Col de Van Reenen in Okhahlamba Rural, KwaZulu-Natal
Most Dangerous Pass in South Africa
The Van Reenen’s Pass lies along the N3 and it without a doubt the most scenically beautifully section of the highway between Johannesburg and Durban. The Pass connects the Drakensberg escarpment of the Free State with KwaZulu-Natal and unfortunately, the only record that the Pass can lay claim to is that of the most dangerous pass in South Africa.
Van Reenen’s Pass is also sometimes simply referred to as “the hill” because of its steepness. The weather is notably unpredictable and unstable where the winds, in particular, are capable of blowing light trucks or even caravans onto their sides! In severe weather, such as when heavy snowfalls occur, the Pass is often closed. Traffic volumes are extremely high at all times, with most of the problems being caused by slow, moving heavy duty vehicles in both the up and down directions. Exercise extreme caution and stick to the speed limits.
The Pass is named after the little town of Van Reenen which lies at the top of this iconic Pass - the pass begins just as you enter this small village. It winds its way through the Drakensberg mountains between Ladysmith and Harrismith, lying almost equidistant between Johannesburg and Durban.
Van Reenen’s Pass is known for its twists and turns and it may begin with a few shallow S-bends through the village however, the descent then begins to increase quite sharply with left and right long sweeping bends – Baboons are common in the area so keep a lookout for them as well!
A motel with some unusual-looking A-frame chalets appears on your right-hand side, and there is a run-off area to your left, as you approach the midway point. The road flattens out for a while through this section, then sweeps to the right and the descent begins again.
The views on both sides of the road are quite spectacular and the aptly named Windy Corner lookout point, about 3 km out of the town, allows breathtaking views over the valleys and mountains of the area.
There are alternative, and very scenic, routes that you can take to avoid Van Reenen’s Pass, although some of these do involve some gravel travel. De Beer’s Pass lies to the north, and the Tintwa, Middledale Pass and the Oliviershoek Pass, which is tarred, are located on the southern side.
Thing to do and see
- Northern Drakensberg Scenery
- Windy Corner View Point
- Llandaff Oratory (Little Church van Reenen)
- Zandfontein Padstal
Free to Drive
Best during daylight hours
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