Ceres has an abundance of passes connecting it to the outside world. One of the oldest is the Hottentotskloof Pass, which was the original wagon route between Cape Town and the Karoo through Ceres, long before the N1 was thought about. Together with the Karoopoort these two passes carried considerable wagon traffic to the northern parts of South Africa. The modern pass we drive on today does not follow the original wagon route, which is slightly further south, a little lower down the slope. The careful observer will be able to trace the old road and it is clearly visible on Google Earth, but no longer publicly accessible.
Houw Hoek Pass was built shortly after Sir Lowry's Pass was completed in 1833. The distance between the two passes is approximately 25km and covers some beautiful mountainous terrain. This middle section was known as Coles Pass - so named after the very same Sir Lowry Cole. The name Houw Hoek translates into 'Hold Corner' and is derived from the need to hold back, or slow down the ox-wagons whilst negotiating the steep descent down the pass.
This lovely, old (and very well designed) pass, which is also known as the Railway Pass, is unfortunately only suitable for 4WD vehicles with good ground clearance. There were a total of four passes built down the mountainside since the 1700's. This was the third road towards the Overberg and was constructed in 1904 to compliment the railway line. The line chosen was very cleverly done allowing for a major climb to take place at very comfortable gradients. The old pass is in a pictureque setting as it follows the course of the Jakkals River, which is a tributary of the Bot River. The Jakkalsrivier shares the narrow ravine with the road and the railway line. Sections of the pass falls within or close to, the Houw Hoek Nature Reserve.
IMPORTANT CAUTIONARY (27th May, 2019): The squatter camp at the eastern foot of the pass has now sprawled right over the old road that leads into Botrivier. Our advice is to not venture through the camp as your life and property could be at risk (muggings, stonings, high-jackings). If you want to drive the old pass, please do a U Turn at the first opportunity that you see any sign of squatters and drive back up to the top.
This fairly steep gravel pass lies on the east/west axis on the southern side of the Swartberg Mountains and connects the Kruisrivier farming area in the west with the Swartberg Private Game Lodge at the eastern end of the pass. Continuing eastwards along this road (P363) will bring you to the foot of the Swartberg Pass as well as ultimately to the Cango Caves.
At the 3.2 km the pass is well below the national average and the altitude variance is a mere 98m, but it is the magnificent scenery which makes this one of those back road passes well worth detouring to travel.
The 13,4 km long Huisrivier pass lies on the R62 between two valleys in the Little Karoo between the towns of Ladismith in the west and Calitzdorp in the east. It has 39 bends,corners and curves packed into that distance, which requires vigilant driving. Not only is this a fairly long pass, but it has many sharp corners, steep gradients and exceptionally attractive scenery. Many lovely rest areas have been provided by the road builders. The perfectly banked corners will be a joy to ride on a motorcycle.
This pass is unique in that its geology is unusually unstable and several pioneering engineering techniques had to be applied to successfully build a safe all-weather pass. The pass, which includes three river crossings, is not particularly steep, where the engineers have managed to limit the speepest gradients to a fairly comfortable 1:12. The pass is suitable for all vehicles with the only natural dangers being rockfalls, but the substantial catch walls appear to be taking care of that as well. The road carries heavy trucking traffic and overtaking is sometimes difficult. Patience is required if you get stuck behind a slow moving truck.
This short and fairly steep gravel pass is located on an isolated farm access road a few kilometers to the east of Redelinghuys in the Sandveld region. This pass is mainly used by 4x4 enthusiasts to access the Jakkalskloof 4x4 route - a tough and tricky route down steep inclines and through deep sand. The road is a dead-end, but a normal car will mange the pass to the farm house at the summit without any problems, but cars with low ground clearance might have some issues.
The Jan Muller Pass is a short, steep pass, with a descent and ascent over the Gouritz River via a low level concrete bridge, which is also named after Jan Muller. It's located on the R327 connecting Van Wyksdorp with Herbertsdale.This rugged gravel road pass is fairly short at 3,6 km and descends very steeply down the western side, then ascends in a series of tight switchbacks after crossing the Gouritz River at an altitude of just 68m ASL.
The western ascent is very steep with gradients as steep as 1:5, but the road builders have concrete-stripped this section allowing for good traction. It makes the road driveable in a normal car but due to the rough nature of the concrete surface most vehicles will need to remain in 1st gear if driving the pass in the reverse direction, until western summit is reached.
The Jan Phillips Mountain Road (or more correctly Jan Phillips Bergpad) runs along the eastern flank of the famous Paarlberg Mountain, approximately 3/4 of its height and mainly along the 300m contour - and provides access to the Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve, Meulwater picnic site and a vast number of hiking and mountain bike trails at the summit of the mountain. Jan Phillips was a respected wagon maker in the town in the 1800's. It's a fairly long gravel road of 10,8 km that starts and ends at either end of the town of Paarl.
It's an easy enough drive for any vehicle, but the road is quite narrow in places. If you comply with the 30 kph speed limit (which very few people do) you will not have any problems. Be wary of corrugations, which can easily cause loss of control. We recommend tyre deflation to 1.4 bar before driving this route.
This fairly long gravel road pass connects the Moravian village of Goedverwacht with Bo-Piketberg and is a delight to drive for its exquisite scenery and remote feeling. It lies on the western flank of a big valley formed between two mountain ranges to the west of Piketberg. At the foot of the pass lies the pretty missionary village of Goedverwacht which offers a fascinating look into the region's history. The pass is 8,6 km long and sports an average gradient of 1:16 with a few short sections as steep as 1:5. The pass is not suited to normal cars. We recommend a vehicle with decent ground clearance, especially over the first 2 km near the northern summit. Several internet references quote this pass as being called "Klok se Poort". This is incorrect as Klok se Poort is a hiking trail that ascends the eastern flank of the valley and is not doable in a vehicle.
The relatively unknown Joubertspoort is a 12.8 km farm road, close to Montagu in the Western Cape, and well worth exploring. The route consists of a combination of some rough two spoor track as well as some good quality gravel road. In essence it is a combination of a pass and a poort. Although the average gradient is a mild 1:30 there are one or two short sections in the 4x4 part of this poort which reach gradients as steep as 1:5
This first (northern) section is strictly for 4x4 vehicles only with good ground clearance and low range. It provides magnificent views in complete tranquility and isolation. The southern section takes you past quaint little farm labourers' cottages flanked by green orchards and pastures towards the exit of the poort from where it is a quick drive into Montagu.
Allow about at least an hour to complete the route. Non 4WD vehicles could drive the poort from the south as far as the last farm, then turnaround and retrace the route back to Montagu.
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.
We are as passionate about maps as we are about mountain passes. A good map is a thing of beauty that can transport you into the mists of time or get your sense of adventure churning. It is a place to make discoveries about deserts and seas, mountains and lakes; of roads leading into places you have not been before; a place to pore over holiday destinations or weekend camping trips. A map is your window to the world.