This pass has an inverted vertical profile typical of a pass that drops down into a river valley. There are 44 bends to contend with, including one hairpin. The pass is the first of three back to back passes that drivers have to negotiate that terminate at Port St Johns.
At 7.2 km it's well above the national average and offers an altitude variance of 180m. The pass is quite steep in places with a maximum gradient of 1:6. Although the R61 is in good shape, there are numerous dangers to contend with, which include dense mountain mists, badly behaving minibus taxis, erratic local driver behaviour which can range between ridiculously fast to frustratingly slow, plus the standard Wild Coast hazards of livestock and pedestrians. Commercial vehicles and even large trucks drive here at high speed.
This section of the R61 should be treated with the utmost caution in any weather and drivers should be alert and drive anticipating these dangers at any time.
All the dangers aside, if you have time to glance up from the road, you will see fabulous scenery, so typical of the Wild Coast. The pass is also the access point to head down to the Ntafufu River estuary where the pristine waters offer some of the best fishing in the area in magnificent settings.
This average length pass of 4 km forms a back to back continuous pass with the Umzimvubu Pass on the tarred R61 route between Lusikisiki and Port St Johns. The pass has plenty of corners compressed into those 4 km, so drivers need to be wide awake as the pass traverses three villages - Gemvale, Mdovu and Gcakeni.
Expect pedestrians on the roadway, minibus taxis and the ever present threat of livestock. Some of the locals drive like maniacs, so it's best to let them pass you as quickly as possible. The scenery more than compensates for the Level 3 driving and is typical of the Wild Coast.
Take your time. Stop at the roadside stalls. Support the local crafters and allow the climate and the people to embrace your spirit.
There are three back to back passes between Tombo and Port St Johns. They are, from west to east Mngazi River Pass, Butyabuse Pass and the Isinuka Poort. At 7 km it's well above the national average and displays a moderate altitude variance of 138m. It connects the valleys of the Mngazi and Umzimvubu Rivers on the R61..
The pass is modern and well designed, but the local authorities have had to install several traffic calmers (speed bumps) to slow the taxis down, as the pass traverses several villages on its way to the coast. It offers good views of the Mngazi River and towards the middle of the pass the road passes through the villages of Mkanzini, Zitshece and Ndwalane.
There are a number of cautionaries for this road - Pedestrians and especially school children, dogs, livestock, slow and fast moving vehicles, speed bumps, school buses and minibus taxis. Drive with care.
This pass is well above the national average length at 8.7 km and is one of three back to back passes along the R61 between Lusikisiki and Port St.Johns. There are 58 bends, corners and curves compressed into that length and many of them exceed 90 degrees through tight arcs. It is necessary for drivers to have a high level of concentration on this pass, as it's a busy road and the many courier and delivery trucks and minibus taxis have scant regard for barrier lines.
The pass name is of course taken from the Umzimvubu River which is crossed at the foot of the pass near Port St.Johns. Drivers who do this route for the first time will be in for a few nasty surprises in that here you will find some of South Africa's severest speed bumps. These are unfortunately necessary to slow the wild drivers down - especially near villages and schools. There is one specific speed bump designs which consists of 5 sharp speed bumps, spaced about 1m apart.
Despite all the dangers, the pass offers fabulous scenery and especially towards the middle of the pass where the Gates of St. John start making an appearance. The Xhosa version of the river and pass exclude the U - so "Mzimvubu" For Western tongues having the M and the Z following each other, make it difficult to pronounce. For purposes of indexing we have used the older version of Umzimvubu.
The short but interesting pass offers gorgeous scenery, twisting and steep curves on a brand new road, but it also has several cautionaries which include two sets of fearsome speed bumps, several schools, slow intersection traffic and livestock on the road,
The pass has a typical inverted vertical profile expected of a pass that descends into a river valley and climbs out the other side. The modern engineering on this brand new road is interesting and almost unexpected considering the humble rural surroundings.
It's only 5 km long and drops 248m to the river crossing with steep gradients of 1:7. The winding R61 is peppered with small passes, some of them unnamed, so it's best to pre-mark the GPS coordinates on your unit, so that you know when it's coming up on your journey to the coast.
Like the Great Fish River Pass, this pass can easily slip by unnoticed as one travels over the beautifully built N2 highway between Peddie and King William's Town. It's actually a fairly big pass and is long by national standards at 12.3 km displaying an altitude variance of 145m.
It only has 16 bends, corners and curves and none of them are dangerous. The pass is suitable for all traffic, but do be cautious when the mountain mists roll in, which can reduce visibility down to just a few metres. The locals don't seem to worry about this and carry on driving at high speeds. This presents the only real danger on this pass and of course, the possibility of finding livestock on the road.
This major pass is located on the N2 national route between Grahamstown and King William's Town. It's 21 km long and has an altitude variance of 528m. The road is beautifully engineered to the point that at times drivers don't even realize they are on a major pass. There are surprisingly few bends on this pass and none of them exceed a radius of 80 degrees. One can maintain a steady speed throughout.
That said, there is time to enjoy the scenery and please note that the speed limit changes between 80 and 100 kph along several sections. As the case with all passes on national routes, increased traffic volumes create their own hazards and this pass carries plenty of heavy duty trucks, so be aware that if you end up behind one of these slow moving vehicles on the uphill sections, that you need to exercise patience and wait for a break in the barrier lines.
Cautionary: The road has no overtaking lanes on the ascents. Be aware of minibus taxis and courier delivery vehicles who regularly flaunt the regulations.
Paardekraal Pass traverses a long unnamed ridge, a spur of the Magaliesberg, that separates Krugersdorp from the south-western suburbs of Johannesburg. It derives its name from the original farm on which both the pass, and Krugersdorp itself, was established. The road carries a very high volume of traffic, even at night and over weekends, as this is the primary route which connects Krugersdorp to Pretoria, so try to avoid it at peak times if you can.
Fortunately, it has been constructed as a double highway, with multiple lanes in both the ascending and descending directions, so unless you get stuck behind trucks that are overtaking one another (a common occurrence), you should not encounter any problems. Magnificent views over the farms and smallholdings of the Muldersdrift area to the north are presented, but it would be both illegal and highly dangerous to stop anywhere along the length of the pass.
This is another big tarred pass covering 16.2 km. It is one of several big passes along the A25 and connects Seshute in the north with the Katse Dam complex in the south. There are 95 bends corners and curves to contend with, of which 23 have angles greater than 90 degrees, but there are no hairpins.
The altitude variance of 624m means lots of ascending and descending and although the road is tarred, caution needs to be exercised in terms of traffic volumes and the very real possibility of finding livestock on the road. All of Lesotho's passes are subject to winter snowfalls to varying degrees.
The pass offers very good elevated views of sections of the Katse Dam. It gives access to two airports - Katse Airport at the southern end and Seshutes airport at the northern end.
This is one of the longest passes on the tarred A3 route between Maseru and Mohale at 18.3 km. Although the average gradient is a mild 1:40, those numbers are diluted by the long plateau section in the middle. The reality is that the gradients get steep at either end - as steep as 1:6.This is another high altitude pass reaching a maximum of 2642m ASL. The pass is also commonly called the Blue Mountain Pass. This is one of the coldest parts of Lesotho in winter and summer.
There are plenty of bends, corners and curves to keep you busy - a total of 95 of them and of those 12 are greater than 90 degrees, which include two hairpin bends.
The road is in a good condition and can be driven in any vehicle, but the usual Lesotho cautionaries apply of ice and snow on the road in winter, free roaming livestock, slow moving trucks and the ubiquitous herdsmen. The area can be subject to severe electrical storms in the summer months.
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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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