This is one of those official passes that barely resembles the normal characteristics of a true mountain pass. It is little more than an easy gravel road along a prominent ridge to the south west of Riversdale.
It is 4.3 km long and takes just 4 minutes to drive with a total altiutde variance of 90 metres. The road has very few dangers with perhaps the biggest being the speed at which the local farmers drive.
However the nearby town of Riversdale is full of history and points of interest. This flourishing farming town is the epicentre for farmers along the coastal hinterland between Mossel Bay and Swellendam.
This short and steep little pass is close to the tarred R56 route between Matatiele and Cedarville and can be driven in any vehicle in fair weather. It's just 3.2 km long and climbs 131m to summit at 1672m ASL from where you can enjoy excellent vistas in peace and quiet due to the very low traffic volume on this road. During adverse weather this little pass could become very challenging, so in snow or after or during heavy rain, it's best avoided unless you have a 4WD vehicle.
If you intend continuing further, make sure you've done your navigational homework well, as after the southern end of the pass, the road forks, and forks again and then there are multiple intersections which will get the average driver horribly lost, due to becoming disoriented. Very few of the roads are adequately signposted but most do have administrative numbers (Not that that's going to prevent you getting lost!). Exit routes must be carefully planned on Google Earth or Google Maps and each intersection noted and mapped.
The nearby village of Cedarville was established in 1912 and has been an orphan village for much of its history. It was included in the old Cape Province until 1978, when it was handed over to Natal and then again in 2006 it was handed over to the Eastern Cape - probably the only town or village in South Africa to hold that record.
The Qora River Pass is a typical inverted profile pass with a low point in the middle at the crossing of the Qora River. Although a little difficult to find, this pass will remain one of your travel treasures once you've driven it. It traverses unspoilt Wild Coast scenery through a remote part of the old Transkei, yet there is life in abundance as the locals go about their daily chores and livestock make themselves comfortable on the road. There are many passes similar to this one, yet each one has its own special charm.
At 8.5 km it's a substantial pass and you will experience an altitude variance of 247m via 48 bends corners and curves and of those 6 are greater than 90 degrees, but there are no hairpin bends. The going is fairly slow, due to the constant need to slow down for livestock on the road. The local cattle are particularly fond of spending time on the bridges and are reluctant to move out of the way.
Cautionary: In very wet weather, the roads in this region quickly become extremely slippery. Under such conditions a 4WD vehicle is a very good option.
Trichardtspoort is located in the Wilge River Valley, a tiny enclave of the Gauteng Province situated on the north-eastern side of Bronkhorstspruit. The area is particularly beautiful, especially in summer, and although the access road is mostly gravel, it is well worth the trip to get there. The road is in a fairly good condition, but motorcyclists should take note that there are some soft and powdery sand sections. The poort is named after Louis Tregardt (his surname is often incorrectly spelled as “Trichardt”), as this valley was part of the route followed by the wagons of Tregardt and Andries Hendrik Potgieter on their way to the north of the country during the Great Trek. The ravine is also sometimes referred to as Wilgepoort or Kranspoort.
Padkloof Pass is located on a secondary road which connects the N14 near Olifantshoek in the north with the N8 in the south. The primary attraction along this route is the Witsand Nature Reserve, which is situated about 20 km away on the northern side of the pass. The road is in a good condition and can be driven in any vehicle, but there are some severe corrugations in a few places.
This area is known as the “Green Kalahari” and is quite densely vegetated, in stark contrast to the red sand landscape of the true semi-desert close by. Keep a lookout for the thousands of Sociable Weaver nests which populate many of the trees and telephone poles, and for the smaller arid-region animals such as squirrels, mongooses, meerkats and dassies which pop up out of nowhere.
This fairly long pass runs along the north-south axis on a gravel road which forms the longer and arguably more scenic route along the southern side of the Quthing River. This route ultimately intersects with the A4 main tarred road a little further from the northern end of the pass.
It contains 82 bends, corners and curves within its 10.4 km length, which equates to 1 corner every 126 metres. With a summit altitude of 2532m it is almost as high as most of the South African high altitude passes and displays an altitude variance of 373m. The unusual vertical profile shows a classic profile up to the 7.7 km point, after which there is a gentle undulating climb of almost 3 km.
The steepest parts occur between the summit (4.5 km mark) and the 6.8 km point, where you will experience gradients as steep as 1:6. This pass will be very tricky in heavy rain or snow conditions. This route would be best driven ina high clearance vehicle and preferably in a 4WD vehicle.
Langersnek is an official pass located on a secondary gravel road (the S385) in the eastern Free State highlands. Although the pass itself is not particularly memorable, the road does traverse right through the middle of the Moolmanshoek Private Game Reserve, offering spectacular sandstone mountain scenery and an excellent opportunity to do some free game viewing.
The road surface is in a reasonable condition and can be driven in any vehicle, except in really bad weather. It has not been possible to establish the origins of the name of this pass, but it is probably derived from the original owner of the farm on the north-eastern side, or perhaps from a local hero of the Anglo-Boer War. The spelling of this pass is taken from the official government maps, but locally the name is always spelled as “Langesnek”.
Schuilkrans Pass is a gravelled pass located in the south-eastern Free State, near the little town of Marquard. Considering that this is a minor farm road, it is in a surprisingly good condition, except for corrugations in some sections. It can be driven in any vehicle, although in very wet weather it could get quite slippery.
The eastern Free State is renowned for its scenic beauty and the area around the pass is no exception, so it is worth the effort required to get there. There are 12 bends, curves and corners on the pass, 3 of which exceed a turning radius of 120 degrees. One of these is a very sharp hairpin of 160 degrees.
This 3 km long pass packs plenty of action and grand scenery into it's short distance, gaining 208 vertical metres in the process. It's a slow, bumpy drive and you will be negotiating no less than 28 bends, corners and curves of which 7 exceed 90 degrees. The road surface is narrow and rough with a strong possibility of picking up a puncture on the hundreds of thousands of sharp rocks.
The road traverses the Koedoesberge (a strong indicator that kudu were plentiful here in the 19th century) and has its western end virtually on the border of the Western and Northern Cape.
When watching the video look for the truck and tractor wreck down the side of the ravine at 2min 05 secs.
This lovely gravel pass with its alluring name connects Thabaneng in the west with Malealea in the east and offers beautiful rural scenery in the western corner of the Mountain Kingdom. At 3.7 km it's a fairly short pass by Lesotho standards and only displays an altitude variance of 120m, and all the corners are gentle as are the gradients, which reach 1:5 near the summit and immediately after it.
As the summit is crested a beautiful view is presented and where the pass got its name from. The pass is popular more by its name than any sort of driving challenge, so if you want to drive this pass, don't expect the usual Lesotho type statistics - just enjoy the easy drive and beautiful scenery.
The main destination on the eastern end of the pass is the lovely Malealea Lodge, where accommodation is available in individual thatched rondavels set in immaculate gardens.
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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