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Buwani Pass

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Grassy hills dotted with huts Grassy hills dotted with huts - Photo: Alib

This is another remote and difficult to get to old Transkei pass, which is 4,4 km long, displays an altitude variance of 408m and generates an average gradient of 1:11 making it amongst the steepest in the whole country. Add a high rainfall area, livestock on the roads, a rough and rutted surface with spectacular views of the Tina and Umzimvubu rivers, you have a wonderful recipe for an adventure pass that will set you into a small elite group of people that have ever driven into this remote area. Even the 1:50,000 government maps don't record this pass, so it's a fairly new one and only visible on Google Earth.

The pass has 45 bends corners and curves, including one hairpin and six corners which exceed 90 degrees radius. The views are breathtaking and include thatched huts that dot the hillsides, with imopressive views over the deeply incised hills smothered in grassland and pockets of indigenous forest.

We issue our standard cautionary for all Eastern Cape rural roads, and especially those in the old Transkei area: We recommend driving this road in a small convoy of two to three vehicles in case of emergency. Be aware of personal safety at all times and make sure you leave the nearest town with full fuel tanks and that your vehicle is serviced and reliable.

This is a provisional video consisting entirely of Google Earth 3D animations, designed to orienteer first time drivers with the salient features of the pass. Scroll down to view the map & video. It is recommended to watch this video in HD. (Click on the "quality" button on the lower taskbar of the video screen and select 720HD.) Wait a few seconds for the video to display..... 

[Video cover photo - Hakunamatata]

FULL SCREEN MODE: Click PLAY, then pass your mouse cursor of the bottom right hand corner of your video screen. The outline of a rectangle will appear. Clicking on it will toggle full screen mode. Press the ESC key to return to the original format.

Note: Google earth software reads the actual topography and ignores roads, cuttings, tunnels, bridges and excavations. The vertical profile animation can generate a number of parallax errors, so the profile is only a general guide as what to expect in terms of gradients, distances and elevation. The graph may produce some improbable and impossibly sharp spikes, which should be ignored.


Digging into the details

Getting there: This pass is a dead-end and therefore can only be approached from the north. However, there are two approach options. We recommend the more easterly option approaching via the Gwangxu Pass, which is far more scenic than the other westerly option which is through many kilometres of rural suburbia, with tarred roads, multiple traffic circles and many minibus taxis.

 Rural Eastern CapeLush scenery and dwellings / Photo: IstockPhoto

Recommended approach: For those wanting to approach from the north east via the Gwangxu Pass, head west on the N2 from Mount Ayliff for 8 km and turn left (south) at GPS S30.822910 E29.254479 onto the gravel road to Tabankulu. Head south for 17 km remaining on the main road to arrive in Tabankulu (GPS S30.958174 E29.303086). This is a sizable town where most provisions and fuel are available. Continue heading south through the town and as you exit the town there is a prominent fork at S30.968406 E29.301475. Make sure you turn right here onto the smaller road. Drive through two back to back villages along a winding road that heads west amongst the hills for 3,5 km to arrive at the northern start of the Gwangxu Pass, which is 30 km long. Please take the hyperlink and review this pass before driving it.

Once you reach the southern end of the Gwangxu Pass, continue on the road for 5 km (which is currently undergoing tarring (2018), heading south-west and turn left at the villages of Mandiliva (on the left) and Sidakeni on the right. Make a note of this waypoint as its easy to miss this turn-off - GPS S31.126273 E29.171599. Drive in a southerly direction for 4,4 km through the village of KuNyongwane where you will arrive at 4 way intersection at GPS S31.159959 E29.158700, where you must turn  left.

ConfluenceThe confluence / Photo: Tracks4Africa

The road now winds along the edge of a deep ravine for 4,5 km to arrive at Y-junction at GPS S31.166218 E29.196806. Keep right at this fork as the road sweeps through a double set of big S-curves for 2,5 km where you will see and intersection with a road leading away to your left. Ignore this and continue straight on for 5 km through the villages of Koloni and Mlaza where you will arrive at another Y-junction at GPS S31.226670 E29.206460 where you must keep right. After 700m there is yet another fork at GPS S31.231374 E29.201758 where you must also keep right. Drive in a westerly direction for another 1,6 km where you will see an intersection with a road heading away to your left. This is the northern start of the Buwani Pass at GPS S31.229547 E29.188547.

To approach from the west (not recommended), head south on the N2 from Mount Frere for 6 km, and turn onto a tar road towards the south-east at GPS S30.960508 E28.959471. This road has many traffic circles, so the going is a bit slow. Remain on this road for 12 km, ignoring all side roads. You will arrive at a Y-junction at GPS S31.010200 E29.042636 At this point the tar ends and the gravel section commences. Keep right here and remain on the bigger road. This might change in the near future as this entire road is currently being upgraded and tarred.

