Franschhoek Pass is also called Lambrechts Road, though - more poetically - a hundred and fifty years ago it was known as Olifantshoek ("Elephants Corner') after the now mythical herds of elephant which once roamed these valleys and mountains. This long, steep and dramatic pass with its variety of scenery was South Africa's first properly engineered road. During weekends city folk stream to the pass on bicycles, motorcycles, skateboards, cars and SUV's to enjoy it's sheer magnificence.
The gently-graded, tarred Horns Nek Pass (M17) cuts through the picturesque and much loved Magaliesberg mountain range just west of Pretoria. At 3.8 km in distance, it rises at a moderate gradient of 1:20, from 1312m ASL to 1452m, but there are some steeper sections near the summit at 1:14. Gauteng is the smallest of South Africa's provinces geographically, but it has a dense population statistic and is also the seat of economic power. The province was established on the rich gold reefs originally discovered in the Johannesburg area and led to a massive sprawling complex of towns and cities covering a vast area, which does not have much in terms of big mountain ranges and consequently (other than the Magaliesberg), there are few official mountain passes in this province.
This is one of the great historical gravel passes which winds its way through the Outeniqua Mountains north of Mossel Bay. It has subsequently been replaced by a significantly more convenient, tarred pass (Robinson Pass). Attaquaskloof Pass is now frequented mostly by die-hard 4x4 enthusiasts and a few local farmers.
However, the 22,3 km of gravel road is definitely worth each and every meter of its history-rich length! A permit is required to drive this route and there are locked gates. Keys are obtained on issue of your permit at the start point, which is the Bonniedale farm. Note - this route can only be driven in one direction (west to east).
30th May, 2017 - News just in from Bonniedale farm: "The Attaquaskloof is part of the old Ox-Wagon Route from Heidelberg to de Vlugd. There is a section of it (20km) that goes through the Attaquaskloof to the R328. Unfortunately Cape Nature has now closed their section of the road. You can still do part of the Trail on Bonniedale. (As well as other 4x4 Trails on Bonniedale), but you are not able to go all the way through. You can however use the alternate route (public road), from Bonniedale to the R328, and meet up again with the Ox-Wagon Route from there again."
This excellent new pass connects the university town of Stellenbosch with the R45, Pniel and Franschoek and is designated as route R310. The pass has been upgraded several times, with the old pass (also tarred) traversing in a much more complex route of twists and turns to the northern side of the current pass. The old pass can still be accessed on foot or on bicycle. To be fair, the old pass was far more scenic than the new pass - that is the price of progress. Not that the scenery from the new pass is in any way poor of course!
The Akkedisberg Pass translates from Afrikaans into Lizard Mountain Pass. It's an easy drive along this tarred coastal pass on the R326 links the small farming town of Riviersonderend with the quaint coastal hamlet of Stanford and the coastal road to Hermanus. The original gravel road dates back to 1776 and is amongst the very oldest passes in South Africa.
The pass had mild gradients and only 13 bends, corners and curves, none of which are particularly sharp or dangerous. It's a fairly long pass at 12,5 km and produces a gentle average gradient of only 1:86 with the steepest sections getting up to 1:18. The views are lovely with the tall mountains keeping watch over the green valley on the right. There is at least one excellent wine estate that leads off the pass.
Despite the romantic, historical connotations of its name "Ou Kaapse Weg" ('Old Cape Road'), this is actually a relatively modern road, which was opened in 1968. There is a jeep track that runs more or less paralell, but higher up the northern side of the pass, which is purportedly an old wagon road road used to cart ore from the silver mine lower down the mountain in the late 1800's, and which is still accessible to hikers who walk the many beautiful routes available on both sides of the pass within the Silvermine Nature Reserve.
The pass is a major one covering a distance of 10,6 km and in that length contains 26 bends, curves and corners including 3 full horseshoe bends and another 3 corners in excess of 90 degrees. The pass offers a modern, well bult road with superb views over it's entire length of both False Bay and the Atlantic Ocean with the Steenberg Mountains and Silvermine Nature Reserve with its winter waterfall keeping travellers entertained through the middle section. It gives access to Fish Hoek, Noordhoek, Kommetjie, Simonstown and the Cape Point Nature Reserve.
The Blinkberg Pass (translated as 'Glittering or Shining Mountain') is a fairly long pass, found on the much revered gravel road (the P1482) through the southern Cederberg. The Grootrivierhoogte Pass and Blinkberg Pass run concurrently for a distance of almost 20km through magnificent and rugged scenery.
The pass has an unusual vertical profile in that it has two false summits located approximately at the 1/3 and 2/3 points. Each of these is marked by a short tarred section to cope with the very steep gradients. At 11,8 km this a long pass and is peppered with corners, but most of these are fairly easy. There are however, some really nasty ones, which can catch unsuspecting drivers by surprise.
The road traverses spectacular Cederberg mountain scenery and follows a narrow kloof for most of its length. Earmark this one if you've never driven it, as it's one of the nicest gravel roads in South Africa.
The Eselbank Pass, a section of which also appears on some maps as the Kerskop Pass, connects the Moravian mission village of Wupperthal with its sister village of Eselbank to the south in a high altitude part of the Cederberg. The pass is 10,5 km long and is very steep in places, but these sections have been concreted which assists greatly with traction. It has an average gradient of 1:21 but the steep sections get up to 1:5.
You can enjoy fabulous mountain scenery along this pass and along the summit plateau area there are beautiful, weathered sandstone formations and Rooibos tea plantations. Allow plenty of time to complete the route through to Matjiesrivier - at least 90 to 120 minutes.
Note: This route is not recommended for normal cars. Things can get a bit rough on this road. It's more of a track at times and especially so in bad weather. Having said that, I have seen some puny little front wheel drive cars successfully negotiating the entire route, but your car will be the worse for wear at the end. We have included four videos, which include an overview of the village as well as the waterfall.
Translated from the Afrikaans to mean 'Blacksmith's Shop', this route delivers the best views when driven from south to north. The pass begins at the crest of the hill just past the turn-off to the Cape Point Reserve at an altitude of 146m ASL, then drops immediately down a 1km fairly straight section (with a gradient of around 1:11) towards a sharp left-hand bend of 90 degrees, where parking is available. The road forms part of a wonderful circular route around the Cape Peninsula and carries a lot of tourist traffic including tour buses 7 days per week.
The Kouberg Pass (translated 'Chew Mountain' or possibly an abbreviation to mean 'Cold Mountain') is a short, but steep pass on a minor gravel road which takes vehicles down to the Moravian settlement of Wupperthal in the central Cederberg area. The road is quite narrow in places and very steep on the concrete sections. A lower gear should be engaged to make use of engine compression to save on brakes overheating.
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.
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