This massive gravel pass is for the more serious pass hunter as it's well off the beaten track, is gravel surfaced and traverses some major climbs as well as crosses the mighty Mzimvubu River. It's a very long pass at 29,8 km and holds a number of challenges with some gradients reaching 1:6, which will mean traction issues in wet weather for non 4WD vehicles.
It displays a big altitude variance of 685m and the 192 bends, corners and curves will require your full attention. Add in slippery surfaces, livestock, children, poultry, slow vehicles and minibus taxis and you can expect a very eventful journey along this big traverse.
We issue our standard cautionary for all Eastern Cape rural roads, and especially those in the old Transkei area: We recommend driving this road in a small convoy of two to three vehicles in case of emergency. Be aware of personal safety at all times and make sure you leave the nearest town with full fuel tanks and that your vehicle is serviced and reliable.
The Nungi Pass is named after the mountain of the same name which forms the western portal of the Umzimvubu River valley. The pass traverses tribal trust land and connects Cedarville in the north with Mount Frere in the south. It's of above average length at 8,7 km and packs 39 sharp bends, corners and curves into it's length and displays an altitude variance of 335m with a classic high centre point profile.
The Colonanek Pass further to the south lies on the same road, so these two passes will always be driven in tandem. The steepest gradients are at 1:7 which might present traction issues in wet weather for non 4WD vehicles. There was major reconstruction taking place during 2018 as can be seen on the virtual fly-past. This includes excavating cuttings to reduce the number of blind rises and corners and ease some of the steeper gradients as well as a substantial improvement to the road width.
As is the general rule in this part of the Eastern Cape, most of the area is unfenced, so finding livestock on the road is the norm. Add in slow vehicles, minibus taxis, rutted potholed and corrugated roads, and you have a recipe for having to stay wide awake on this pass. We recommend driving this road in a small convoy of two to three vehicles in case of emergency. Be aware of personal safety at all times and make sure you leave the nearest town with full fuel tanks and that your vehicle is serviced and reliable.
This remote and spectacular pass is one of our best discoveries of 2018. It's located on the coastal escarpment about 15 km due west of the Langeni Pass. The pass, which is named after the Mkonkota Mountain along which it descends offers a smorgasbord of amazing scenery, including deep valleys with fast flowing rivers, towering cliffs and a winding gravel road of dubious quality which traverses open crags as well as deeply wooded forests.
It contains 93 bends, corners and curves along its 12 km length which includes 1 hairpin and 7 bends sharper than 90 degrees. It displays a big altitude variance of 670m and an average gradient of 1:18. We recommend driving this road in a small convoy of two to three vehicles in case of emergency. Be aware of personal safety at all times and make sure you leave the nearest town with full fuel tanks and that your vehicle is serviced and reliable.
Mgwalana Pass takes its name from a small village on the eastern side of the traverse. It is also sometimes spelled as uMgwalana. The pass is located on an unnamed gravel road which connects the R410 near Cala to the R58, which is the main access route between Elliot and Engcobo in the Eastern Cape. The road is not regularly maintained and is in a poor condition, but could be driven in any high-clearance vehicle, provided that the weather conditions allow. Like most of the roads in this area, the pass offers up some beautiful views over the surrounding landscape, as well as a delightful glimpse into the lifestyle of true rural South Africans.
Satansnek is a big pass by any standards, as it is almost 17 km long and has an altitude variance of over 500 metres. It traverses the spine of a mountain to connect the Eastern Cape Highlands with the lower valleys near Engcobo. Its most outstanding feature is the Xuka River Canyon, an astonishing gorge which cuts through the mountains and which is visible on the eastern side.
The road is tarred but is badly maintained, so there are numerous potholes. Other hazards include local traffic and livestock. The pass is sometimes closed in winter because of heavy snowfalls, and under these conditions it should be avoided altogether, or only tackled with extreme caution using a 4x4. It is not as well-known as some of the other famous passes in the area, but is worth taking a little bit of extra effort to get to, and should be on any serious pass-chaser’s bucket list.
Moordenaarsnek (“Murderer’s Neck”) has a very unusual profile, in that the road rises and falls through a series of false summits over its full length of 12.3 km. The road had recently been refurbished at the time of filming in April 2017, and was in an excellent condition. As usual, hazards in this part of the Eastern Cape include pedestrians, livestock and slow-moving traffic. It is also not advisable to traverse this pass at night or in inclement weather, but if this is unavoidable, reduce your speed to below the posted speed restrictions and be prepared to brake suddenly at a moment’s notice.
This gravel pass provides a link via several Xhosa villages along the old R61 between Mthatha (Umtata) and the coastal resort of Port St. Johns. It used to be part of the main road before the R61 was upgraded and tarred. In the process, this section of the R61 was bypassed. Take 15 minutes out of your day, and drive this little extra loop. You will be richly rewarded.
Spectacular views over almost the entire length of the pass will be your reward over the valley carved out by the Mngazi River with the main attraction being the massive block of rock called Mlengana with its many myths and legends that is the focal point of the pass.
The pass is 7.6 km long and displays an altitude variance of 421m producing an average gradient of 1:18 but it never gets steeper than 1:10 which makes it quite doable in a normal car in fair weather. The usual cautionaries of livestock on the road apply and this pass is also subject to frequent rockfalls, especially after heavy rain.
Colonanek (also known as Colananek) is situated in the high mountainous area of the Eastern Cape, close to the KZN border between the towns of Mount Frere and Cedarville. The pass, which is gravel surfaced, contains 19 bends, corners and curves withing it's 4,4 km length, producing an average gradient of 1:30 with the steepr sections measuring in at 1:11.
The pass traverses the substantial rural settlement of Colana (from which it takes it's name) so drivers need to be aware of livestock, pedestrians, slow moving vehicles and minibus taxis throughout this traverse. The scenery is lovely with colourful mud huts bedecked with thatch adding a splash of colour to the scenery. This quiet country road is a long and slow drive. If you're in a hurry, rather avoid this one.
Cat's Pass can be found on the gravel road between Butterworth and tiny coastal resort of Mazeppa Bay. The pass is a typical Transkei road of dubious quality and should be driven with care - especially in terms of livestock, minibus taxis, dogs and children on the roads, where most of the rural lands are unfenced.
The pass contains 22 bends, corners and curves within its 6,5 km length and offers sweeping views over forest clad hills and green valleys on both sides of the road. None of the corners are too sharp, but it is rather the nature of the road surface which will determine the speed you are able to travel. There are some sections which get as steep as 1:7. There are four distinct summit points along the pass of which the first one is the true summit.
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.
We are as passionate about maps as we are about mountain passes. A good map is a thing of beauty that can transport you into the mists of time or get your sense of adventure churning. It is a place to make discoveries about deserts and seas, mountains and lakes; of roads leading into places you have not been before; a place to pore over holiday destinations or weekend camping trips. A map is your window to the world.