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Mountain Passes

The tiny little town of Blouputs is located on the northern banks of the Orange River between Augrabies and Riemvasmaak, in an enclave of the Northern Cape close to the border with Namibia. There are a number of grape and citrus farms in the area, and most of the community derive their income from seasonal employment on these farms.

To access this region, a tarred road, which cuts right through the middle of the Augrabies Falls National Park, was built, parts of which involved constructing a steep pass into the valley and a bridge over the river. The pass offers spectacular views of the typical rocky landscape, the vineyards and of the Orange River itself, particularly when driven in the descending mode. The road is in an excellent condition, and can be traversed in any vehicle and in any weather.

Trichardtspoort is located in the Wilge River Valley, a tiny enclave of the Gauteng Province situated on the north-eastern side of Bronkhorstspruit. The area is particularly beautiful, especially in summer, and although the access road is mostly gravel, it is well worth the trip to get there. The road is in a fairly good condition, but motorcyclists should take note that there are some soft and powdery sand sections. The poort is named after Louis Tregardt (his surname is often incorrectly spelled as “Trichardt”), as this valley was part of the route followed by the wagons of Tregardt and Andries Hendrik Potgieter on their way to the north of the country during the Great Trek. The ravine is also sometimes referred to as Wilgepoort or Kranspoort.

 

Sprinkaannek is a very minor gravel pass located near Thaba Nchu in the south-eastern Free State. It is difficult to locate, and is a major disappointment when seeing it for the first time, but it is an official pass and is marked as such on the 1:50000 topographical maps. The name translates as “Grasshopper Neck” or “Locust Neck”.

The road is nothing more than a farm track, but there is evidence that it is being maintained, most likely by the local farmers. This pass should not be attempted in anything less than a high clearance vehicle fitted with all terrain tyres, but a 4x4 is probably not required except in wet weather.

Telemachus Poort (also known as Modderpoort) is located near the tiny Eastern Cape town of Jamestown, about 60 km from Aliwal North. It is named after the Telemachusspruit which tracks the pass on the western side along its southern half. The poort is quite unusual in that it consists of two distinct sections; a “poort” section which follows the stream, and a “neck” section which climbs up a hill towards its summit on the northern side.

The road is in a good condition, and should present no problems for any vehicle in all weather conditions. There are only four corners on the pass, one of which is a big loop of 120 degrees, but this curve has a very wide radius and is easily negotiated.

 

This short little pass winds up a small ridge and more or less follows the course of the Breede River on the outskirts of the dairy farming town of Bonnievale. There are just two easy bends along the 1.6 km length and the total height gain is 28m. Unless you are aware that it's a pass, you would drive over it not being any the wiser, but it is an official pass, duly recorded on the government 1:50,000 maps..

The pass lies on the tarred R317 route that connects Robertson and Bonnievale, the latter town being well known for the Parmalat dairy/cheese factory on the eastern side of town, a major employer in the valley, but Bonnievale also produces a lot of wine. There are a number of excellent wine estates along this route.

Padkloof Pass is located on a secondary road which connects the N14 near Olifantshoek in the north with the N8 in the south. The primary attraction along this route is the Witsand Nature Reserve, which is situated about 20 km away on the northern side of the pass. The road is in a good condition and can be driven in any vehicle, but there are some severe corrugations in a few places.

This area is known as the “Green Kalahari” and is quite densely vegetated, in stark contrast to the red sand landscape of the true semi-desert close by. Keep a lookout for the thousands of Sociable Weaver nests which populate many of the trees and telephone poles, and for the smaller arid-region animals such as squirrels, mongooses, meerkats and dassies which pop up out of nowhere.

 

Paardekraal Pass traverses a long unnamed ridge, a spur of the Magaliesberg, that separates Krugersdorp from the south-western suburbs of Johannesburg. It derives its name from the original farm on which both the pass, and Krugersdorp itself, was established. The road carries a very high volume of traffic, even at night and over weekends, as this is the primary route which connects Krugersdorp to Pretoria, so try to avoid it at peak times if you can.

Fortunately, it has been constructed as a double highway, with multiple lanes in both the ascending and descending directions, so unless you get stuck behind trucks that are overtaking one another (a common occurrence), you should not encounter any problems. Magnificent views over the farms and smallholdings of the Muldersdrift area to the north are presented, but it would be both illegal and highly dangerous to stop anywhere along the length of the pass.

This is another big tarred pass covering 16.2 km. It is one of several big passes along the A25 and connects Seshute in the north with the Katse Dam complex in the south. There are 95 bends corners and curves to contend with, of which 23 have angles greater than 90 degrees, but there are no hairpins.

The altitude variance of 624m means lots of ascending and descending and although the road is tarred, caution needs to be exercised in terms of traffic volumes and the very real possibility of finding livestock on the road. All of Lesotho's passes are subject to winter snowfalls to varying degrees.

The pass offers very good elevated views of sections of the Katse Dam. It gives access to two airports - Katse Airport at the southern end and Seshutes airport at the northern end.

Naauwpoort is a minor but very scenic poort located just off the R24, a regional road which connects Rustenburg in the North West province to Krugersdorp in Gauteng. It is relatively close to the Olifantsnek Dam (21 km) and to Magaliesburg, which is 26 km away. The gravel road is in a good condition and appears to be regularly maintained, but an all-wheel-drive vehicle might be required in very wet weather. Like most poorts, Naauwpoort is generally quite flat and only has a height difference of 59 metres. There are 17 bends, corners and curves on the pass, but, other than one sharp corner of 90 degrees, most of these are very shallow and will not cause any problems, provided that you stick to a speed of 60 kph or less.

 

This fairly long pass runs along the north-south axis on a gravel road which forms the longer and arguably more scenic route along the southern side of the Quthing River. This route ultimately intersects with the A4 main tarred road a little further from the northern end of the pass.

It contains 82 bends, corners and curves within its 10.4 km length, which equates to 1 corner every 126 metres. With a summit altitude of 2532m it is almost as high as most of the South African high altitude passes and displays an altitude variance of 373m. The unusual vertical profile shows a classic profile up to the 7.7 km point, after which there is a gentle undulating climb of almost 3 km.

The steepest parts occur between the summit (4.5 km mark) and the 6.8 km point, where you will experience gradients as steep as 1:6. This pass will be very tricky in heavy rain or snow conditions. This route would be best driven ina high clearance vehicle and preferably in a 4WD vehicle.

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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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