This relatively unknown pass runs along the east-west axis between Wakkerstroom in the west and the farming areas around Paulpietersburg in the east. With a summit height of 1925m it settles in as the 51st highest altitude pass in South Africa. Although the pass is technically fairly easy, the real reason to head out onto this big gravel traverse is to enjoy the exceptionally attractive scenery of rolling grasslands, dotted with green clad koppies, wide valleys, tumbling streams filled with trout and a general ambience of country tranquillity.
The pass contains 23 bends corners and curves within its 11,9 km length. Two of those exceed 90 degrees, but neither is particularly dangerous as this road is well engineered with none of the gradients exceeding 1:9.
Cautionaries for this pass include dense mountain mists, heavy rain, snow on occasion in winter and livestock on the road.
The Stettynskloof Pass is a fascinating drive offering a wide range of interesting features. It's a long pass at 18,3 km and the 245m altitude gain is barely noticeable due to the length of the pass. There are five smaller summit points along the route which present as a series of small passes all joined together along one long road.
Essentially this is a service road for the Breedekloof Irrigation Scheme with the double pipes of the irrigation scheme constantly being in one's view. This is the only detraction from an otherwise visually stunning drive, but to be practical, if the pipeline wasn't built, there wouldn't be a road either. The road mainly remains on the south-eastern side of the Holslootrivier which has carved this deep and rugged kloof through the Stettyn Mountains. It is most unusual for the kloof not to be named after its dominant river.
The road is well maintained by the Worcester Municipality and lies mostly on private land owned by the Dwarsberg Trout Hideaway, which is a large commercial farm, which also offers camping and cottages. So the good news is that if you're a guest of the farm, you may drive the pass. Anyone suffering from acrophobia should not drive this pass.
Besides the excellent camping facilities, the route also offers hikes and mountain biking. There is one particularly attractive hike to a waterfall, described in more detail lower down this page. the kloof also gained some fame when a Shackleton crashed there in 1963.
Burgers Pass is a typical forestry gravel road with a classic midpoint summit. It's just above the national average at 5,7 km and has an altitude variance of 175m, which produces an average gradient of 1:32, but don't be fooled by that statistic as some of the gradients on the eastern side reach 1:5. There are plenty of bends corners and curves to keep drivers busy - 36 of them of which 10 have a turning arc of greater than 90 degrees and 5 of those exceed 150 degrees. There is one very sharp hairpin bend at the 3,8 km mark.
If you enjoy driving through dense forests, then this pass will tick most of the boxes, plus it carries very little traffic, other than forestry vehicles, so you should enjoy peace and quiet. This pass is best driven on a Sunday or public holiday, which will ensure an absence of forestry vehicles.
Cautionaries: This pass is in the very heart of the prime forestry zone around Graskop and Sabie. If you intend driving it in the week, expect forestry vehicles. Remember in forestry areas to always switch your headlights (not your parks) on. In bright sunlight the road is in a constant state of flux changing rapidly between deep shadows and bright sunlight. It takes a second or two for driver's eyes to adjust to these rapid changes, so by having your lights on, it makes you much more visible to other vehicles.
It's much easier approaching this pass from the eastern side, so although we filmed it from the west, the eastern approach is the better option, unless you enjoy navigational challenges.
Flouhoogte is a moderate pass on a gravel road in the Overberg not far from the sleepy town of Stanford. It has a classic vertical profile with a central summit point. There are only four gentle bends on this pass as it climbs 145m to summit at 215m directly opposite the Flouhoogte farmstead, which is where the pass takes its name from.
Translated from Afrikaans it literally means Weak Heights, but as is the case with translations, it can also mean Faint Heights. The latter is the more likely meaning as in the previous century it would have been hard work getting goods up that steep hill using wagons, oxen and mules.
The pass offers wonderful pastoral scenery of cultivated farmlands, with sweeping mountain views on the left, with the ocean sparkling just 25 km away to the right. This pass gives access to Kleinrivier Kloof Pass, Sandy's Glen and Groenkloof passes.
This is without question a bucket list pass and if you're a gravel pass aficionado, then doubly so. After the long flat plains of the Koue Bokkeveld have been traversed, this pass comes as something of an eye opener as the summit is approached and suddenly the whole pass is there winding its way laboriously down the western flank of the big ravine carved out by the perennial Leeurivier in the Southern Cederberg. It ends at a delightful camping spot named Balie's Gat.
