The P1706 route offers far superior scenery to the well known R62 tourist route - especially the straight and often boring section between Calitzdorp and Oudtshoorn. This back road offers multiple options and several small passes, each distinctly different to the other. The Kruisrivierpoort is the first of these passes when driving from west to east.
The pass is quite short at 2.2 km and only has an altitude variance of 134m, but what it lacks in vital statistics, it more than makes up for in attractive scenery and lots of tight corners. The average gradient is 1:16 but several sections get as steep as 1:6. The settlement at Kruisrivier after the eastern side of the poort, plays host to a number of artists and crafters and is a recommended stopping point.
Cautionaries: Be aware that this road is very narrow in places (single width) and it might be necessary to reverse back to a wider spot to allow safe passing. The rule of the road is to give way to ascending vehicles.
This relatively unknown pass is located on the farm road designated MR00363 between the Swartberg Pass and Calitzdorp, just to the east of the Kruisrivier settlement. It offers marvellous scenery with the mighty Swartberg Range looming ever present to the north. With a moderate length of 4.7 km and an equally modest altitude gain of 156m it produces an easy average gradient of 1:30 but there are a few sections that do ramp up 1:8.
There are a number of passes to the north-east of Calitzdorp which mainly follow the many river courses that flow down from the Swartberg Mountains. These include the Kruisrivierpoort, Huis se Hoogte, and Coetzees Poort. There are a number of cautionaries for this pass, despite it's modest statistics. These inlclude some very sharp corners, steep drop offs, loose gravel on the corners, ruts and washaways as well as a strong possibility of finding livestock on the road.
This steep, narrow and twisting gravel pass is located on the P1661 route between Van Wyksdorp and Calitzdorp. It is frequently mistakenly called the Rooiberg Pass - and with good reason, as it forms the western section of the much bigger Rooiberg Pass, the latter which is separated from the Assegaaibosch Pass by a substantial plateau. The pass is just 3 km in length and displays an altitude variance of 178m, which converts into an average gradient of 1:18, but there are one or two steep sections which get as steep as 1:5
The pass is single width along certain sections which means passing is impossible and one of the vehicles will need to reverse back to a wider point. The pass contains 22 bends, corners and curves which includes two full hairpin bends. The road gets quite rough in places and whilst we recommend a high clearance vehicle, it is possible to drive it in a normal car (cautiously) in good weather.
Lawson's Pass is a 16, 2 km long 4x4 route over the Gamkaberg and is located about 35 km south-east of Calitzdorp in the Little Karoo. It lies within the boundaries of the Gamkaberg Nature Reserve and offers exceptional mountain and valley views, coupled with a true eco-experience and a good chance of spotting game. The route is only open to 4x4 vehicles with adequate ground clearance and it is rated Grade 2. With most of the steeper sections being concreted, there aren't really any traction issues. Although there are several out and back and extenstion options in the reserve, we describe this route as a one way pass starting in the north and ending in the south. To make use of this option, it's necessary to make special arrangements with the manager, as the south gate is locked and keys must be obtained.
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.
This little known poort lies just north-east of Calitzdorp and provides a superb, but slower gravel alternative to the R62. It connects Calitzdorp with the farming communities that lie to the north of the R62 and south of the Swartberg Mountains. The poort offers beautiful and dramatic scenery of the unusual red sandstone mountains.
The Rooiberg Pass was built in 1928 most probably under the supervision of the Divisional Council of Oudtshoorn. It joins the tiny village of Van Wyksdorp with Calitzdorp over the Rooiberg Mountain. This is not a pass to be trifled with and although it can be driven in a normal car, a high clearance vehicle would be better. It is also a long pass at 14 km and contains some fairly rough sections. There are a total of 69 bends, corners and curves which include 6 hairpins and many other bends with a turning radius in excess of 90 degrees. It's a road for the less hurried traveller and offers wonderful views on both the northern and southern sides with valleys and ridges bedecked in fynbos and in winter you'll be treated to the sight of the bright orange flowers of hundreds of thousands of flowering aloes.
The pass has an altitude variance of 509m over a distance of 14 km producing an average gradient of 1:27 with the steepest parts measuring in at 1:7. All these considered, it is one you simply have to drive at least once in your life.
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.
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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