Knysna - the aftermath
Our Cape Town based film crew headed to the Southern Cape over the long weekend includng the 15th of June to refilm certain passes and to deliver goods to the Knysna fire victims. It was a sobering and emotional journey that served as a grim reminder how quickly a bad turn in nature can change our lives forever. More on that later........
Meet the Klowers
On Youth Day, we headed off to Die Hel in the Gamkaskloof, where we met Annatjie Joubert - the last private land owner and original 'klower' who runs the guest farm 'Fonteinplaas'. We spent a sunny afternoon doing a video interview with her and unpacking some of the myths of Die Hel. Aged 73, this lady is still a bundle of energy with a razor sharp brain. More on the guest farm further down this page....
The tighest hairpins in the land
Ballot's Bay is located on the southern outskirts of George and consists of some very steep and thickly wooded hills which tumble down to the rocky shores just east of Victoria Bay where the Meulrivier meets the thundering surf of the Indian Ocean. Much of the privately owned estate comprises a nature reserve. We were invited to refilm the entire Ballots Bay Pass, which has some of the tightest corners we have found on any pass in South Africa and for our trouble, we had the privilege of spending the weekend admiring the sensational views from a perfectly sited timber chalet. Keep a look-out for the new video which should go live within the next two weeks or so.
The Garden Route fires....
The fires in the Garden Route are under control, but new fires have erupted in the Port Elizabeth area. The devastation in Knysna has to be seen to be believed. The human suffering and pain is beyond description. Mountain Passes South Africa have for some time had a filming trip planned into the Garden Route scheduled for 15th to 18th June. We are busy setting up a relief collection point, so we can help deliver as much relief stores as we can carry to the relevant authority in this official disaster zone, where more than 100 homes have been completely destroyed. The spirit of compassion and community has united the residents. We will try to obtain first hand information of the situation and report our findings next week on this page.
Meanwhile in the Cape Town area the super-storm that caused all the destruction, has dropped a fair amount of rain and snow as it swept over the Western Cape. Reports indicate that the Theewaterskloof Dam river feeder system is flowing strongly and the dam level has risen by one metre. It's a start in breaking the grip of the drought and this week there is rain forecast for 5 consecutive days. According to the authorities it will take three years of average winter rainfall to recover the dam levels to normal. Effectively this means Capetonians will remain under water restrictions for a long time to come.
Information filtering through indicate that repair work has commenced on the Swartberg Pass, which is good news for the town of Prince Albert, but the completion date remains at August 2018.
On Friday, 16th June, we are planning on re-filming the entire Gamkaskloof as well as the dizzying Elands Pass. We will be doing a one on one video interview with Annatjie Joubert, the last remaining original 'klower' at Die Hel, so the entire page will be revamped with multiple new videos on offer. Lots to look forward to!
Pass of the Week
Our featured pass this week lies on a quiet gravel road on the northern side of the Seweweekspoort and forms part of the border of the Towerkop Nature Reserve. This lovely gravel pass offers two waterfalls (in the winter season) and some stunning mountain views as it descends into the valley preceding the Witnekke Pass which lead to Laingsburg.
Mother Nature is on the rampage with fire, wind and water in the armory. The big storm has brought deep snow to the high mountains clean across South Africa. As at 9th June the Wapadsberg and Lootsberg passes near Graaff Reinet have been closed and the latest is that the fires around the Knysna area are under control, but still burning. Knysna is still completely closed with more than a hundred buildings having been destroyed. We have just heard from Tiffindell that there is lots of snow at the ski resport. Still time to make that call with a long weekend coming up on the 16th!
The Perfect Storm
The Eden area - Wilderness, Sedgefield, Knysna and Plettenberg Bay has experienced savage forest fires, fanned by gale force berg winds ahead of the Cape Town Storm. Most of the residents of Knysna have been evacuated and millions of Rands worth of property have been lost, but it is the loss of life which is always the most tragic. The storm has claimed 8 lives so far. Although the wind has died this morning, fires are still out of control. The N2 and Phantom Pass are closed. There are no phone land-lines operating at present. Please stay away from the area. News 24 have set up emergency numbers for you to check on the safety of family and friends.
In 1986 drought stricken Laingsburg suffered the worst flood in living memory, when the twin rivers that form a confluence just upstream of the town, both flooded at the same time, releasing a massive wave of tumbling brown water over the town. At the time the town's main water supply, the Floriskraal Dam was virtually empty, but within the space of just a few minutes, the wall of water that swept downstream, did a single U-turn at the dam wall and filled the dam to overflowing. Water, our exilir of life, is also one of nature's most powerful destructive forces.
