We head up to Sabie in Mpumalanga this week and more specifically to the Bakenkop Pass and explore the dramatic history that unfolded in the area before, during and after the Anglo Boer War.
Listen to the interview:
This lovely tarred pass with its sweeping curves and grand views is located midway between Sabie and Graskop on the R532 and also provides access to the renowned Mac Mac Falles as well as the Mac Mac Pools just a few kilometres further south. The road is in a good condition and is suitable for all vehicles, on the proviso that barrier line restrictions and speed limits are adhered to. It's not a major pass in the greater scheme of things but it does provide magnificent scenery in a picture perfect Lowveld setting.
The entire area around Graskop and Sabie is prone to heavy rainfall and frequent mountain mists. In such low visibility conditions, adapt your speed according to conditions, put on all your lights (in daylight hours) including your hazards. At night switch your main beams off and use your fog lights to reduce glare.
Located in the north-west mountainous region of Mpumalanga, this long gravel pass that runs on the north/south axis along the western side of the Steenkampsberg mountain, and offers a slower alternative to the much busier R37. This road in its entirety is more commonly known as the Beetgeskraal Road. The pass is 15,5 km long and descends 421m producing an average gradient of 1:36 with the steepest sections being at 1:8. The pass provides beautiful scenery of rivers, valleys and mountains.
This short, gravel pass forms part of the Rooi Ivoor 4x4 route which includes another unofficial pass - The Doornhoek Pass (also featured on this site). Together these two passes form the ascent and descent towards a deep valley to the north. The Buffelskloof Pass traverses a mountain to the north of the Buffelskloof Dam and offers many viewing options over the dam, which get better as altitude is gained. This road can only be driven with a high clearance vehicle or 4x4 with low range. Access is restricted to permit holders. The route is gated along the lower parts of the Buffelskloof dam road as well as in the north at the Doornkloof farm. For more information on the full 4x4 route, please Google Rooi Ivoor 4x4
Shiyalongubo Pass is located in the north-eastern corner of Mpumalanga, close to Barberton and the border with Swaziland (now known as eSwatini). The pass forms part of a trail that was originally established by Robert Pettigrew, after whom the nearby Pettigrew’s Neck is named, to avoid the tsetse fly infestation along the primary route from Kaapmuiden to Barberton, which tracked the course of the Kaap River through a low-lying valley.
The name Shiyalongubo translates as “leave your belongings behind”, and is derived from the belief that items such as warm clothing and blankets would become unnecessary when descending from the high mountains into the hot Lowveld valleys. The road is usually in a fairly good condition, but it does deteriorate rapidly after bad weather and a 4x4 will be required to traverse the entire route, in particular the logging road section on the western side.
This fairly straight-forward pass lies north of the Kwena Dam (previously known as the Braam Raubenheimer Dam) on the tarred R36 route between Machadodorp in the south-west and Lydenburg in the north-east. The pass is also known as Witklip se Hoogte.
Cautionary : At the time of filming the R36 in its entirety is riddled with potholes to the point of being dangerous to drive on. This includes both the passes on this road - Witklip se Hoogte and Chomse se Hoogte. The road is scheduled for reconstruction in 2016/2017.
Nelshoogte, also known as Nelsberg Pass, is located on the tarred R38 road between Barberton and Badplaas in Mpumalanga. It was named after Louis Johannes Nel (1821 – 1860), the father of the three Nel brothers that founded Nelspruit, when he procured the farms Doornhoek and Goedehoop at the foot of the mountain.
The road is in a good condition and is suitable for all vehicles. The are very few hazards on this pass, except for occasional logging vehicles and slow-moving trucks. Wonderful views over the Nkomati Valley are presented, particularly when traversing the pass from east to west.
This is undoubtedly the most famous pass in Mpumalanga - and with good reason too. It is 26,2 km long (and even longer depending on where one starts measuring), plus it displays an altitude variance of 671 vertical meters through a complex network of curves as it ascends up the Drakensberg escarpment between Sabie in the east and Lydenburg in the west. The pass forms part of the Mpumalanga Panoramic Route and carries appropriately heavy traffic - both tourist and commercial. It is prone to heavy mist and can be dangerous in low visibility conditions. It is named after the famous Long Tom cannon.
With 66 bends, corners and curves and a fairly easy average gradient of 1:39 and no part being steeper than 1:10 this pass is a magnificent spectacle with grand views and rugged frontier and Anglo-Boer War history adding to its allure.
Hennings Pass is an off the beaten track gravel road, becoming a jeep-track that is only suitable for 4WD vehicles. It lies near the Verloren Valei and runs in a southerly direction along the banks of the Crocodile River. It is roughly 20km SE of Dullstroom and 18 km NW of Machodorp (as the crow flies). For those wanting to drive this route, please note that is slow going and it is an out and back route, so allow plenty of time.
As far as passes go this is really not much of a pass with a moderate altitude variance of 52m and only short sections even vaguely resembling a true mountain pass, but it is an official pass and is recorded as such on the official government 1:50,000 maps.
So why drive it? This road is remote and you will more than likely be the only vehicle there. So if you enjoy being away from the crowds and in the bush, then by all means go and drive this one. The road is a dead-end and ends at a farm, so the entire route has to be backtracked when you are done.
The beautiful Elands Pass will always be remembered once driven. It has an abundance of scenic beauty, with waterfalls, a railway line looping under the road, history in abundance and a beautifully engineered tar road to make for a comfortable drive. Perhaps the only detraction is that the N4 is a very busy road with lots of heavy-duty commercial traffic. The pass connects Machadodorp (eNtokozweni) in the west (8km) with Nelspruit in the east (85 km). The historic town of Waterval-Boven (Emgwenya) lies at the western end of the pass. The pass is 9,4 km long and gains 198m in altitude producing a gentle average gradient of 1:47 with the steepest parts near the tunnel being at 1:12
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.