Bucket List Adventure Rides in South Africa

By Jaco du Plessis | Published on 2020-05-31

Bucket List Adventure Rides in South Africa

I’ve been spending a lot of time or motorcycling forums recently – a lot of okes are itching for a nice adventure trip. That includes me.

I started thinking about the best routes I’ve done on my motorcycle, and what I’d still want to do. The items included in the list below are included for a variety of reasons: technical challenge, scenery, location, historic significance etc. I’ve done a few, but most I haven’t. They do, however, come recommended by some hard-core adventure riders.

This is not a travel guide – merely a short list that can serve as a starting point to get excited for planning a trip. A couple of photos and link to further research are included to whet your appetite. I’ll hand off the details to the excellent Mountains Passes South Africa project by linking to their page on each of these routes.

Sani Pass – KZN

The most well-known pass in the country, on the eastern side of Lesotho.

Sani Pass - MPSA

Old Postal Route – Northern Cape

Starting in the Biedouw Valley and ending between Ceres and Calvinia on the R355 (the longest unbroken dirt road in the country).

Old Postal Route - MPSA

Old Postal Route
Old Postal Route

Normandien Pass – KZN

This was probably the most exhilarating experience I’ve ever had on a motorcycle – riding from the green hills straight into the clouds, then atop the mountains all the way into the Free State.

Normandien Pass - MPSA

Normandien Pass
Normandien Pass

Old Mill Drift – Free State

Old Mill Drift - MPSA


Baviaanskloof – Eastern Cape

Another popular but special route. Recently I found out that there is an entry from the north below Steytlerville (called the “rear entry”), as well as a route from the south starting at Kareedouw.



Bastervoetpad Pass – Eastern Cape

Bastervoetpad Pass

Gamkaskloof and Swartberg Pass – Western Cape

Gamkaskloof is also known as “Die Hel”. A valley in the Swartberg mountain, just south of Prince Albert.

Gamkaskloof - MPSA

Swartberg Pass - MPSA

Orrie Baragwanath Pass – Limpopo


Orrie Baragwanath Pass - MPSA

Ongeluksnek Pass – Eastern Cape

Ongeluksnek Pass - MPSA

Naudesnek – Eastern Cape

Naudesnek Pass - MPSA

Road To Hell – Northern Cape

Road to Hell - MPSA

That concludes this very limited list.

Another idea is to complete the Ben 10 challenge: ten high-altitude passed in the Eastern Cape.

A proper challenge would be to match these three BMW riders who did the loop of more than 600km in a single day:


Of course, I’m not including anything from our neighbouring countries, which would make for a whole day’s reading, just to get through the headings.

Finally, the joy from ticking off these items lies not in riding those few kilometers that between the start and finish – it’s the journey of getting there, and knowing that you’re not riding to get somewhere.

If you think I missed something that deserves to be on this list (which I surely have), let me know! For one thing, I still need routes for Gauteng, North West and Mpumalanga. Reach me via email: jaco@onanysunday.co.za

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