This weeks highlights
* Day 2 of the Ben 10 Eco Challenge Official Tour
* Tours update
* Baviaanskloof flood damage update
* Two new podcasts
The adventurous and sometimes dangerous tour tested our skills and experience to the limits as we struggled with not only our own convoy of 15 vehicles but also two other groups numbering around 10 vehicles who arrived at the western start of Bastervoetpad more or less at the same time. It soon became evident that we needed to assist some of the bikers in other groups, who were taking regular falls on the ascent. [More lower down...]
April 21st - Waboomsberg/Merino Monster - A mostly gravel, one day trip near Ceres of 145 km with one of the main passes being on private land. 5 places open. Bookings close April 17th.
Book online: MERINO MONSTER TOUR
May 17th to 19th - Great Swartberg Tour (1 place open due to a cancellation) - Latest edit: 13h50 Ticket sold!
Book Online: GREAT SWARTBERG TOUR
June 21st to 24th - Thomas Bain Heritage Tour (7 places left)
Book online: THOMAS BAIN HERITAGE TOUR
None of the above trips are suited to camping. No pets allowed (as we enter many nature reserves). Average accommodation costs are approximately R500 per person per night.
This week we offer two new podcasts which include details of the recent Baviaanskloof floods as well as an interview discussion around Day 1 of the Ben 10 Tour. [More lower down]
This smaller, but very steep pass is located in between the two big Baviaanskloof passes of Grasnek and Holgat. Due to its very steep gradients of 1:4 the road has been recently partially paved to assist with traction. The pass connects the Rooihoek camping area in the west with Doodsklip in the east and offers a wide variety of scenery and some technical driving. It is, in fact, the paving on this road, which has presented drivers with some new challenges.
The pass is short at 3,4 km and despite its misleading average gradient of 1:37, this little pass is packed with sharp corners, steep gradients and technical driving. On the flipside, it offers fabulous scenery and several river crossings before, during and after the pass.
The river crossing at Doodsklip can often be quite deep. Drivers need to be aware of this and follow the standard procedure for deep water crossings (see information lower down).
The Hankey Pass is a tarred road of fair quality. It connects the farming town of Hankey with the N2 Highway and Humansdorp . The Gamtoos Valley is the epicentre of the citrus farming industry in the Eastern Cape. The point where the pass starts is at the low level bridge over the Gamtoos River.
The pass is of above average length at 7,1 km and has an easy average gradient with the steepest sections being near the summit at 1:12. The road is suitable for all vehicles in any weather and although showing signs of ageing, is still in a fair condition. (2018) The road is scheduled for resurfacing and upgrading later in 2018.
Set some time aside to explore some of the historical points of interest in and around Hankey.
Combrink's Pass and the Holgat Pass are the descent and ascent respectively of the high plateau where the Bergplaas camping sites are found. Regardless of which direction you drive the pass, it is a visual feast. It is also the biggest of the five Baviaanskloof passes (Nuwekloof, Grasnek, Langkop, Holgat and Combrinks) in terms of altitude gain/loss. This is the last pass you will encounter before exiting the bio-reserve and entering the Cambria valley.
Compressed within its 5,5 km length the road descends 333m via 73 bends, corners and curves, resulting in an average gradient of 1:16, but there are some sections as steep as 1:8. The road is single width for most of its length making overtaking impossible and passing difficult, where one of the vehicles will need to reverse back to a wider point.
This pass is a winner with stunning views for its entire length, however for anyone suffering from acrophobia, the very steep and completely unguarded drop-offs could be quite intimidating.
If you are new to the Baviaanskloof, we recommend watching the Orientation Overview video first.
When travelling through the Baviaanskloof from west to east, the Holgat Pass is 5th pass you will need to traverse - the first four being the Nuwekloof Pass, Studtis Poort, Grasnek Pass and Langkop Pass. The Holgat Pass is often confused with the Combrinks Pass which lies a few kilometers further east. The pass is essentially the ascent up the final big mountain climb for travellers heading eastwards, interrupted by a high altitude plateau (where the Bergplaas campsites can be found) followed by the Combrinks Pass as the descent. If you are new to the Baviaanskloof, we recommend first watching the Orientation and Overview video.
