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.
This lovely little poort comes as something of a surprise when driving along the R61 between Tarkastad and Cradock after many kilometres of flat Karoo driving. It only takes 4 minutes to drive it and the gradients are gentle, so typical of a poort. Lovely sandstone formations are visible during the second part of the descent and there is one well designed layby worth stopping at at the halfway point at the apex of a big right hand bend at the confluence of the two streams.
The poort is named after the Rasfontein farm over which land it traverses and is approximately midpoint between the Karoo towns of Tarkastad and Cradock. There is a blanket speed limit of 80 kph throughout the length of the poort, which is a sensible speed to cope with all the bends which come thick and fast during the lower part of the poort.
There are four passes in South Africa containing the word Braam, which is Afrikaans for Bramble. Besides this one there is also a Braambos Pass near Adelaide, as well as a Braamhoek Pass in KZN and another Braamnek in North West Province. It's easy to get confused!
As far as technical driving goes, Braamnek has become a mild pass, as once the new road was built over the neck, most of the bends and steep gradeints were removed when the old road was realigned and rebuilt. It has just 4 very gentle bends and the pass holds no apparent dangers from a design point of view.
However, this is the Eastern Cape, an area notorious for having free roaming livestock on the road. The behaviour of the local drivers is also a concern, as driver behaviour can best be described as erratic. On this road you will find modern cars being driven extremely fast and conversely there will be many very old unroadworthy vehicles crawling along at a snails pace.
Unless you earmark this mass with GPS cordinates, you might easily drive straight over it without realsing you have just driven an official pass.
This interesting little pass is named after the Plankfontein farm, which it traverses and forms part of the R61 tarred route between Tarkastad and Cradock. It's a mixture of a pass and a poort, with the first section displaying the big pass-like cuttings, whilst the second half after the bridge near the farmstead, displays more poort like characteristics as the road mimics the course of the river down the kloof.
It takes just 4 minutes to drive the pass, which is 3,5 km long and has an altitude variance of 128m, producing a comfortable average gradient of 1:27, but the steepest part, immediately after the start and summit is quite steep at 1:8. The pass lies about 15 km north-east of Cradock and is suitable for all vehicles.
This long pass of 33 km runs on the east/west axis between Graaff Reinet and Cradock on the tarred R61 route. This is a tarred, high altitude pass summiting at 1768m ASL which puts it firmly into the snow belt. The average gradient is a mild 1:58, but there are sections where the gradients get as steep as 1:10, which translates into slow moving heavy trucks for ascending traffic. The engineering is excellent and double lanes have been provided for most of the steeper ascending sections. The pass is named after the mountain range over which it passes. Most of the corners have a comfortable arc and the deep cuttings ensure that the gradients have been kept to a level which prevents blind rises. This is a wonderful pass to drive at any time of the year and is suitable for all vehicles.
All Saints Neck is located on the outskirts of Engcobo (also sometimes spelled as Ngcobo), a small town in the Eastern Cape between Queenstown and Mthatha on the R61. The pass is named after the All Saints mission station, which was founded in 1860 and which is located to the north of the pass, about 8 km from the town. The road has been refurbished and upgraded and is in an excellent condition, but as always in the Eastern Cape, care must be exercised when driving this pass due to the abundance of traffic, pedestrians and animals in the roadway.
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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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