This is without question a bucket list pass and if you're a gravel pass aficionado, then doubly so. After the long flat plains of the Koue Bokkeveld have been traversed, this pass comes as something of an eye opener as the summit is approached and suddenly the whole pass is there winding its way laboriously down the western flank of the big ravine carved out by the perennial Leeurivier in the Southern Cederberg. It ends at a delightful camping spot named Balie's Gat.
This road is not for the faint-hearted as it is single width only and many parts of the road are propped up by some very basic dry packed stone walls. These are more or less in the fashion of Thomas Bain's dry packed walls, but the construction work itself is much more rudimentary.
It takes about 20 minutes to descend the 205 metres over a total of 2,4 km and produces an average gradient of 1:12. The road has serious gradients of up to 1:6, plus it is very bumpy and rocky. Ideally a 4x4 is required and especially the climb back out of the valley is much better in low range. If you're towing a trailer, then low range is a definite requirement. Note that it is a cul-de-sac and the only way out of the valley is the same you enter it.
This short pass is located on the gravel surfaced P2244 in the Koue Bokkeveld and forms a change in altitude between the last fork where the tar ends from the Op die Berg settlement and the Katbakkies Pass about 7 km to the east. The pass is only 1,7 km long, and has a minor altitude variance of 60m producing an average gradient of 1:28. It offers excellent views, but be careful of the two very sharp bends, one of which curls through more than 130 degrees. There is one view-point near the summit which offers perfect views out over the valley with its orchards and dams with the towering peak called Sneeukop in the background. The pass is named after the Klein Cederberg farm and nature reserve near the summit.
The high altitude, fertile Witzenberg Valley lies hidden in a fold of the Skurweberg mountains, about 20 km north of Ceres. The Witzenberg Pass is the tarred accesss road that starts at the summit of the Gydo Pass and ends at the southern head of this long and attractive valley. The road is well engineered and in good condition. It passes through a neck in the mountains amongst weathered sandstone formations, revealing the starkly contrasting green orchards of the valley. Not many people drive this pass as it is a dead-end, but take 10 minutes and experience this lovely mountain pass in the heart of the Koue Bokkeveld.
The Buffelshoek Pass should be viewed in conjunction with the Middelberg Pass as it is to all intents and purposes the southern half of the Middelberg Pass. The pass takes its name from the nearby Buffelshoek farming area and translates from Afrikaans into 'Buffalo Corner' undoubtedly relating to the presence of buffaloes here in the 1800's. The pass is gravel and generally maintained to a good standard. It offers fabulous views over the valley when driven from north to south (descending) - views that stretch back to the south as far as the eye can see in a blend of greenery and rugged mountains. It does sometimes snow on the pass, but during the summer months, it is hot and dry.
The pass compresses 30 bends, corners and curves into its 5,3 km length ranging from gentle curves to some extremely tight hairpins. Most of the steeper parts are in the upper reaches of the pass which also include most of the sharper corners, whilst the lower part of the pass through the farming area is much milder in terms of severity of bends and easier gradients. The pass is suitable for all cars, but be warned the surface can be rutted and rough at times, depending on when it was last maintained. We strongly recommend tyre deflation by at least 20% for any vehicle driving the pass.
The Middelberg Pass is a real classic offering exquisite views and rugged, mountainous terrain on a mix of gravel and tar with hairpin pins and some very steep drop-offs. It traverses the Middelberg mountain range between the Koue Bokkeveld and Citrusdal. It is suitable for all vehicles and together with the Buffelshoek pass which precedes it from the south and the Elandskloof Pass which follows it in the north, this trio of passes is virtually one long pass.
On the flatter plateau areas there are farms peppered with citrus orchards and rooibos plantations, with blue dams with crystal clear, high quality water. The pass has a stiff average gradient of 1:14 with some sections (which are tarred) as steep as 1:5. This is a fairly modern pass having been constructed some 50 years ago.
Be aware that the maintenance of this road is not great, which means the gravel sections can be rough, rutted and corrugated. We recommend tyre deflation for improved traction with the added benefit of providing a softer ride. Take the pressures down to at least 20% of normal.
The Winkelhaak Road is a 37 km gravel farm road which meanders through the Koue Bokkeveld north of Ceres between the many rivers, dams and lakes of this farming area, specialising in onions and potatoes. The scenery is richly diverse with the dominance of the rugged mountain-scape being omnipresent.
The Gydo Pass was built at the same time as Michells Pass by Andrew Geddes Bain and his team of convict labourers circa 1848. This important pass connected the Warm Bokkeveld with the higher altitude Koue Bokkeveld, as well as the remote, but fertile (and therefore lucrative) Witzenberg Valley a few kilometers west of the head of the pass.
Michell's Pass (frequently misspelt as Mitchell's Pass) was named after Charles Michell who planned the original route through the Skurweberg & Witzenberg Mountains from Tulbagh and Wolseley through to Ceres. He was a talented military engineer, who perhaps gained more fame for his exploits by eloping with the 15 year old daughter of a French colonel. This might explain why he was "transferred" to the Cape of Good Hope! Michell went on to become the Surveyor-General for the Colony and designed and built several prominent Cape passes and bridges and was a major influence in road construction in the Cape, together with the popular Colonial Secretary, John Montagu, had the vision to plan a network of roads through the Cape Colony that would pave the way to a successful growth in the region's economy.
Like its neighbouring pass, Katbakkies Pass, the Peerboomskloof Pass was originally carved out by the local Khoi people as a cattle path. Farmers later used it as a wagon road to cross over the mountains from the Koue Bokkeveld to the Ceres Karoo. Only recently tarred and 4,5 km long, it provides picture-perfect views of the open, rugged expanse of the Tankwa Karoo and the mountain range separating it from the Koue Bokkeveld.
The first 2 km of the pass are tarred and sports a stiff gradient of 1:7. This tarring was done fairly recently and the road remains narrow with no road markings, so don't be fooled by the tar surface as it is still a dangerous pass. The pass initially enters the bottom end of the poort via an S-bend. The second part of the bend is very sharp and immediately a gravel track leads off to the left which goes to a picnic area. Once the top of the tarred section is reached at 704m ASL, the surface is once again gravel, but the gradient initially remains steep as the road heads up towards the plateau section, whereafter the gradients ease off to a more comfortable 1:20. The upper portion of the pass is relatively easy.
The decisively steep Katbakkies Pass traces over what was once an old sheep-trekking route over the Skurweberge mountains. It joins the Koue Bokkeveld with the Ceres Karoo and Tankwa Karoo. It was recently (1999) tarred and although fairly short, it has a serious average gradient of 1/13 which will tax many an underpowered vehicle and especially the two sections about quarter way up the western ascent, which measure out at UNDER 1:4! The pass is sometimes covered in snow during winter as the snow line of 1000m ASL is well below this pass's maximum altitude of 1200m. It's a narrow road and has no road markings, so take it slowly and enjoy the spectacular barren landscape.
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