Tina Falls CataractCataract above Tina Falls / Photo: Tracks4Africa

The road heads due south through the villages of Notanaza, Bheja and Tsolo where the tar starts again after 12,5 km. The heading remains into the south for the next 6 km where the tar makes an appearance once more and the multitude of traffic islands start appearing again as endless villages spread out along both sides of the road. The last traffic island at KwaNodali village is at GPS S31.129742 E29.138576. Shortly after this the road sweeps towards the east (left) following the northern ridge of a small valley towards the village of Sidakeni, where the tar once again ends. Turn right at at the 4 way intersection. Make a note of this waypoint as its easy to miss this turn-off - GPS S31.126273 E29.171599. (From this intersection the directions are the same as the north-eastern approach and repeated below) Drive in a southerly direction for 4,4 km through the village of KuNyongwane where you will arrive at 4 way intersection at GPS S31.159959 E29.158700, where you must turn  left.

The road now winds along the edge of a deep ravine for 4,5 km to arrive at Y-junction at GPS S31.166218 E29.196806. Keep right at this fork as the road sweeps through a double set of big S-curves for 2,5 km where you will see and intersection with a road leading away to your left. Ignore this and continue straight on for 5 km through the villages of Koloni and Mlaza where you will arrive at another Y-junction at GPS S31.226670 E29.206460 where you must keep right. After 700m there is yet another fork at GPS S31.231374 E29.201758 where you must also keep right. Drive in a westerly direction for another 1,6 km where you will see an intersection with a road heading away to your left. This is the northern start of the Buwani Pass at GPS S31.229547 E29.188547.  

Transkei villageTranquility on the access roads / Photo: Alib

Pass Description: From the northern start of the Buwani Pass the road begins descending gently into the south-east for 300m towards a small stream and turns sharply through a 120 degree right hand bend. It then skirts the next ridge via a wide left hand curve, which gets ever tighter in radius, so keep your speed down as the sharp left hander quickly reveals another very sharp right hand bend of 150 degrees as the second side stream is crossed.

Next up is a big and wide angled left hand curve which follows the southern side of the stream and skirts the northern side of the peak, crossing the stream at the 1,8 km mark. The heading changes more into the south and remains on the western side of the river.

At the 1,4 km mark the road reaches the lip of the big drop down towards the Tina River valley. The road kinks through 90 degrees via a sharp right hand bend, and the gradient steepens to 1:7. With the direction into the south-west, the road descends consistently down the western side of the valley until the 2,8 km mark, where there is a very tight left hand hairpin of 170 degrees. The original road took the corner a little higher up, but the gradient was so steep that many cars got into trouble on this bend, so the road builders moved the corner about 200m  further, increased the the tightness, but decreased the gradient, making the corner much safer now. This "fix" can be clearly seen on the animated fly-past.

Traditional hutTranskei traditional mud and thatch hut / Photo: Tracks4Africa

The road now heads into the north-east until the 2,9 km mark, where it curves through a wide right hand bend all the way back into the south-west. The descent gradient is remarkably even throughout this pass and was obviously pegged by a good engineer. Along this section you will enjoy good views of the Tina River dead ahead.

The final sharp left hand bend of 100 degrees is encountered at the 4,2 km point, whereafter there is a short descent towards the crossing of the little river that has been your companion all the way from the start. The bridge marks the southern end of the pass at the 4,4 km point at an altitude of 257m ASL. The Tina River forms a confluence with the Umzimvubu River 2,5 kms downstream.

There is another equally attractive pass (the Dungu Pass) just a few kilometres further to the east, which is our recommended route to ascend back up to the same road that you used to get to the northern starting point. It makes a perfect circular drive and if you include the Gwangxu and Mzintlava passes, you will have a day of gravel pass driving that is unlikely to be equalled anywhere else in the Eastern Cape. 


 

 Fact File:

GPS   START

S31.229547 E29.188547

GPS   SUMMIT

S31.231128 E29.190676

GPS   END

S31.252976 E29.182101

AVE   GRADIENT

1:11

MAX   GRADIENT

1:6

ELEVATION  START

663m

ELEVATION  SUMMIT

665m

ELEVATION   END

257m

HEIGHT   GAIN/LOSS

408m

DISTANCE

4,4 km

DIRECTION - TRAVEL

South

TIME   REQUIRED

15 minutes 

SPEED   LIMIT

60 kph

SURFACE

Gravel

DATE FILMED

14.09.2018

TEMPERATURE

20C 

NEAREST   TOWN

Mount Frere (59 km)


Route Map:

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From Address:


Route files:

||Click to download: Buwani Pass (Note - This is a .kmz file which can be opened in Google earth and most GPS software)

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Mountain Passes South Africa is a website dedicated to the research, documentation, photographing and filming of the mountain passes of South Africa.
 

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