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The Western Cape

The Seweweeks Poort is probably the most beautiful 18 km stretch of gravel road anywhere in South Africa. With easy gradients, multiple river crossings, mind-boggling geology, camping and self catering accommodation all packed into an almost perfect micro-climate, this road is an absolute joy to drive or ride, as it twists and turns through every angle of the compass, as it follows the contorted bends of the river and falls entirely under the control of Cape Nature Conservation and more specifically the Swartberg and Towerkop Nature Reserves. It is also a certified Unesco World Heritage Site.

This poort is one of our Top 20 all time favourite roads. Add it to your bucket list!

Shaw's Mountain Pass is named after Shaw's Mountain over which it traverses on the R320 route between Caledon in the north and Hermanus in the south. The 6 km long pass descends 185m from a maximum altitude of 282m ASL providing sweeping views of the farming valleys to the south. It contains 15 bends, corners and curves of which only one exceeds 90 degrees.

The pass offers attractive scenery over one of the most beautiful valleys of the Overberg, where proteas, fynbos and wildflowers abound. The pass was completely realigned and rebuilt during 2017 and is perfectly safe for all vehicle types. Note that a lower than normal speed limit of 80 kph applies.

 

Signal Hill road is an out and back scenic drive/pass that starts at Kloof Nek and climbs very steeply under the eastern flank of Lions Head, to level off along the spine of the ridge. It runs due north providing superb views of the city bowl and further towards False Bay. As the road curls around Lions Rump (Signal Hill) you will experience rapidly changing views of first, the main harbour, then the V&A Waterfront, Green Point with the Cape Town Stadium as its focal point, then Sea Point. Nelson Mandela's incarceration on Robben Island brings back memories of another era in our history. It lies only 3 nautical miles out into the blue waters of Table Bay.

 

The Silver River Pass, is one of the Garden Route's 'Seven Passes', and covers 2,7 km of narrow, twisting tar-road driving through dense indigenous forests, descending to and from the Silver River starting where the Kaaimansgat Pass ends and finding its end at picturesque Wilderness Heights. The road is a national monument, and was built around 1882 by Adam de Smidt, who was Thomas Bain's Brother in law. The pass is the second of the official passes when travelling from west to east.

Many people consider the Kaaimansgat and Silver River Passes to be one continious pass as they run seamlessly from the one into the other. It has similar vital statistics to the Kaaimansgat Pass in that it is almost the identical length and displays an altitude variance of 86m. The difference comes in the number of bends on the Silver River Pass. It has 30 bends, corners and curves compressed within it's fairly short length, which equates to an average of one corner every 90m!

Sir Lowry's Pass was named after Sir Galbraith Lowry Cole, Governor of the Cape in 1828. Today's modern, cantilevered four-lane highway is a far cry from the original pass, which was recklessly dangerous and steep. Prior to the pass being built, all wagon traffic from the Overberg routed through the Franschoek Pass - the preferred route for many years with its kinder gradients for wagons and oxen. 

This scenic tarred pass connects the lovely riverside town of Bonnievale with the R60 a few kilometres to the east of Ashton. Its a fairly short pass at 3 km and gains 94m in altitude, producing an average gradient of 1:32. There are five relatively easy curves and bends along the pass as it meanders up towards the neck and summit called Skilpadshoogte, which translates into Tortoise Heights. The steepest section is the final 600m on the southern side of the summit where the gradient ramps up to a stiff 1:7

This gently meandering tar road along the valley between the impressive Slanghoek Mountains and the smaller Badsberg mountain showcases a restfully pastoral landscape of vineyards and fruit farms. A wine-tasting tour at the popular wine farms is a must for wine connoisseurs - locals and tourists alike! The drive through the valley is a visual feast, but watch out for pedestrians, animals, cyclists and slow moving farm vehicles.

A short, twisty and steep mountain pass that winds up the side of the Slangkop mountain offering sweeping views over the rugged Atlantic coastline with perfect views of the Slangkop Lighthouse. The pass is old and the tarred surface is not as smooth as more modern roads. It climbs 102 metres over 3,58 km producing an average gradient of 1:39 with the steeper sections presenting at 1:14. Since the new shortcut via Ocean View was built, this old road has quickly become one of the Peninsula's roads 'less travelled'. Don't miss out on this one - it's a real gem!

Translated from the Afrikaans to mean 'Blacksmith's Shop', this route delivers the best views when driven from south to north. The pass begins at the crest of the hill just past the turn-off to the Cape Point Reserve at an altitude of 146m ASL, then drops immediately down a 1km fairly straight section (with a gradient of around 1:11) towards a sharp left-hand bend of 90 degrees, where parking is available. The road forms part of a wonderful circular route around the Cape Peninsula and carries a lot of tourist traffic including tour buses 7 days per week.

This relatively short pass lies on the N2 between Riversdale and Albertinia and forms the eastern half of the twin Riversdale passes - the western one being the Goukou River Pass. The pass has an altitude variance of a mild 62 metres, but the the climb out on the eastern side is long and steep with a gradient of 1:11. This is a favourite spot for local traffic authorities to do speed checking, so watch the speed limit signs carefully or be prepared to cough up.

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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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Master Orientation Map 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.

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