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The Long Tom Pass, Mpumalanga

The Long Tom pass going over the Drakensberg foothills in MpumalangaThe Long Tom Pass is an historic road that winds its way through the misty and mountainous area of the Mpumalanga Highlands Meander. The drive is often misty and beautifully scenic – making it a tourist attraction in its own right.

The Rich History of the Long Tom Pass

The original Long Tom Pass was a Voortekker route pioneered to transport goods between Lydenburg and Mozambique. The route was treacherous with steep gradients, dramatic drops and hairpin bends difficult for wagons to navigate. As you drive the route today, you will drive through the area known as Devil’s Knuckles, a series of hillocks on the downhill stretch, where many wagons were lost to the treacherous terrain.

The arrival of the name ‘Long Tom’ came during the Anglo-Boer war. The Boer republics purchased four 155mm cannon guns from a manufacturer in France. The Boers dubbed the guns, ‘the Frenchmen’, but the British dubbed them ‘the Long Toms’ which is the name that stuck. The modern pass was opened in 1953, and although several names were suggested for it, Long Tom Pass was by far the favourite.

The Long Tom Pass today

The modern pass was tarred in 1963 and has become one of South Africa’s favourite mountain passes. Feast your eyes on the magnificent scenery of the forests covering the Drakensberg foothills as you look down into the Sabie River valley. But don’t be lured to only look afar, for if you look closely you will come across many reminders of the old days – wheel ruts ground into the rock from slip-sliding wagons, which fell apart and left their carcasses lying on the steep hills to be seen by passing travellers.

Getting there: The Long Tom pass is a modern section of the R37 going from Lydenburg to Nelspruit. From Gauteng, take the N4 going East into Mpumalanga. At Belfast, take the R540 going to Lydenburg. At Lydenburg, turn onto the R37 and follow the road along the Long Tom Pass into Nelspruit.

More info on the town of Lydenburg More info on the Highlands Meander area



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