* Weather watch
* Trips & Tours
* Tiffindell is for sale
* Wild Coast V3 Tour (Day 6)
* Revisiting the Oceanos
* Pass of the week
Whilst Gautengers are complaining they've been robbbed of their summer with cool temperatures and a vast amount of rain, those in the Western Cape are experiencing a heatwave of note. I guess it's nothing more than life in Africa. On January 22nd temperatures soared along the West Coast where Hopefield and Vredenburg recorded new record highs. It was slightly cooler in Cape Town at around 40C.
We still have some tickets open for May Wild Coast Tours. Check the itineraries and prices on the link below:
Tired of life in the city? Why not buy yourself some high altitude real estate in the Cape Highlands and become the owner of a ski resort. Isn't that a cool idea?!
Day 6 - Coffee Bay to The Haven
It was time to say farewell to the charms of Coffee Bay and go in search of new adventures. Convoy ready to rumble with radio checks done and heading back towards Hole in the Wall, where we took a right hand fork and then very carefully negotiated our way into a very dense local forest with an unpronounceable name - Mgxotyeni. The forest is a mix of indigenous trees as well as gum plantations. The very rough track we followed is used as a service road for a water pipeline; and then mainly by trucks.
The track is basic at best and consists of rocks (some of them quite sharp as we found out), mud, leaves, branches, lots of shade and many spiders (drive with your window open at your peril!). Derek van Eeden had the misfortune of being the first vehicle to pick up a puncture on Day 2 of the tour and in a cruel twist of fate the dreaded sidewall snake bit his Discovery a second time on this tour. He handled his misfortune with aplomb.
* Meiringspoort closed (again)
* Trips & Tours
* Wild Coast Day 5
* Pass of the week
Heavy rain, storms, floods and tornadoes have inundated large parts of the interior with welcome rain in the grerater Karoo area as well as the normally bone dry Northern Cape. Gauteng, Mpumalanga and KZN have all had plenty of rain. On the morning of 16th January Meiringspoort was once again closed to traffic as floodwaters had coursed through the poort, overtopping the road and leaving behind mud, debris and tree trunks. The Karoo National Park was forced to close all its tourists routes (except the main road) as the park received a huge amount of rain over a short space of time. In the Western Cape heatwaves have been the order of day with temperatures above the mean average being recorded for January
We still have a few spots ope on our two Wild Coast Tours in May, which is a great time to tour with lovely sunny weather being the norm at that time of year. If you want to join us on either of the Wild Coast Tours, you can read the full itinerary and pricing at this link: MPSA WILD COAST TOURS
Coffee Bay - Mapuzi - Hole in the Wall - White Clay
The good weather just kept following us (and we weren't complaining!) Local Xhosa guide, Mzo was ready and waiting to take us to some of the local points of interest. Mzo drove up front with us in the Land Cruiser and we handed the mike over to him. He is quite a character - full of good humour, knowledge and enthusiasm.
Our first destination for the day was Mapuzi. Its only a few kilometres to the north-east of Coffee Bay, but the road getting there is well - to put it mildly - quite rough. The route traverses a few Wild Coast villages and then suddenly an amazing view opens to the right as a landscape filled with Wild Coast wonders is spread out at your feet. The Mapuzi river lazily flows into the blue waters of the Indian Ocean in the distance, but closer there is a dramatically steep cliff dropping straight down to thunderous surf some 60 metres lower down. The wind was pumping and photography was difficult trying to hold cameras steady in the strong updraft up the cliff face.
The Nqutu Pass is named after the village at its summit point. This short, tarred pass is fairly steep with average gradient of 1:18 over a distance of 3,3 km. Being close to a busy town, you can expect pedestrians and livestock on the road, minibus taxis and other slow moving vehicles.
The name is of Zulu origin, and is derived from 'isquthu', ‘flat-topped vessel’, descriptive of a nearby hill from which the village takes its name.
Note that the entire pass has double barrier lines, so there is no overtaking allowed.
