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 exerted a lot of energy to influence the authorities to upgrade the road. 'KOO' products have stocked the cupboards of over 80 years' worth of South African families! 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 1867 at a cost of 1000 Pounds Sterling.

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Digging into the details:

The pass 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.

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! Once you've climbed through this 3rd hairpin, the road continues climbing steadily via a triple set of easy S-curves to summit at 857m ASL on a mountain plateau. The steepest sections of the climb are at a gradient of 1:8

Victorian architecture in MontaguNearby Montagu has lovely Victorian architecture / Photo: Wikimedia

With 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.

Fact File:


S33.692840 E19.934007


S33.692878 E19.895652


S33.692878 E19.895652
















West (Ascending)


10 minutes


60 - 80 kph








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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