The naming of this long and interesting pass causes plenty of confusion. On the government map it is labelled as Systershoog Pass. This name has been inadvertantly altered by several map sources to read Syfershoog or Syfershoogte Pass. To add to the confusion, it is known locally as the Maermanskloof Pass, the Spoegrivier Pass and the Kharkams Pass. In Namaqualand the manner of word construction is somewhat different to the rest of South Africa and the naming of any word ending in 'heights' is called a 'hoog' as opposed to the more grammatically correct 'hoogte' Thus many names in this region end with the word hoog, which is the correct official name.
This pass is long at 16,2 km and contains 38 bends, corners and curves - some of which are very sharp and have negative banking. The road follows a very different vertical profile to the usual classic pass shape and ends in a steep descent down into the Spoegrivier valley. It connects Kharkams in the east with Spoegrivier in the west and provides an alternative (and much slower) route to Hondeklipbaai.
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 decidedly steep, gravel pass offers excellent scenery of the granite clad mountain plateaus of Namaqualand. it's located at the small settlement of Leliefontein, where the huge Sentech tower dominates the summit point of the pass, about 20 km ESE of Kamieskroon and 34 km NNE of Garies.
The pass is 3,9 km long and displays an altitude variance of 182m, producing an average gradient of 1:21, with the steepest parts on the northern side of the summit presenting as steep as 1:7. During the rainy season, things can get slippery and muddy at this high altitude plateau and lightweight front wheel drive cars might experience a loss of traction. At all other times of the year, the pass is perfectly suitable for all vehicles. Watch out for corrugations as well as a couple of blind rises and corners.
This off the beaten track gravel pass is part of several gravel passes located along the gravel road between the N7 at Kharkams and Hondeklipbaai. The 5,1 km long pass runs along the NE-SW axis along the flank of a large mountain ridge, from which the pass takes it's name. The pass is not difficult in terms of gradients and bends but the road surface can be rough, depending on recent rainfall, which in this part of the Northern Cape, is a rare occurence. The average gradient is a mild 1:27, with the steepest sections panning out at 1:10 within the final kilometre near the summit. The pass connects the tiny village of Spoegrivier with Hondeklipbaai at the coast.
Although a 4WD vehicle is not necessary, high clearance is important. This road is not suitable for normal cars.
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.
This steep gravel pass traverses the farm with the unusual name of Bloedsmaak (The taste of blood) and climbs 185m over 2 kms to summit at 695m ASL producing a stiff gradient of 1:5 on the steeper sections. The locals only refer to this pass as the Bloedsmaak Pass (or more poetically in the unique style of the Namaqualanders) - Bloedsmaak se Hoog. Ask them about a Skuinshoogte Pass and you will get a negative response. The condition of the road is generally quite good and it should be noted that there are two farm gates to open and close. This pass will need to be traversed by anyone intending to drive the Langkloof Pass, which starts very close to where this pass ends. The pass is located about 12 km east of Garies on a minor gravel road - the P2943. It is suitable for all vehicles, although in very wet weather it could be problematic for non 4WD vehciles near the summit.
Namaqualand plays host to a number of great gravel passes. The Kamiesberg Pass is the closest of them in terms of accessibility and commences just a stone's throw away from the N7 highway. This pass is also called the Kamieshoogte Pass and is sometimes spelt as Kammiesberg with a double 'm'. The pass has an altitude variance of 306 vertical metres to summit at 1114m ASL after 5,5 km producing an average gradient of 1:18. The road mainly carries farm type traffic, except during the spring flower season when the traffic volumes increase substantially as the tourists arrive in droves.
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.
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.
We are as passionate about maps as we are about mountain passes. A good map is a thing of beauty that can transport you into the mists of time or get your sense of adventure churning. It is a place to make discoveries about deserts and seas, mountains and lakes; of roads leading into places you have not been before; a place to pore over holiday destinations or weekend camping trips. A map is your window to the world.