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.
This small pass is named after the mountain Kariegakop [1439,7m] which lies immediately to the north and forms a neck with the much bigger Kareekasberge to the south. The pass runs along the east-west axis and offers some very stiff gradients on the western side of the summit, where there are wonderful views waiting for the patient traveller - especially the view looking back into the west is wonderful. This pass is best driven in the morning from west to east to maximise on the tranquil Karoo scenery.
It's not a long pass at 3,4 km and it only takes 5 minutes to complete it. The road was in good condition on the day of filming, but like all gravel roads, conditions can change rapidly depending on the weather. The P2270 connects with the R354 off the Oupoort Pass, then branches off into the east into a maze of farm roads, eventually terminating in Williston. You will need a good GPS loaded with Tracks4Africa and will have done some advance planning before setting off into this part of the Northern Cape.
Droevoetspoort is a minor poort about 10 km west of Fraserburg on the gravel R356. The poort offers a smattering of greenery as it follows the course of the river for 2.2 km descending a scant 16 metres in altitude. The average gradient pans out at a negligible 1:140. There is a solitary farm nestled in a shady part of the poort close to a copse of bluegum trees. No matter how insignificant it appears in the greater scheme of things, it will seem like an oasis after the flat, dry scenery in every direction.
This short pass is located about 35km north of Matjiesfontein on the tarred R354 to Sutherland. The pass is safe and presents no apparent dangers if the speed limits are adhered to. The pass is located about 45 km south of the much bigger Verlatenkloof Pass. No-one seems to know who the Turck is in the name Turck se Pas (Turck's Pass).
Although the pass is relatively safe and well designed, it has some big corners, but all of them have correct cross flow and if the 80 kph speed limit, as well as barrier line restrictions are adhered to, there should be no problems. This pass also provides access to the gravel road that runs through the mountains to the east of Sutherland, which includes the triple passes of Bakenshoogte, Smoushoogte and the Komsberg Pass.
Thyshoogte is named after the Thyskraal farm, through which it passes. This pass precedes Jukhoogte to it's south-west in fairly quick succession on the gravel R356 route between Sutherland and Ceres.. Like Jukhoogte, this pass similarly has a few nasty surprises with negative banking, and some sharp dips and corners. There is one hairpin bend which also hosts the steepest gradient. This pass gets extremely slippery after rain or snow and it has no safety rail on the drop side, where the drops offs are very steep. Drive slowly and with caution.
The pass is 4,5 km long and has an altitude variance of 152m which converts into an average gradient of 1:30, but the steepest section near the summit gets as steep as 1:6
If you didn't know it had a name, this little poort (wisely listed in the Afrikaans diminutive, so as not to be taken seriously) would be gone in the blink of an eye and you would be none the wiser. Some maps and references also call this poort "Die Poort se Nek" This is about as obscure as any pass can get. It lies on a remote gravel road (the P2259) about 40 km due east of Sutherland. It is of some significance in that together with its sister poort (Bloupoort) a few kilometers to the west, these two little poorts are important landmarks on your journey to the fabulous Karelskraal Pass a little further on.
This pass is in reality just the initial climb leading from the Dwyka river to the start of the Rammelkop Pass. There are many references to the two passes being one pass, but the initial part of the climb traverses the farm Allemanshoek, thus causing plenty of confusion. To keep things simple, we have treated these as two separate passes.
The Komsberg Pass is located approximately 40 km to the south-west of Sutherland. It's named after the mountain down which it traverses. It is a gravel road (P2243) and gets fairly steep in places. It has a maximum gradient of 1:5 and an average gradient of 1:13 which is produced over a distance of 3,9 km. In wet weather (a rare occurrence) or snow, this pass will need to be driven in a 4WD vehicle. Avoid it completely in heavy snow as there are some sections with negative cross-flow, which could result in a rollover.
One of the points of interest of this pass is that the official notice board at the summit gives the incorrect altitude (1721m). The correct altitude measured with a 12 sattellite GPS reading is 1654m. which concurs with the reading on Google Earth. Effectively, this makes the official board wrong by 67m. Errors like this frequently slip into official signage, but this is one of the biggest margins of error we have yet come across.
The pass mimics the line of the Verlatenkloof Pass which is 23 km to the north-west and offers a gravel descent down the same mountain range, as opposed to the much busier tarred version on the R354. As a bonus, you get to drive another two smaller passes along the same route. These are the Smoushoogte and Bakenshoogte passes.
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 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.
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.