The decisively steep Katbakkies Pass traces over what was once an old sheep-trekking route over the mountain. It joins the Koue Bokkeveld with the Ceres Karoo. It was recently tarred and although fairly short, it has a serious average gradient of 1/12 which will tax many an underpowered vehicle and especially the two sections about quarter way up the ascent which measure out at UNDER 1:4! The pass is sometimes covered in snow during winter as the snow line of 1000m ASL is well below this pass's maximum altitude of 1200m. It's a narrow road so take it slowly and enjoy the spectacular barren landscape.
This relatively new pass was constructed between 1984 and 1988 at the then staggering cost of R125 000 000. Leading up to the Huguenot Tunnel from its south side, is an awe-inspiringly beautiful, high-altitude viaduct bridge (the first of its kind to be built in South Africa!) The bridge is simultaneously curved and cambered --constructed by the incremental method. It soars high above the farm-patchworked Miaspoort Valley. The 4km-long tunnel drastically reduced the distance of the old pass by 11km. (Please note that the Google Earth satellite imageing cannot 'read' a tunnel; it instead follows the track of the road, so ignore the steep spike in the middle of the vertical profile.)
This gently meandering tar road along the valley between the impressive Slanghoek Mountains and the smaller Badsberg mountain showcases a restfully pastoral landscape of vineyards and fruit farms. A wine-tasting tour at the popular wine farms is a must for wine connoisseurs - locals and tourists alike! The drive through the valley is a visual feast.
The road less-travelled is the road that leads deep into the remote hinterland of the Hammelhoek Private Game Reserve where this clip was filmed. After the long, but scenic 5-hour drive from Cape Town, we arrived to a welcoming committee of wild horses!
The Bain's Kloof Pass (R301) provided a more direct route from the town of Wellington to the more northern towns of Ceres and Worcester, in the Western Cape.
It is 27.3 km in length from the bridge over the Breede River to the outskirts of Wellington. Built circa 1849 by Andrew Geddes Bain, this pass was a tough nut to crack, working with convicts and raw, rough materials and methods. As always seemed to be the case with Bain, he oversaw a marvellous job of the pass which, having stood the test of time, is now a national monument.
The more dramatic, northern section of the pass roughly follows the course of the Witte River, a raging torrent during the wet winter season.
The 5-hour drive from Cape Town is the perfect excuse to spend the weekend in the Hammelhoek Private Nature Reserve 200km north of Ceres, the Tankwa Karoo's northern area is towered over by almost protective mountains, and surrounded by soul rejuvenating plains that induce immediate tranquility.
The old Du Toits Kloof Pass (officially designated as the R101) is 11km longer than the newer N1 route, and is certainly worth choosing over the new route! Its grand, dramatic mountain views and elegantly constructed, curved tunnel whisks one back in time to an older, almost forgotten era -- when World War 2 impactfully changed the world with its bombs, genocide and bittersweet victories.
The Langkloof Poort is a well-known and much-loved route by off-roaders which links the town of Montagu with the Ouberg Pass and the Karoo highlands. This poort crosses back and forth across the river up to 18 times! It is, to all intents and purposes, an extension of the Ouberg Pass; the two are typically driven as one long pass.
This particular Ouberg Pass (there are another two, in the Northern Cape and Eastern Cape) is a well-designed 7.3km gravel pass linking the town of Montagu with the Karoo highlands and remote towns like Sutherland and Matjiesfontein. It is a perennial favourite with offroad clubs and touring bikers. (Suitable for all vehicles.)
The relatively unknown Joubertspoort Pass is an 11.8km farm road, close to Montagu in the Western Cape, but well worth exploring. It takes you past quaint little farm labourers' cottages and green pastures to the head of the poort from where it is 4x4 only territory up a steep jeep track. Once you reach the last farm, a rough jeep track winds up into the mountains and exits about halfway up the famous Ouberg Pass. This last section is strictly for 4x4 vehicles only --- good ground clearance and low range is essential! It provides magnicicent views in complete tranquility and isolation. It is best tackled with a minimum of two vehicles.
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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