KwaZulu Natal Tourist AttractionsHela Hela Pass
Where? Hela Hela Pass links Richmond with Creighton in KwaZulu-Natal.
Hela Hela Pass, sometimes written Helehele or Hella Hella, is a gravel road that links Richmond with Creighton in KwaZulu-Natal.
Its name is thought to come from the Zulu iHela iHela, which translates as 'single file only' referring to the path local herders cut through the grasslands at the top of the pass that was so narrow they could only pass through one at a time.
The pass, voted as one of the top 10 in KwaZulu-Natal, is not difficult to drive and you could manage it in an ordinary sedan, provided you take the pass during the dry months, drive slowly and go easy on the bends. The gradients are pretty steep though and you may feel more secure in a 4x4.
When it is wet, however, the gravel becomes hazardous and almost impassable. The rain means that the Umkomaas River becomes a raging torrent, and mud makes driving the pass difficult. At times the road is closed.
The gravel pass heads down sharply to the Umkomaas River, crossing the river at a bridge that also functions as the start of the Umkomaas Canoe Marathon.
Some 4x4 enthusiasts, obviously tackling the pass during the dry months, have described the pass as 'platkar material', needing little more than a two-wheel drive. But the only disappointing aspect to the pass is that is too short and over too quickly, the incredible scenery and views what makes it popular.
The constant views of the mountains, and over the Umkomaas River valley from the summit, are the highlight of the drive.
After the river crossing the pass then heads up the other side of the valley with beautiful views from almost every side.
The Umkomazi Gorge in Highover Nature Reserve is amongst the only places to spot the rare and endangered blue swallow (Hela Hela Pass travels past Highover Nature Reserve; the turn off roughly 3 km before the major hairpin bend).
This nature reserve is a wonderful space in which to see a unique mixture of mistbelt forest and valley bushveld birds, but it is the endangered blue swallow that is the star of the show as they breed in the grasslands overlooking the valley. Highover is privately owned and a natural heritage site.
One can combine Hela Hela Pass with Sani Pass for a good day's ride.