Padkloof Pass is located on a secondary road which connects the N14 near Olifantshoek in the north with the N8 in the south. The primary attraction along this route is the Witsand Nature Reserve, which is situated about 20 km away on the northern side of the pass. The road is in a good condition and can be driven in any vehicle, but there are some severe corrugations in a few places.
This area is known as the “Green Kalahari” and is quite densely vegetated, in stark contrast to the red sand landscape of the true semi-desert close by. Keep a lookout for the thousands of Sociable Weaver nests which populate many of the trees and telephone poles, and for the smaller arid-region animals such as squirrels, mongooses, meerkats and dassies which pop up out of nowhere.
This fairly long pass runs along the north-south axis on a gravel road which forms the longer and arguably more scenic route along the southern side of the Quthing River. This route ultimately intersects with the A4 main tarred road a little further from the northern end of the pass.
It contains 82 bends, corners and curves within its 10.4 km length, which equates to 1 corner every 126 metres. With a summit altitude of 2532m it is almost as high as most of the South African high altitude passes and displays an altitude variance of 373m. The unusual vertical profile shows a classic profile up to the 7.7 km point, after which there is a gentle undulating climb of almost 3 km.
The steepest parts occur between the summit (4.5 km mark) and the 6.8 km point, where you will experience gradients as steep as 1:6. This pass will be very tricky in heavy rain or snow conditions. This route would be best driven ina high clearance vehicle and preferably in a 4WD vehicle.
Langersnek is an official pass located on a secondary gravel road (the S385) in the eastern Free State highlands. Although the pass itself is not particularly memorable, the road does traverse right through the middle of the Moolmanshoek Private Game Reserve, offering spectacular sandstone mountain scenery and an excellent opportunity to do some free game viewing.
The road surface is in a reasonable condition and can be driven in any vehicle, except in really bad weather. It has not been possible to establish the origins of the name of this pass, but it is probably derived from the original owner of the farm on the north-eastern side, or perhaps from a local hero of the Anglo-Boer War. The spelling of this pass is taken from the official government maps, but locally the name is always spelled as “Langesnek”.
Schuilkrans Pass is a gravelled pass located in the south-eastern Free State, near the little town of Marquard. Considering that this is a minor farm road, it is in a surprisingly good condition, except for corrugations in some sections. It can be driven in any vehicle, although in very wet weather it could get quite slippery.
The eastern Free State is renowned for its scenic beauty and the area around the pass is no exception, so it is worth the effort required to get there. There are 12 bends, curves and corners on the pass, 3 of which exceed a turning radius of 120 degrees. One of these is a very sharp hairpin of 160 degrees.
This 3 km long pass packs plenty of action and grand scenery into it's short distance, gaining 208 vertical metres in the process. It's a slow, bumpy drive and you will be negotiating no less than 28 bends, corners and curves of which 7 exceed 90 degrees. The road surface is narrow and rough with a strong possibility of picking up a puncture on the hundreds of thousands of sharp rocks.
The road traverses the Koedoesberge (a strong indicator that kudu were plentiful here in the 19th century) and has its western end virtually on the border of the Western and Northern Cape.
When watching the video look for the truck and tractor wreck down the side of the ravine at 2min 05 secs.
This lovely gravel pass with its alluring name connects Thabaneng in the west with Malealea in the east and offers beautiful rural scenery in the western corner of the Mountain Kingdom. At 3.7 km it's a fairly short pass by Lesotho standards and only displays an altitude variance of 120m, and all the corners are gentle as are the gradients, which reach 1:5 near the summit and immediately after it.
As the summit is crested a beautiful view is presented and where the pass got its name from. The pass is popular more by its name than any sort of driving challenge, so if you want to drive this pass, don't expect the usual Lesotho type statistics - just enjoy the easy drive and beautiful scenery.
The main destination on the eastern end of the pass is the lovely Malealea Lodge, where accommodation is available in individual thatched rondavels set in immaculate gardens.
This beautiful pass is located on a minor gravel road, the R386, between Niekerkshoop and Prieska in the Northern Cape. It has two distinct sections; the northern half is a steep and twisty true pass, and the southern half is much more poort-like. The road is in a good condition and is well maintained, but some severe corrugations are evident, mainly on the steeper parts and on the sharper corners. Although it is situated in the transitional zone between the Kalahari and the Karoo, there is more greenery around than one would expect; this is because the mighty Orange River flows through this area just a few kilometres away from the pass.
This beautiful pass is cut into the side of a mountain, and angles down from a high plateau in the New England area to terminate at the historic Loch Bridge over the Kraai River. This part of the world is famous for its wonderful scenery, and in this case the pass also offers up spectacular views of the reverses and the rail bridge belonging to the now-defunct railway that was built through this gorge.
The road is in a mostly good condition and is suitable for all vehicles, except perhaps in very wet weather. The pass itself is fairly substantial, with a length of 3.6 km and a height difference of 172 metres. “Tier” translated from Afrikaans means “Tiger”, but, as everyone knows, there are no tigers in Africa. The word was often used in days gone by as a name for a leopard, so a correct translation of the pass name would be “Leopard Cliff Pass”.
The African Buffalo must have once been very plentiful in South Africa, and the name of this dangerous bovine is used in various original place names across the length and breadth of the country. Buffelsnek, Buffelsfontein, Buffelspoort, and Buffelskloof are all very common names. This Buffelspoort is located near the northern border of the North West province, close to the Borakalalo National Park, and should not be confused with another poort of the same name near Rustenburg.
The road is in a fairly good condition and can be driven in any vehicle, but care should be exercised after heavy weather. Because of the dense vegetation, the poort does not offer much from a scenic point of view, but it does make for a very pleasant, if somewhat lonely, drive through the countryside.
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.
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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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