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Mountain Passes

This tar road pass is located near Prieska in the Northern Cape, and follows a loop in the Orange River known locally as “Wonderdraai” (which translates as “amazing corner”). This horseshoe-shaped bend, together with its surroundings, creates an optical illusion that the river is flowing uphill. The pass itself gains just 77 metres in height and has a total of 9 corners, only one of which exceeds an angle of 90 degrees. The road is in a fairly good condition, with just a few minor potholes, and can be driven in any vehicle and in all weather conditions.

The pass is situated only about 22 km from the town on a good tarred road, so it is worth making a slight detour to get to if you are in the area. Speak to one of the locals and ask about the location of the best viewpoint for the Wonderdraai phenomenon.

This official pass on the tarred B24 route is of a very minor nature. It connects a number of villages in the north with the town of Mafeteng about 8 km to the south. It only has 3 minor bends and displays an altitude variance of just 35m with a pleasant average gradient of 1:51.

The usual urban Lesotho cautionaries apply of children and livestock on the road.


 

Vuilnek is located on a minor gravel road to the south-west of Olifantshoek in the Northern Cape, not too far off the N14 national highway towards Upington. This is the area where the Langeberg Rebellion took place in 1897, when the Tswana people rose up in arms to fight for their independence. The road is plagued by severe corrugations, but otherwise is in a fairly good condition and can be driven in any vehicle.

Located in the intermediate zone between the Green Kalahari and the true semi-desert, the pass is not particularly scenic, but it does offer some excellent views over the flat plains that abound in this region. It is not known how this pass obtained its unusual name, which means “Dirty Neck”.

This lovely pass has two unusual features. Firstly its indigenous name is very long at 21 letters and secondly it has the English name of God Help Me Pass, which conjures up instant images of fear and alarm. The reality is that today's version of the pass is actually quite easy to traverse along the tarred A3 main route.

The pass is one of several big passes on the A3 between Maseru and Mohale. It has a summit height of 2332m and like most passes in Lesotho is subject to winter snowfalls and ice on the road. It has 31 bends, corners and curves of which 8 are greater than 90 degrees and of those 8 there are 4 bends of 180 degrees.

 

How to use the map:

1. Drag and/or zoom to locate your area of interest.
2. Hover your cursor over the relevant icon till the pass name appears. Click once to open the text balloon.
3. To go directly to a pass, simply click on the blue hyperlink in the text balloon.
4. Red markers are for gravel passes and/or jeep tracks.
5. Black markers are for tarred or concreted passes.

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This gravel poort is located on a farm road to the west of Potchefstroom. Many maps do not show this as a public road, but it is accessible, although very difficult to find. The origins of the name have been lost in the mists of time and one can only speculate as to how it came about, but it is an official pass and it is marked on the 1:50000 maps. It surely must be a contender for the title of “most unusual pass name”!

The road itself is in a fairly good condition, although it should not be driven in anything less than a high-clearance vehicle or a 4x4 after heavy rain. The poort is not particularly beautiful and is completely off the beaten track, so only traverse this route if you really feel the need; MPSA drives and films this type of pass so that you don’t have to!

This is another major pass in Lesotho located on the A4 main route in the south-western corner of the Mountain Kingdom. It's long at 13.4 km and climbs 576 vertical metres producing some stiff gradients of 1:6. It connects Mount Moorosi with Qacha's Nek and a string of smaller villages along the way.

The pass has 61 bends, corners and curves to contend with of which only 2 are greater than 90 degrees and one of those is a 160 degree hairpin at the 4.3 km mark (measured from the western start). With a summit height of 2464m you can expect snow and ice on this pass on a regular basis.

The pass is tarred and under normal conditions is quite safe for any vehicle.

Schuilkrans Pass is a gravelled pass located in the south-eastern Free State, near the little town of Marquard. Considering that this is a minor farm road, it is in a surprisingly good condition, except for corrugations in some sections. It can be driven in any vehicle, although in very wet weather it could get quite slippery.

The eastern Free State is renowned for its scenic beauty and the area around the pass is no exception, so it is worth the effort required to get there. There are 12 bends, curves and corners on the pass, 3 of which exceed a turning radius of 120 degrees. One of these is a very sharp hairpin of 160 degrees.

 

There is not much left of the old Van Ryneveld's Pass with most of it being either under the surface of the new road or under the sparkling waters of the Nqweba Dam. The 'new' pass which forms part of the R63 route, is just  2.1 km long and only displays an altitude variance of 40m. What this little pass lacks in vital statistics, it more than makes up in points of interest and lovely scenery.

You will be able to enjoy shady picnic spots, views over the dam, close up views of the old pass (built by Andrew Bain), a visit to the Gideon Scheepers memorial and gain access to the Camdeboo National Park. Andrew Bain started his road building career in Graaff Reinet where he first worked as a saddler and later gained experience as a road builder. His famous son, Thomas Bain was born here.

Witnek is a very minor gravel pass located approximately halfway between the towns of Paul Roux and Rosendal in the Eastern Free State highlands. The name is derived from the exposed slabs of white and light-brown sandstone which are prominently visible all around the summit area of the pass. The road is in a reasonable condition, although the surface is quite badly rutted and covered with small sharp stones. It can be driven in any vehicle, but a high clearance vehicle fitted with all terrain tyres is recommended. In wet weather, a 4x4 would probably be required.

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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.
 

Master Orientation Map

Master Orientation Map 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.

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