About Carlisleshoek Pass

Just before the top of Carlisleshoek Pass (also spelt Carlisle's Hoek) there is a signboard that suggests that you 'engage lowest gear, keep up revs and take corners wide'. It closes off by saying that you should 'drive confidently', which is one attribute you are probably no longer feeling considering the aforementioned suggestions that hint at worse to come.

Did you know? The Eight Mountain Passes of the Eastern Cape Drakensberg (including the highest dirt road in South Africa) – The Eastern Cape Drakensberg is a developing and unspoiled area, perfect for 4×4 enthusiasts.

Nonetheless, these are rather sensible orders, as Carlisleshoek Pass is notorious for its descent into the little historical village of Rhodes. Actually the pass links Rhodes with Tiffendell, on the slopes of Ben McDhui peak. The ski and alpine resort is South Africa's claim to snow (actually it is the only ski resort in sub-Saharan Africa).

Taking the descent down Carlisleshoek Pass has been described as 'going into free fall' by bikers it is so steep. It is virtually vertical, and described as 'one of the hairiest descents in Africa'. In just over three kilometres you descend more than 300 metres.

The plateau at the top, before the descent, is real pastural country – grasses, cows and the odd mud hut and farm all that is visible for miles around. The descent is unusual as it starts as dual-track concrete strips, more like a farm track than a descent from one of the highest plateaus in the country. But the views during the ride are well worth it, and the track soon changes to a dirt road again once the major descent is over – amazingly you don't need a 4X4 to take this road, but you do need controlled power.

Down below the little town of Rhodes is a gorgeous little town, well worth a visit. Interestingly it was invaded no fewer than 29 times between 24 June 1901 and 7 February 1902 during the Second Anglo Boer War.

Need to Know

WhereCarlisleshoek Pass, The pass links Rhodes with Tiffendell, Northern Ukhahlamba, Eastern Cape, South Africa

WhenBest during daylight hours.

OvernightStay in Barkly East Accommodation, Eastern Cape


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