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The Western Cape

This superb pass is rich in South African folklore and we are fortunate to bring you the story of John Versfeld - a resourceful farmer from Bo-Piketberg who built the original pass in 3 months with only 16 farm labourers. There are two Versfeld passes in close proximity to each other. The original one lies slightly to the north-east of the current one and its path can still be seen, but it is no longer publicly accessible. Our focus is on the existing pass. The gradients of the new pass are up to good engineering standards and the road descends the mountain through a series of dizzying switchbacks. Not many people know about the pass. It's narrow and very twisty, but although it was built in 1943 and widened and tarred in 1958, it offers a bountiful of delights as it ascends or descends the mountain to Piketberg.

This very minor road rises only 49m to clear a wide neck amongst the vast plains of Namaqualand about 25 km north-east of Nuwerus (on the N7) as the crow flies. It is one of the most northerly official passes in the Western Cape. The word 'poort' is normally associated with a road following the path carved out by a river, so Vetpoort is inappropriately named and should rather have been called Vetnek. Only die-hard pass-chasers will hunt this one down. It's difficult to find (especially from the south-eastern side) and has many farm gates to open and close in the process of getting there. For those that do take the trouble to drive this 'pass' you will be rewarded with a remarkable sense of peace and solitude as it is truly in the middle of nowhere.

This short and steep tarred pass connects George with the uber-cool surfing beach of Victoria Bay. The road has some dangerous bends and steep gradients and there are often pedestrians and cyclists on this road. To add to these issues, there are no safety shoulders either. The steepest gradients are 1:8 and the road ends in a dead-end.

Victoria Road is a long road that stretches from Sea point all the way to Hout Bay. This lovely coastal road is featured several times on this website as it includes at least two passes in its total distance. This specific pass starts at the western end of Camps Bay at Bakoven and ends about 8,5 km later at the natural neck between the last buttress of the Twelve Apostles and Little Lions Head above Llandudno. It is a road which is appreciated and revered by locals and tourists alike and is well engineered with properly banked turns and smooth curves. It is a joy to drive, ride or cycle whilst offering fabulous views of the Atlantic coastline and the 12 Apostles.

 

Viljoen's Pass was named after Dr Antonie Viljoen who founded the area's famous apple industry in 1902. It is a well designed modern pass with a good accident track record, not withstanding the extreme hairpin bend on the northern side of the pass. The pass was originally built to a different line in 1860.

Vissershok translates from Afrikaans into Fishermans Cage. This small pass has some serious gradients and connects the north-western suburbs of Blouberg (Cape Town) with Durbanville and forms part of the semi-urban M48 route. It's 4,8 km long and sports an average gradient of 1:28 with the steepest sections on the western side getting as steep as 1:7. This road has a poor safety record with many fatal accidents having occurred. The road is narrow, unevenly surfaced and has no safety shoulders. Despite these dangers, it is a perennial favourite training route for cyclists. Large numbers of heavy trucks utilise the road to access the active quarries in the valley - namely Contermanskloof and Cotswold quarries. Drive with caution.

This gravel pass connects the seaside town of Grootbrakrivier (Great Brak River) with the dairy farming coastal plateau to the north as well as being the main connecting road to the region’s biggest fresh water supply – the Wolwedans Dam. We filmed the pass in the descending mode to maximise on the scenic value. The pass carries an alternative official name - Charles Road.

This scenic poort winds its way along the Brandrivier flood plain, mainly keeping on the western side. Like all poorts, this one too is subject to frequent flooding. The altitude variance along this poort is minor, making it a great poort to cycle. The R323 carries very little traffic, making this drive relaxing and enjoyable as the cuttings reveal the local geology as the road passes by a number of attractive Karoo farms.

The road has no paved safety shoulders and has 12 easy bends, corners and curves.

Volstruisnek is a relatively minor pass located on the R323/P315 road south of Laingsburg in the Karoo and forms part of a series of passes and poorts on this fabulous Karoo back road, which is peppered with game sightings and exquisite mountain scenery. This is the smallest of the five passes and has no apparent dangers, providing speed limits are adhered to. The road is suitable for all vehicles.

This historical oxwagon route dates back to 1776 when it was used by pioneers as a trade route between the coast and the Langkloof valley. prior to the current name, the route was known as the Duiwelskop Pass which was first designed by Thomas Bain circa 1865.

Enjoy magnificent views of the Indian ocean, the lakes around Wilderness and Sedgefield and the verdant Langkloof valley. The 21km route starts on Louvain guest farm and ends at the entrance of the Bergplaas Forestry station on the Seven Passes road between George and Knysna. It takes approximately two and a half hours to complete, and is enjoyable and scenic without being unduly demanding. A permit is required to enter the forestry area and the cost thereof is included in the permit obtainable at Louvain Guest Farm, which was R200 per vehicle at time of writing. This route is strictly for 4x4 vehicles with low range and good ground clearance. It can get tricky on the northern slopes in wet weather.

Note - No motorcycles or quadbikes are allowed.

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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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