Xuka Drift

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A simple rural lifestyle still exists here A simple rural lifestyle still exists here - Photo: SoulDrifters.com

This is an official pass, marked accordingly on all the government maps. Quite how this minor little dip down over a bridge ever got classified as a pass, is beyond our comprehension, but the reality is that there are at least 50 similar minor dips in roads all over South Africa, which some government official or cartographer decided it was good enough to get an official name.

The 'pass' has a classic inverted profile synonomous with a road that drops down to cross a river and then climbs up the far bank. It is just 1,7 km long, has only bends and a very mild average gradient. Common cautionaries here include livestock on the road and slow local trafiic.

This is a provisional video consisting entirely of Google earth 3D animations, designed to orienteer drivers with the salient features of the pass. This pass will be filmed in real time in the near future. 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: Google Images ]

FULL-SCREEN MODEMODE: Click PLAY, then pass your mouse over the bottom right corner of the video screen. The outline of a square will appear. Clicking on it will toggle Full Screen Mode. Press ESC to return to the original format.

Note: Google Earth software reads the actual topography and ignores roads, cuttings, tunnels, bridges and excavations. The Google Earth vertical-profile animation generates a number of parallax errors, so the profile is only a general guide of what to expect in terms of gradients, distance and elevation. The graph may present some impossible and improbably sharp spikes, which should be ignored.

 Digging into the details:

Getting there: To approach from the north, (as we have produced it) drive along the R61 either from the west (Engcobo) or from the east (Mthatha) and turn south at GPS S31.662595 E28.226608. This intersection is at the Tembia village roughly 22 km east of Engcobo. Once you have turned south, drive for 3,7 km to reach the northern start of the "pass".

To approach from the south, head north-east along the N2 from Idutywa and turn left at GPS S31.978756 E28.354276. Drive north for 38 km passing through a number of tribal villages including KuMjelo, eRhwantsini, Matolweni, Komkhulu, eMahlubeni, Clarkebury, Kumandebe and Mhlopekazi, to reach the southern start of the "pass".

Engcobo snowThe mountains around Engcobo frequently have snow / Photo: Zen


Pass Description: From the northern start the road descends directly into the south at a gradient of 1:20. At the 0,5 km the first of only two bends makes an appearance. It's an easy left hand bend of 30 degrees, which straightens out to line up for a shortest route crossing of the powerful Xuka River. The final drop down to the river has the steepest gardient of 1:12.

The bridge is at 0,8 km mark, roughly halfway along the pass. The ascent up the southern side is more gentle in terms of gradient, where the second bend - a right hander of only 20 degrees, corrects the heading back into the SSE. The pass ends at the 1,7 km point at an altitude of 701m ASL.

The usual gravel road cautionaries apply: Livestock on the road, pedestrians, children, loose gravel on the corners, corrugations, ruts and washaways. If the bridge is flooded, under no corcumstances should you attempt to cross, as this river is powerful enough to carry your vehicle off the bridge.

Fact File:


S31.697418 E28.229263


S31.703934 E28.231696


S31.710973 E28.234601














1,7 km




2 minutes


60 kph








Engcobo (27 km)

Route Map:

Use these powerful features to get the best use out of the map:

  • Choose either Map View or Satellite View (overlaid on the map detail.)
  • Zoom in and out; rotate in any direction.
  • Use the Get Route'feature (directly beneath the map): type in your address to get a personalised route straight from where you are to the pass, with time and distance included.
  • Detailed written and printable directions.
  • Drag the 'little orange man' icon onto the pass for a complete 360° tiltable "street view".

From Address:

Route files:

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

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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.

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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