Where to from here?
Every now and then we come across a pass, which appears to be insignificant when we do our initial research on Google Earth, but when we get there, we are sometimes gobsmacked - as was the case a few weeks ago, when Mike Leicester toured through the achingly barren north-western part of South Africa.
Lying within 15 km of the best known landmark in that area (which is the Witsand Nature Reserve with its impeccable dune fields), is a fairly short but exceptionally rugged pass that works its way up and over a neck in the mountains. There is a point as one approaches from the southern side, where the cutline of the road can be seen higher up the mountain slope and it appears impossibly steep from that angle. Enough to make you stop abruptly and say out loud: "WHAAAT?!" And steep it is, with a 400m long section reaching a gut wrenching gradient of 1:3. This is our featured pass today.
Swartberg Pass revamp
As you read this news release, the Cape Town film crew will be in the Garden Route area, filming a range of small passes, but more specifically we are going to refilm the Swartberg Pass. The videos currently on display for this pass date back to 2012 and much has happened since then, both from an MPSA technology perspective as well as to the road itself - especially the flood damage, so the time has come to obtain upgraded footage for the 2nd most popular pass page on the website with 68,000 views. This is probably our favourite South African gravel pass, so going to film it is pure pleasure!
We have recently also refilmed Meiringspoort, the Huisrivier Pass and the Pakhuis Pass, all of which will be republished with upgraded videos during February.
In the Media
Our new "In the Media" page showcases all external media features and under the same NEWS button on the main menu bar, you can access podcasts (live radio broadcasts). Try the page via this shortcut: https://mountainpassessouthafrica.co.za/news/in-the-media.html
The prize of a one year subscription to MPSA goes to Mr. James Bilsbury for this beautifully composed photo taken in the Karoo near the summit of the Nuwekloof Pass, Baviaanskloof. Of the top 5 photos selected, this one got the most votes from the public. James wins a one year subscription to MPSA. The next photo competition will be launched later this month. Thank you to each and every one of you that entered. There were some excellent photos and choosing the winner was a tough decision, which we finally left up to the public after selecting the top 5.
Pass of the Week
Our Jhb based associate, Mike Leicester, bravely trekked off to the Northern Cape in January to film around 20 passes and poorts. And brave it was, as he had to battle locked farm gates, long detours, lack of signage, corrugated roads and 45C temperatures. In the process he managed to capture some wonderful new passes and poorts, which will be featured over the next few weeks. Today we showcase one of these new passes which appears on the MPSA website for the first time. Not every pass has the knockout statistics of Sani, but each pass, no matter how short or steep, has its own bit of history to unlock.
For those of you that were not able to watch the SABC3 Expresso breakfast show, we have been able to get an edited (ads removed) copy and have embedded it lower down on the page. It has taken us 5 full years to be able to appear on national television and we hope that this first appearance will be a stepping stone in terms of more relevant programs like 'Voetspore' and similar travel shows. More lower down.....
Ben 10 Eco Challenge
A few days ago we were contacted by one of the journalists, who writes for the online magazine BikeSA. He has just recently completed the Ben 10 Eco Challenge on an adventure motorcycle and described it as one of the best adventures of his life. That is quite a statement coming from such a well seasoned traveller. Mountain Passes South Africa will soon be featured on BikeSA. It is heartening to see how much the challenge is benefitting tourism in the area and a reminder that from from a small idea, something big can grow if you're willing to persevere, be enthusiastic and sincere in your motives.
Expresso Show - SABC3
By the time you read this newsletter, we will already have completed our guest appearance on this well-known, popular and widely watched TV breakfast show. We will try and get a video copy to embed in our media page for those who were unable to watch the show. Getting television exposure will add a lot of gravitas to our bragboard and provide exposure into new markets which we would never otherwise be able to afford. What a great start to 2018!
Pass of the Week
Nestled in the first southern ridge of the Zuurberg range north of Port Elizabeth is the gravel surfaced Doringnek Pass which gives access to a popular hotel at the summit of the pass, called the Zuurberg Mountain Village, renowned for the quality of the food and graciously elegant decor. The original manor house dates back well over a hundred years.
The entire pass falls within the range of the Addo Elephant National Park, which when started in 1931 with just 11 elephants, has today grown into South Africa's third largest national park. It is a major tourist attraction (both national and international) and provides the local economy with opportunities, growth and employment.
It was at the summit of the Doringnek Pass that the year 1848 saw the presence of the then colonial road engineer, Henry Fancourt White, with his 250 convict labourers arrive to commence construction of the 27 km long Zuurberg Pass northwards towards Somerset East, which was an obvious northern extension of the Doringnek Pass, all the way through to Somerset East. This would become the main road to the interior and be used for almost 100 years. More lower down.....
January Photographic Competition
Ben 10 Eco Challenge: by Anthony van Zyl
We now have 21 drivers/riders who have completed the challenge with another 23 hopefulls waiting for the right time and opportunity. Anthony van Zyl), the 21st entrant to complete the challenge, sent us this report
" I did this trip solo in my Land Rover Discovery Tdi (1996 model). It looks like this might be the first "original" Discovery to do the challenge. It was really an experience to enjoy the scenery of the Eastern Cape on the roads less travelled. (More lower down.....)
Pass of the Week
This week we put our focus on the magnificent Baviaanskloof and more specifically on one of it's two major poorts. The name Studtis goes far back into the kloof's history - all the way to 1817. Genealogy searches reveal the name to originate from the 1820 Settlers, which we assume were mostly British, but further research indicates the name to be spelt without the 's' on the end - 'Studti' and the added 's' was no doubt with an apostrophe - hence Studti's Poort, which switches the origin to German and somewhere along the line, the apostrophe was dropped, with grammar not being the main life focus in the Baviaanskloof!
One of the first farms to be registered in the western Baviaanskloof was Kamerkloof in 1817. Farmers reached the kloof by means of a handmade ‘ossewa’ trail from the western side of the kloof. Between 1880 and 1890 Thomas Bain built the Nuwekloof Pass giving entry to this unique valley. The farm played host to the first police station in the Baviaanskloof and today the original goal and the old tobacco drying shed can still be visited at Kamerkloof. More lower down...
January Photographic Competition
Entries are streaming in for our new photo contest. Submit your best (only 1 please) photo to us and stand a chance to win a 1 year subscription to MPSA.
The rules are simple. The subject matter must be South African. Only original photos will be considered and must be taken by yourself or a family member. Photos should be submitted in their original size and can be B&W or colour. Add a short explanation of where the photo was taken so we can caption it.
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.