Elandskraal Pass is named after the tiny village on the eastern side. The settlement was established in the late 19th century, and its most prominent feature is the beautiful stone Lutheran Church, built in the 1920s. Funds to build the church were raised by organising a bazaar; this was so successful that a surplus was sent to Germany to look after children orphaned by the Great War (the 1st World War). The village and the pass are located quite close to the Anglo-Zulu battlefields of Rorke’s Drift, Fugitive’s Drift and Isandlwana. The road is in a surprisingly good condition and can be driven in any vehicle, but beware of the local drivers, who seem to view the traverse as their personal racetrack. All of the other hazards associated with rural South Africa also apply.
Mielietuinspruit Pass - which translates as Corn Garden Stream - is named after the large beef farm situated near its summit, just off the N11 on a minor gravel road between Ladysmith and Newcastle in KwaZulu-Natal. Although not technically challenging, the pass offers the intrepid traveller a “surprise” element, in that it is a much better pass than its name or location would suggest. The road can be used as a shortcut access route from the N11 to the far more significant Mhlwane and Collings passes, which are located to the west. The road is in a good condition, and can be driven in any car, although wet weather might be a problem.
For those of you fortunate enough to have made a 10 day break out of the public holidays, we trust you're having a wonderful time wherever you are and for those of you labouring amongst the work force that are keeping SA's wheels turning - Sterkte!
We get some interesting mail from our readership, including one that arrived yesterday explaining the origin of the name Katbakkies - one of our most popular passes in the Western Cape. The owner of the farm Katbakkies at the summit of the pass has explained the name, so now we can finally put to bed all the other populist versions - and here are the two of the most common theories:
1. In the olden days, when cars were less powerful, they had to reverse up the steep inclines of the pass with their passengers sitting in the boot (kattebak) to help gain wheel traction. (Reality - The pass existed long before the advent of the motor car, so that story can be assigned to the sin-bin, as interesting as it sounds).
2. There is a rock close to the pass that strongly resembles the face of a cat. (Katbakkies = Cat's Face). The owner of the farm has assured us that no such rock exists on the farm or anywhere near the pass. This more reasonable theory, which is widely published, is also not true.
Today we bring you the real story behind the name....
[Expand this page to access the link, by clicking on the photo, the title or the green READ MORE button]
Scheepersnek is a minor climb over a smallish hill with two tiny changes in direction and an altitude gain of only 64m. It is located 15 km south-west of Vryheid on the tarred R33 route. If you did not make a note of precisely where it is, this little "pass" would probably go by unnoticed. What it lacks in physical presence, it counters with some interesting battlefields history, as this is where the Battle of Scheepersnek took place on the 20th May, 1900.
Gregory’s Nek appears to have been named after James Jenkins Gregory, a prominent citizen of the area around about the 1850s. As there were four generations of Gregorys that all produced sons named James Jenkins, it is a little unclear as to which of these men achieved the honour of having the pass named after him – it could even have been named after the family itself, or their farm, which is located nearby. The pass has a classic profile and is situated on the R33 between Vryheid and Dundee, about 15 km from the latter town. The road is not in a particularly good condition, but it is tarred and as such is suitable for all vehicles.
The Grobbelaarskloof Pass is named after a farm which is actually in the next kloof to the east. This pass is also commonly known as Colenso Heights. It descends into Colenso from the north-west and is part of the old tarred main road (R103) between Colenso and Ladysmith. The road drops just under 200m in altitude over 5.7 km producing an easy average gradient of 1:29, with the steepest parts being at 1:10. It's a fairly minor pass in the greater scheme of things, but like many of the smaller neks and passes in this area, it's jam packed with battlefields history.
Lombardskop Nek is an easy tarred traverse along the east/west axis just outside Ladysmith in KZN with a minor change in altitude of just 53m. The road routes between a series of peaks and hills which have great historical value and in this instance the peak called Lombardskop takes us back to the Battle of Lombardskop in 1899. We spend most of our research into the history of the Anglo-Boer war, rather than the technical side of this very easy drive.
Nicholson's Nek is a relatively minor and insignificant gravel road pass through a natural break in the mountains just north of Ladysmith, but it is of great historical value and is mentioned frequently during the second Anglo-Boer war. The pass is just 1.4 km long, and has a small height gain of only 58 metres.
Lang’s Nek was named after William Timothy Lang, who bought a farm located to the north and east of Mount Majuba in Northern Natal in 1874. This is extremely well documented and cannot be disputed, but for the last 130 years, the pass itself, the road, the railway and the battlefield have all been erroneously spelled as “Laing’s Nek”. How this occurred is a mystery – perhaps a battlefield reporter or a cartographer made a careless mistake, and this has somehow been brought forward in perpetuity. Early maps of the region all have the correct spelling. The road is in an excellent condition and can be driven in any vehicle.
This beautiful gravel road pass is located in the western KwaZulu-Natal highlands, close to the border with the Free State province. The pass was named after Thomas George Collings, who trekked with his wife from Oudtshoorn and was the first white person to use this route. The name is often misspelt as Collin’s Pass, and also as Colling’s Pass (with an apostrophe). The pass is subject to heavy snowfalls in winter and violent thunderstorms in summer, but generally-speaking is in a good condition. Keep a lookout for the usual array of farm animals all along the length of the pass.
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.