I recently left Johannesburg at about 0415 en route to the ADA training facility near Broederstroom to collect my friend Heine Engelbrecht. Heine was to be the navigator to a well-known mountain pass in the Magaliesberg. We were going to drive the pass to take a few pictures and check the condition in case we needed to use it for a product launch. I took the coffee and Heine provided the rusks. I collected him at 0515 and we immediately set off. We were chasing the sunrise. Heine chose a longer route as it provided more tar allowing us to get to the pass easily. I always chose a different route but Heine took us through the little town of Magaliesberg which I thought was out of the way. Yet he is an expert in the area having laid out so many routes for manufacturers of motorbikes and various vehicles. He knows the area like the back of his hand.
I last drove the pass known to many as “Breedts Nek in January 2019 so was keen to experience it again. Conditions then ranged from good to marginally challenging. The road is designated as the D568 and is also referred to as the Maanhaarrand pass. It is near the Magaliesberg Nature Reserve in the Magaliesberg mountains and adjacent to the Cradle of Humankind. On the longer route, one even passes Maropeng. It links the settlement of Maanhaarrand with Buffelspoort and Mooinooi.
A great website to explore our mountain passes in South Africa is www.mountainpassessouthafrica.co.za. This site has a listing and description of more than 960 passes available to adventurers in South Africa.
Put that on your bucket list. I have driven many of them but will never get to all.
It’s not a long pass, just over 7 Km but it does have some nice gradients. At roughly 0600 we left the R 763 and started Breedts Nek. From the onset, we realised that conditions had changed significantly and 4WD High Range was immediately engaged, we also benefited from traction control on our vehicle. The first sections were made up of gradients with small round rocks which caused a good deal of slip, then we reached the plateau with more interesting scenery. Some beautiful rocky outcrops and incredible vistas. Here we stopped for a coffee and some incredible homemade rusks. Heine was amazed at the fact that I had made the coffee with oat milk and honey instead of sugar. But it was an enjoyable moment watching the sunrise.
We realised that the pass had a limited lifespan and although shorter than the famed Sani Pass was incredibly rough. In the early light, we had to be careful not to damage our vehicle. It varied from mild to incredibly rough.
We watched the sunrise and took photos, reminisced about the old days and people we knew and remembered and just carried on.
On the internet people still say it’s a 20-minute drive but even with our stops, I will dispute that.
Dual sport bikes and mountain bikes still love the challenge. I have often seen them stopping for coffee and breakfast on the plateau. Sadly I do not see people traversing the pass in the future without a 4×4 with low range gearing and a good level of skill. The latter sections of the pass were easier and we eventually hit the tar and had to decide on a route back to ADA. Heine advocated the longer route back which meant that we avoided Marikana and Mooinooi.
It was amazing as he pointed out so many notable spots in the area. We had seen the Buffelspoort Dam from the pass but passed the Olifantsnek Dam which is a favourite fishing spot and is also open to sailboats. Numerous Craft breweries, luxury hotels and guest houses are in abundance. I was amazed to see game lodges and conference centres regularly. It’s a fascinating area and I will go back to explore it. There are even numerous Anglo War battle sites where one can do guided tours. We stopped briefly to meet with Gus and Marietta Maartens who run an amazing facility known as “Gravel to Grotto”.They cater to bikers but not the speeding variety. We toured the facility and loved the restaurant and accommodation. The treat however was to see all of their bikes many of which they have taken on tours all over South Africa. We turned on to the Hartebeeshoek road making our way back to ADA after having had an amazing morning. Motorbikes passed us at alarming speeds and Heine explained that this was a favourite road for timed speed runs which started from the Hartebeeshoek tracking station. There were many bikes there as well as a food and coffee station. The procedure according to Heine was organised with markers along the road where you could set phones to track speed etc. Not my cup of tea I prefer the slow 4×4 routes yet still get a rush when taking on a difficult obstacle.