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The Western Cape

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.

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.

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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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