Majubanek (P213)

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Summit views looking south west Summit views looking south west - Photo: Mike Leicester

This is a substantial gravel pass of 8,8 km long that connects the N11 to the north of Laings Nek pass with the R34 near Memel and runs along the SW/NE axis. The pass climbs 266m to summit at 1848m and produces an average gradient of 1:33, but there are some very steep sections at 1:5. We issue the usual KZN gravel pass cautionary of "slippery when wet" as well as the occurrence of frequent mountain mists which can become extremely dangerous when visibility is reduced.

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[Video footage and cover photo by Mike Leicester]

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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:
From Newcastle, drive north towards Volksrust on the N11 over Ingogo Heights and Laings Nek Pass. Turn left onto a gravel road 2 km after the summit of Laings Nek at GPS S27.446713 E29.864291. This is also the eastern starting point of the Majubanek pass.

Hike to the top of MajubaHike to the top of Majuba from the summit of the pass / Photo: RedcoatThe road drops downhill briefly to cross a small river, then ascends gently for the first 1,5 km at an easy gradient, but things change quickly after that as the road climbs steeply towards the 1848m high summit via several bends, but none are very sharp. The summit is reached at the 3,76 km mark. The scenery from the summit is majestic with excellent views of the 2102m high Majuba mountain from the northern perspective. From the summit a road leads off to the left, where access to the Majuba Commerative Camping sites can be gained. From here one can hike or do a horse trail up Majuba to visit the memorial and battle sites dating to 1881.

The descent on the south western side is considerably steeper than the ascent, and it is here that gradients of 1:5 will be encountered. At the 4,8 km mark, a series of S-bends need to be negotiated and speed needs to be reduced through this section. The road follows the course of the Ouhoutspruit down the valley.

The pass ends after 8,8 km at an altitude of 1582m ASL near the farm 'La Belle Esperance'. Continue for a further 36 km where the road joins the R34 just to the east of Memel in the Free State. 

Although small in scope, the battle of Majuba Hill is historically significant for four reasons:

  • It led to the signing of a peace treaty and later the Pretoria Convention, between the British and the reinstated South African Republic, ending the First Boer War.
  • The fire and movement ("vuur en beweeg" in Afrikaans) tactics employed by the Boers, especially Commandant Smit in his final assault on the hill, were years ahead of their time.
  • Coupled with the defeats at Laing's Nek and Schuinshoogte, this third crushing defeat at the hands of the Boers ratified the strength of the Boers in the minds of the British, arguably to have consequences in the Second Anglo-Boer War, when "Remember Majuba" would become a rallying cry.
  • Gen. Joubert viewed the aftermath of the battle and noted that the British rifles were sighted at 400-600 yards when the battle raged at about 50-100 yds as the British officers had not told the troops to alter their weapons and, as a result, they were shooting downhill over the heads of the enemy, who had scant shelter.

Some notable British historians, although not all agree, claim that this defeat marked the beginning of the decline of the British Empire. Since the American Revolution, Great Britain had never signed a treaty on unfavourable terms with anyone and had never lost the final engagements of the war. In every preceding conflict, even if the British suffered a defeat initially, they would retaliate with a decisive victory. The Boers showed that the British were not the invincible foe the world feared. [Para source Wikipedia]

Fact File:

GPS START  S27.446713 E29.864291
GPS SUMMIT S27.466789 E29.839299
GPS END  S27.491963 E29.804541
TIME REQUIRED 20 minutes
SPEED LIMIT 60 - 80 kph
SURFACE Gravel (P213)
DATE FILMED 29.12.2015
NEAREST TOWN Volksrust (13 km)

Route Map:

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From Address:

Route files:

||Click to download: Majubanek (Note - this is .kmz file and can be opened in Google earth and most GPS models)

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