The pass contains 49 bends, corners and curves within its 4,7 km length and 10 of those corners are greater than 90 degrees. The road is partially strip concreted and sections of the concrete are in poor condition, making for quite a bumpy ride. Most of the pass has steep, unguarded drop-offs and drivers need to be alert. Overtaking is impossible and passing vehicles travelling in the opposite direction will require both vehicles to move over to create sufficient passing space.
The Baviaanskloof has 8 magnificent passes and poorts of which the Grasnek Pass is probably the best in terms of scenic beauty. It’s fairly long at 8,3 km and includes in that length an astonishing 83 bends, corners and curves which equates to one bend every 100 metres. The pass is well designed (especially considering its age) and offers a fairly reasonable average gradient of 1:11 both ascending and descending. It rises from 247m to 447m ASL on it's western ascent of 3,7 km giving rise to some stiff gradients as steep as 1:6. Views from the ridge and summit zone are beyond description. We recommend a 4DW vehicle for this pass.
If you are new to the Baviaanskloof, we recommend first watching the Orientation & Overview video.
The Baviaans-Kouga 4x4 route is a Grade 2/3 4x4 route starting (unofficially) at the turnoff on the tarred R62, one km east of Kareedouw and ends some 70 km further north at the Doringkloof farmstead in the Western Baviaanskloof. The 4x4 section officially starts at the neck at the final descent to the Baviaans Lodge. If you are new to the Baviaanskloof, we recommend first watching the Orientation & Overview video.
This animated Google Earth video clip is presented in the format of a simulated fly-over, and provides a basic overview of the salient features of the Baviaanskloof. Lower down we provide links to the main passes and poorts within the Baviaanskloof, which are featured elsewhere on this website. We have also provided links to a few of the accommodation and other places of interests. This is a true wilderness area and is a proclaimed World Heritage site.
Whilst the western half of the Baviaanskloof can be driven in a normal car in fair weather conditions, a 4x4 with high clearance is necessary to complete the eastern half, which includes several deep water crossings. Permits can be purchased at either of the control gates. The route can be driven in either direction, but the recommended direction is west to east as shown in this video.
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 Grootrivier Poort on the R332, was one of the last passes to be built by South Africa's most famous road engineer, Thomas Bain. This masterpiece opened up the seemingly impassable 200 km mountain wilderness of the Baviaanskloof between Willowmore and Patensie.
The poort only has 16 bends,corners and curves with a very mild descent gradient that appears to be flat when driving it. The topography is magnificent as the river and the road follow each other faithfully through the towering cliffs of the poort amongst dense riverine vegetation. The road is generally quite good throught his section and most people drive too fast, which means you see less. Expect to see a range of animals, like kudu, reedbuck, baboons and monkeys - and more so if you drive through early in the morning. As the road was carved out of the mountainsides, it left an open display of the various rock formations, which range from solid Table Mountain sandstone to the unusual pebble conglomerate.
Of the 7 passes and poorts in the Baviaanskloof, there are five which are proper passes and two which are poorts. These are Studtis Poort and the Grootrivierpoort. Poorts are different to passes in that they generally have very easy gradients as they follow the course of a river through a mountain range. They are also notoriously prone to flooding and Thomas Bain famously recorded in his journal: "There are three major headaches for road builders. They are water, water and water". Bain had a singular dislike for building roads through poorts and ironically, whilst he was building the extraordinary Swartberg Pass, the nearby Meiringspoort all but washed away in a devastating flood. Bain was subsequently called in to realign the road at a higher point than the flood level.
If you are new to the Baviaanskloof, we recommend that you first watch the Baviaanskloof Overview and Orientation video clip.
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.