Devil's Bellows Pass

Mountain Passes in or near Queenstown, Karoo Heartland in the Eastern Cape, South Africa.

Eastern Cape Tourist AttractionsDevil's Bellows Pass

Devil's Bellows Pass is one of the most breathtaking high altitude passes in the area. It heads into the Winterberg range close to Fort Beaufort, and is best driven in a 4x4 vehicle, although MTB riders have not stopped shy of reaching its summit.

The route to the top follows the R351(which branches off the R67 north out of Fort Beaufort) to Katberg at the foot of the mountains. People here speak about 'going up' the Katberg, but actually its grassy summits are regarded as a section of the Winterberg Mountains.

The Devil's Bellows Pass begins where the Katberg Pass ends. One follows the old gravel pass up the Katberg, which, when you're on a bike, is rather a stiff climb past forestry plantations. This initial ascension is a series of switchbacks until you reach the summit where the views are incredible.

This next bit of the drive is where the Devil's Bellows Pass starts. It is named for obvious reasons as this section is notorious for huge gusts of wind that, should you be on a bike, will practically knock you from your seat. In a 4x4 vehicle you're a lot better off, but 60-knot gales are not to be sneezed at.

Over and above the wind factor is the often muddy plateau (Devil's Bellows is essentially the route across the Post Retief Conservancy plateau before descending down the other side of the mountains), making even 4WD tricky.

There are a number of options once across the plateau. You can head left down a lengthy circular dirt road to the Koonap River and past Mpofu Game Reserve (almost 100 km). Alternatively head west to Tarkastad, or continue straight to Whittlesea (nowhere near the sea), followed by Queenstown.

Best times to drive the pass:
April to September (chilly but at least it is dry, although be aware of potential snow in June/July).

Not great:
November to February when the summer rains fall, although the extreme cold won't get you.

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