This minor little pass of only 2,5 km has an altitude variance of 63m producing a mild average gradient of 1:40 and no point ever exceeds 1:12, making this an easy enough traverse. The Northern Cape government cartographers were keen to name every poort and pass that they could possibly find and this is one of many official passes, which barely comply with the basic definition of a pass, but it's official, so we have produced and indexed it for the sake of thoroughness.
There is a certain kind of pleasure in actually navigating your way successfully to locate these out of the way passes and poorts, so if you hunt this one down, remember to enjoy the 'getting there' part to the full. This part of the Northern Cape is achingly dry, barren and underpopulated. Drive well prepared for punctures and make sure you have enough fuel.
We have not physically driven this pass ourselves as yet, so our description and research is based on available resources and government maps. The possibility exists that you might encounter locked farm gates. Make sure you have sufficient fuel to backtrack.
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 Bloupoort Pass lies on the east-west axis through a natural poort just beyond the Vaalpunt Mountain, some 30km due east of Sutherland in the Northern Cape. The pass is very short at only 1.16 km and presents no dangers other than the usual wet weather cautionary - but this is the Great Karoo and rains seldom fall here. The average gradient is a gentle 1:34. In the greater scheme of passes and poorts, this one is right at the bottom of the scale. The road is designated as P2259.
The Blounek Pass runs through a very gentle curve on the tarred R63 between Williston and Carnarvon between a series of slightly raised 'koppies'. It holds no apparent dangers and only gains 36 meters of altitude over 3,9 km, giving an average gradient of 1:49, with the steepest parts being at 1:13. The best feature of this little pass is that it is just 10 km West of Carnarvon - a Karoo sheep farming town which sees soaring summer temperatures above 40C and where the lure of ice cold drinks is bound to find favour with thirsty travellers.
Roughly translated, the name of this pass means “road of the mountain people”. It is located in the middle of nowhere, about 56 km from Postmasburg and quite close to the famous Witsand Nature Reserve. The pass statistics are not particularly impressive, with the exception of the maximum gradient, which works out in excess of 1:3; there is a 400-metre-long section of this pass which is very, very steep! The road is in a relatively poor condition, and it should not be attempted in a normal car; at the very least, a high-clearance vehicle is required. It is very easy to get lost in this part of the world, even if you are using a GPS, as many of the “public” roads are blocked by locked gates.
The Bloukrans Pass on the R355 some 20 km south of Calvinia, is one of four Bloukrans Passes in South Africa. It is named after the majestic Bloukransberge over which foothills the pass traverses. This is a safe, well designed road in all, but very wet conditions and snow does sometimes fall on the pass's upper reaches (1029m ASL)
The pass only has 15 bends, corners and curves, most of which are fairly gentle but the average gradient is 1:19, which is on the steep side. The road is wide and the gravel surface has good run-off, so even in rainy weather, this pass should present few issues to normal cars. However it is the approach sections on either side,which can get extremely muddy and slippery, so if its been raining heavily in the area, it is best avoided unless in a 4WD vehicle.
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.
This smallish pass of 2.8 km in length lies a few kilometers south of Sutherland in the Northern Cape on the tarred R356 route. It is named after the only farm in the kloof, which is located on the left hand side (east) of the road towards the northern end of the kloof next to a small stream. This is not a major pass, but it has a fair altitude gain and few gentle turns to compliment the scenery in the kloof. It's a fairly safe road with a good track record. If it is snowing, the usual cautionaries for snow driving apply.
Quaggasfontein Poort translates into 'The pass of the fountain of the Quagga'. No doubt the extinct Quagga once roamed here. It is a minor poort of just 2 km in length and only rises 32 meters in altitude to produce an easy average gradient of 1:63. There is a steeper section right at the southern entrance of the poort at 1:11. This is a gravel road in typical 'farm style' condition, but it is driveable in a normal car and there are no apparent dangers other than the usual gravel road issues of corrugations with the resultant loss of traction.
Prieskapoort carves its way through a long diagonal set of mountains called the Doringberge (Thorn Mountains). It is also sometimes referred to as Prieska’s Poort. This provides a clue as to how the poort got its name, in that it was probably named after the town itself; it would have formed the primary route to this little Karoo settlement back at the end of the 19th century. There are only two minor corners on this pass, which is basically a straight, flat traverse. The road is tarred and wide with open views, so there are no potential hazards other than occasional livestock, slow-moving vehicles and pedestrians.
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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