This road is not for the faint-hearted as it is single width only and many parts of the road are propped up by some very basic dry packed stone walls. These are more or less in the fashion of Thomas Bain's dry packed walls, but the construction work itself is much more rudimentary.
It takes about 20 minutes to descend the 205 metres over a total of 2,4 km and produces an average gradient of 1:12. The road has serious gradients of up to 1:6, plus it is very bumpy and rocky. Ideally a 4x4 is required and especially the climb back out of the valley is much better in low range. If you're towing a trailer, then low range is a definite requirement. Note that it is a cul-de-sac and the only way out of the valley is the same you enter it.
This fairly easy gravel pass is of moderate length at 5,4 km and displays an altitude variance of 180m. It has 11 bends, corners and curves of which 3 exceed 90 degrees. The pass connects the tarred main road (the R326) in the north in the vicinity of the western side of the Akkedisberg Pass with the main gravel road running along the east-west axis from Stanford to Sandy's Glen Pass.
The road is generally well maintained and is suitable for all vehicles, but like all gravel roads it is subject to damage when it rains hard. The pass makes for a scenic and easy drive offering mountain views and rolling hills mainly covered in wheat and canola as well as some cattle farms. There are a number of excellent guest farms in the immediate area. The other passes close by include Flouhoogte, Akkedisberg, Sandy's Glen and Groenkloof passes.
The pass is named after the small town of Bulembu just inside Swaziland at the southern terminus of the pass. It twists and turns its way through one of Mpumalanga's most beautiful valleys and over some of the oldest mountains on earth. A whole list of attractions make this a bucket list tar pass, which include magnificent scenery, mind boggling geology, a well-engineered road, dense forests and rich mining history. Allow plenty of time to stop at the various tourism points. Any visit to Barberton, should include a traverse of the Saddleback and Bulembu passes to make your visit complete.
The pass contains 124 bends corners and curves within its 26,5 km distance, which equates to a corner every 213 metres! Comply with the 40 kph speed restriction and your trip should go well.
The pass displays an unusual vertical profile with 8 individual summit points, which creates an undulating picture, rather than the usual classic pass profile of up-summit-down. The pass has something of a reputation for fatal accidents, but the frequency has decreased since the road was rebuilt recently.
This attractive gravel pass of 11,8 km length has a classic inverted profile of a pass that drops down into a river valley and rises up the other side. The river in question is the Mkomazi River - a small but powerful river that drains a sizeable portion of the Drakensberg escarpment. The pass forms part of the long and winding Lotheni Road that connects Nottingham Road in the north-east with Underberg and Himeville in the south-west.
Despite being a gravel pass, the road engineering is sound and the gradients never exceed 1:10. The usual gravel road cautionaries apply of wash-board corrugations, ruts, washaways, livestock on the road and loose gravel on the corners. The pass is named after the Bucklands farm over which it traverses and worth noting that a small nature reserve is crossed on the south-western side of the pass, called the Vergelegen Nature Reserve.
In fair weather this pass can be driven in any vehicle.
There are four passes in South Africa containing the word Braam, which is Afrikaans for Bramble. Besides this one there is also a Braambos Pass near Adelaide, as well as a Braamhoek Pass in KZN and another Braamnek in North West Province. It's easy to get confused!
As far as technical driving goes, Braamnek has become a mild pass, as once the new road was built over the neck, most of the bends and steep gradeints were removed when the old road was realigned and rebuilt. It has just 4 very gentle bends and the pass holds no apparent dangers from a design point of view.
However, this is the Eastern Cape, an area notorious for having free roaming livestock on the road. The behaviour of the local drivers is also a concern, as driver behaviour can best be described as erratic. On this road you will find modern cars being driven extremely fast and conversely there will be many very old unroadworthy vehicles crawling along at a snails pace.
Unless you earmark this mass with GPS cordinates, you might easily drive straight over it without realsing you have just driven an official pass.
This fairly long gravel pass on the secondary MR00668 road, measures in at 9,9 km and displays an altitude variance of 229m. It has 13 bends, corners and curves of which only one is fairly sharp at 80 degrees. The pass connects Burgersdorp in the north-west with Jamestown and Dordrecht in the south-east.
It's not a specifically dangerous or technical pass, but like all gravel passes, it can quickly deteriorate in rainy weather and especially after snow. It has an impressive summit altitude of 1853m ASL which classifies it into the second highest group of passes in South Africa. If you enjoy lonely, remote passes then add this one to that list. It ticks the right boxes.
Cautionaries: Loose gravel, ruts, wash-aways, corrugations, livestock on the road, dangerous at night.
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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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