Test all limits in the Nissan Navara
Test all limits in the Nissan Navara

A tough one in the North West

Viewed by Mountain Passes South Africa’s users as one of the ‘tough ones’, the Maanhaarrand Pass in the North West province offers some interesting twists and turns. Trygve Roberts explores.

Also known as ‘Breedt’s Nek’, this gravel pass can be found just off the R763, near the Magaliesberg Nature Reserve. It provides a link across the Magaliesberg from the settlement of Maanhaarrand to Buffelspoort and the town of Mooinooi to the north-east. The road bears an official number (D568), and the condition ranges from poor to terrible. Expect gradients of 1:10 and deeply rutted and rocky sections. However, providing you are in a 4×4 vehicle or a commercial vehicle with good ground clearance, it is most certainly doable, but it is a long, slow drive. Don’t attempt this road if you’re in a hurry.

From the town of Magaliesburg, head north-west out of town on the tarred R24, commonly known as the Rustenburg Road. Remain on this road for 16km until you reach the rural settlement of Maanhaarrand.

At the point where the road bends into the west, take the second gravel road to the right (GPS S25.914147 E27.449243). These two turn-offs are only 470m apart, so it’s easy to make a mistake. Note that the first intersection is a 4-way intersection, whereas the second one (to the pass) is a T-junction where you will turn right onto the gravel road. If you want to make 100% sure you’re on the right road, check the little boards on the side of the road each 2km that will show the road number as D568. The actual pass starts 4.5km along this road. We recommend that tyres should be deflated to at least 1.4 bar, which will make your traverse of the pass both safer and less bumpy.

Maanhaarrand translates into ‘Mane Ridge’, and no doubt refers to a lion’s mane. Lions were common in the region in the early 1900s when these routes were forged through the mountains to the north. As the Magaliesberg looms ahead, the road curves away towards the north-west at the foot of the pass at an altitude of 1 525m. This heading is maintained for 1km, whereafter the road bends sharply right through 100 degrees, bringing the heading north-east, as it climbs steadily at a gradient of 1:14. Just before this first sharp, right-hand bend, a smaller road leads away to the left to the farm Boschfontein. Views to the right open up, but consider yourself lucky if you have time to sneak a quick glance as this road is rutted and peppered with loose stones, requiring a lot of concentration. This leg of the ascent lasts for 900m and as a distinct koppie (1 733m) appears ahead and sightly to the right, this is your cue to expect a full 180-degree hairpin bend that is fairly wide. Not that speed is an issue, as you will be driving along, by necessity, at a very gentle 20km/h due to the state of the road surface. Once through the hairpin, the heading is into the south-west for the next 200m, then another sharp 120-degree right bend changes the heading into the north, where it remains till the summit is reached via a single, shallow S-curve. The summit area is rocky and quite barren.

Once you have enjoyed the scenery and taken a leg-stretch, it is time to tackle the descent, which at 1:10 is steeper than the southern side. The road drops down the stony ridge, heading persistently northwards. On the right (east), you will find two river valleys parallel to each other into the north, breaking the almost lunar landscape up slightly. The valley to the east is called Christmas Kloof and the other valley, out of view to the right, is known as Grobler’s Kloof.

The road negotiates three gentle corners, then enters a second series of switchbacks which start with a minor road that leads away to the right. Ignore this and remain on the main road. For the more adventurous travellers, this little road to the right leads down to the farms Kromrivier and Cambrial in the river valley to the east. It is possible to rejoin the Maanhaarrand road near the northern foot of the pass via this little farm road.

This set of switchbacks consists of six sharp corners, which are not quite hairpins, but in each case, the direction changes more than 90 degrees. The road is well designed in terms of maintaining a steady descent gradient, but the surface remains extremely rough and badly rutted in some places, requiring drivers to use the entire width of the road to negotiate a smoother line. Because of the extremely bad surface, most drivers avoid this road, which makes it safer as there are low traffic volumes. In addition, the very low speeds which need to be maintained mean collisions are almost unheard of.

The pass ends at the crossing of a small stream after 7.1km at an altitude of 1 360m. Continue for another 1.7km, where the road bends sharply to the left to form a T-junction with another road. If you turn right, it will take you to the Buffelspoort Dam and the town of Mooinooi (15km), whereas a left turn will take you to Olifantsnek (23km) and Rustenburg (30km). Attractions in the area include the Magaliesberg paragliding launch ramp, and the Magaliesberg Mountain Sanctuary Park. A little further to the north, you will find the Buffelspoort Eco Park. The pass can be accessed from either the R763 or the R24.

Fact File:

GPS START S25.879648 E27.447977

GPS SUMMIT S25.864308 E27.443237

GPS END S 25.830521 E27.443051

AVE GRADIENT 1:20

MAX GRADIENT 1:8

ELEVATION START 1 525m

ELEVATION SUMMIT 1 716m

ELEVATION END 1 360m

HEIGHT GAIN/LOSS 356m

DISTANCE 7.1km

DIRECTION – TRAVEL North

TIME REQUIRED 20 minutes

SPEED LIMIT 20km/h

SURFACE Gravel (D568)

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