The Rooiberg Pass was built in 1928 most probably under the supervision of the Divisional Council of Oudtshoorn. It joins the tiny village of Van Wyksdorp with Calitzdorp over the Rooiberg Mountain. This is not a pass to be trifled with and although it can be driven in a normal car, a high clearance vehicle would be better. It is also a long pass at 14 km and contains some fairly rough sections. There are a total of 69 bends, corners and curves which include 6 hairpins and many other bends with a turning radius in excess of 90 degrees. It's a road for the less hurried traveller and offers wonderful views on both the northern and southern sides with valleys and ridges bedecked in fynbos and in winter you'll be treated to the sight of the bright orange flowers of hundreds of thousands of flowering aloes.
The pass has an altitude variance of 509m over a distance of 14 km producing an average gradient of 1:27 with the steepest parts measuring in at 1:7. All these considered, it is one you simply have to drive at least once in your life.
The Jan Muller Pass is a short, steep pass, with a descent and ascent over the Gouritz River via a low level concrete bridge, which is also named after Jan Muller. It's located on the R327 connecting Herbertsdale with Van Wyks Dorp.This rugged gravel road pass is fairly short at 3,6 km and descends in a series of tight switchbacks from the eastern approach to cross the Gouritz River at an altitude of just 68m ASL.
The western ascent is very steep with gradients as steep as 1:5, but the road builders have concrete-stripped this section allowing for good traction. It makes the road driveable in a normal car but due to the rough nature of the concrete surface most vehicles will need to remain in 1st gear until the western summit is reached.
This thoroughly enjoyable and fairly long pass of 19 km straddles the Vreysrant Mountains between Herbertsdale and Van Wyksdorp. The road is generally well maintained to a high standard, despite the gravel surface. The northern section can get quite narrow at times, but should present no problems providing speed limits are adhered to. There are at least half a dozen river crossings over low level culverts, which can be dangerous if the rivers come down in flood - as was the case just one week prior to us filming. In the video clip there is ample evidence of fresh repair work and it can be seen just how high these rivers can get. Poor judgement or ego driven decisions could be fatal. If you are not prepared to walk it, then dont drive it.
The Komsberg Pass is located approximately 40 km to the south-west of Sutherland. It's named after the mountain down which it traverses. It is a gravel road (P2243) and gets fairly steep in places. It has a maximum gradient of 1:5 and an average gradient of 1:13 which is produced over a distance of 3,9 km. In wet weather (a rare occurrence) or snow, this pass will need to be driven in a 4WD vehicle. Avoid it completely in heavy snow as there are some sections with negative cross-flow, which could result in a rollover.
One of the points of interest of this pass is that the official notice board at the summit gives the incorrect altitude (1721m). The correct altitude measured with a 12 sattellite GPS reading is 1654m. which concurs with the reading on Google Earth. Effectively, this makes the official board wrong by 67m. Errors like this frequently slip into official signage, but this is one of the biggest margins of error we have yet come across.
The pass mimics the line of the Verlatenkloof Pass which is 23 km to the north-west and offers a gravel descent down the same mountain range, as opposed to the much busier tarred version on the R354. As a bonus, you get to drive another two smaller passes along the same route. These are the Smoushoogte and Bakenshoogte passes.
This poort primarily serves the local farming community to the south of Calvinia in the Northern Cape's Tankwa Karoo. It is a rough gravel road that runs on the North-West/South east axis through the Keiskie Mountains. The poort is named after the mountain range through which it traverses as well as the Keiskie farm, which lies 4 km to the south east of the poort. It connects the central sheep farming town of Calvinia with Middelpos - a minute hamlet of some 6 buildings including a post office and an hotel - 60 km to the South East.
Technically, this is not a poort, but a small mountain pass over a nek. It only takes four minutes to drive it, so do take the time to stop at the spacious view-site at the summit to enjoy the wide views over the mountains and plains. Here it is so still, you can hear your heart beating.
Whilst this is a basic farm road, it does provide a thoroughly enjoyable alternate gravel road drive to visitors to the Tankwa Karoo. The road can de driven as a circular loop of approximately 2 hours duration which will curve back towards the R355 and Calvinia to the North of the Bloukrans Pass. The pass rises 150 meters over 2.9 km producing an average gradient of a stiff l:15 with the steepest section being l:5.
It can be driven in any vehicle, but a high clearance vehicle is preferable. Be careful of the very sharp corner halfway up the pass
The statistics for this pass are not particularly impressive, as it is only 2.9 km long and has a height gain/loss of only 103 metres. But dry statistics don’t always paint the right picture. This stunningly beautiful pass is absolutely worth the time and effort it takes to get there, and will leave a lasting impression on your soul. The “road” is little more than a track, and has a few tricky sections with large rocks, sharp stones and patches of very soft sand, so do not tackle this pass if you are not driving a 4x4 fitted with all-terrain tyres. If you attempt this pass on an adventure motorcycle, be prepared to fix a puncture or two and/or to pick up your bike a few times!
The Bloupoort Pass lies on the east-west axis through a natural poort just beyond the Vaalpunt Mountain, some 30km due east of Sutherland in the Northern Cape. The pass is very short at only 1.16 km and presents no dangers other than the usual wet weather cautionary - but this is the Great Karoo and rains seldom fall here. The average gradient is a gentle 1:34. In the greater scheme of passes and poorts, this one is right at the bottom of the scale. The road is designated as P2259.
This short, gravel pass is located just north of the Biedouw Valley/Wupperthal turn-off on the R 364. Despite it's relatively low altitude, the views from the summit are well worth stopping for, as the plains of the Karoo stretch out in a seemingly endless horizon dotted with koppies and serried ranks of mountain ridges. In springtime, this is one of the best flower spotting routes. The pass is one of three that lie on the R364 between Clanwilliam (WC) and Nieuwoudtville / Calvinia (NC) - the other two being the Pakhuis Pass to the west and the Botterkloof Pass further to the east. Both are featured on this website.
The Bloukrans Pass on the R355 some 20 km south of Calvinia, is one of four Bloukrans Passes in South Africa. It is named after the majestic Bloukransberge over which foothills the pass traverses. This is a safe, well designed road in all, but very wet conditions and snow does sometimes fall on the pass's upper reaches (1029m ASL)
The pass only has 15 bends, corners and curves, most of which are fairly gentle but the average gradient is 1:19, which is on the steep side. The road is wide and the gravel surface has good run-off, so even in rainy weather, this pass should present few issues to normal cars. However it is the approach sections on either side,which can get extremely muddy and slippery, so if its been raining heavily in the area, it is best avoided unless in a 4WD vehicle.
Baillie's Pass is a minor gravel pass with major historical value, located some 35 km due east of the small Namaqualand village of Kamieskroon, which is itself located on the N7 highway from Cape Town to Namibia. The pass was built by the Reverend John A. Baillie from 1853 1863 to enable his parishioners to attend his church. The pass is just 1,8 km long but climbs quite steeply at gradients as steep as 1:6 over a nek in the granite smothered ridges. The road is generally maintained to a reasonable level, but corrugations and hanging dust are often problematic in this area. The road is suitable for all vehicles. The old hand-built supporting stone walls of the original pass can still be clearly seen on the right hand side (east) of the road.
Many respected resources on the internet list Baillie's Pass (Bailey's Pass sic) with Pypmaker se Poort in brackets as the alternative name. This is completely incorrect, as Pypmaker se Poort, although fairly close to Baillie's Pass, is on a different road altogether. The only site that got this one right, is Tracks4Africa. Also note the correct spelling of Baillie. Most sites also show this pass as being about 6 km long, which is also incorrect.
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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