The Old Postal Route is a basic gravel track of 53,2 km that connects the Biedouw Valley in the Cederberg with the Eilandsvlei farm near the R355 in the Tankwa Karoo. This was once a route used to deliver post between these two remote communities.
The route consists of two mountain passes separated by a long high altitude plateau and includes a bridgeless crossing of the Doring River at the eastern end. It is not suitable for normal cars. Four wheel drive with high clearance is essential and low range is an additional benefit to have at your disposal.
Most of the route is Grade 1 and fairly straight-forward to drive, but here and there a few tricky sections raise the bar to Grade 3, depending on weather conditions. The two most likely places drivers will have problems, is the crossing of the Doring River and offroad navigation, as there are multiple unsigned intersections, so your navigation needs to be precise. Unless you have a GPS loaded with Tracks4Africa where you can see the route clearly, you will more than likely get lost. We don't recommend driving this route between June and October, when water levels in the Doring River will probably be too high. In summer, the river crossing is usually bone dry.
The route will take between 4 to 6 hours to complete, depending on a number of factors. There are cottages and camping available at Mertenshof near the western start and good camping can be enjoyed at Die Mond off the R355 at the opposite end of the route.
The route is best driven in a group in case of a breakdown. Take full recovery gear with as well as a puncture repair kit that you know how to use. If you enjoy remote gravel road driving, with huge vistas and a unique stillness you will find in few other places in South Africa, then this route is for you.
This gravel pass is located near the foot of the much bigger Mokobulaan Pass and forms a southern extension to it. It follows the course of the dominant river in the valley - the Houtboslooprivier, after which the pass is named. At 10,3 km it's well above the national average in terms of length and offers some lovely Lowveld scenery as it descends steadily to the valley floor and features some good views of the Wonderkloof gorge on it's northern side.
With an average gradient of 1:31 this pass can be driven in a normal car, but when conditions are wet, there could be traction issues on the steeper sections which max out at 1:10. There are 44 bends, corners and curves, including one very sharp hairpin of 180 degrees, compressed into it's length and the usual gravel road cautionaries for Mpumalanga passes apply here, which include rutted and uneven surfaces due to washaways, dense mountain mists, heavy logging trucks and livestock on the road.
Korfnek is a part of a rough track which forms a shortcut between Dullstroom and Stofberg in the high mountains of Mpumalanga, very close to the border with Limpopo. The name translates as “Basket Neck”, but its origins cannot be established. The pass itself and the approach road from the northern side are in an extremely poor condition, and it is obvious that the route is not being maintained by the authorities but probably only by the local farmers.
The use of a high-clearance vehicle with all-terrain tyres is strongly recommended, and a 4x4 will be required during or immediately after wet weather. The route offers up some splendid views over the Laersdrifspruit Valley, but drivers will be unlikely to experience these as extreme concentration is required when traversing this pass.
This short pass descends along the Groenkloof along the north-south axis and offers good views over the coastal plain in the Pearly Beach area. The road is generally in a good condition, but like all gravel roads things can change quickly in wet weather.
The pass is 3,6 km long and displays an altitude variance of 164m producing an average gradient of 1:22 with the steepest section measuring in at 1:14. It connects Pearly Beach in the south with the Baardskeerdersbos and Elim settlements and also provides an access route to the Salmonsdam Nature Reserve as well as Sandy's Glen Pass.
This long gravel pass is located along a narrow valley formed by the east-west mountain chain between Standford and Napier in the Overberg region of the Western Cape. It is also sometimes spelled as Sandies Glen Pass. Both versions are used on signage on the pass. The pass takes its name from the farm of the same name. It consists of a long, slow climb from the western side through a number of farms. The steepest gradients of 1:11 occur near the summit. The pass offers a variety of attractive scenery ranging from open meadows to dense stands of eucapyptus to open mountain-scapes.
It connects the tiny hamlet of Papiesvlei in the west with Napier in the east. The road is suitable for all vehicles and is mostly in a reasonable condition. The usual cautionaries for gravel roads apply and as always, conditions can change rapidly after rain.
Both this pass and the mining village situated at its northern end were named after a large farm which sprawls across the hills and valleys in this remote part of northern KwaZulu-Natal. The road is in a good condition and can be driven in most vehicles, although difficulties could arise in wet weather. Located in the middle of a triangle formed by the towns of Wakkerstroom, Utrecht and Paulpietersburg, this is one of those passes that you would be unlikely to find or traverse unless you actively look for it, or you have some other reason to be in the area. It has a classic up-and-down profile, gaining 222 metres in height over a distance of nearly 6 kilometres.
Waterval Pass is located on a minor gravel road which connects Amersfoort in the west with Dirkiesdorp in the east, in the southern part of the Mpumalanga province. The pass is named after a farm in the area, which in turn derives its name from a small waterfall which cascades over a hollow bluff on the southern side of the road. Although a big pass by any standards (it is nearly 6 km long and gains over 300 metres in height), it is marked on very few maps and is relatively unknown, possibly because of its remote location. The road is in a good condition and can be driven in any vehicle, but like all gravel roads in South Africa, the surface can deteriorate rapidly in wet weather.
This gravel pass traverses the Swartwatersberge between Riebeeck East in the north and Alicedale in the south. It has a substantial altitude variance and some very sharp corners, including two hairpins, but is well designed with gradients never exceeding 1:10. The pass offers exceptional views over the New Years River valley and dam and mostly falls within the boundaries of the Frontier Safaris Game Farm. It's named after the Kalmoesfontein farm, which is located at the foot of the pass on the southern side.
Riebeek East is 42 km west of Grahamstown. It is located in a hilly area, in the midst of game and sheep farming regions. It was founded in 1842, and initially named Riebeek after Jan van Riebeeck, one year after the local church was built. The name was later amended to Riebeeck East to separate it from Riebeeck West near Cape Town. It was erected on a part of the farm Mooimeisjesfontein, that was subdivided and sold by the subsequent voortrekker leader Piet Retief.
A settlement appeared around the church congregation after it was established here in 1830 by the Dutch Reformed Church. Since 1826 the local farmers applied to the colonial government to form a local congregation, as they previously had to travel to Uitenhage, 130 km distant, to attend communion services. Retief's farmhouse is just east of the village and has been declared a national heritage site.
On most maps, Sebico Pass is designated as a public road, but it is obvious when you arrive at the location that the traverse is across privately-owned land. We cannot discover any clues as to how this pass got its name. On the official 1:50000 topographical maps, the name is spelled as “Sebiko Pass”, with a “k”, but we can find no other references on the internet with this spelling. It is situated about 40 km south-east of Britstown, a small town located at the intersection of the N10 and the N12 in the Northern Cape. The “road” is nothing more than a rough track, and should not be attempted without a 4x4 vehicle. Although difficult to find and with potential permission issues, it is worth the effort if you are an avid pass-chaser, off-road enthusiast or adventure motorcyclist.
This is one of the shortest passes on our database at just under 1 km - (881 metres to be exact), but it offers magnificent and rugged scenery, despite being so short. It's name is something of a misnomer, as the topography and statistics are those of a poort and not a pass. Judging by it's name, lions no doubt once roamed this path.
What makes this drive even more dramatic is the obvious path of the substantial river which charges through this kloof after good rain, making this road a potential death trap as can be clearly seen in the video footage. The final river crossing on the northern side is the most dangerous spot. For the vast majority of the year, the river is nothing more than a dry, stony path as this is after all, the Karoo, but every adventure traveller should know and understand that the Karoo rivers are prone to flash floods, so if the weather is looking ominous, drive with your wits about you and dont take unneccesary risks.
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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