* More wild weather
* The Misunderstood Dam
* Tours & New Tours for 2022
* Wild Coast Story - Day 3
* Pass of the Week
* New passes added
* Upgraded videos added
This summer has produced a lot of rainfall with most of the country seeing overflowing dams and some torrential downfalls. Aughrabies has been massive and other videos have surfaced (Karkloof in KZN comes to mind) showing enormous amounts of water flowing in most rivers. All the Vaal and Orange River dams are more than 100% full, as is the Katse Dam in Lesotho.
Even more surprising is the Beervlei Dam near Willowmore which never seems to have water in it, is now very close to being full. In fact has filled twice between November and January) This dam has an interesting story which many people don't know about. The dam was built in the 1950's as a flood control dam and it's meant to be EMPTY. When the Grootrivier floods, this is the dam that contains the inflow (it can hold 86 million cu.m.) and prevents flood damage further downstream. As the water in the catchment area is high in salinity, the Beervlei Dam was never designed to store water for irrigation due to the water contamination with salt. When the dam fills up it is quickly released in a controlled manner for irrigation downstream before the salinity has a chance to contaminate the water.
The dam must be one of the most maligned infrastructures in SA and most people are critical of it as it is mostly empty. Urban legends have flourished about long term droughts, a poorly built dam wall, and bad planning by the DWA. Of course we now know that those stories are all hogwash. Water flowing into the dam is fed by the Grootrivier, which drains a large part of the Karoo.
There's always something new to learn!
We are busy adding the final touches to a brand new tour - the Garden Route Saunter, which will start in Riversdale and end at Storms River Mouth. This 5 day tour will be open to normal vehicles and include a mix of about 70/30% gravel and tar. The route will cover many passes including all the famous ones in the Garden Route like Garcia's Pass, Robinson Pass, Montagu Pass, 7 Passes Road, Prince Alfred's Pass, Grootrivier Pass and the Bloukrans Pass. Points of interest will include a forest walk, the Big Tree, Spitzkop, Jubilee Creek, Millwood, De Vlugt, World of Birds, Natures Valley, Storms River Bridge and the Storms River National Park.
The tour is scheduled to take place in July.
Day 4 - Port St Johns to Coffee Bay
The rain forecast didn't materialise, much to everyone's relief. We departed promptly after breakfast from The Spotted Grunter, heading along the new R61 towards Mthatha, traversing three passes in quick succession. These were Isinuka Poort, Butybuse Pass and the Mngazi River Pass, after which we turned south at Tombo. The R61 is in beautiful condition with a wide, smooth surface and adequate emergency lanes. The only negative are the speedbumps (or traffic calmers, as they are called these days), which appear regularly and speed has to be dropped from 100 kph all the way down to 30 kph. The minibus taxis with their very low front clearance have to cross them dead slow - and often at an angle. It makes driving on the R61 a bit frustrating, but with the high number of taxi accidents in the region, I suppose the authorities had little choice but to go that route.
This short pass of 3,2 km connects Hlobane/Vaalbank in the north with the village of Bloemendal in the south. It has a classic low-high-low profile with a summit height of 1350m. What sets this pass apart from it's peers is the number of potholes (at the time of filming in September, 2021) that have to be avoided. It's probably one of the worst in South Africa and results in drivers weaving onto the wrong side of the road.
The good news is that the average speed is relatively low, so avoiding collisions is quite easy. The probable cause of the poor road condition is the constant presence of coal mining trucks which service several mines in the immediate area. Other dangers include heavy mountain mists and livestock on the road.
* Goodbye 2021 / Hello 2022
* Swartberg Classic Tour - Final chapter
* Wild Coast V3 Tour - Day 4 Waterfalls
* Pass of the week
Just when we all collectively heaved a sigh of relief that 2021 was written into the history books, the very first thing that hit the headlines in 2022 was parliament being set on fire in Cape Town - and that under a bizarre and strange set of circumstances. As you all know we don't do politics here, but it does make one think.
