Heights Road (also known as Hoogte Road) is a short and very steep, narrow tarred road connecting the holiday village of Wilderness with the farms and residences on top of the hill known as Wilderness Heights. It is the preferred, quicker route for locals over the much longer, gravel surfaced Whites Road. Both roads terminate at the same point.
This excellent new pass connects the university town of Stellenbosch with the R45, Pniel and Franschoek and is designated as route R310. The pass has been upgraded several times, with the old pass (also tarred) traversing in a much more complex route of twists and turns to the northern side of the current pass. The old pass can still be accessed on foot or on bicycle. To be fair, the old pass was far more scenic than the new pass - that is the price of progress. Not that the scenery from the new pass is in any way poor of course!
The Hemel en Aarde Pass is a tarred road connecting the coastal town of Hermanus with Caledon via the Hemel en Aarde (Heaven and Earth) Valley - well known for its world class wine estates. The pass is longer than the national average at 8,2 km and it descends 231m to produce an average gradient of a mild 1:35, but there is one specific secrtion where things get decidedly steep at 1:8.
The pass offers access to a number of tourist attractions and is very popular amongst the mountain biking set, so be particularly aware of coming across cylists on this road - especially over weekends and holidays. The scenery is varied and includes open heather and fynbos slopes near the summit to neatly cultivated vineyards along the southern section.
The road had no safety shoulders, so bear this in mind when overtaking cyclists, who must be given 1,5m clearance space by law.
This short and fairly minor pass is located on the tarred R317 south of Bonnievale in the Breede River Valley. It is just under 3km in length and climbs only 45 vertical meters to summit at 179 ASL, producing a gentle average gradient of 1:33 with the steeper bits near the summit being at 1:10. The pass has gentle turns and gradients and parallels the south side of the Breede River to end opposite the Shalom farmstead.
Ranking closely alongside the notorious Kaaimans River Pass as one of the Western Cape's most dangerous passes for trucking accidents, it is not so much the gradient that is problematic, but the long, straight, momentum-gathering descent which leads suddenly into a dangerously sharp, left-hand bend. Thankfully, a substantial crash-barrier prevents out-of-control vehicles from crossing over into the oncoming traffic. A strategically place arrestor bed halfway down the pass has also helped to reduce the dangers of trucks experiencing brake failure. There are so many scars on that crash barrier that it leaves one wondering what story each scar has to tell!
Travelling south, the Hex River Poort follows the Hex River Pass about 8 km towards the southern exit of the Hex River Valley and is a distinctly separate pass to it's northern cousin, with both providing entry and exit routes from then valley. Many noteworthy and well respected travellers from the 17th and 18th centuries, incorrectly recorded in their travel journals that this was the Hex River Pass. Not that the poort is unworthy of being called an official pass, with its wild and rugged terrain! Twenty years ago, rockfalls and flooding caused endless problems for the roads authorities. Nowadays, the excellently engineered renovation makes for safe and wonderfully scenic, comfortable driving.
This substantial gravel road pass provides an alternative to the Houw Hoek Pass and paralells it a little further to the south. These days the road is used primarily by the Elgin farming community as well as those interested in hiking and mountain biking. Most of the southern section of the pass falls within the Mount Hebron Nature Reserve. From the summit area access to the Kogelberg Nature Reserve can be gained, where the well known Pedeberg Hiking Trail is located as well as several excellent MTB trails. The pass climbs 384 meters over 12 km to produce an average gradient of 1: 31
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.
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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