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Lying 6th in the string of 'Seven Passes' between George and Knysna, the narrow, gravel Homtini Pass covers 5 km of wonderfully scenic driving, descending to the river from which it takes its name, and ascends up the eastern side to terminate at the Rheenendal Timber Mill. The name is apparently of Khoi origin and means either "mountain honey" or "difficult passage". This pass is also sometimes known as the Goukamma River Pass.

This is the biggest of the passes at 5 km and presents an altitude variance of 153m. You will be kept busy as the driver, as there are 45 bends, corners and curves of which there are 3 corners greater than 120 degrees and i extremely sharp hairpin.

Of the passes on the 7 Passes Road that Thomas Bain built, this was the pass that presented him with the most difficult technical challenges and might well have been the point where his frustration levels boiled over which led to the now famous argument with his brother in law, Adam de Smidt, when the pair disagreed vehemently about the routing of the 7 Passes Road. The family argument eventually led to a 'no speak' scenario for the rest of their living years.

Published in The Western Cape

The Thomas Bain-built "Seven Passes" route between George and Knysna features the Hoogekraal Pass, covering 3 km of breathtakingly beautiful views along its narrow gravel road. It descends to and from the Hoogekraal River, and ends just before the Geelhoutsvlei Timber Mill - another Garden Route location, rooted in the history of the Knysna woodcutters. This pass ends west of the forestry village of Karatara.

Like the Kaaimansgat, Silver River and Touw River passes, this pass has very similar characteristics in terms of distance and altitude variance as well as the classic inverted profile of a pass that descends to a river and rises back up the other side again.

This is the first of 7 passes when driving from west to east which has a bridge wide enough to carry two lanes of traffic. All of the bridges were made from concrete and stone and designed in the Victorian style of the early 1900's. It is only the steel bridge over the Touw River which is different.

 

Published in The Western Cape

The historic "Seven Passes" route between George and Knysna includes 'Kaaimansgat' - a twisting, turning tarred road, close to the town of George, which traverses lushly indigenous forest to this area's famous 'black water' rivers. The road is old, narrow and the tarring is in sub-standard condition, but the beautiful indigenous forests through which it passes more than makes up for this minor inconvenience. The pass has an old bridge (a national monument) worth stopping at. 

Although the pass is fairly short at 2,8 km it has many sharp corners and drivers would be wise to keep their speed below 40 kph. The only safe place to stop as on either side of the bridge where there is limited parking for one or two vehicles.

 

 

Published in The Western Cape

The Kaaiman's River Pass boasts several records. Although a fairly short pass in terms of distance, the curves are extremely sharp and the gradient is steep. The pass connects George in the west with Wilderness in the east and traverses magnificent scenery with steep mountainsides, where the amber coloured waters of the Kaaimans River are crossed via the first curved bridge built in South Africa in 1952. The pass provides perfect views of the famous rail bridge at the mouth of the estuary and plays host to Dolphin Point - a perennial favourite with tourists offering 270 degree views including one of the best panoramas of Widerness beach. When commissioned in 1952 it ended a 70 year period where the Old Cape Road (including the 7 Passes) became much less used.

Published in The Western Cape

The Grootrivier Poort on the R332, was one of the last passes to be built by South Africa's most famous road engineer, Thomas Bain. This masterpiece opened up the seemingly impassable 200 km mountain wilderness of the Baviaanskloof between Willowmore and Patensie.

The poort only has 16 bends,corners and curves with a very mild descent gradient that appears to be flat when driving it. The topography is magnificent as the river and the road follow each other faithfully through the towering cliffs of the poort amongst dense riverine vegetation. The road is generally quite good throught his section and most people drive too fast, which means you see less. Expect to see a range of animals, like kudu, reedbuck, baboons and monkeys - and more so if you drive through early in the morning. As the road was carved out of the mountainsides, it left an open display of the various rock formations, which range from solid Table Mountain sandstone to the unusual pebble conglomerate.

Of the 7 passes and poorts in the Baviaanskloof, there are five which are proper passes and two which are poorts. These are Studtis Poort and the Grootrivierpoort. Poorts are different to passes in that they generally have very easy gradients as they follow the course of a river through a mountain range. They are also notoriously prone to flooding and Thomas Bain famously recorded in his journal: "There are three major headaches for road builders. They are water, water and water". Bain had a singular dislike for building roads through poorts and ironically, whilst he was building the extraordinary Swartberg Pass, the nearby Meiringspoort all but washed away in a devastating flood. Bain was subsequently called in to realign the road at a higher point than the flood level.

If you are new to the Baviaanskloof, we recommend that you first watch the Baviaanskloof Overview and Orientation video clip. 

Published in The Eastern Cape

The Studtis Poort is exceptionally scenic and typical of all poorts, the gradients are very easy as the road essentially remains next to the river for most of it's length. You will be treated to towering mountains with near vertical cliffs and dense riverine vegetation. If you are able to comfortably clear the first river crossing, all of the other 8 crossings should be OK, as it is the same river and will have roughly the same amount of depth and current.

This lovely and spectacular poort on the R332 between Willowmore and Patensie links the two halves of the western section of the Baviaanskloof, covering 6,4 km and crossing over the Baviaans River nine times. In fair weather most of the main roads in the western Baviaanskloof can be driven in a normal car. Poorts are different to passes in that they usually have very gentle gradients. One of the downsides of this fact, is that water tends to remain in a poort much longer than on a pass and as a consequence, Studtis Poort is often prone to some deep-water crossings after periods of rainfall. We have two videos on offer. A completely dry traverse filmed in December 2017 and a much wetter version filmed in August 2012.

If you are new to the Baviaanskloof, we recommend that you first watch the Baviaanskloof Overview and Orientation video clip.

Published in The Eastern Cape
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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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