With spring in the air, we thought it would be a perfect opportunity to introduce you to one of the many passes in the Namaqualand area - one of the premier flower spotting routes. Here in this arid semi-desert of large granite mountains and wide plains, international and local tourists alike, flock in their thousands to witness the annual miracle of the desert transforming into a multi coloured carpet of wild flowers. You need to book your accommodation a year in advance in most cases.
The people of this region make this part of South Africa uniquely different. They are direct, warm and friendly but don't tolerate fools lightly. If they think you're wrong about something, they will tell you so immediately, but without any malice. Faces are wrinkled from the merciless sun as the achingly blue skies seldom offer any rain. Water is a crucial part of their existence and it dominates every conversation, regardless of race, creed or colour.
They have an odd way of speaking too. For example when a place is called (for example) Garies Heights, normally in Afrikaans it would be translated into Garieshoogte, but the locals would say Garies se Hoog. Our featured pass this week is short and steep and traverses a farm with the very odd name of Bloedsmaak. More lower down....
Red, Blue and Gray
We're going red today. Together with Blou and Vaal, these three colours occupy a considerable number of pass names across the length and breadth of South Africa. On the website we have Rooiberg, Rooinek, Rooipoort, Rooihoogte (2), Rooikloof and Rooi Ivoor. Our featured pass today is the Rooiberg Pass which connects Calitzdorp with the little hamlet of Van Wyksdorp. This pass can be quite daunting to drive in a normal car, but it is doable, providing you pick a window of dry weather and you drive slowly and carefully. Ideally you should be in a higher clearance vehicle, but a 4WD is not mandatory. We refilmed this classic pass during June 2017 and have produced a new video set.
We explore the town of Calitzdorp and unpack it's history; sample some of the finest Port available as we tackle the Rooiberg Pass via a 3 piece video set. The pass, which dates back to 1928 and has a set of magnificent dry packed supporting walls on it's northern side, has almost 70 bends, corners and curves of which 6 are full hairpins, so you will enjoy constantly changing scenery. Near the summit at a bushy clearing, you'll find a large pile of loose stones. Legend has it that every traveller must add a stone to this cairn, to ensure a safe descent down the other side of the pass. The Helskloof Pass in the far Northern Cape has a similar free tolling system. More lower down.....
Winner of the Go Pro HERO Actioncam
And the winner of the GoPro by lucky draw is Corrie van Rensburg of Pretoria North. Corrie subscribed on 18th April, 2017. What an investment that R200 was! Congratulations Corrie. Please call us on 083 658 8888 to claim your prize, so we can make arrangements for the delivery. We will be running a new subscription promo very soon with a different prize. Watch this space....
It never fails to impress us how our subscribers, followers and readers keep on discovering new passes in this stunning country of ours. Roland Bergh of the Land Cruiser Club of South Africa, told us about a major tarred pass in Mpumalanga, which we had never heard of before. MPSA's Mike Leicester did the basic research, then went out a few weeks ago to film it. This is our featured pass of the week and it's brand new. The few people who know about this road are more than likely involved in either mining or forestry.
Imagine a major mountain pass called Salad Corner! The pass takes its name from the original farm called Slaaihoek. It's long and perfectly engineered and at 24,5 km., it logs in as the 16th longest pass in South Africa. It has a summit height of 2027m ASL and descends 608m, making this a major pass on multiple levels. Despite the excellent engineering, this is an extremely dangerous road, so before you rush off to drive this new discovery, please make sure you read up on all the dangers, advisories and cautionaries. More lower down....
Join the dots
Over the next few weeks, we are going to focus on 'How to get the most out of the website'. Over the past 5 years, we have gradually expanded the website to include many innovative ideas and concepts. All of these are carefully explained on the website on the HELP page. It takes a while to digest it all, but for those that have taken the time to fully understand all the features of the website, it makes the exploration of the site so much more enjoyable. Over the next few weeks, we will feature a small section of the HELP page, to bring everyone up to speed. That way we can 'eat the elephant slowly'.
Our featured pass this week was conceived in 1910 and completed in 1922. It must take the No.1 spot for troublesome roads and has seen more road closures than any other pass in South Africa. Bedevilled by land-slides and rockfalls, plus the deaths of several motorists, not only from rocks falling on their vehicles, but also from losing control on the treacherously sharp bends and in some cases, suicide.
We dig into the fascinating history of Chapman's Peak Drive and take you back to the 1600's when a British ship, the Consent, anchored in the bay we today know as Hout Bay and sent the ship's pilot, John Chapman, ashore to source fresh water and food. Thus the tall peak on the southern side of the bay, was named Chapman's peak.
This is an extremely difficult road to film due to the tricky lighting conditions with deep shadows cast by the vertical cliffs, heavy tourist traffic, cyclists, runners and walkers as well as erratic behaviour by many motorists. This is our fifth filming of the pass and we offer a comprehensive new 3 part video set, covering all the important parts of this famous road, which has elevated itself into one of the Top 5 tourist attractions of Cape Town. More lower down.........
We recently started the process of refilming some of the classic passes - most of them having been filmed during 2012 - 2013. We've learned some new tricks since those early days and are proud to take you on a new six piece video set tour of the fabulous Naude's Nek Pass. This is the 4th highest pass in South Africa.
The brothers Naude who plotted the lines of the western side of the pass and were involved in the construction process did an amazing job and managed to design a very good road with comfortable gradients which has truly stood the test of time. This story of headstrong farmers whose requests for roads were stoicly ignored by the British authorities, is not uncommon and is repeated in the nearby Joubert's Pass at Lady Grey.
At the western end of the pass, about 10 km east of the quaint little village of Rhodes, you can stop at the Naude family memorial site. The name Naude has been spelt out in the form of large stone and cement letters, each about 3m long and 1,5m high. This peaceful spot lies under some old oak trees alongside a small stream. Here you can go back several generations and trace the genealogy of the family who have developed and farmed in this remote valley for almost 200 years.
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.