De Beer Pass in Emnambithi Rural, KwaZulu-Natal
De Beers Pass lies just east of Harrismith on the old Transvaal to Port Natal Road. Recently the Pass formed part of a proposed route to be built from Warden to the Tugela Toll Plaza to replace a section of the N3. The idea was to shorten the distance between Johannesburg and Durban by 14 km, and to bypass the very dangerous Van Reenen’s Pass.
On the 17th March 2017, SANRAL finally announced that the project had been permanently scrapped, and that the agency would concentrate its efforts on upgrades to the
existing N3 route instead.
The Pass is named after Herman de Beer who in the late 1870's owned a farm on top of that part of the Drakensberg and who granted permission for the pass to run through his property. It also has ties to Rachel de Beer, a young girl of 12, who froze to death in the area at the time. She and her young brother of 6 were stranded in a sudden snowstorm and she made a hole in an ant heap and put her brother in the hole and covered him with her clothes. She was found frozen to death the next morning at the mouth of the ant heap, but thanks to her efforts her brother survived.
The road is tarred and extremely well-engineered, suitable for any vehicle, but some very sharp curves and deceptively hidden corners, as well as weather conditions means this Pass is considered one of the most dangerous roads in the country.
From the start, and summit, the Pass descends gradually through a few right-hand corners with safety railings guarding the steep drop-offs on the left, but you will need to keep your speed low, the limit is 40 kph. The gradient decreases sharply hereafter along a short straight and soon the road turns into a series of hairpin bends which lead into a sharp left-hand corner of 100 degrees, with a gravel farm road heading off to the right at its apex. This is probably the only spot along the pass where you could safely stop to take photographs – it would be unwise to park on the shoulder anywhere else.
Not long after this point, the speed limit changes to 60 kph at this point, but you should not increase your speed significantly as the Pass is by no means over! The right-hand corner encountered at the end of this straight is very deceptive, and at 90 degrees is considerably sharper than it at first appears. The descent makes it easy to let your speed creep up on the approach, so not surprisingly, this corner has claimed the most accident victims on this Pass!
The road continues to follow a series of bends through the valley as it heads towards Ladysmith.
Things to do and see
- Northern Drakensberg Scenery
- Photo Opportunities
- View Points
Free to Drive
Best during daylight hours
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