Lenong is a tarred but difficult pass located within the boundaries of the Marakele National Park near Thabazimbi. This very narrow road clings precariously to the side of a mountain, with extreme unprotected drop-offs – if you suffer from acrophobia, then this pass is definitely not for you! If you do make it to the summit, the wonderful scenic vistas over the reserve and the Waterberg massif from the various viewpoints make all of the effort worthwhile. A 4x4 is not required, but you will need to negotiate some gravel roads as part of the access route.
Mielietuinspruit Pass - which translates as Corn Garden Stream - is named after the large beef farm situated near its summit, just off the N11 on a minor gravel road between Ladysmith and Newcastle in KwaZulu-Natal. Although not technically challenging, the pass offers the intrepid traveller a “surprise” element, in that it is a much better pass than its name or location would suggest. The road can be used as a shortcut access route from the N11 to the far more significant Mhlwane and Collings passes, which are located to the west. The road is in a good condition, and can be driven in any car, although wet weather might be a problem.
The seaside town of Hermanus lies squashed into a narrow coastal plain with the Indian Ocean to the south and the Kleinriviersberge to the north. Running along the spine of this mountain range is a narrow road, partially tarred, known as Rotary Way and described officially as a 'scenic drive', which it most certainly is, but it also fully complies with the definition of a mountain pass. As the road is blocked off at its eastern end, it means one has to turn around and return the same way.
The road is 5,3 km long which makes it a 10,6 km drive in total. It climbs 188m producing an easy average gradient of 1:28, but the initial climb gets as steep as 1:15. The road is suitable for all vehicles, but it has no centre line and is narrow, so proceed with caution. The two view sites offer excellent views of Hermanus and the sweep of Walker Bay past the Kleinriviersvlei lagoon and on towards Gansbaai.
This very minor nek is located on the P2563 gravel road between Doornvlei in the north and Cradock in the south. The 'pass' is just 1,7 km long and has an altitude variance of 47m, which converts into an average gradient of 1:36, with no part being steeper than 1:25. There are no sharp corners or other obvious dangers, other than the chance of finding livestock on the road. This is one of those official passes that completely mystifies logic and does not fall within the parameters of a mountain pass, yet it is well marked on all official government maps, so it must have some historical significance - none of which we were able to track down. If you don't mark it on your GPS as a waypoint, you probably won't even realise you have just driven over a pass.
This short but very scenic pass is located to the south-east of Middelburg in the Eastern Cape, on the N10 national highway. There are no sharp bends and the road is perfectly engineered and constructed, allowing safe passage over the pass provided that you stick to the speed limit and are not distracted by the views. The area around the pass is typical of the Upper Karoo landscape, with low flat plains interspersed with rolling hills and koppies. The pass is suitable for all vehicles.
Wesselsnek is a minor gravel road pass located just off the main route between Ladysmith and Dundee in KwaZulu-Natal. It is mentioned in numerous accounts of the Second Anglo-Boer War, and both the pass itself and the railway station occupied key strategic positions during this conflict. The area is perhaps best known for the Battle of Elandslaagte, which is a small village and station located just to the south of Wesselsnek. The road is in a good condition and can be driven in any vehicle, except perhaps in wet weather.
Naroegaspoort is a gentle drive with easy gradients synonymous with typical poort statistics. It includes two crossings of the Plessisrivier, which is usually a bone dry river bed. These crossings mark the start and end points of the poort. There are only two wide corners and the rest of the poort is a straight-line drive through the rugged poort, which forms a passage through the east-west axis Grootrivierberge about 50 km east of Willowmore in the Karoo. The poort squeezes the road and the railway line into its confines and both parallel each other for most of the distance through the poort. This is an arid, water-scarce part of South Africa, where much of the vegetation consists of succulents.
This fairly off the beaten track pass is located on a farm link road - the P2394 - about 60 km WNW of Cradock. The pass is 9 km long and displays an altitude variance of 237m, producing an easy average gradient of 1:38, but most of the steeper action and sharper bends occur in the last 2 km where the gradient gets as steep as 1:10. You need to know your way around these farm roads and this pass is best tackled with a good GPS loaded with Tracks4Africa, otherwise you will probably get lost in the maze of farm roads to the south of the pass.
Belet is Afrikaans for forbid or prohibit, so the name of the pass no doubt at some point in it's history was a 'no-go zone' The road is suitable for all vehicles in fair weather and like all gravel roads is subject to rapid changes in condition after rain.
Pluto’s Vale is quite unique, in that it consists of a combination of a genuine poort and a steep pass. These follow one another along the gravel DR02039 road that extends eastwards from the R67 near Grahamstown to Committees Drift and Breakfast Vlei. Like the adjacent Queen’s Road to Fort Beaufort and the nearby Ecca Pass, the route was constructed by Andrew Geddes Bain during the Frontier Wars in the mid-19th century. Despite diligent research, no clue as to the origins of the unusual name of this pass has come to light.
Kingo Hills Pass is situated just off the R67, about halfway between Grahamstown and Fort Beaufort in the Eastern Cape. Also known as Douglas Heights and (incorrectly) King Hills Pass, it is named after Kingo Hill, the summit (581 metres ASL) of which is located just north of the pass summit coordinates. The road is badly maintained, with major ruts and corrugations, and it is not recommended that you drive this pass in a normal car, although a four-wheel drive vehicle would not be required except in wet weather.
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.