Mpumalanga is rich in natural beauty and what better way to experience this than driving some of the fabulous passes the province has to offer. Rich in forests with fast flowing rivers and multiple waterfalls and major attractions like the Blyde River Canyon, Bourkes Luck Potholes, Pilgrims Rest and the many game reserves, it's no wonder local and foreign tourists alike flock to this region. Often the real gems are the smaller passes tucked away in the backwaters where few people get to. Jaap se Hoogte is one of those passes.
Steenkampsberg Pass is sometimes mistakenly referred to as "De Berg Pass" after the highest peak in the range at an altitude of 2331m. This tarred pass joins Lydenburg in the north-east with the small settlement of Roossenekal in the SSW. It is approximately 30 km to either town. The pass gains 434 vertical meters over 17,1 km producing an average gradient of 1:20. The steepest parts are at 1:7. The scenery along the entire length of the pass is exceptional and well worth any detour you will have made to drive it.
This short tarred pass is an easy one and is located on the R36/R539 between eNtokozweni [Machadadorp] (6km) in the SW and Lydenburg in the NE (70km). It traverses commercial timber plantations and open grasslands and plays host to two historical sites. The pass has an easy average gradient of 1:18 with the steepest section being at 1:11
This poort lies immediately to the North of the Free State town of Clarens. It is on the tarred R712 route between Clarens and Bethlehem. Other than snow from time to time, the pass presents few dangers, but offers lovely scenery of towering sandstone cliffs and tall poplar trees that line the road as you descend into Clarens.
The Rooinek Pass is located approximately 17 km due South of Laingsburg in the Western Cape. The pass is fairly short at 3,15 km. and only gains/loses 73 meters of altitude, giving rise to an average gradient of 1:43. It is statistically a safe pass and has it's steepest gradient at 1:9.
The Potjiesberg Pass is a long pass on the N9 south of Uniondale. It descends from the Karoo plateau to the valley that hosts the R62 route. There are some big descents and motorists should exercise caution on this pass - especially heavy trucks can have braking issues here. The pass is broken up into two distinct sections, with a valley separating the two.
Soutpansnek translates from Afrikaans as 'Salt Pan Neck'. This 7 km tarred pass is located on the R75, about 15 km north of the small Karoo town of Jansenville. The pass has a stiff gradient on its northern side of 1:14, but other than the one sharp bend at the summit, which is well marked, should present no real dangers. The road is suitable for all vehicles. There are several references to this pass also being called the Ravelskloof Pass. This stems from a sign at either end of the pass marked 'RAVELSKLOOF' which is the name of the kloof over which the Soutpansnek Pass traverses. In reality, there is no such pass as the Ravelskloof Pass.
Strangely there are two Soutpansnek Passes on the R75 just 43 km apart. This was always going to cause confusion, so we have labelled the two passes with a suffix to separate them distinctly. This one is the Soutpansnek Pass (Ravelskloof) and the more southern one is the Soutpansnek Pass (Wolwefontein).
Satansnek is a big pass by any standards, as it is almost 17 km long and has an altitude variance of over 500 metres. It traverses the spine of a mountain to connect the Eastern Cape Highlands with the lower valleys near Engcobo. Its most outstanding feature is the Xuka River Canyon, an astonishing gorge which cuts through the mountains and which is visible on the eastern side.
The road is tarred but is badly maintained, so there are numerous potholes. Other hazards include local traffic and livestock. The pass is sometimes closed in winter because of heavy snowfalls, and under these conditions it should be avoided altogether, or only tackled with extreme caution using a 4x4. It is not as well-known as some of the other famous passes in the area, but is worth taking a little bit of extra effort to get to, and should be on any serious pass-chaser’s bucket list.
The Penhoek Pass is a well engineered, high altitude tarred pass forming part of the N6 highway between Queenstown in the south and Jamestown in the north. The 5.6 km long pass traverses through the aptly named Stormberg to assert itself as one of South Africa's dangerous tarred passes. In earlier days (circa 1846) the original pass was known as the Stormberg Pass and featured some impressive retaining walls with very steep drop-offs. Some of the original lines can still be seen on the satellite imagery. Traversing the old pass was a major event, compared to the easy drive over today's version with it's perfectly banked corners, deep cuttings and easy gradients.
The Kareedouw Pass is a modern, well engineered pass which provides a short cut between the N2 near the seaside hamlet of Skuitbaai and the small town of Kareedouw on the R62 in the Langkloof. There are only 7 bends along this pass and all of them are minor.
The pass offers sweeping views of the Tsitsikamma mountains to the left (west) with the green valley on the right dotted with dams and a small triangular shaped forest near the summit area. There are no obvious dangers on this road, other than heavy rainfall and mist which occurs from time to time.
The small town of Kareedouw after which the pass is named lies at the northern end of the pass. The name is of Khoi origin and means "Path of the Karee trees"
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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