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.
This tough little gravel road pass has some seriously steep sections, and could present a significant challenge in the ascending mode for both adventure bikers and 4x4 enthusiasts, particularly during or after inclement weather. The pass is located south of Cala on an unnamed dirt road in the backwaters of the Eastern Cape, on the access route between the KwaGoniwe Tyaliti Pass and the Kwaaimans Pass, and takes its name from the river which marks the eastern extremity. It is worth seeking out if you enjoy the peacefulness and beauty of rural South Africa, but we recommend that you make use of a high-clearance or 4-wheel drive vehicle.
Highmoor Mountain Reserve is located to the west of Nottingham Road and Rosetta in the KZN Midlands, close to Kamberg and Giant’s Castle. The pass itself is the access route up to the main campsite and trout dams located on the summit of the Little Berg. The road surface consists of gravel, concrete and broken tar sections, but it can be traversed in any vehicle, provided that the weather conditions allow. With a summit altitude of just under 2000 metres, the area is often blanketed in snow during the winter months, sometimes forcing closures of the pass. When snow is around, or during heavy rain, do not attempt the pass at all, or at the very least not without being in a 4-wheel drive vehicle.
Rietpoort is located directly to the south of the small town of Lephalale (formerly Ellisras) in the Limpopo province. It parallels the course of the Rietspruit river, which has carved its way through the low hills surrounding the area, on the tarred R510 road. The pass is a little longer than the national average and, unlike most other poorts, has a significant altitude gain of 145 metres. There are no apparent dangers other than some sharpish corners, and the poort can be driven in any vehicle, irrespective of the weather conditions.
This is a very minor official pass (as per the government maps) which is just over 2 km long and has a single S bend where the gradients get as steep as 1:10 for a brief period, but the whole pass has a very mild average of only 1:68. The pass is named after a local indigenous bush - the Harpuis [Euryops abrotanifolius]. The pass is located about 40 km north-east of Fraserburg.
This is one of several Northern Cape passes and poorts which have been officially listed, but when driving them, they hardly resemble a pass in any way. Finding this one is quite tricky and you need to be a more serious pass hunter with good GPS skills to locate it.
This 3,6 km long official pass lies along the north-south axis, adjacent to the western side of a large, dark rocky outcrop about 70 km north-east of Fraserberg. This is a very minor pass and only has an average gradient of 1:72 and is much more of a simple farm road, than a mountain pass, but it's an official pass, so we filmed and documented it. There are no real dangers, like steep descents, drop-offs or sharp corners, but like all gravel roads, it can change its mood instantly after rain. Be wary of corrugations, ruts, washaways and as always livestock on the road.
What this little pass lacks in vital statistics, it more than compensates for in its isolated location and spectacularly open vistas, the likes of which can only be found in the Karoo. The name translates into Honey Nest Heights or Beehive Heights.
This is another of those Northern Cape passes, which leaves one wondering how this ever became an official pass, as there is really not much to it all with an altitude variance of only 16m and an average gradient of 1:150, it's hardly going to get the adrenaline flowing. The countryside is however, well worth any distance you will have travelled getting there and offers space, tranquility and the most wonderful sense of timelessness that only the Karoo can offer. In addition this is the perfect area to test your navigation skills as many of the intersections are unmarked, so getting lost here is a piece of cake.
Stop next to a windmill under the shade of a thorn tree and allow the Rooihoogte to sink into your soul.
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.
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.