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The Western Cape

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.

This short and fairly steep gravel pass is located on an isolated farm access road a few kilometers to the east of Redelinghuys in the Sandveld region. This pass is mainly used by 4x4 enthusiasts to access the Jakkalskloof 4x4 route - a tough and tricky route down steep inclines and through deep sand. The road is a dead-end, but a normal car will mange the pass to the farm house at the summit without any problems, but cars with low ground clearance might have some issues.

The Jan Muller Pass is a short, steep pass, with a descent and ascent over the Gouritz River via a low level concrete bridge, which is also named after Jan Muller. It's located on the R327 connecting Herbertsdale with Van Wyks Dorp.This rugged gravel road pass is fairly short at 3,6 km and descends in a series of tight switchbacks from the eastern approach to cross the Gouritz River at an altitude of just 68m ASL.

The western ascent is very steep with gradients as steep as 1:5, but the road builders have concrete-stripped this section allowing for good traction. It makes the road driveable in a normal car but due to the rough nature of the concrete surface most vehicles will need to remain in 1st gear until the western summit is reached.

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.

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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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