Bruintjieshoogte (R63)

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The imposing town hall in nearby Somerset East The imposing town hall in nearby Somerset East - Photo: Johan Nel

This pass is located on the tarred R63 between Somerset East and Pearston. Travelling eastwards, the pass starts approximately 20 km east of Pearston. Most of the R63 traverses fairly flat terrain just to the south of a long line of mountains. Bruintjieshoogte is the first significant change in altitude after leaving Graaff Reinet on this road. This region is rich in game farms as can be evidenced by the many kilometres of game fencing on either side of the road and game spotting is almost guaranteed - from the nimble springbok to the majestic kudu - the latter being able to effortlessly scale fences and is a major deterrent to night driving in the Eastern Cape.

Scroll down to view the map & video. This video consists entirely of Google Earth animations and serves to orienteer first time drivers of this pass. 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 photograph courtesy of Dou Pienaar]

FULL-SCREEN MODE: 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: Head east on the R63 tarred route from Pearston towards Somerset East. The western start of the pass commences 22km east of Pearston.

Starting at the foot of the pass at an altitude of 875m ASL the road starts ascending at a gradient of 1:14. On a clear day almost all of the ascent can be seen winding its way along the mountainside, by the remnants of the cutting's scars. The road curves gently towards the left in a wide bend.

Lord Charles SomersetLord Charles SomersetAt the 2,3 km point, the corners and curves begin. There are three consecutive double S bends that wind in and out of the ravines. The gradients actually ease off a bit here to around 1:18 and at the 3,3 km point, the road is virtually level for a short distance and it then starts climbing again  for another 1 km to reach the summit point at the 4,3 km mark. There is one viewsite about halfway along the western ascent, but it is dangerous for east-bound traffic to access as it requires crossing double barrier lines. This viewsite is perfect for west-bound travellers.

In 1777, Robert Jacob Gordon, in his journal, wrote that the pass was named after "a certain de Bruin" - there were several trekboere living and farming in the area at the time and the name changed to suit the local vernacular over time.

At the summit one gets excellent views looking westwards towards Pearston. This little Eastern Cape town is looking tired and neglected with lots of litter lying about and many inhabitants in a state of obvious poverty. There is a filling station anda few basic shops as well as a bank along the main road.

Once over the summit, one gets sweeping views to the east towards Somerset East. The eastern descent is 3,2 km in length and is virtually arrow straight with a gradient of around 1:20.

In nearby Somerset East there is plenty to see and do - amongst others the fabulous Walter Batiss Art Museum which is housed in the old officers mess - a building once run as a private hotel by the Batiss family. The controversial Slachters Nek Rebellion exhibition is well worth visiting, and in November a walk down the historic Paulet Street with its roses in bloom will enchant. Also worth visiting are the Glen Avon Falls just outside the town.

Fact File:


S32.674155 E25.315714


S32.687601 E25.351638


S32.693053 E25.382907














7,5 km




8 minutes


60/80/100 kph


Tar (R63)






Somerset East (9km)

Route Map:

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From Address:

Route files:

||Click to download: Bruintjieshoogte (R63) (Note - This is a .kmz file which can be opened in Google Earth and most GPS software systems)

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