A steep and winding gravel pass over the Kraaiberg mountain which forms the southern barrier to the Biedouw Valley. The road connects the Biedouw Valley with the higher altitude farms to the south and east. Some of the gradients are steep and there are three hairpin bends to contend with. We would not recommend driving this pass in a normal car, but a high clearance 'bakkie' will manage, except in very wet weather. There are long sections on this pass which are very stony, which will present problems for low clearance cars.
This pass also marks the western end or start of the Old Postal Route, which is covered fully as a separate entry on this website. Anyone wanting to drive the Old Postal Route should take the hyperlink to get all the information necessary to safely complete the route.
This week we bring you an interesting tale of a wild town that once existed deep in the mountains - of fortunes and misfortunes - of shipwrecks and a city that failed spectacularly right here in South Africa.
Bringing this story to life came from investigating a pass submitted by one of our stalwart supporters from Johannesburg - Mr. Mike Leicester - who told us about a remote gravel track up the mountains in Mpumalanga, in close proximity to the richest gold mine in the world (Sheba) and only attainable in a high clearance, low-range 4x4.
There at the top of the mountain, lie the ruins of Eureka City. The sinking of the Drummond Castle off Ushant in France inextricably links itself to the lost city of Eureka.
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Let it not be said that we dont cover every mountain pass in South Africa! Over the past three years we have had many requests from pass fans as to exactly where the fabled Donkies Pass is. This week we unveil the first of two passes named after the asses. It took a lot of research finding these two passes, but thanks to the meticulous work done by one of our readers, Brits Steyn, who submitted an exceptionally well researched list of passes in KZN and Mpumalanga, we are able to accurately pinpoint these two 'off the beaten track' passes.
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The Bedrogfontein 4x4 trail between the Kabouga and Darlington areas of the Addo Elephant National Park provides breathtaking views and is rich in history. This route was the scene of fierce battles between the British and Boer troops during the Anglo-Boer war. Be sure to visit the cottage where Jan Smuts and his soldiers stayed and where he was in a coma after eating cycad seeds. Rock art paintings are found scattered throughout the area.
The route traverses through a variety of vegetation types, from riverine thicket, to afromontane forest, to fynbos on the peaks and into the arid Nama-Karoo of the Darlington area. This is strictly a 4x4 route and requires a vehicle with good ground clearance and low range. Bedrogfontein translates into Fraud Fountain. The route may only be driven from east to west and takes between 5 and 6 hours excluding stops and any side diversions. It is rated Grade 1 through to 3 and is suitable for intermediate and experienced drivers. It is recommended, but not mandatory to drive in a small group of at least two vehicles in case of a breakdown.
This page is comprehensive and will take about an hour and a half to absorb including the 65 minutes needed to watch all 14 videos. Once done, you will have comprehensive knowledge of the route, the area, history and general knowledge about the park. and its flora and fauna.
This historical gravel road pass was built between 1867 and 1869. It's a long pass at almost 17 km and it has a substantial altitude variance of 383m which produces a fairly mild average gradient of 1:44, but the vast majority of the steeper gradients occur on the eastern side of the pass, where there are some steep sections at 1:5.
Fortunately it seldom rains here, so the road is generally quite safe for non 4WD vehicles. The scenery along which the road traverses is exceptionally dramatic with towering rock faces and a generally bone-dry river bed in view most of the time. This road is not suitable for cars lacking good ground clearance. This pass should be viewed in tandem with the Wildeperdehoek Pass as they are inseparably linked, both geographically and historically.
The Gysmanshoek Pass follows an historical ox wagon route dating back to the mid 1700's. This is an old gravel pass through a natural cleft in the Langeberg Mountains between Heidelberg in the south and the Little Karoo/ Ladismith area in the north. It is driveable in a normal car in good weather, but if it's been raining, a 4x4 will be a better option.
Depending on the weather, things can get tricky on this pass. Not too many people have travelled this delightfully scenic and off the beaten track pass. It was originally named Hudson's Pass after the local magistrate. Take your time over this pass and stop frequently to enjoy the proteas, ericas and other flowering fynbos species. See if you can find the ruins of the old English fort which dates back to the Anglo Boer war.
