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.
This steep, narrow and twisting gravel pass is located on the P1661 route between Van Wyksdorp and Calitzdorp. It is frequently mistakenly called the Rooiberg Pass - and with good reason, as it forms the western section of the much bigger Rooiberg Pass, the latter which is separated from the Assegaaibosch Pass by a substantial plateau. The pass is just 3 km in length and displays an altitude variance of 178m, which converts into an average gradient of 1:18, but there are one or two steep sections which get as steep as 1:5
The pass is single width along certain sections which means passing is impossible and one of the vehicles will need to reverse back to a wider point. The pass contains 22 bends, corners and curves which includes two full hairpin bends. The road gets quite rough in places and whilst we recommend a high clearance vehicle, it is possible to drive it in a normal car (cautiously) in good weather.
Mgwalana Pass takes its name from a small village on the eastern side of the traverse. It is also sometimes spelled as uMgwalana. The pass is located on an unnamed gravel road which connects the R410 near Cala to the R58, which is the main access route between Elliot and Engcobo in the Eastern Cape. The road is not regularly maintained and is in a poor condition, but could be driven in any high-clearance vehicle, provided that the weather conditions allow. Like most of the roads in this area, the pass offers up some beautiful views over the surrounding landscape, as well as a delightful glimpse into the lifestyle of true rural South Africans.
Braamnek is located on the northern banks of the Vaal River, in a corner formed by the borders of the Gauteng, Free State and North West provinces. This minor tarred pass only has two very gentle corners, and although the road surface is in a poor condition, presents no apparent dangers for any vehicle. Good views over the surrounding hills and koppies are presented from the summit, and the pass forms a scenic alternative route when travelling from Johannesburg towards Parys. The pass was probably named after the farmer who owned the property over which the pass traverses.
Lang’s Nek was named after William Timothy Lang, who bought a farm located to the north and east of Mount Majuba in Northern Natal in 1874. This is extremely well documented and cannot be disputed, but for the last 130 years, the pass itself, the road, the railway and the battlefield have all been erroneously spelled as “Laing’s Nek”. How this occurred is a mystery – perhaps a battlefield reporter or a cartographer made a careless mistake, and this has somehow been brought forward in perpetuity. Early maps of the region all have the correct spelling. The road is in an excellent condition and can be driven in any vehicle.
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.
We are as passionate about maps as we are about mountain passes. A good map is a thing of beauty that can transport you into the mists of time or get your sense of adventure churning. It is a place to make discoveries about deserts and seas, mountains and lakes; of roads leading into places you have not been before; a place to pore over holiday destinations or weekend camping trips. A map is your window to the world.