This tough gravel road pass is located entirely within the Grootwater Nature Reserve near Lephalale (formerly Ellisras) in the Limpopo Province, but it is a public road and no restrictions have been applied. It is very long (18 kilometres) and difficult, and could take between 45 and 90 minutes to traverse, depending on your vehicle and your level of experience. It would probably be possible to travel the route in a high-clearance vehicle from east to west, but the opposite direction would require the use of a 4x4. The pass has gained a reputation as a bike killer, and adventure motorcyclists are advised to apply extreme caution and common sense if they attempt this route. Avoid this pass entirely in wet weather.
Barrowfield Pass is a long gravel road pass located in north-western KwaZulu-Natal which derives its name from a farm located near the northern end. The road is in a good condition and can be driven in any vehicle, weather dependent. Together with its sister pass, Mollshoogte, which runs parallel to it on the western side, it forms a shorter and more scenic route from the N11 near Ingogo over the escarpment to Wakkerstroom, when approaching from the south. Beautiful views over the valley formed by the many rivers that cascade off the mountains in this area are presented, as well as an opportunity to visit the out-of-the-way and relatively unknown Zaaihoek Dam.
Oom Louis Se Hoogte is a minor gravel pass located on a connecting road between the P213 and the R34 near Memel in the Free State. It has mediocre statistics, being just 2.5 km long and with a height gain of 73 metres, but it does summit at 1802 metres AMSL, putting it well above the snowline. The road is in a fairly good condition and can be driven in any vehicle, weather dependent. The pass is named after Oom Louis Vorster, a previous occupant of the farm “Sweet Valley”, which is situated on the western side of the pass.
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.
Mgwalana Pass takes its name from a small village on the eastern side of the traverse. It is also sometimes spelled as uMgwalana. The pass is located on an unnamed gravel road which connects the R410 near Cala to the R58, which is the main access route between Elliot and Engcobo in the Eastern Cape. The road is not regularly maintained and is in a poor condition, but could be driven in any high-clearance vehicle, provided that the weather conditions allow. Like most of the roads in this area, the pass offers up some beautiful views over the surrounding landscape, as well as a delightful glimpse into the lifestyle of true rural South Africans.
This tough little gravel road pass has some seriously steep sections, and could present a significant challenge in the ascending mode for both adventure bikers and 4x4 enthusiasts, particularly during or after inclement weather. The pass is located south of Cala on an unnamed dirt road in the backwaters of the Eastern Cape, on the access route between the KwaGoniwe Tyaliti Pass and the Kwaaimans Pass, and takes its name from the river which marks the eastern extremity. It is worth seeking out if you enjoy the peacefulness and beauty of rural South Africa, but we recommend that you make use of a high-clearance or 4-wheel drive vehicle.
This 3,6 km long official pass lies along the north-south axis, adjacent to the western side of a large, dark rocky outcrop about 70 km north-east of Fraserberg. This is a very minor pass and only has an average gradient of 1:72 and is much more of a simple farm road, than a mountain pass, but it's an official pass, so we filmed and documented it. There are no real dangers, like steep descents, drop-offs or sharp corners, but like all gravel roads, it can change its mood instantly after rain. Be wary of corrugations, ruts, washaways and as always livestock on the road.
What this little pass lacks in vital statistics, it more than compensates for in its isolated location and spectacularly open vistas, the likes of which can only be found in the Karoo. The name translates into Honey Nest Heights or Beehive Heights.
This is another of those Northern Cape passes, which leaves one wondering how this ever became an official pass, as there is really not much to it all with an altitude variance of only 16m and an average gradient of 1:150, it's hardly going to get the adrenaline flowing. The countryside is however, well worth any distance you will have travelled getting there and offers space, tranquility and the most wonderful sense of timelessness that only the Karoo can offer. In addition this is the perfect area to test your navigation skills as many of the intersections are unmarked, so getting lost here is a piece of cake.
Stop next to a windmill under the shade of a thorn tree and allow the Rooihoogte to sink into your soul.
This fairly long pass of 7,3 km has an interesting profile and consists of two summits and a twisty section down into a narrow poort. Although the average gradient is a very mild 1:140, the short descent down into the river valley at the 4,3 km mark gets as steep as 1:12. This road offers a wide variety of scenery and is one of the more interesting of the isolated Northern Cape passes. The name must have an interesting origin, but we were unable to find a single trace of where the name originated. About 6 km south of this pass, there is quite a tricky river crossing, which could be the undoing of many a vehicle.
This small pass is named after the mountain Kariegakop [1439,7m] which lies immediately to the north and forms a neck with the much bigger Kareekasberge to the south. The pass runs along the east-west axis and offers some very stiff gradients on the western side of the summit, where there are wonderful views waiting for the patient traveller - especially the view looking back into the west is wonderful. This pass is best driven in the morning from west to east to maximise on the tranquil Karoo scenery.
It's not a long pass at 3,4 km and it only takes 5 minutes to complete it. The road was in good condition on the day of filming, but like all gravel roads, conditions can change rapidly depending on the weather. The P2270 connects with the R354 off the Oupoort Pass, then branches off into the east into a maze of farm roads, eventually terminating in Williston. You will need a good GPS loaded with Tracks4Africa and will have done some advance planning before setting off into this part of the Northern Cape.
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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