Travelling south, the Hex River Poort follows the Hex River Pass about 8 km towards the southern exit of the Hex River Valley and is a distinctly separate pass to it's northern cousin, with both providing entry and exit routes from then valley. Many noteworthy and well respected travellers from the 17th and 18th centuries, incorrectly recorded in their travel journals that this was the Hex River Pass. Not that the poort is unworthy of being called an official pass, with its wild and rugged terrain! Twenty years ago, rockfalls and flooding caused endless problems for the roads authorities. Nowadays, the excellently engineered renovation makes for safe and wonderfully scenic, comfortable driving.
Red Hill Road is 7.6 km in length, packing a fantastic scenic punch into that distance, with most of it in the final 3.4 kms of descent. The road starts at the intersection of the M65 (the coastal road from Cape Point to Kommetjie) and the M66 (Redhill's official route designation.) It plays host to one of Cape Town's favourite long distance road running races - the 36 km Redhill Race. The road contains over 30 corners, bends and curves, which include no less than 6 hairpin bends - four of which occur on the eastern side of the mountain. Allow space on the hairpins for bigger vehicles, which will require the entire width of the road to negotiate the bends. Despite the extreme bends, the gradients are actually quite reasonable at 1:14 at the steepest point.
The Pakhuis Pass (meaning 'packing shed' in Afrikaans) begins just outside Clanwilliam, connecting it with the Karoo town of Calvinia and beyond. The pass's surveyor and builder, Thomas Bain, was an incredibly energetic man of many talents, which included art, rock paintings, geology, cartography and engineering. This is a major pass which has recently been fully tarred over its entire length and offers a wide variety of scenery, grave sites, weathered rock formations, picnic sites and some of the Cederberg's finest hiking trails.
The pass is suitable for all vehicles but do comply with the speed limits, especially along the northern switchback section, where the gradients are quite steep and the corners (although nicely radiused by the road builders), are quite sharp. The pass is in the Top 20 passes nationally in terms of its length (26,4 km) and has a big altitude gain of 824m. Most of the new road follows Thomas Bain's original lines.
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.
Chapman's Peak Drive dates back to the early 1900's and is without question one of Cape Town's Top 10 tourist destinations. It's popularity is due to the incredible scnery on offer viewed from a road which has been been lietrally hewn out of the almost vertical cliff faces on the Cape Peninsula's western side.
The 10 km long pass connects Hout Bay in the north with Noordhoek in the south and was converted into a toll road in 2003 to cover the high costs of maintaining the road to a safe standard. Along it's length you will drive through more than 80 bends, corners and curves and see some impressive modern engineering, including massive steel catch nets and two semi-tunnels. Many sections of unstable rock-face have been been reinforced with shotcrete.
This pass is loaded with drama and history dating back to 1910 and is best appreciated driven slowly. It must have seemed an impossible task building a road on such an inhospitable and dangerous cliff face, but the road building pioneers did the job!
The more observant viewers will notice that we have not included our standard vertical profile nor simulated fly-past clips in the first video. The reason for this is that Google Earth simply cannot 'read' the road correctly and the results are too distorted to provide an accurate simulation. This is the only pass in South Africa, where this has occurred.
Meiringspoort is a Top 10 destination. The poort bears a tough history of floods and landslides amongst incredible hardships, yet our engineers and road builders mastered the art of building a magnificent road through this awe-inspiring poort. Part 1 covers the first 8 km. of the poort. The second video covers the final 8 km and and includes the Interpretive Centre and main waterfall and ends near the charming village of De Rust.
The pass is in superb condition and offers typically gentle poort gradients, but the 63 bends, corners and curves do require a high level of concentration. It's easy to become mesmerised by the mind boggling scenery, so drivers need to remain focused and understand that the lack of safety shoulders and large volume of heavy trucks means a certain level of danger is always present. It's best to drive this poort on a weekend or public holiday, when there are fewer trucks. Stop often and enjoy one of South Africa's finest poorts which is packed with history.
This spectacular kloof (which is part of the R332 route) links the western section of the Baviaanskloof with the higher Karoo hinterland, and more specifically, the towns of Willowmore and Uniondale, which are standard Baviaanskloof refuelling points. The pass needs to be driven slowly to best appreciate its dramatic, unique geology. This is a big pass and involves multiple river crossings - none of which are conventionally bridged. Should you find the first two crossings difficult or the current too strong, rather turn back as conditions get much worse the further down the kloof you proceed.
The pass contains 41 bends, corners and curves within it's length, which includes 1 full horseshoe bend and 10 other bends in excess of 100 degrees. The gradients are generally fairly easy and never exceed 1:12, but the road surface can vary between quite good (the road had just been graded on the day of filming) to badly corrugated and rutted and the road is also frequently damaged by floodwaters and especially so at the river crossings.
If you are new to the Baviaanskloof, we recommend that you first watch the Baviaanskloof Overview and Orientation video clip. You will find a comprehensive set of links to accommodation options and other attractions in the Baviaanskloof on that page.
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.
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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