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Waboomsberg Pass (Private)

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Waboomsberg Pass summit views Waboomsberg Pass summit views - Photo: Trygve Roberts

This is an impressive pass by any standards. At 7.9 km long it climbs a whopping 705m producing a stiff average gradient of 1:11 with the steepest parts reaching 1:6. Crammed within that distance are no less than 59 bends, corners and curves of which 5 are full hairpins and another 6 exceed 90 degrees.

The scenery is majestic and changes perpetually as the road winds its way up to the Waboomsberg summit point, to end at a cluster of telecoms towers. You will be treated to 250 degree views of the Warm Bokkeveld and making up the other 110 degrees are views of the Gydo Plateau.

Whilst the road is 98% gravel, there are 8 short tarred sections (with the odd pothole) ensuring reasonable traction on the steeper sections. Besides the wonderful views, you are also likely to spot small antelope like steenbok, duikers and klipspringers and for the birders, you are almost guaranteed to spot a few raptors, sunbirds and other LBJ's.

The pass falls entirely on private land and permission is required (at a fee) to drive the route (Contact numbers lower down). It is a cul-de-sac, so the whole route has to be retraced back to the start. This route is a viable alternative to Matroosberg in the snow season, as the road condition is far superior and holds very few real dangers.

Scroll down to view the map & video. It is recommended to watch this video in HD. (Click on the "quality" button on the lower taskbar of the video screen and select 720HD.) Wait a few seconds for the video to display.....

[Video cover photo: Trygve Roberts]

FULL-SCREEN MODEMODE: Click PLAY, then pass your mouse over the bottom right corner of the video screen. The outline of a square will appear. Clicking on it will toggle Full Screen Mode. Press ESC to return to the original format.

Note: Google Earth software reads the actual topography and ignores roads, cuttings, tunnels, bridges and excavations. The Google Earth vertical-profile animation generates a number of parallax errors, so the profile is only a general guide of what to expect in terms of gradients, distance and elevation. The graph may present some impossible and improbably sharp spikes, which should be ignored.


 Digging into the details:

Getting there: To approach from the east, drive north from Ceres along the R46 for 25 km via the Theronsberg Pass. At the summit turn left (north) at GPS S33.259808 E19.534821. Drive on gravel for 2 km and take the first turn to the left (NW) at GPS S33.249289 E19.533430. Follow this road for 3,2 km to arrive at the Merino farmstead at GPS S33.245592 E19.503020 which is also the start of the pass.

To approach from the west, head north out of Ceres on the R303 via the Gydo Pass for 13 km. Turn right (east) after the summit of the Gydo Pass at GPS S33.184573 E19.331034. Follow this (tar) road into the east for 22 km (it becomes gravel after a while) until you arrive at a fork at GPS S33.225853 E19.532506 where you must turn right. Drive south for 2.6 km and turn sharp right at GPS S33.249289 E19.533430. Follow this road for 3,2 km to arrive at the Merino farmstead at GPS S33.245592 E19.503020 which is also the start of the pass.

Summit viewsThe road ascends over 700m in just 7.9 km / Photo: Trygve Roberts

Pass Description: Stop at the farmstead and pay your entrance fee and collect gate keys. You have to phone in advance and make an appointment. You can't just pitch up. The track leads up a vague road to the right, then bends left and follows a long line of bluegum trees, past a small cottage and a dam (which you can't see as you are lower than it). After 400m there's a gate which is usually open and immediately after passing through it, the road bends through 90 degrees to the left and levels off along the contour line.

The heading remains into the south-west for 1.1 km, then the road begins a wide curve to the right. At the 1,3 km mark, another long line of bluegum trees appear on the right hand side of the road, casting it in deep shadow on a sunny day. Be careful here as there are two dodgy culverts with sharp entry/exit angles. It's best to take them at an angle if you have a long vehicle, to avoid damage to your bumpers.

The road now faces west and heads towards a towering cliff face with different shades of rock creating a beautiful effect in the morning sun. This is a long section approaching the cliffs where the gradient picks up to 1:11. The road has many small kinks in it, but no major bends until you get to the 2,5 km mark. Here you will have to negotiate a very sharp hairpin bend of 160 degrees. A small stream flows under the road on this bend and in winter there is a pretty waterfall that cascades down the cliff face. Even in mid-summer the rocks remain black and wet.

The climb gradient gets steeper after the hairpin as the road forms a wide right hand bend around the base of a big hill. The views start opening up on the left and get better as altitude is gained. This section of the road can get a bit rough and coupled with the steep gradient of 1:6 could see some traction issues - and definitely so in wet weather.

