A steep and winding gravel pass over the Kraaiberg mountain which forms the southern barrier to the Biedouw Valley. The road connects the Biedouw Valley with the higher altitude farms to the south and east. Some of the gradients are steep and there are three hairpin bends to contend with. We would not recommend driving this pass in a normal car, but a high clearance 'bakkie' will manage, except in very wet weather. There are long sections on this pass which are very stony, which will present problems for low clearance cars.
This week we bring you an interesting tale of a wild town that once existed deep in the mountains - of fortunes and misfortunes - of shipwrecks and a city that failed spectacularly right here in South Africa.
Bringing this story to life came from investigating a pass submitted by one of our stalwart supporters from Johannesburg - Mr. Mike Leicester - who told us about a remote gravel track up the mountains in Mpumalanga, in close proximity to the richest gold mine in the world (Sheba) and only attainable in a high clearance, low-range 4x4.
There at the top of the mountain, lie the ruins of Eureka City. The sinking of the Drummond Castle off Ushant in France inextricably links itself to the lost city of Eureka.
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Let it not be said that we dont cover every mountain pass in South Africa! Over the past three years we have had many requests from pass fans as to exactly where the fabled Donkies Pass is. This week we unveil the first of two passes named after the asses. It took a lot of research finding these two passes, but thanks to the meticulous work done by one of our readers, Brits Steyn, who submitted an exceptionally well researched list of passes in KZN and Mpumalanga, we are able to accurately pinpoint these two 'off the beaten track' passes.
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Located in the remote high mountain plateau north of Beaufort West and approximately midway between the Thomas Bain built Molteno and De Jager passes, the Trapvoet Pass winds its way steeply down a mountain and into a small canyon carved out by a river over the millenia. This road is long and rough and we don't recommend anyone attempting this one without a 4x4 with good ground clearance and low range. Part of the route crosses private property with locked farm gates. You will need to first obtain permission from the land owner. Contact details are posted lower down on this page.
The Bedrogfontein 4x4 trail between the Kabouga and Darlington areas of the Addo Elephant National Park provides breathtaking views and is rich in history. This route was the scene of fierce battles between the British and Boer troops during the Anglo-Boer war. Be sure to visit the cottage where Jan Smuts and his soldiers stayed and where he was in a coma after eating cycad seeds. Rock art paintings are found scattered throughout the area. The route travels through a variety of vegetation types, from riverine thicket, to afromontane forest, to fynbos on the peaks and into the arid Nama-Karoo of the Darlington area. This is strictly a 4x4 route and requires a vehicle with good ground clearance and low range. Bedrogfontein translates into Fraud Fountain. The route may only be driven from east to west.
This historical gravel road pass was built between 1867 and 1869. It's a long pass at almost 17 km and it has a substantial altitude variance of 383m which produces a fairly mild average gradient of 1:44, but the vast majority of the steeper gradients occur on the eastern side of the pass, where there are some steep sections at 1:5.
Fortunately it seldom rains here, so the road is generally quite safe for non 4WD vehicles. The scenery along which the road traverses is exceptionally dramatic with towering rock faces and a generally bone-dry river bed in view most of the time. This road is not suitable for cars lacking good ground clearance. This pass should be viewed in tandem with the Wildeperdehoek Pass as they are inseparably linked, both geographically and historically.
The Gysmanshoek Pass follows an historical ox wagon route dating back to the mid 1700's. This is an old gravel pass through a natural cleft in the Langeberg Mountains between Heidelberg in the South and the Little Karoo/ Ladismith area in the North. It is driveable in a normal car in good weather, but if it's been raining, a 4x4 will be a better option. Depending on the weather, things can get tricky on this pass. Not too many people have travelled this delightfully scenic and off the beaten track, pass. It was originally named Hudson's Pass after the local magistrate.
The Winkelhaak Road is a 37 km gravel farm road which meanders through the Koue Bokkeveld north of Ceres between the many rivers, dams and lakes of this farming area, specialising in onions and potatoes. The scenery is richly diverse with the dominance of the rugged mountain-scape being omnipresent.
This little known, but none the less spectacular, 4x4 route in the Breede River Valley is found just outside the major Boland town of Worcester. (At the time of filming the owner indicated the farm was for sale, so the continued existence of this route might be in jeopardy.)
Note: This is a strictly 4x4 route.
Ed note: This trail has been officially closed: 1st December, 2015
The relatively unknown Joubertspoort Pass is an 11.8km farm road, close to Montagu in the Western Cape, but well worth exploring. It takes you past quaint little farm labourers' cottages and green pastures to the head of the poort from where it is 4x4 only territory up a steep jeep track. Once you reach the last farm, a rough jeep track winds up into the mountains and exits about halfway up the famous Ouberg Pass. This last section is strictly for 4x4 vehicles only --- good ground clearance and low range is essential! It provides magnicicent views in complete tranquility and isolation. It is best tackled with a minimum of two vehicles.
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.