KwaZulu Natal Tourist AttractionsNormandien Pass
The Normandien Pass links Memel in the Free State with Newcastle in KwaZulu-Natal. The pass is gravel that by all accounts has seen better days, which for the seasoned traveller only makes it more exciting, particularly when you add the many switchbacks, twists and turns to the scenario.
That you would be better off in a bakkie or an off-road vehicle is self-explanatory. And you can expect more than a couple of adrenaline spikes up the steep gradients, although the steeper sections are strip concreted, allowing better traction.
The unusual name of the pass is anybody's guess; there is a farm of the same name at the bottom of the pass, on the KwaZulu Natal side, with a settlement that boasts only a police station and little supermarket.
On the Free State side the pass begins in the midst of farmland from Memel, taking a right at around 21 km, after which you cross the Klip River and pass Helpmekaar and Lincolnshire with its little farm school. The Klip River lies to the left of the dirt road as it ascends, the kloof narrowing as you gain altitude.
As the road leaves the kloof the road is at its worst (this is where you are likely to regret the choice of a sedan, although you will make the summit if you take it very slowly). If you are in a sedan it is easier to drive the pass from north to south (Memel to Normandien), rather than from the bottom up. But for the off-road community, this is a real gem of a drive.
The summit is a little beyond the border of the two provinces, almost 2 000 metres above sea level where the views are particularly gawpable (you can see the Drakensberg peaks on the horizon). The valley below is called 'Die Ark', possibly because of the cross-section of people who settled here from France, the Netherlands, England and other corners of the Earth.
The way down is a little easier and you start to see Ntshingwayo Dam as the road descends into the valley, Newcastle is 40 km away. Only after some 60 km on concrete is tar again in evidence, once you reach the T-junction. Take a detour to the settlement of Normandien, or head on past the Chelmsford Nature Reserve to Newcastle.