Van Zyl’s Pass is the most notorious pass in Namibia. Located between two very steep mountain ranges in Namibia’s Marienfluss, it gets its name from the Dutch explorer who found the way across in the 1920s with a few hundred Himba and a Model T Ford.
Van Zyl’s Pass is found in the far northwest of the country, in Kaokoland. It’s a classic extreme road, but not really a road, just a route made over the mountain by travellers over time. The outrageously steep pass itself is a pure adrenaline rush, but the lead-up route is 10-15km of tough driving, dodging its way through boulders, rocks, ravines and badlands. The descent from the top of the pass covers a distance of ten kilometres – but it will take you three to six hours to negotiate.
To drive this trail, you must have supreme confidence in your vehicle and your driving skills. This is an extreme 4×4 challenge which requires sound experience with cross-country driving and a skilful navigator. Although it can only be driven in downwards direction, towards Marienfluss, (it is too dangerous the other way, and any oncoming traffic would make passing impossible), it is not a simple matter of just cruising downhill, there are steep uphill stretches as well. Each tyre has to scramble up and down, and the vertical rock formations which protrude from the track in many places pose additional risks to the tread. It is highly advisable to tackle this adventure in convoy, if only to encourage one another.
If you dare to take the risk and travel along this dusty and bumpy route, then make sure to be accompanied by someone who has experience of the road. Van Zyl’s Pass is for super-experienced 4×4 drivers only, is well-known as the most challenging ‘road’ in Namibia and presents a great challenge to those who like that kind of thing!
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