This fairly long pass of 7,3 km has an interesting profile and consists of two summits and a twisty section down into a narrow poort. Although the average gradient is a very mild 1:140, the short descent down into the river valley at the 4,3 km mark gets as steep as 1:12. This road offers a wide variety of scenery and is one of the more interesting of the isolated Northern Cape passes. The name must have an interesting origin, but we were unable to find a single trace of where the name originated. About 6 km south of this pass, there is quite a tricky river crossing, which could be the undoing of many a vehicle.
The government administrators of the Northern Cape were very good at the job of naming passes and poorts in an official capacity. This one, although an official 'poort' has absolutely no resemblance to the definition of a poort nor a pass. It is nothing more than a single gentle bend on an otherwise fairly flat, tarred road in the Northern Cape just north-east of Williston. The poort is 3,2 km long and displays an altitude variance of only 32m, which converts into an average gradient of 1:100.
Unless you are a serious pass chaser hell bent on ticking every pass and poort off your list, this one is completely unforgettable. What the Soutpanspoort lacks in scenery and excitement, the nearby town of Williston, more than compensates for.
During our extensive filming trips through all nine provinces we have seem them all - the long and the short and the tall. (rhyme intended). We travelled a very long way to locate and film this one and it would be fair to say that any sense of expectation was dashed when we drove it. Whilst the pass is fairly short at 3,2 km it hardly fits the definition of a mountain pass and is essentially just a gravel road that contains one S-bend and rises only 28m up a tiny little ridge. Why the provincial authorities decided to officially name this road as a pass is something of a mystery, but we present it here for you to decide whether you want to seek this one out and add it to your list.
This small pass is named after the mountain Kariegakop [1439,7m] which lies immediately to the north and forms a neck with the much bigger Kareekasberge to the south. The pass runs along the east-west axis and offers some very stiff gradients on the western side of the summit, where there are wonderful views waiting for the patient traveller - especially the view looking back into the west is wonderful. This pass is best driven in the morning from west to east to maximise on the tranquil Karoo scenery.
It's not a long pass at 3,4 km and it only takes 5 minutes to complete it. The road was in good condition on the day of filming, but like all gravel roads, conditions can change rapidly depending on the weather. The P2270 connects with the R354 off the Oupoort Pass, then branches off into the east into a maze of farm roads, eventually terminating in Williston. You will need a good GPS loaded with Tracks4Africa and will have done some advance planning before setting off into this part of the Northern Cape.
This short and rough pass is surprisingly scenic and requires a high clearance vehicle to drive it. At just 2,1 km it displays an altitude variance of 68m, producing an average gradient of 1:31 but there are several sections that are as steep as 1:6, but these are short-lived. The pass traverses a rocky plateau where the main agricultural activity is sheep farming. The pass forms part of a public servitude road that connects with the R354 just north-west of Middelpos and traverses two big farms along the way - Droekloof and Otterkuil.
At the foot of the pass at a farm gate (which is usually open) there is a large sign, depicting a rifle and a 'Trespassers will be prosecuted / Private Property' message. This board creates the impression that this is a private road, which it is unlikely to be. The farmer has clearly suffered stock theft in the past and the sign is there to discourage strangers from traversing his farm. This pass is incorrectly marked on some maps as Prinseshoogte.
Lenong Pass is a short but very steep pass, situated within the boundaries of the Pilanesberg Game Reserve. It should not be confused with another pass of the same name, located fairly close by in the Marakele National Park near Thabazimbi. It forms the only access route up onto a high plateau, from where visitors to the park are offered fabulous vistas over the surrounding plains and dams from a number of hides and viewpoints. The entire pass has been surfaced with paving bricks and can be driven in all vehicles and in any weather, but some of the gravelled roads on top of the mountain are in a poor condition, and careful driving will be required if you are not in a high-clearance vehicle or in adverse conditions.
This rugged poort is located on the P2272 about 50 km south-east of Calvinia and 25 km WNW of Middelpos (as the crow flies) and paralells the north/south running Roggeveldberge, which form the western side of the Tankwa Karoo. Not many people know about this poort which with a length of 5,6 km, and an altitude gain of 144m hugs the western side of the Kareehoutrivierpoort. A huge bush fire had swept through the poort just days before we filmed it, leaving the poort looking barren, blackened and stony, but normally this is a fairly well watered poort offering lovely scenery and some greener vegetation.
With an average gradient of 1:39 this poort offers easy gradients and is suitable for all vehicles, but the road in its entirety is not suitable for normal cars. High clearance is recommended.
The naming of this long and interesting pass causes plenty of confusion. On the government map it is labelled as Systershoog Pass. This name has been inadvertantly altered by several map sources to read Syfershoog or Syfershoogte Pass. To add to the confusion, it is known locally as the Maermanskloof Pass, the Spoegrivier Pass and the Kharkams Pass. In Namaqualand the manner of word construction is somewhat different to the rest of South Africa and the naming of any word ending in 'heights' is called a 'hoog' as opposed to the more grammatically correct 'hoogte' Thus many names in this region end with the word hoog, which is the correct official name.
This pass is long at 16,2 km and contains 38 bends, corners and curves - some of which are very sharp and have negative banking. The road follows a very different vertical profile to the usual classic pass shape and ends in a steep descent down into the Spoegrivier valley. It connects Kharkams in the east with Spoegrivier in the west and provides an alternative (and much slower) route to Hondeklipbaai.
Katkop Pass is located on the tarred R56 in the Eastern Cape, almost equidistant between Mount Fletcher in the north and Maclear in the south. It is named after the Katkop mountain, which dominates the western side of the pass. The road has been refurbished, and is in an excellent condition. It is a relatively minor pass, dwarfed by the many huge passes scattered around this vicinity, but nevertheless holds its own in terms of scenic beauty. Besides one very tight hairpin corner, there are no real dangers on the pass other than animals and pedestrians. Many people (especially locals) confuse this pass with the Moordenaarsnek Pass, which is on the same road, but a few kilometres away.
This old pass which dates back to 1880 is exceptionally well designed with fairly easy gradients. It has been realigned and changed over the last 120 years and has the stamp of Mr. T.W.Bain on the first map plot. At 6,6 km it's not that long, but due to the slow speeds necessary, it takes a fair bit of time to complete the pass. Part of the allure of driving this pass, is the not inconsiderable challenge of navigating your way back to any main road from the foot of the pass. The pass displays a substantial altitude variance of 480m and produces a stiff average gradient of 1:14
Whilst a 4x4 is not necessary to drive the pass, we strongly suggest a vehicle with good ground clearance, otherwise your vehicle will be likely to sustain some damage. Due to the complexity of finding a way out through the plains at the bottom of the pass, we suggest that this pass only be driven in the descending mode.
If you're a gravel pass fan, then put this one on your bucket list. It's for the purist.
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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