This superb pass is rich in South African folklore and we are fortunate to bring you the story of John Versfeld - a resourceful farmer from Bo-Piketberg who built the original pass in 3 months with only 16 farm labourers. There are two Versfeld passes in close proximity to each other. The original one lies slightly to the north-east of the current one and its path can still be seen, but it is no longer publicly accessible. Our focus is on the existing pass. The gradients of the new pass are up to good engineering standards and the road descends the mountain through a series of dizzying switchbacks. Not many people know about the pass. It's narrow and very twisty, but although it was built in 1943 and widened and tarred in 1958, it offers a bountiful of delights as it ascends or descends the mountain to Piketberg.
This short and steep pass connects Gordons Bay on the R44 and Clarence Drive, with the Steenbras Dam at the top of the Hottentots Hollands mountains. This is also one of only a handful of passes in South Africa that has a hairpin bend in excess of 180 degrees. The road was built in the 1940's to service the water filtration plant near the top of the mountain. The road is restricted from the filtration plant where there are control booms and only bona-fide permit holders may proceed beyond that point. The road carries low traffic volumes, due to it's restricted nature and was purpose built to service the dam and filtration plant.
The Op de Tradouw Pass lies on the popular R62 route between Montagu and Barrydale - both towns which attract tourists by the droves and each has it's own special mystique and charm. This pass should not be confused with the Thomas Bain designed Tradouw Pass, which lies another 10 kms to the east and further to the south of Barrydale. The Wildehondskloofhoogte Pass runs back to back with this pass and together the two passes form one long pass of over 15 km. The Op de Tradouw Pass has an altitude variance of 300m with an average gradient of 1:18 with the steepest parts reaching 1:15. It provides beautiful views of the Tradouw Valley peppered with fruit orchards and dams, with the Langeberg mountains in the background. The pass is modern, well engineered and safe, providing the speed limits and barrier lines are adhered to.
This quiet village road is actually nicer to walk than to drive. It's not an official pass - just a quiet meander down an old style, narrow country lane alongside the Touw River estuary. It forms part of one of the hiking trails starting at the Wilderness National Park. There is always birdsong in the air and if you're lucky you might see a bushbuck but more probably, the raucous call of the Knysna Loerie with it's scarlet wings .
Ranking closely alongside the notorious Kaaimans River Pass as one of the Western Cape's most dangerous passes for trucking accidents, it is not so much the gradient that is problematic, but the long, straight, momentum-gathering descent which leads suddenly into a dangerously sharp, left-hand bend. Thankfully, a substantial crash-barrier prevents out-of-control vehicles from crossing over into the oncoming traffic. A strategically place arrestor bed halfway down the pass has also helped to reduce the dangers of trucks experiencing brake failure. There are so many scars on that crash barrier that it leaves one wondering what story each scar has to tell!
Over a distance of 7.6 km, the tarred Rooihoogte Pass displays 370m of altitude variance, with a comfortable average gradient of 1/20. Literally a stone's throw along the same road is Burgers Pass, formerly known as Koo Pass. Both of these passes were first designed by master road engineer, Thomas Bain in 1877.
The Rooihoogte Pass was originally known as Thomson's Pass and together with the Koo pass, both received name changes in the 1940's. This is reputed to be the pass with the highest summit altitude in the Western Cape. The pass is more enjoyable driving it in the descending mode with huge views over the rugged Langeberg mountains.
Clarence Drive is a magnificent scenic coastal drive between the windswept hamlet of Rooi-Els and the naval town of Gordons Bay, which nestles in the north-eastern crook of False Bay in the shadow of the Hottentots Hollands mountains. This beautiful, coastal drive stretches between the two towns over 21 km, hugging the wild turquoise Cape coastline all the way. If you like passes with lots of corners, then this one is for you, as it contains 77 bends, curves and corners of which four are in excess of 150 degrees. The road is in a beautiful condition and attracts tourists, locals, bikers and cyclists in their droves. Overtaking is fairly limited and in general one can expect to average well below 60 kph.
Despite the romantic, historical connotations of its name "Ou Kaapse Weg" ('Old Cape Road'), this is actually a relatively modern road, which was opened in 1968. There is a jeep track that runs more or less paralell, but higher up the northern side of the pass, which is purportedly an old wagon road road used to cart ore from the silver mine lower down the mountain in the late 1800's, and which is still accessible to hikers who walk the many beautiful routes available on both sides of the pass within the Silvermine Nature Reserve.
The pass is a major one covering a distance of 10,6 km and in that length contains 26 bends, curves and corners including 3 full horseshoe bends and another 3 corners in excess of 90 degrees. The pass offers a modern, well bult road with superb views over it's entire length of both False Bay and the Atlantic Ocean with the Steenberg Mountains and Silvermine Nature Reserve with its winter waterfall keeping travellers entertained through the middle section. It gives access to Fish Hoek, Noordhoek, Kommetjie, Simonstown and the Cape Point Nature Reserve.
The Blinkberg Pass (translated as 'Glittering or Shining Mountain') is a fairly long pass, found on the much revered gravel road (the P1482) through the southern Cederberg. The Grootrivierhoogte Pass and Blinkberg Pass run concurrently for a distance of almost 20km through magnificent and rugged scenery.
The pass has an unusual vertical profile in that it has two false summits located approximately at the 1/3 and 2/3 points. Each of these is marked by a short tarred section to cope with the very steep gradients. At 11,8 km this a long pass and is peppered with corners, but most of these are fairly easy. There are however, some really nasty ones, which can catch unsuspecting drivers by surprise.
The road traverses spectacular Cederberg mountain scenery and follows a narrow kloof for most of its length. Earmark this one if you've never driven it, as it's one of the nicest gravel roads in South Africa.
Translated from the Afrikaans to mean 'Blacksmith's Shop', this route delivers the best views when driven from south to north. The pass begins at the crest of the hill just past the turn-off to the Cape Point Reserve at an altitude of 146m ASL, then drops immediately down a 1km fairly straight section (with a gradient of around 1:11) towards a sharp left-hand bend of 90 degrees, where parking is available. The road forms part of a wonderful circular route around the Cape Peninsula and carries a lot of tourist traffic including tour buses 7 days per week.
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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