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The Western Cape

The Hoek-se-Berg Pass (translated as 'Corner's Mountain') is a short, but steep pass on a minor gravel road which takes vehicles down to the Biedouw Valley in the central Cederberg area - a well-known site for wild flowers in spring.  On some maps - including the official government 1:50,000 maps, this pass is listed as Uitkyk Pass. There is another Uitkyk Pass near Algeria Forestry Station in the Southern Cederberg and so plenty of confusion has been caused. As a consequence this pass had a name change to Hoek se Berg Pass. To add even more confusion, the southern Uitkyk Pass is also known as the Cederberg Pass.

The Hoekwil Pass is a short, steep pass connecting the mountain-top village of Hoekwil with the coastal village of Wilderness. The well designed, tarred road carries a fair amount of traffic and services both the village of Hoekwil, as well as local forestry areas and farms. Views from the pass are quite magical, revealing first the blue waters of the Indian Ocean at Wilderness with its surf-washed white beach, then the valley filled with rivers and lakes. The road has no safety shoulders, so cyclists need to be extra careful along this pass.

Lying 6th in the string of 'Seven Passes' between George and Knysna, the narrow, gravel Homtini Pass covers 5 km of wonderfully scenic driving, descending to the river from which it takes its name, and ascends up the eastern side to terminate at the Rheenendal Timber Mill. The name is apparently of Khoi origin and means either "mountain honey" or "difficult passage". This pass is also sometimes known as the Goukamma River Pass.

This is the biggest of the passes at 5 km and presents an altitude variance of 153m. You will be kept busy as the driver, as there are 45 bends, corners and curves of which there are 3 corners greater than 120 degrees and i extremely sharp hairpin.

Of the passes on the 7 Passes Road that Thomas Bain built, this was the pass that presented him with the most difficult technical challenges and might well have been the point where his frustration levels boiled over which led to the now famous argument with his brother in law, Adam de Smidt, when the pair disagreed vehemently about the routing of the 7 Passes Road. The family argument eventually led to a 'no speak' scenario for the rest of their living years.

The Thomas Bain-built "Seven Passes" route between George and Knysna features the Hoogekraal Pass, covering 3 km of breathtakingly beautiful views along its narrow gravel road. It descends to and from the Hoogekraal River, and ends just before the Geelhoutsvlei Timber Mill - another Garden Route location, rooted in the history of the Knysna woodcutters. This pass ends west of the forestry village of Karatara.

Like the Kaaimansgat, Silver River and Touw River passes, this pass has very similar characteristics in terms of distance and altitude variance as well as the classic inverted profile of a pass that descends to a river and rises back up the other side again.

This is the first of 7 passes when driving from west to east which has a bridge wide enough to carry two lanes of traffic. All of the bridges were made from concrete and stone and designed in the Victorian style of the early 1900's. It is only the steel bridge over the Touw River which is different.

 


The Hoogte Pass (translated as Heights Pass) lies between the seaside settlement of Groot Brakrivier and George on the tarred N2 highway. This pass is a joy to drive for its smooth surface, perfectly banked curves,  and comfortable gradients. With it's lowest point at just 1m above sea level, it rises to a summit altitude of 202m producing an easy average gradient of 1:37 - It is also known under any of the following name deratives:
Grootbrak Pass
Grootbrakhoogte Pass
Grootbrakrivier Pass
Grootbrakrivierhoogte Pass
Brakrivier Pass
Great Brak Pass
Great Brak River Pass
Small and Great Brak River Cuttings

To add to the confusion, the old pass (R102) also bears any one of the above names. Take your pick!  We have kept things simple and taken the name off the official government 1:50,000 map. 

Ceres has an abundance of passes connecting it to the outside world. One of the oldest is the Hottentotskloof Pass, which was the original wagon route between Cape Town and the Karoo through Ceres, long before the N1 was thought about. Together with the Karoopoort these two passes carried considerable wagon traffic to the northern parts of South Africa. The  modern pass we drive on today does not follow the original wagon route, which is slightly further south, a little lower down the slope. The careful observer will be able to trace the old road and it is clearly visible on Google Earth, but no longer publicly accessible.

Houw Hoek Pass was built shortly after Sir Lowry's Pass was completed in 1833. The distance between the two passes is approximately 25km and covers some beautiful mountainous terrain. This middle section was known as Coles Pass - so named after the very same Sir Lowry Cole. The name Houw Hoek translates into 'Hold Corner' and is derived from the need to hold back, or slow down the ox-wagons whilst negotiating the steep descent down the pass.

This lovely, old (and very well designed) pass, which is also known as the Railway Pass, is unfortunately only suitable for 4WD vehicles with good ground clearance. There were a total of four passes built down the mountainside since the 1700's. This was the third road towards the Overberg and was constructed in 1904 to compliment the railway line. The line chosen was very cleverly done allowing for a major climb to take place at very comfortable gradients. The old pass is in a pictureque setting as it follows the course of the Jakkals River, which is a tributary of the Bot River. The Jakkalsrivier shares the narrow ravine with the road and the railway line. Sections of the pass falls within or close to, the Houw Hoek Nature Reserve.

IMPORTANT CAUTIONARY (27th May, 2019): The squatter camp at the eastern foot of the pass has now sprawled right over the old road that leads into Botrivier. Our advice is to not venture through the camp as your life and property could be at risk (muggings, stonings, high-jackings). IF you want to drive the old pass, please do a U Turn at the first opportunity that you see any sign of squatters and drive back up to the top.

 

 

This fairly steep gravel pass lies on the east/west axis on the southern side of the Swartberg Mountains and connects the Kruisrivier farming area in the west with the Swartberg Private Game Lodge at the eastern end of the pass. Continuing eastwards along this road (P363) will bring you to the foot of the Swartberg Pass as well as ultimately to the Cango Caves.

At the 3.2 km the pass is well below the national average and the altitude variance is a mere 98m, but it is the magnificent scenery which makes this one of those back road passes well worth detouring to travel.

The 13,4 km long Huisrivier pass lies on the R62 between two valleys in the Little Karoo between the towns of Ladismith in the west and Calitzdorp in the east. It has 39 bends,corners and curves packed into that distance, which requires vigilant driving. Not only is this a fairly long pass, but it has many sharp corners, steep gradients and exceptionally attractive scenery. Many lovely rest areas have been provided by the road builders. The perfectly banked corners will be a joy to ride on a motorcycle.

This pass is unique in that its geology is unusually unstable and several pioneering engineering techniques had to be applied to successfully build a safe all-weather pass. The pass, which includes three river crossings, is not particularly steep, where the engineers have managed to limit the speepest gradients to a fairly comfortable 1:12. The pass is suitable for all vehicles with the only natural dangers being rockfalls, but the substantial catch walls appear to be taking care of that as well. The road carries heavy trucking traffic and overtaking is sometimes difficult. Patience is required if you get stuck behind a slow moving truck.

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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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