Mountain Passes

Biesiepoort is located just to the south of the N10, the national road which connects Upington with the Namibian border post at Nakop. The word “biesie” translates from Afrikaans to English as “bulrush”, but it could also refer to any of the family of reeds which are used to weave indigenous household items such as sleeping mats or wicker furniture. The poort itself, although very pretty, is quite insignificant, but the area in which it is located typifies the Kalahari landscape and is an unforgettable drive.

The road is in a good condition and can be traversed in any vehicle, although there are large patches of soft sand. Watch out for small animals such as mongooses, and be particularly careful not to run over the large monitor lizards (leguaans) which are commonly found moving slowly across the road.

 

This easy tarred pass is located on the tarred R75 route about midway between Kirkwood in the east and Jansenville in the west. It's of average length at 4,7 km and displays an altitude variance of 135m and an average gradient of 1:35 with the steepest section being near the summit at 1:9.

Strangely there are two Soutpansnek Passes on the R75 just 43 km apart. This was always going to cause confusion, so we have labelled the two passes with a suffix to separate them distinctly. This one is the Soutpansnek Pass (Wolwefontein) and the more northern one is the Soutpansnek Pass (Ravelskloof).

A long mountain curves to the south at right angles to the N2, forcing the Gamtoos River towards the Indian Ocean. To the east is a substantial kloof along which the Remkloof Pass has been built. As far as dramatic passes with multiple curves and steep gradients go, this pass is fairly docile and only hosts three very gentle corners, but the it does rise from 3m above sea level at the crossing of the Gamtoos River in the west, via a substantial climb of 206m over 5 km to summit at 209m ASL producing a mild average gradient of 1:24.

This is the N2 and the road is in good condition with triple lanes and adequate safety shoulders. It's suitable for all vehicles in all weather, but it's a busy road, so drive with that in mind.

The Gamtoos River winds its way through the Eastern Cape bushveld, providing warm, calm waters in which to swim, frolic and fish. It is a fabulous base for those exploring Port Elizabeth, Jeffrey’s Bay, Humansdorp and St Francis Bay. The vistas from the river are magnificent, and include the local farmlands, mountain ranges and coastal dunes.

 

This easy tarred pass sweeps up the northern flank of a double horseshoe bend in the Gamtoos River about midway between the two citrus farming towns of Patensie and Hankey. The pass is 7,9 km long and has an altitude variance of 155m converting into an average gradient of 1:51 with the steepest sections measuring in at 1:14

The pass traverses attractive scenery of mountains and the Shumba Game Farm occupies most of the western side of the pass. Once over the summit and approaching the outskirts of Hankey, the sides of the road have lot of litter which detracts somewhat from the natural scenic beauty of the area. This is especially obvious if you have just completed the pristine Baviaanskloof.

The pass is suitable for all vehicles but it should be noted that there are no safety shoulders - not even a gravel shoulder. It makes this road very dangerous for cyclists due to the large trucks that frequent this pass.

This smaller, but very steep pass is located in between the two big Baviaanskloof passes of Grasnek and Holgat. Due to its very steep gradients of 1:4 the road has been recently partially paved to assist with traction. The pass connects the Rooihoek camping area in the west with Doodsklip in the east and offers a wide variety of scenery and some technical driving. It is, in fact, the paving on this road, which has presented drivers with some new challenges.

The pass is short at 3,4 km and despite its misleading average gradient of 1:37, this little pass is packed with sharp corners, steep gradients and technical driving. On the flipside, it offers fabulous scenery and several river crossings before, during and after the pass.

The river crossing at Doodsklip can often be quite deep. Drivers need to be aware of this and follow the standard procedure for deep water crossings (see information lower down).

This short gravel pass comes as something of a surprise after the long, flat coastal plains between Riversdale and the coastal town resort of Jongensfontein. It's about 23 km due south of Riversdale on a minor gravel road, the P1523. It's of average length at 4,7 km and displays an altitude variance of 125m, with the steepest parts near the summit getting as steep as 1:7. There are some dangerous corners on this pass with negative banking. It was being rebuilt on the day of filming and many of the dangers have now been re-engineered to make for a safer traverse.

This unusual gravel pass is located on the coastal plateau between Albertinia and the coastal road connecting Gouritzmond and Stilbaai. The pass has a classic inverted profile (High-Low-High) and traverses a riverless valley called Canca se Leegte. It has some very sharp and awkward (incorrectly banked) corners which can be lethal if your speed is too high.

At 2,6 km it's a short pass (well below the national average) but it packs plenty of variety into that distance. Some of the gradients are steep at 1:7 and the pass zig-zags its way past two prominent rocky outcrops called Eilandskop, after which the pass is named. The pass is best driven in a high clearance vehicle or very carefully in a normal car.

Elandskraal Pass is named after the tiny village on the eastern side. The settlement was established in the late 19th century, and its most prominent feature is the beautiful stone Lutheran Church, built in the 1920s. Funds to build the church were raised by organising a bazaar; this was so successful that a surplus was sent to Germany to look after children orphaned by the Great War (the 1st World War). The village and the pass are located quite close to the Anglo-Zulu battlefields of Rorke’s Drift, Fugitive’s Drift and Isandlwana. The road is in a surprisingly good condition and can be driven in any vehicle, but beware of the local drivers, who seem to view the traverse as their personal racetrack. All of the other hazards associated with rural South Africa also apply.

 

This attractive and sometimes challenging pass is named after the two river valleys which it traverses on its way to Brandhoek north of Joubertina in the Langkloof. It's a typical farm road and forms a long loop starting just east and ending 10 km west of Joubertina which includes the much longer Brakkloof Pass. Both have to be driven in tandem. Allow about an hour to complete the loop. You will be treated to exceptional mountain views, several river crossings, deep gorges, riverine forests and multiple fruit farms.

This 8,2 km long pass has 42 bends, corners and curves which include two hairpins, of which the second one is severe and requires cautious driving at 20 kph. You will need a high clearance vehicle to drive the route as the road can get rough in places, but a 4x4 is not mandatory, except in wet weather.

The Brakkloof Pass is a mixture of a poort and a mountain pass. It's a fairly long one at just under 13 km and despite the easy average gradient of 1:75, there are some very steep sections at 1:5, especially near the southern end on the approach and descent to the Kouga River valley, which will probably create traction issues for non 4WD vehicles in wet weather. Thr pass has to be driven in tandem with the Kouga-Kleinrivier Pass which lies further to the west. the two passes together form a wide loop with Joubertina as a start and end point. Allow an hour to do the loop.

The kloof is extensively farmed so the usual cautionaries apply of expecting livestock, pedestrians and slow moving farming vehicles on the road. Visually this is a lovely road to explore and note that there are many cattle grids. The pass is located about 33 km to the ENE of the farming town of Joubertina on the R62 route through the fruit farming region known as Die Langkloof.

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Mountain Passes South Africa

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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