About Orrie Baragwanath Pass

One of few really true off-road passes the Orrie Baragwanath Pass is a rough dirt road across the Wolkberg mountains in the scenically rich Lekgamaleetse Nature Reserve. The pass is best suited to 4x4 vehicles, or off-road motorbikes, as it is often made unnavigable by heavy rains.

Did you know? As you head down the pass you will drive through forests where a portion of the few remaining, critically endangered, Cape parrots live.

Lekgalameetse (called 'place of water' for its numerous waterfalls, rivers, rock pools and streams) Nature Reserve lies almost due south of Tzaneen, adjacent to the Wolkberg Wilderness Area in Limpopo. It is in this reserve's rain forests that the endangered white-throated Samango monkey lives.

The origin of the name of the pass is an interesting aside: Orrie Baragwanath bequeathed his farm, through which much of the pass runs, to the people of South Africa to enjoy. Halfway there is a plaque in his memory.

He and a colleague, Frank Lewis, prospected and pegged copper in Zambia (then it was called Northern Rhodesia) and together farmed The Downs until 1976 when the farm passed to the Lebowa State. Orrie Baragwanath was known as the Copper King.

The Baragwanath (a Gaelic word meaning 'the one who only eats wheaten bread') pass is a continuous arrangement of twists, turns and switchbacks, like a composition of music that endlessly dips and falls.

The ascent of the pass is steep. Stop at The Downs, around 1 289 metres above sea level, to catch sight of numerous birds, zebra and the odd baboon that have the mountainside to themselves. The views from up here are wonderful.

The rest of the pass is not one in which you race around the bends and defy the curves. It is best taken slowly, particularly the descent down the western side where it gets tricky, narrow and very rocky.

Rain and mist often set in, complicating the drive further.

Need to Know

WhereTo join the pass take the R37 south from Polokwane and left to Mafefe after 67 km. 40 km after Mafefe the road will head onto the Orrie Baragwanath.

WhenBest during daylight hours.

OvernightStay in Tzaneen Accommodation, Limpopo


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