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The Northern Cape

Here is a mountain pass at the outer edge of the scale. Most people would take one look at the state of the road surface and back off completely, but for the few hardy souls with a sense of adventure percolating in their veins, this is one of those extreme passes that need to be ticked off the list.

This is a brutally tough dead-end road, packed with large rocks and very steep gradients and provides access to a sandy bend in the Orange River about 36 km ESE (as the crow flies) from Vioolsdrif. You need to be experienced for this one and preferably drive in a group with full recovery equipment on hand.

Expect soft sand, sharp rocks and corrugations and don't be in a hurry. The road is a dead end and you have to retrace your route back to the start, when youre done enjoying the solitude of the river and the desert. This one is beyond a road less travelled.

This is another of those Northern Cape passes, which leaves one wondering how this ever became an official pass, as there is really not much to it all with an altitude variance of only 16m and an average gradient of 1:150, it's hardly going to get the adrenaline flowing. The countryside is however, well worth any distance you will have travelled getting there and offers space, tranquility and the most wonderful sense of timelessness that only the Karoo can offer. In addition this is the perfect area to test your navigation skills as many of the intersections are unmarked, so getting lost here is a piece of cake.

Stop next to a windmill under the shade of a thorn tree and allow the Rooihoogte to sink into your soul.

This smallish pass of 2.8 km in length lies a few kilometers south of Sutherland in the Northern Cape on the tarred R356 route. It is named after the only farm in the kloof, which is located on the left hand side (east) of the road towards the northern end of the kloof next to a small stream. This is not a major pass, but it has a fair altitude gain and few gentle turns to compliment the scenery in the kloof. It's a fairly safe road with a good track record. If it is snowing, the usual cautionaries for snow driving apply.

This fairly minor poort is located approximately 30 km north-east of Sutherland and 75 km south-west of Fraserburg in the Northern Cape. In other words, more or less in the middle of nowhere! The 6 km long poort is gravel and is designated as the R356. It is generally maintained to a good standard and summits at 1487m ASL.

 

 

On most maps, Sebico Pass is designated as a public road, but it is obvious when you arrive at the location that the traverse is across privately-owned land. We cannot discover any clues as to how this pass got its name. On the official 1:50000 topographical maps, the name is spelled as “Sebiko Pass”, with a “k”, but we can find no other references on the internet with this spelling. It is situated about 40 km south-east of Britstown, a small town located at the intersection of the N10 and the N12 in the Northern Cape. The “road” is nothing more than a rough track, and should not be attempted without a 4x4 vehicle. Although difficult to find and with potential permission issues, it is worth the effort if you are an avid pass-chaser, off-road enthusiast or adventure motorcyclist.

 

This steep gravel pass traverses the farm with the unusual name of Bloedsmaak (The taste of blood) and climbs 185m over 2 kms to summit at 695m ASL producing a stiff gradient of 1:5 on the steeper sections. The locals only refer to this pass as the Bloedsmaak Pass (or more poetically in the unique style of the Namaqualanders) - Bloedsmaak se Hoog. Ask them about Skuinshoogte and you will get a negative response. The condition of the road is generally quite good and it should be noted that there are two farm gates to open and close. This pass will need to be traversed by anyone intending to drive the Langkloof Pass, which starts very close to where this pass ends. The pass is located about 12 km east of Garies on a minor gravel road - the P2943. It is suitable for all vehicles, although in very wet weather it could be problematic for non 4WD vehciles near the summit.

This off the beaten track gravel pass is part of several gravel passes located along the gravel road between the N7 at Kharkams and Hondeklipbaai. The 5,1 km long pass runs along the NE-SW axis along the flank of a large mountain ridge, from which the pass takes it's name. The pass is not difficult in terms of gradients and bends but the road surface can be rough, depending on recent rainfall, which in this part of the Northern Cape, is a rare occurence. The average gradient is a mild 1:27, with the steepest sections panning out at 1:10 within the final kilometre near the summit. The pass connects the tiny village of Spoegrivier with Hondeklipbaai at the coast.

Although a 4WD vehicle is not necessary, high clearance is important. This road is not suitable for normal cars.

This smallish gravel pass lies between the Bakenshoogte and Komsberg passes on a gravel road (P2243) which forms an eastern loop off the R354 between Matjiesfontein and Sutherland. The pass is straightforward and has only a single, right hand S-bend near the summit. It ascends 176m in altitude to summit at 1236m, producing an average gradient of 1:16 and a maximum gradient of 1:14. Smoushoogte translates into Trader's Heights.

The usual gravel road cautionaries apply of loose gravel on corners, corrugations and a possibility of picking up a puncture. The P2243 is one of the best gravel roads in the region to see the spring flower explosion between August and September.

This remote gravel poort is just under 4 km long and lies in the heart of the Karoo with Sutherland about 50 km to the south and Williston 80 km to the north-east. The road serves to connect the local farming community. It only gains 69 meters in altitude to produce an average gradient of a very easy 1:55 with the steeper sections closer to the summit being at 1:10.

There are two big farms that lie to the north of the road - Snyders Post and Snyders Poort. The pass takes its name from the latter farm.

The geology is stunning as the poort is entered from the south and the cuttings made for the road reveal a natural history of the rock strata. Besides the interesting geology, this is also a very remote road that carries very little traffic, so you will be able to enjoy a sense of solitude, but be well prepared and carry enough fuel, a puncture repair kit and sundry tools in case of a breakdown - you could have a long wait. There is no cellphone reception.

The government administrators of the Northern Cape were very good at the job of naming passes and poorts in an official capacity. This one, although an official 'poort' has absolutely no resemblance to the definition of a poort nor a pass. It is nothing more than a single gentle bend on an otherwise fairly flat, tarred road in the Northern Cape just north-east of Williston. The poort is 3,2 km long and displays an altitude variance of only 32m, which converts into an average gradient of 1:100.

Unless you are a serious pass chaser hell bent on ticking every pass and poort off your list, this one is completely unforgettable. What the Soutpanspoort lacks in scenery and excitement, the nearby town of Williston, more than compensates for.

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Mountain Passes South Africa

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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