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The Western Cape

The Jan Phillips Mountain Road (or more correctly Jan Phillips Bergpad) runs along the eastern flank of the famous Paarlberg Mountain, approximately 3/4 of its height and mainly along the 300m contour - and provides access to the Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve, Meulwater picnic site and a vast number of hiking and mountain bike trails at the summit of the mountain. Jan Phillips was a respected wagon maker in the town in the 1800's. It's a fairly long gravel road of 10,8 km that starts and ends at either end of the town of Paarl. 

It's an easy enough drive for any vehicle, but the road is quite narrow in places. If you comply with the 30 kph speed limit (which very few people do) you will not have any problems. Be wary of corrugations, which can easily cause loss of control. We recommend tyre deflation to 1.4 bar before driving this route.

 

This fairly long gravel road pass connects the Moravian village of Goedverwacht with Bo-Piketberg and is a delight to drive for its exquisite scenery and remote feeling. It lies on the western flank of a big valley formed between two mountain ranges to the west of Piketberg. At the foot of the pass lies the pretty missionary village of Goedverwacht which offers a fascinating look into the region's history. The pass is 8,6 km long and sports an average gradient of 1:16 with a few short sections as steep as 1:5. The pass is not suited to normal cars. We recommend a vehicle with decent ground clearance, especially over the first 2 km near the northern summit. Several internet references quote this pass as being called "Klok se Poort". This is incorrect as Klok se Poort is a hiking trail that ascends the eastern flank of the valley and is not doable in a vehicle.

The relatively unknown Joubertspoort is a 12.8 km farm road, close to Montagu in the Western Cape, and well worth exploring. The route consists of a combination of some rough two spoor track as well as some good quality gravel road. In essence it is a combination of a pass and a poort. Although the average gradient is a mild 1:30 there are one or two short sections in the 4x4 part of this poort which reach gradients as steep as 1:5

This first (northern) section is strictly for 4x4 vehicles only with good ground clearance and low range. It provides magnificent views in complete tranquility and isolation. The southern section takes you past quaint little farm labourers' cottages flanked by green orchards and pastures towards the exit of the poort from where it is a quick drive into Montagu.

Allow about at least an hour to complete the route. Non 4WD vehicles could drive the poort from the south as far as the last farm, then turnaround and retrace the route back to Montagu.

Most travellers are not even aware of this pass, as they travel the long and generally flat gravelled R356 across the flat plains of the Ceres and Tankwa Karoo between Sutherland and Ceres. This is the last meaningful change in terrain since having passed through the Windheuvel and Thyshoogte passes, several kilometres further to the north-east.

This tricky little pass, whilst not boasting any extreme statistics, has been the undoing of many an unsuspecting driver, as things can get decidedly slippery when the rains do eventually arrive. There are a number of very sharp bends and dips, some of which have negative banking and loose gravel. Proceed with caution and don't underestimate this pass!

The pass is 3,4 km long and exhibits an altitude variance of 103m which converts into an average gradient of 1:32 with the steeper parts getting into the 1:9 range.

The Kaaiman's River Pass boasts several records. Although a fairly short pass in terms of distance, the curves are extremely sharp and the gradient is steep. The pass connects George in the west with Wilderness in the east and traverses magnificent scenery with steep mountainsides, where the amber coloured waters of the Kaaimans River are crossed via the first curved bridge built in South Africa in 1952. The pass provides perfect views of the famous rail bridge at the mouth of the estuary and plays host to Dolphin Point - a perennial favourite with tourists offering 270 degree views including one of the best panoramas of Widerness beach. When commissioned in 1952 it ended a 70 year period where the Old Cape Road (including the 7 Passes) became much less used.

The historic "Seven Passes" route between George and Knysna includes 'Kaaimansgat' - a twisting, turning tarred road, close to the town of George, which traverses lushly indigenous forest to this area's famous 'black water' rivers. The road is old, narrow and the tarring is in sub-standard condition, but the beautiful indigenous forests through which it passes more than makes up for this minor inconvenience. The pass has an old bridge (a national monument) worth stopping at. 

Although the pass is fairly short at 2,8 km it has many sharp corners and drivers would be wise to keep their speed below 40 kph. The only safe place to stop as on either side of the bridge where there is limited parking for one or two vehicles.

 

 

This interesting gravel pass traverses the Kammanassie river valley offering beautiful views and some fairly steep gradients. The pass is also sometimes called the Jonkershoogte Pass (Slingsby Maps). The pass descends from 610m ASL at its western end and drops 165 vertical metres over a very short distance via several tight bends to cross the Kammassie River via  a low level bridge. The road forms a T-junction at the Daskop farmstead where the pass turns sharply to the right to summit Mount Daskop itself at 526m ASL.

This scenic gravel pass of almost 17 km runs along the north-south axis through an attractive koof called Kapteinskloof, through the Skurweberg mountains and connects the R399 in the south at Sauer with the R366 in the north. Its summit rises steeply to 369m at a point named Patatdraai (Potato Corner). The first part of the pass is a gradual climb, but becomes fairly steep near the summit, which offers 360 degree views from the neck.

Karatara Pass is found on the 'Seven Passes Road' immediately after the forestry village of the same name. Like all gravel road passes in rainy regions, the usual cautionary of 'slippery when wet' applies. This road is usually corrugated, which can cause loss of traction and control, particularly on corners with non 4x4 vehicles. This was one of the easier of the seven passes in terms of construction and technical difficulties.

Like all of the preceding passes along the western approach, this pass has simialar vital statistics to the previous four passes, with a length of 2,6 km and a slightly smaller altitude variance of 62m. The vertical profile is once again the classic inverted shape of a pass that starts at a high point, then descneds down to a river crossing, only to rise back up again to virtually the same altitude as the starting point.

The bridge is almost a carbon copy of the Hoogekraal bridge in its design and also carries two lanes of traffic.

This short, steep and winding gravel pass is only just over 1 km in length and climbs 57m producing an average gradient of 1:18 with some stiff gradients in the middle of under 1:5. The pass offers sweeping views of the valley of the Kareevlakterivier, which flows eastwards forming a confluence with the much bigger Touws River. It's located on the R1405 about 8 km to the west of Prinspoort and approximately 55 km south-west of Ladismith and 40 km NNE of Barrydale (as the crow flies). There are some steep, unguarded drop-offs on this pass and it's best driven at a slower speed.

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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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