Olifantspoort is located on the N6, the national road between Bloemfontein and East London, about 20 km north-west of Queenstown. The road is in an excellent condition and can be traversed in any vehicle and in all weather conditions, with the possible exception of when snow falls, which does happen here from time to time. The poort is undoubtedly named after the herds of elephants which once frequented this area; unfortunately, this is no longer the case, and these giant pachyderms are today restricted to some of the larger game reserves, like the Addo Elephant National Park near Port Elizabeth.
Janspoort is a very minor tar pass located on the R58 between Burgersdorp and Venterstad near the northern border of the Eastern Cape. It is virtually the only structure to break the monotony of this otherwise featureless road. The surface is in a good condition, probably because there is very little traffic, and can be driven in any vehicle without problems. We have been unable to establish the identity of the “Jan” that this pass was named after, or why he was important enough for this pass to bear his name, but we can be fairly certain that he was a farmer in the area, or an important personage from one of the Anglo-Boer wars.
Fincham’s Neck is a minor gravel road pass located just to the south of Queenstown in the Eastern Cape. Getting to the pass from the northern side is relatively easy, but the approach from the south involves a number of twists and turns on corrugated gravel roads. The pass is named after George Thornton Zacharias Charles Fincham, who was born in Roydon, Norfolk in 1814. George emigrated to South Africa and acquired a farm in the Queenstown district in 1858, which he named after his birthplace. The farm is located on the eastern side of the pass. George died in 1889 at the age of 74, and is buried in a private cemetery on the farm itself.
Elandsberg Pass is located on the N6 just to the south of the historic town of Aliwal North, which straddles the border between the Eastern Cape and Free State provinces. The road has been beautifully engineered, is in an excellent condition, and should not present problems for any vehicle in all weather conditions, provided that the speed limit is adhered to. The pass is named after the imposing mountain which dominates the skyline on the western side. It is one of at least nine passes which contain within their title a reference to the Eland, the largest of the southern African antelope and which was, and still is, commonly found throughout the country.
This tough gravel road pass is located entirely within the Grootwater Nature Reserve near Lephalale (formerly Ellisras) in the Limpopo Province, but it is a public road and no restrictions have been applied. It is very long (18 kilometres) and difficult, and could take between 45 and 90 minutes to traverse, depending on your vehicle and your level of experience. It would probably be possible to travel the route in a high-clearance vehicle from east to west, but the opposite direction would require the use of a 4x4. The pass has gained a reputation as a bike killer, and adventure motorcyclists are advised to apply extreme caution and common sense if they attempt this route. Avoid this pass entirely in wet weather.
Barrowfield Pass is a long gravel road pass located in north-western KwaZulu-Natal which derives its name from a farm located near the northern end. The road is in a good condition and can be driven in any vehicle, weather dependent. Together with its sister pass, Mollshoogte, which runs parallel to it on the western side, it forms a shorter and more scenic route from the N11 near Ingogo over the escarpment to Wakkerstroom, when approaching from the south. Beautiful views over the valley formed by the many rivers that cascade off the mountains in this area are presented, as well as an opportunity to visit the out-of-the-way and relatively unknown Zaaihoek Dam.
Oom Louis Se Hoogte is a minor gravel pass located on a connecting road between the P213 and the R34 near Memel in the Free State. It has mediocre statistics, being just 2.5 km long and with a height gain of 73 metres, but it does summit at 1802 metres AMSL, putting it well above the snowline. The road is in a fairly good condition and can be driven in any vehicle, weather dependent. The pass is named after Oom Louis Vorster, a previous occupant of the farm “Sweet Valley”, which is situated on the western side of the pass.
This short pass is located on the R62 just to the north-east of the popular town of Barrydale. It should not be confused with the Thomas Bain built Tradouw Pass to the south of Barrydale, nor with the Op de Tradouw Pass which lies to the west of the town.
The well engineered pass, which has an average gradient of 1:19 and never gets steeper than 1:11, offers lovely views over the Barrydale valley and surrounding farms. Do stop at the viewsite which is about halfway down the descent, but indicate your intentions of turning off the R62 early as this road often gets very busy.
Watch out for the speed restrictions and the speed changes rapidly from 80 kph to 60 kph just as you enter the final right hand bend into the main road. There are often radar traps set up here. Don't rush through Barrydale. Explore the village and savour the country food, hospitality and history that abounds here.
Slaaihoek translates into Salad Corner - a most unlikely name for a major mountain pass. Slaaihoek Pass is located on a tarred cul-de-sac road which provides access to the Nkomati Mine in Mpumalanga. The road surface is in an excellent condition, which is very surprising as the route is used on a continual basis by heavy-duty mine trucks and logging vehicles. There are a total of 95 corners, bends and curves on the pass, each of which have been perfectly engineered with a constant radius, making this arguably one of the best motorcycling roads in the country, but at the same time one of the most dangerous. The name of the pass and the road is derived from the original name of the farm on which the mine is located.
Moordenaarsnek (“Murderer’s Neck”) has a very unusual profile, in that the road rises and falls through a series of false summits over its full length of 12.3 km. The road had recently been refurbished at the time of filming in April 2017, and was in an excellent condition. As usual, hazards in this part of the Eastern Cape include pedestrians, livestock and slow-moving traffic. It is also not advisable to traverse this pass at night or in inclement weather, but if this is unavoidable, reduce your speed to below the posted speed restrictions and be prepared to brake suddenly at a moment’s notice.
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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