendelingsdrif. The 5,1 km long pass twists and turns through the rugged Richtersveld mountains ascending 103m, producing an average gradient of 1:50 with the steepest part closer to the summit, reaching 1:11. The pass is named after the Halfmens (Half a Person) succulent Pachypodium namaquanum, which is endemic to this region.

There are a total of 36 bends, corners and curves several of which are sharper than 90 degrees. The road is rough in places and speed needs to be kept under 20 kph. Many parts of this pass should be driven in low range for precise control of your vehicle.

This well hidden gravel pass lies in the southern sector of the Northern Cape in an area knows as "Die Hantam" about 40 km north-east of Nieuwoudtville. It is primarily a farm road and offers not only unusual and rugged scenery, but provides a sense of peace and timelessness in this sparesely populated region of South Africa. The biggest attraction to drive this pass is that it descends through an astonishing Quiver Tree (Kokerboom) forest - probably the densest population of Kokerbome anywhere in South Africa. The best time to visit is in late winter and spring when the landscape is a riot of colour as far as the eye can see.

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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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