A challenging drive to Naude's Neck Pass in SA

Naude's Neck Pass is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 2.592m (8,503ft) above the sea level, located in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. This pass is not for sissies and even in full 4 WD the vehicles can be sliding around on the muddy surfaces. It’s one of the highest roads of South Africa.

Naude's Neck Pass

Is the R396 to Naude's Neck Pass tarred?

Set high in the southern end of Drakensberg mountains of the north Eastern Cape, the road to the summit, also known as Naudes’ Nek Pass and Naudésnek Pass, is totally unpaved. It’s called R396. The twisting gravel road is pretty curvy and steep. This is off-the-beaten-track kind of driving. Even in a 4X4 the road presents something of a challenge, particularly in winter when, because of its height, snowfalls are common and make the roads slippery. And the road is not in good shape, although there are those who advocate that in an ordinary car with high clearance, you can manage the summit.

How long is the road to Naude's Neck Pass?

The pass is 103 km (64 miles) long, running from Rhodes to Maclear. Today, the road, surrounded by icy air and rugged terrain, is more usually travelled in a comfortable 4x4 vehicle, but it still presents a challenge, particularly in winter when heavy snowfalls are common. Local advice regarding weather and road conditions should be heeded before attempting this spectacular pass. The road is steep, and hits a 1:7 of maximum gradient through some of the ramps.

How long does it take to drive the Naude's Neck Pass?

To drive the road without stopping will take most people between 3 and 4 hours. However, you should allow about 4,5 hours for this drive, including photo stops, and more in bad weather. The pass is named after the Naudé brothers, who built a rough track across the mountains in 1896. In 1911 George Mandy, a road engineer, constructed a military road along this way.
Pic: Jacques Venter