At the 3,6 km mark there is a closed gate. If is locked you will have been supplied with a key to open it. Proceed through and close the gate behind you. Do NOT leave it open as you will soon be coming back this way.

[Video cover photo: Trygve Roberts]

At the 3.9km mark, there is a tight S-bend first to the left of 100 degrees, followed very quickly by a 140 degree right hander. Once through this bend, the gradients ease off somewhat as a long straight section heads into the west. Relax whilst you can, as at the 4,6 km mark, there is a very tight right hand bend of 90 degrees, which marks the start of the second corner peppered section.

Two sharp bends take you to the 4,8 km mark, where a big horseshoe bend skirts a ridge on the left. This bend curves through 180 degrees but over a wide arc so there is no reduction in speed necessary. The gradient kicks up once more, but not as steep as the previous section, but it remains between 1:9 and 1:11.

Wide grassy slopes play home to a range of birds and the presence of protea bushes becomes obvious. In winter this route must be exceptionally beautiful with the proteas being in bloom. The mountain is aptly named as Waboom is Afrikaans for this species of protea bush.

Another tight S-bend is reached at the 5.5 km point, where the second part of the bend whips through a tight arc of 150 degrees. Most of the steeper, tight corners have been tarred. This creates quite a problem for 4WD vehicles as it means the centre-diff needs to be locked just before each tarred section is reached, to prevent axle wind-up and differential damage. Most vehicles should do this climb in dry weather in 4x2 in 1st gear high range.

[Video cover photo: Trygve Roberts]

The heading changes more into the north-west as the road continues climbing at 1:11 and after a short straight begins yet another S-bend, but this one is not as tight as the earlier two. Once through the S-bend, there is a short almost level plateau marked by a small gravel quarry (obviously used to maintain the road). Keep a look out for small antelope which are often present in the long grass and proteas at this altitude.

Once past the quarry the road bends to the right via a double apex 90 degree bend which has a tight radius. For the first time the heading changes into the north-east, revealing yet new vistas to the right. The road has several minor changes of direction but the gradient also eases off and even descends briefly as the shape of the mountain is followed towards an unseen point, where another razor sharp lies in wait at the 7.4 km mark.

[Video cover photo: Trygve Roberts]

This hairpin is tarred but also suddenly gets steep, so be prepared to add some power to get around the corner and up onto the next contour level. This is followed rapidly by another tight S-bend with very tight angles. The drop offs to the left get steeper and are exposed so don't make any mistakes here.

The gradient eases off somewhat and another S-bend has to be tackled but the corners are wider. Up on the right the main telecom tower spears the sky as it soars up into the sky. At the 7.8 km point there is another hairpin bend with an extremely sharp turn to the right. Another road (made out of paving blocks drops down the hill straight ahead and a road can be seen meandering along the next plateau below you. Do not under any circumstances try and drive down this road as there is a securely locked gate just 100m further and trying to do a 3 point turn in a big SUV or Double Cab is going to be difficult.  Reversing up will be even more dangerous. If you are curious, rather walk down to the gate and you will quickly realise just how steep it is when you return. This road leads to a radar installation about 3 km away which can be seen from where you are.

5th vid correct

[Video cover photo: Trygve Roberts]

There is limited parking right next to the towers. Make sure you have fully engaged your handbrake, switched your engine off and left your vehicle is 1st gear, before you go exploring or taking photos. The views from the summit, despite being a little spoilt by all the towers, are truly magnificent. The reality is that if the towers weren't there, there wouldn't be a road either, so we are grateful for what we can enjoy.

Once you've had your fill of the views, it's time to tackle the descent. You will by this stage be fairly familiar with the road, so the only advice we have to offer is to descend in the same gear ratios you used for the ascent. When you get back down to the farmstead, remember to return the keys.

[Video cover photo: Trygve Roberts]

Ceres History
Tucked away between sheltered mountains lies the magical Ceres Valley, and it comes as no surprise to visitors to learn that Ceres is named after the Roman goddess of agriculture and fertility. This charming town has become world famous for its export-quality fruit, breath-taking scenery, warm hospitality and wonderful active and leisure options. Ceres is also the gateway to the Cederberg Mountains to the north and the Tankwa Karoo to the east and is a mere 150km or 90 minutes drive from Cape Town.