Fast forward 31 years and Cape Town's dams are are below 15% capacity with the city's residents buckling under Level 4 water restrictions. A week ago weather forecasters started plotting a massive storm far out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and the warnings began arriving via various media sources. The Western Cape was about to be the recipient of the worst storm in 37 years. More lower down.........
The Field Guide
We have finally started working on the much anticipated book and as discussed in previous news releases, the book will be in the form of a Field Guide and be printed on A5 size, so as to be able to comfortably fit into the average cubby-hole. After carefully assessing the costs of printing, we have decided that each pass page will contain a large scale satellite image map, with a thumbnail inset top/left showing its position in South Africa. The rest of the page will contain all the information the adventure tourist will need - like directions, history, interesting anecdotes, tourism information, the fact file with GPS coordinates and the url of the webpage in case any back referencing is required. More lower down.....
Pass of the Week
Mike Leicester, our Jhb based associate has been hard at work uncovering and filming some fantastic passes. Today we feature another steep pass, based within a game reserve, which is bound to be popular with those that enjoy game watching. More lower down........
We have a jam-packed newsletter this week with lots of interesting information, but 'oudegewoonte' let's kick-off with our discovery of the week.....
Another marvellous gravel pass unveiled this week:
This week we feature yet another gem of a gravel pass in a remote and unsullied part of the Eastern Cape highlands about 24 km west of Barkly East (as the crow flies). There are some severe hairpins, deep washaways, and loose stones to keep drivers a little on the edge and then there are the incredible views. This one is for the purist. More lower down this page...
For Eastern Cape readers, you can tune in to Wild Coast Radio each Monday at 15h30 where we chat about a specific mountain pass for 10 minutes. We are hoping that the radio station will be sending us the podcasts soon, which we will upload onto the website, so that the whole nation can listen to these 10 minute 'live' talks on our passes and poorts.
Subscribe and win a GoPro
If you have not subscribed to the website yet, you still have time to do so and have your name automatically entered into the draw for a GoPro Hero4 Silver and we hope the lucky winner will film passes for us using this tough, high quality camera. More on that lower down....
Gamkaskloof and Die Hel revisited
We are planning on refilming this all time favourite on June 16th, so if you're in the area keep a look out for us and say hello. This will be the first gravel pass utilising a new motorised gimbal (imported from the USA) to smooth out corrugations for more enjoyable video watching. Our routing will include the towns of Worcester, Robertson, Montagu, Barrydale, Calitzdorp, Rooiberg Pass, VanWyk's Vlei, Cloetesville, Mossel Bay, George (Ballots Bay) - Oudtshoorn, Swartberg Pass, and Gamkaskloof. We will be spending some time with Annetjie Joubert, the last remaining 'klower' at Fonteinplaas in Die Hel and we will dig up some more history about this secluded and beautiful valley.
The Field Guide Book
We are being flooded with inquiries about the proposed book. More info lower down.......
Swartberg Pass Update
This week we have the first authenticated update on progress on the flood damage to the Swartberg Pass. Anyone who was hoping to include a drive over the pass in 2017 can now definitely cancel those plans, as the provisional time frame to complete the repairs is set at 15 months, which will take us to August, 2018. Due to the historical nature of the pass and it's status as a national monument, the process of getting the paperwork signed off for construction work to commence is more complicated than normal.
The budget for the repair work is estimated at between R25m & R30m. Heritage Western Cape still need to sign the paperwork off and they have been given 30 days to complete their inspections and considerations. More information lower down this page.....
Our featured pass this week is something very unusual in that it is fairly long at over 16 km and is without question the pass with the most (4) alternative names on our 700+ pass database. We take you with us on a dusty and corrugated drive between two tiny settlements, with quaint names like Kharkams and Spoegrivier and we dig into the wonderful history of the area and take a peek at Bethelsklip - an open air place of worship dating back to the 1800's and still utilised to this day. More on this lovely 'road less travelled' lower down this page....
Mountain Passes South Africa is a website dedicated to the research, documentation, photographing and filming of the mountain passes of South Africa.
Passes are classified according to provinces and feature a text description, Fact File including GPS data, a fully interactive dual-view map and a narrated YouTube video.
We are as passionate about maps as we are about mountain passes. A good map is a thing of beauty that can transport you into the mists of time or get your sense of adventure churning. It is a place to make discoveries about deserts and seas, mountains and lakes; of roads leading into places you have not been before; a place to pore over holiday destinations or weekend camping trips. A map is your window to the world.