This short but difficult little pass is located to the south of the town of Memel in the eastern Free State, on top of the Drakensberg escarpment close to the KwaZulu-Natal border. Named after a scenic farm situated along the banks of the Klip River, it is also sometimes referred to by the locals as Roodepoort. With a summit altitude of just under 2000 metres, the pass is subject to frequent snowfalls in winter and violent thunderstorms in summer, so careful planning is required if you intend to drive this pass. Even in good weather, a 4x4 vehicle is recommended.
Pienaarspoort is a north-south running poort through the local mountains north-west of Touwsrivier, which run along the east-west axis. It's slightly longer than an average poort at 5,8 km, but so typical of a poort, only has a small altitude variance of 97m. The poort is beautifully remote, despite it being only 20 km west of the busy N1 highway. You are highly unlikely to see another vehicle on this road, which will provide a sense of solitude and isolation. The surface is very stony and rough and we don't recommend this road for low clearance cars, but a 4x4 is not mandatory.
This attractive poort slices through the Nougashoogte mountains about 25 km south of Touwsrivier. The mountain consists of a series of peaks between 1100 and 1300m high, joined together by a string of necks running along the east-west axis. The 4 km long poort has a relatively small altitude variance of just 51m, which is par for the course for poorts. It provides perfect scenery of Cape Fold mountains on both sides of the road and there are a surprising number of bends considering how flat the terrain is on either side of the poort. The poort is surrounded by nature reserves on three sides. If you enjoy gravel travel, hop off the N1 and try this lovely option.
Blanerne Pass is located on the N11 between Newcastle and Ladysmith in KwaZulu-Natal. The pass derives its name from the historical farm on the southern side, which dates back to 1863. Like so many of the towns and villages in the area (for example, Glencoe and Dundee), the name is of Scottish origin. The pass takes you through a beautiful gorge filled with lush vegetation towards the Sundays River on the southern end, descending a significant 173 metres in the process. The road is in a magnificent condition, and should not present any problems provided that the speed limits are adhered to.
Fort Klapperkop is one of four forts that were built near Pretoria at the end of the 19th century, just before the outbreak of the 2nd Anglo-Boer War. It is named after the hill upon which it is situated, which in turn derived its name from the Afrikaans word for Strychnos pungens, a tree which grows natively on the hills in the area. At just 2.2 km long and with a height gain of only 100 metres, this is a minor pass, but the spectacular views over the city of Pretoria and the beautifully preserved fort at the summit make the small effort to get there more than worthwhile.
This 4 km long official pass is named after the Hartbees antelope, which once roamed these plains in their thousands. The pass is insignificant in the greater scheme of things and has only one gentle bend and a small alttitude variance of only 66m. It's located on the P0663 / R391 north of the much bigger Groot Doringhoek Pass about 20 km north-west of Molteno, just off the tarred R56.
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.
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.