Burgers Pass (R318) or Koo Pass

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Cottages like this can be rented at Langdam Cottages like this can be rented at Langdam - Photo: Panoramio

Originally known as the Koo Pass (serving the fruit-growing region known as the Koo Valley), it was renamed after a local town councillor from Montagu who expended a lot of energy to influence the authorities to upgrade the road. 'KOO' products have stocked the cupboards of South African families for over 80 years'! The pass was originally plotted byThomas Bain and constructed by the Divisional Council in 1876, when construction stopped due to a lack of funds and was finally completed in 1887 at a cost of 1000 Pounds Sterling.

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Note: Google Earth software reads the actual topography and ignores roads, cuttings, tunnels, bridges and excavations. The Google Earth vertical-profile animation generates a number of parallax errors, so the profile is only a general guide of what to expect in terms of gradients, distance and elevation. Though the graph may show several spikes, the general trend-line of the graph represents only an approximate guideline.

Digging into the details:

Getting there: Head west out of Montagu on the tarred R318 for 25 km to arrive at the eastern starting point of the pass.

This pass was originally called the Koo Pass after the fruit producing valley it serves, but it was officially re-named 'Burgers Pass' in 1957 in honour of the indefatigable Mr. Piet Willem van Hesland Burger, for his fervent passion to create a road link between Montagu and the N1. Mr Burger, however, had a secondary passion which - had he been alive today - would no doubtedly have made him cringe with eco-impropriety: his love of bluegum trees (the water-hungry tree from Australia, and today considered an incorrigible alien in South Africa, capable of growing in the harshest of climates.). Mr. Burger was responsible for planting the bluegums which today still provide shade for travellers along the pass during the hot summer months.

Burgers Pass collageBurger Pass collage by Lisa RobertsA roads surveyer, Mr. Hall, surveyed a newer, better route for the pass and it was reconstructed and opened on the 18th May, 1951 at which stage it was still a gravel road. Tarring of the road took place in 1960. The original pass had something of a reputation for being steep, as the early vehicles had to reverse up the pass, due to fuel not being able to get to the engine due to lack of gravity. There are several old roads still visible on the hills to the west of the new pass and we have shown the most recent old road as a blue line in our animated aerial fly-over, which clearly shows how modern road engineering has been able to smooth out the many bends into straighter lines as well as decrease the steep gradients.

The pass commences its ascent at the crossing of the Keisierivier heading initially into the west. It then curves away into the south west and follows a straight climb up the mountain. After 1 km, it enters a chicane style set of bends consisting of two hairpins, but both have a fairly wide radius, allowing reasonable speed to be maintained. Another stiff climb follows with the road curling through 90 degrees into the NNE, where a sharp left hand bend is encountered.

This is quite a dangerous bend and several attempts at making the road safer have taken place here over the years. A good view site offering wide views over the Koo valley under a stand of Bluegums has been closed to vehicles, as this has been the scene of accidents in the past. Say what you like, but the motorists WILL stop and look at the view - so now they stop on the inside radius of the turn - which is even more dangerous!

Continue for another 300m through a gentle S-bend and a second view-site makes its appearance on the right hand side of the road 2,4 km from the start. There is ample space for several vehicles and a concrete picnic table and benches have been provided. This rest-stop offers excllent views down a steep ravine with the Keisie farming area and Koo valley stretching away into the east.

Litter on Burgers PassLitter emptied over the precipice at the viewsite / Photo: Trygve RobertsThere is a litter bin provided here too, which is one of those 44 gallon drums which rests on a set of upper pivots - for easy emtying. An easy is the watch word, as those responsible for clearing this drum, simply upend it sending all the litter cascading down the ravine. At the time of filming in January, 2016 it was a sorry sight. The photo below doesn't really show the reality of the situation and it will take a lot of labour and effort clearing the mess up, due to the steepness of the terrain, which is down a slope of about 50 degrees.

From the viewsite, the road climbs at a steady gradient of 1:12. Once you've climbed through the 3rd hairpin, the road continues climbing steadily via a triple set of easy S-curves to summit at 857m ASL on a mountain plateau at a 4 way intersection. A tourist sign shows a left turn for tractor rides. This is one of several farms offering tractor/trailer rides up to the top of the mountain. In mid-winter this is a wonderful way to spend a day when the air is cold and clear.

 The steepest sections of the ascent are at a gradient of 1:8 and there are several dangerous bends on this pass as can be evidenced by signs and scars of vehicles simply driving too fast to negotiate these sharper bends. Mr. Burger's much loved bluegum trees can still be seen along many sections of the pass.

Victorian architecture in MontaguNearby Montagu has lovely Victorian architecture / Photo: WikimediaWith a number of excellent hikes plotted through its 2000 hectares, the Montagu Mountain Reserve also attracts rock-climbers with over 200 bolted routes which trace the unique topography that can only be described as spectacular!

For birdwatchers, the Leiwater Dam offers the unique experience of an 'urban' birding site where 18 species of birds are bred - such as Shrikes, Egrets, Weavers and Sacred Ibis. Local birding experts have recorded an additional 52 species of bird visitors to this special avian sanctuary which is a caring community initiative. The dam, with its new hide, is situated on the corner of Bath Street and Barry Street - providing convenient access for even the most walking-wary of birdwatchers!

At the time of writing, the road surface was in a reasonable condition but under repair. Lying just further west along the same road is the Rooihoogte Pass, which is inextricably linked to Burgers Pass historically and geographically. Both are located on the R381 route.

Keisie and Koo Valleys from the view siteViews to the east from the first view-site / Photo: Trygve RobertsMontagu and Ceres are the two Boland towns that offer multiple pass driving opportunities. Besides Burgers Pass and Rooihoogte Pass, there is also the Langkloof Poort and Ouberg Pass, which are both gravel and run concurrently northwards towards the Anysberg Nature Reserve. Don't confuse this Ouberg Pass with the one near Sutherland.

 A little to the west of the Ouberg Pass is Joubertspoort which is only drivable in a 4x4 and there is also the Poortjieskloof Pass some 30 km west of Montagu off the R62 which leads to the Poortjieskloof Dam - a favourite fresh water angling venue with locals.

To the south of Montagu is the lovely Cogmanskloof. Take your pick of the seven passes - each one is a gem in its own right!

Fact File:


S33.692762 E19.933968


S33.692735 E19.895617


S33.692735 E19.895617














5.0 km


West (Ascending)


10 minutes


60 - 80 kph


Tar (R318)






Montagu (20km)

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Mountain Passes South Africa

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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