Mpumalanga Tourist AttractionsThe Abel Erasmus Pass
The Abel Erasmus Pass links Mpumalanga's Blyde River Canyon, or River of Joy, with Limpopo's game reserves, seering through the northern reaches of the Drakensberg escarpment before dropping down into the Olifants River valley.
Where? The closest town is Ohrigstad (+/- 35km), Mpumalanga
When? Best during daylight hours
How much? Free
You will not find a more scenically rich gateway to the Lowveld.
The pass is worth driving simply for the views of the Blyde River Canyon (Molatse Canyon), and the Drakensberg mountains. But there is also the 133 metre JG Strijdom Tunnel, though which the road passes part way along the Abel Erasmus Pass, to add extra excitement.
Stop at the parking area at the tunnel. For to the north is a tufa waterfall, known as the Kadishi Tufa Falls, the second highest tufa waterfall in the world (there are very few active tufa waterfalls).
A tufa waterfall forms slowly over millions of years, when the mosses which grow on the rocks, glean the calcium from the water during photosynthesis. The calcium then deposits as layers of tufa on the waterfall's surface. The water from the fall then flows underneath this outer shell.
Take Route 532 from the Blyde River Canyon Reserve, along the Ohrigstad River, to join Route 36. The pass lies on Route 36 between Lydenburg and Burgersfort.
Abel Erasmus is regarded as an engineering triumph – a sequence of bends and twists that can only give rise to admiration for the gold rush pioneers of the late 1800s who carved a fairly similar route through the mountains with their wagons.
The pass rises 610 metres above the level of the Olifants River, having begun at 335 metres above sea level at Ohrigstad River. It drops 501 metres in altitude as the pass descends, ending near the Olifants River at 508 metres above sea level.
In its entirety the pass is only about 10 km, although there is some discrepancy as to where exactly it starts and ends. At its height, the pass reaches an altitude of 1009 metres, before dropping to a plateau at the little village of Morulaneng. It then passes through the tunnel to descend into the Olifants River valley.
The pass is named after the farmer Abel Erasmus, held by many as a peace keeper in the Lowveld, who farmed in the area on a farm called Graskop.