The pass is 11,6 km long and contains 51 bends, corners and curves. The average gradient is a mild 1:36 but there are two very steep sections close to the summit,where the gradient gets as steep as 1:5 and FWD cars might well experience traction issues here (especially if driving from south to north) - even in dry weather.
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.
IMPORTANT NOTICE - The farmers have now locked five key gates along this route making it impossible to drive this beautiful route.
The relatively unknown Joubertspoort is a 12.8 km farm road, close to Montagu in the Western Cape, and well worth exploring. The route consists of a combination of some rough two spoor track as well as some good quality gravel road. In essence it is a combination of a pass and a poort. Although the average gradient is a mild 1:30 there are one or two short sections in the 4x4 part of this poort which reach gradients as steep as 1:5
This first (northern) section is strictly for 4x4 vehicles only with good ground clearance and low range. It provides magnificent views in complete tranquility and isolation. The southern section takes you past quaint little farm labourers' cottages flanked by green orchards and pastures towards the exit of the poort from where it is a quick drive into Montagu.
Allow about at least an hour to complete the route. Non 4WD vehicles could drive the poort from the south as far as the last farm, then turnaround and retrace the route back to Montagu.
The Thomas Bain-built "Seven Passes" route between George and Knysna features the Hoogekraal Pass, covering 3 km of breathtakingly beautiful views along its narrow gravel road. It descends to and from the Hoogekraal River, and ends just before the Geelhoutsvlei Timber Mill - another Garden Route location, rooted in the history of the Knysna woodcutters. This pass ends west of the forestry village of Karatara.
Like the Kaaimansgat, Silver River and Touw River passes, this pass has very similar characteristics in terms of distance and altitude variance as well as the classic inverted profile of a pass that descends to a river and rises back up the other side again.
This is the first of 7 passes when driving from west to east which has a bridge wide enough to carry two lanes of traffic. All of the bridges were made from concrete and stone and designed in the Victorian style of the early 1900's. It is only the steel bridge over the Touw River which is different.
The Grootrivier Poort on the R332, was one of the last passes to be built by South Africa's most famous road engineer, Thomas Bain. This masterpiece opened up the seemingly impassable 200 km mountain wilderness of the Baviaanskloof between Willowmore and Patensie.
The poort only has 16 bends,corners and curves with a very mild descent gradient that appears to be flat when driving it. The topography is magnificent as the river and the road follow each other faithfully through the towering cliffs of the poort amongst dense riverine vegetation. The road is generally quite good throught his section and most people drive too fast, which means you see less. Expect to see a range of animals, like kudu, reedbuck, baboons and monkeys - and more so if you drive through early in the morning. As the road was carved out of the mountainsides, it left an open display of the various rock formations, which range from solid Table Mountain sandstone to the unusual pebble conglomerate.
Of the 7 passes and poorts in the Baviaanskloof, there are five which are proper passes and two which are poorts. These are Studtis Poort and the Grootrivierpoort. Poorts are different to passes in that they generally have very easy gradients as they follow the course of a river through a mountain range. They are also notoriously prone to flooding and Thomas Bain famously recorded in his journal: "There are three major headaches for road builders. They are water, water and water". Bain had a singular dislike for building roads through poorts and ironically, whilst he was building the extraordinary Swartberg Pass, the nearby Meiringspoort all but washed away in a devastating flood. Bain was subsequently called in to realign the road at a higher point than the flood level.
If you are new to the Baviaanskloof, we recommend that you first watch the Baviaanskloof Overview and Orientation video clip.
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.
We are as passionate about maps as we are about mountain passes. A good map is a thing of beauty that can transport you into the mists of time or get your sense of adventure churning. It is a place to make discoveries about deserts and seas, mountains and lakes; of roads leading into places you have not been before; a place to pore over holiday destinations or weekend camping trips. A map is your window to the world.