This little pass is not for the feint hearted. The maximum gradient is 1:3 which means low range gear ratios are essential. This pass has claimed the 10th steepest pass statistic in South Africa with an average gradient of 1:9,1 It is unusual in that it only starts at the summit of the Koebee Pass, itself quite a spectacular and steep pass. It climbs up to the mountain plateau via a single hairpin, at which point some rudimentary concrete has been laid to aid with traction. The road services a single rooibos farm at the summit. Views from the top are superb with the thin ribbon of road of the Koebee Pass disappearing to the right with the Knersvlakte framed by a ring of peaks in the far distance.
Note: It has been reported that the gate at the start of the pass is sometimes locked, in which case there will be no access. Make allowance for this in your planning.
The Bottelnek Pass is a very steep, gravel pass in a remote part of the Eastern Cape roughly 25 km north of Elliot (as the crow flies). The 5,1 km long pass has an altitude variance of 193 metres to summit at 2204m ASL producing an average gradient of 1:26 with the steepest sections being at 1:5. In wet weather non 4WD vehicles will have traction issues. It snows regularly on this pass during winter and the usual snow-driving cautionaries apply. Although this pass can be driven in a normal sedan, we would rather recommend a high clearance vehicle and definitely a 4x4 in rainy or muddy conditions.
Bakenkop Pass is named after the prominent mountain near its western extremity, which is easily identifiable whilst driving the pass itself from the host of radio towers on its summit. The route forms part of one of the original trails which bisect the lower section of the Drakensberg escarpment, and is located just to the south-east of Sabie, running in a generally west-east configuration towards Kiepersol and Hazyview. The gravel track is extremely rough and rutted, and we strongly recommend the use of a high-clearance vehicle, or a 4x4 during or after wet weather. This is logging country, and the road traverses both pine and eucalyptus plantations for its entire length, also offering up some splendid views over the Lowveld.
Moodies Pass is not known by many and taken for granted by those who use it on a daily basis. It is situated on the gravel road designated as the R322, and connects the Moravian settlement of Suurbraak to the West with Heidelberg to the East. It primarily serves the farming community and those adventure and nature lovers wanting to access the Boosmansbos Wilderness area and Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve. The pass is on the short side at 3,34 km but it rises a substantial 185m vertical meters over that distance to produce an average gradient of 1:18 with the steeper sections being at 1:6.
This well maintained gravel road pass lies on the northern side of the Swartberg Mountains close to the Seweweeks Poort. It connects the Seweweeks Poort area and farms eastwards and up to the Gamkapoort Dam with Laingsburg. The 6 km long pass is subject to winter snowfalls with a summit altitude of 1202m ASL and an altitude variance of 341m, producing an average gradient of 1:18, with the steepest parts being at 1:8. Two waterfalls on the Swartberg side of the pass makes this a great detour off the busier R62 route.
The Tintwa Pass is a 4.7 km gravel road running through the Drakensberg on the North-West / South-East axis. It is known as the S1101 and connects the farming areas north of Bergville with the upper plateau of the Free State around Swinburne, Van Reenen and Harrismith. Some references list the Middledale Pass and the Tintwa Pass as being the same pass. Together they are virtually one long pass with a plateau joining them in the middle. Although it has an average gradient of just 1:48, this figure is somewhat misleading, as the pass rises and falls a number of times over its length, and the pass is more demanding than would first appear.
The Bo-Swaarmoed Pass is located to the north of the much bigger Swaarmoed Pass, 3,5 km kilometers after the Matroosberg/Erfdeel turn-off. It is a gravel road that connects the summit area of the Swaarmoed Pass with the farm Uitkomst (Matjiesrivier) in the lower valley to the north. The pass is also sometimes called the Uitkomst Pass and the Bloubank Pass by locals. This is a very old farm with old buildings, dry packed stone walls and a unique and completely intact slave bell dating back to the early 1700's.
Most of the passes aound Ceres are tarred which tends to lull drivers into a false sense of security. When adding very steep gradients, sharp corners and several bends which have negative banking, this pass has the potential to become very dangerous and doubly so during snow or after heavy rain for unattentive drivers. Don't be fooled by the mild statistics or how easy it looks on the video. It is safer to ascend this pass than descend it. Speed needs to be drastically reduced if you have approached from the south via the Swaarmoed Pass.
This remote gravel poort is just under 4 km long and lies in the heart of the Karoo with Sutherland about 50 km to the south and Williston 80 km to the north-east. The road serves to connect the local farming community. It only gains 69 meters in altitude to produce an average gradient of a very easy 1:55 with the steeper sections closer to the summit being at 1:10.
There are two big farms that lie to the north of the road - Snyders Post and Snyders Poort. The pass takes its name from the latter farm.
The geology is stunning as the poort is entered from the south and the cuttings made for the road reveal a natural history of the rock strata. Besides the interesting geology, this is also a very remote road that carries very little traffic, so you will be able to enjoy a sense of solitude, but be well prepared and carry enough fuel, a puncture repair kit and sundry tools in case of a breakdown - you could have a long wait. There is no cellphone reception.
Ottaspoort Pass is a secondary farm style gravel road designated as the P2937, that connects farms with Garies in the north-west and Loeriesfontein in the south-east. It is located about 35 km south-east of Garies and is accessible off the R358 or the the N7 depending on your direction of approach. The poort runs on the east/west axis close the border of the Western and Northern Cape.
This minor pass is located some 35 km north-east of Calvinia in the Northern Cape. The name is interesting and a little misleading as this road does not conform to the definition of a poort and is much more of a classic 'down-up-down' profile type road over a nek. It's one of those roads not many people know about and is a perfect road to explore by car, 4x4 or bike. The road connects the farms to the north of Calvinia with Brandvlei as well as Calvinia itself. With an average gradient of 1:54 no-one will struggle to climb over this little pass. The road reaches its steepest point on the northern side of the summit where the gradient reaches 1:11.
We filmed this little pass very early in the morning in the late autumn of 2017. There is a remarkable sense of space, peace and solitude and the views of the mountains around the northern side of Calvinia are absolutely breathtaking. The road is generally in a reasonable condition, but as is the case with all gravel roads, this can change rapidly after rain, so drive below 80 kph and beware of corrugations. The shakiness in our video is evidence of the corrugations on this road (this despite deflated tyres and operatring in full 4WD).
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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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