SA's SwitzerlandCeres winter snows / Photo: Route 62

Ceres, is for good reason named after the Goddess of Fertility, as it lies tucked away in a fertile valley surrounded by the majestic mountains of the Boland. Only accessed via mountain passes that will literally take your breath away, there are four unique areas to the town:  The Warm Bokkeveld which has an abundance of natural agricultural resources and envelops Ceres and Prince Alfred Hamlet. The Bo-Swaarmoed which is situated at the foot of the Matroosberg Mountain Range and is famous for its seasonal snows and cherry farms plus the views of the Ceres Valley which are breath-taking. The Koue Bokkeveld is home to a small village but a number of large farming estates, and is world renowned for its apples, pears and vegetables. Lastly, The Ceres Karoo is a semi-arid desert area, boasting a long history and a unique culture including breath-taking landscape views and priceless natural resources.

In winter snow can fall on the higher mountain regions, and this brings many visitors to the Ceres Valley, which has become affectionately known as ‘the Switzerland of South Africa’. In summer, the Ceres Valley offers a beauty all its own and there are numerous hikes, mountain bike tracks and walks along rivers and streams and in the surrounding mountains for those nature lovers. Alternatively, come and pick your own cherries during cherry season or go on a tractor or horse ride to experience real farm life!  One of the region’s greatest assets is its sheer diversity of bird species, hosting highly sought-after endemic and near-endemic species found in the unique Fynbos vegetation.

There’s a wide variety of accommodation ranging from luxury game reserves, a Cape Nature reserve, numerous guesthouses, bed & breakfasts, self-catering units, farm cottages and mountain & eco-huts, and a camp site within the town of Ceres.  After enjoying a fun filled time out and about, why not take time out to relax and unwind at one of the many day spas or coffee shops. The clean and clear skies will renew your mind, body and soul.

Dried peachesDried peaches / Photo: Google Images

Mention the name ‘Ceres’ in South Africa and any local will immediately reply ‘fruit juice and apples’ and indeed, the Ceres district is one of the country’s largest deciduous fruit-growing regions and home to the factory that produces a fruit juice concentrate of the same name. Named after the Roman goddess of agriculture, Ceres, this valley produces an array of fruit and vegetables that feed many South Africans and service numerous international markets. Produce includes: apples, pears, nectarines, peaches, apricots, plums and cherries. Onions and potatoes are also grown in the Ceres region and they even have dried fruits and a local wine.

Ceres is located at the north-eastern entrance to Michell’s Pass and was the old route north between Cape Town and Johannesburg, which was later replaced by the N1 highway.  The “Togryers Museum” or Transport Rider’s Museum in the centre of town, honours the huge influence that the transport riders had on the development of Ceres.

The valley of Ceres, the Koue Bokkeveld and the open plains of the Tanqua Karoo were first inhabited by the San and Khoi, thousands of years ago. The San rock painting sites in the area are some of the best preserved in the country.

The first Europeans crossed the Witzenberg Range from the Tulbagh Valley in 1729 and established stock farms.  Michell’s Pass was built between 1846 and 1848.  The first plots in Ceres were sold a year later. The road through Ceres became the main route to the north when diamonds were discovered in Kimberley in the late 1800’s. Today the route is known as the ‘Forgotten Highway’ and is developing as a tourist attraction.

The old Toll House, situated just below the railway crossing in Michell’s Pass, was the pay point for travellers to the diamond fields.  Visit the well-maintained Toll house, a national monument, and on-site is also a small restaurant offering local traditional foods and treats. In 1969, an earthquake struck Ceres and most of the historic buildings in the town were damaged beyond repair.

One can visit the Ceres Transport Riders Museum Tel: 023 312 2045 to learn more about the early days in Ceres, the people, fauna and flora, a display of wagons and carriages and the earthquake of 1969.  


Fact File:

GPS START

S33.245657 E19.503059

GPS SUMMIT

S33.253224 E19.459405

GPS END

S33.253224 E19.459405

AVE GRADIENT

1:11

MAX GRADIENT

1:6

ELEVATION START

1131m

ELEVATION SUMMIT

1836m

ELEVATION END

1836m

HEIGHT GAIN/LOSS

705m

DISTANCE

7.9 km

DIRECTION - TRAVEL

West

TIME REQUIRED

15 minutes

SPEED LIMIT

None

SURFACE

Gravel (Private/Restricted)

DATE FILMED

24.02.2019

TEMPERATURE

26C

NEAREST TOWN

Ceres (30 km)


Route Map:

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Route files:

||Click to download: Waboomsberg Pass (PVT) - (Note - This is a .kmz file which can be opened in Google earth and most GPS software systems)

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