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.
This poort is named after what is considered to be the world's toughest animal - the Honey Badger (Afr. Ratel). So fierce is it's reputation that the South African Defence Force named one of it's armoured vehicles the Ratel. It's possible that badgers were found here in the past, but a more likely scenario is that the land here is considered to be so harsh as to be compared with the 'tough as nails' Ratel. The poort is quite awkward to define, but the Ratelpoort itself is merely the traverese through the obvious nek towards the southern side of the poort over a distinct ridge of east-west running mountains. From there it continues climbing up a northern ridge known as Vrieshoogte (Freezing Heights), to summit between two prominent granite peaks on either side of the road at 913m ASL after 4,3 km.
Darters Poort is one of those official passes that leaves you wondering if you're in the right place. The pass has only one gentle curve towards it's northern end and climbs a fairly insignificant 62m over it's 3,6 km length. The poort does however have significant historical value as it is is named after a British sharpshooter Lt. Charles James Darter who was ambushed and killed near the poort in 1902 right at the end of the second Anglo-Boer war. His grave is located just south of Kamieskroon on the N7 and is popularly referred to as the smallest part of Britain in the world.
The poort is located on the N7 Cape-Namibia route approximately 14 km south of Kamieskroon. It forms part of a quartet of altitude gaining passes and poorts between Garies and Springbok - the others being Garieshoogte, Brakdam se Hoogte and Burke's passes. You will need to enter the GPS coordinates so that you realise you are at the poort.
This pass is located on the N7 national road between Garies and Kamieskroon, more commonly known as the Cape-Namibia Route. It gains 186 vertical metres over 4,6 km producing a fairly easy average gradient of 1:25 with the steepest parts presenting at 1:11. This is relatively new version of the pass, with the original road still being clearly visible to the west (left) of the new road. The road offers at least four substantial cuttings, two of them which are quite deep with almost vertical sides, as is the case with the most of the passes in this region where the hard granite rocks make for stable rock faces.
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.
Burke's Pass is a good quality, tarred road on the N7 highway about 24 km South West of the Northern Cape town of Springbok. The pass is 4,9 km long and has an altitude variance of 184 vertical meters with a summit height of 701m. It falls within the Namaqualand region and is ablaze with the most wondrous wild flower displays in springtime (August and September).
This current pass along the N7 is a far cry from the original Burke's Pass which took a completely different line through the granite mountains circa 1850 and then a 100 years later a much better road (also gravel) took a line up the next kloof to the west, but over a more convoluted and complex routing. The latest version of the pass along the N7 dates back to around 1995, which itself has been realigned and improved to better geometric standards a number of times. (See the aerial photo lower down of the three routes)
The Piekenierskloof Pass has a long and interesting history dating back to the mid 1800's when Thomas Bain built the first pass through the neck in the Olifantsrivier Mountains, which separate the Swartland of the Cape from the mineral rich lands to the North. Bain named the pass after Sir George Grey, (hence Grey's Pass) but when the pass was rebuilt to a more comfortable gradient in 1958, the new pass reverted to it's original name - Piquenierskloof which was simplified to Piekenierskloof.
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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