Despite that, we wish you all a healthy and prosperous 2022. May your travel wishes come true.
We have a drawer full of plans for the year ahead with some innovative new ideas which you will see unfold as the year progresses.
On the social media side we grew our followers by just over 40,000 on Facebook to reach 93,000 by the end of December, 2021. The growth has been phenomenal. Likewise our Instagram followers have increased by a whopping 112%. The formula we have developed of good quality photos coupled with interesting topics seems to have attracted the right audience of likeminded people. The amount of man-hours put into our social media efforts amounts to around 4 hours per day, seven days per week.
To see the full itinerary, pricing and online bookings click on a link below:
This was the highlight of the traverse of the P1649 route. There are three passes that traverse the Gouritz River. From south to north these are the Gouritz River Pass on the N2 national road, the Jan Muller Pass (Gravel) which bridges the river some 32 km further north (as the crow flies) and lastly the Uitspan Pass, which crosses the Gouritz River another 16 km northwards. The latter is the pass we selected for the tour.
The Gouritz River is an interesting river which has caused farmers and road and rail builders many problems over the years. Its gorge is deep and wide, yet for most of the year it is dry and dormant, but when the rains come, this river can be savagely lethal.
This hidden gem of a gravel pass connects Vryheid, Hlobane and Vaalbank with a number of game farms, forestry reserves and nature reserves in northern KZN. The pass has 34 bends corners and curves and displays a respectable altitude variance of 292m over a length of 8,2 km. You will be treated to attractive scenery throughout the traverse. The road provides access to the Loziba Wilderness Conservancy, Mawana Game Reserve and Thangami Game Reserve.
In fair weather this pass is suitable for all vehicles. Cautionaries include 'slippery when wet', livestock on the road and slow moving vehicles. Mountain mists are common in the area which can drastically reduce visibility.
Dassieshoogte is a moderate pass located on the tarred R34 route just south of Vryheid. It's of above average length at 6.1 km and has very easy curves with gentle gradients. It parallels the railway line for much of its length, under-passing it just after the northern start. The pass has its summit point close to the northern end followed by a long undulating plateau in the middle and a lower false summit towards the southern end.
The road is generally in a good condition and has safety shoulders throughout. It is suitable for all vehicles.
* 2021 in review
* Tours news
* Swartberg Classic Day 4
* Wild Coast V3 - Day 3
* Pass of the week
For most South Africans 2021 was a difficult one both financially, physically and emotionally. Lockdown regulations decimated the hospitality and tourism industries in particular. Many borderline businesses went under and with it their employees lost jobs and income. Families with plans to see relatives overseas have been put on hold or cancelled. The knock-on effects have been severe. Conspiracy theories have abounded leaving many people sceptical. Covid changed everyone's lives. The secret now is learning to work around it and continue to make a success of whatever you do. At MPSA we studied the graphs where the virus spiked and calculated when not to run our tours. During an initial spike phase, most people are reluctant to book a tour, but as soon as the initial knee jerk reaction has passed (usually about 4 to 6 weeks) people start planning again and our booking system gets busy.
We have also been fortunate that many of our clients that would normally have travelled overseas, decided to go local and in a bizarre twist of fate, worked out favourably for us. We are grateful.
Plans for 2022 are forging ahead with a very positive outlook. Already the first three tours are close to being fully booked. Two additional tours will be added over the next two weeks.
We wish all of you a prosperous, healthy New Year filled with travel, love and happiness.
To see the full itinerary, pricing and online bookings click on a link below:
March 4th to 9th 2022 - Ben 10 Eco Challenge V5 (4 tickets left)
May 6th to 15th 2022 - Wild Coast V4 Pondoland Tour (1 ticket left)
May 16th to 25th 2022 - Wild Coast V5 Mbashe Tour (1 ticket left)
Day 4 - Thursday 14th October, 2021
After a hearty breakfast at the Patat Restaurant at the Swartberg Country Manor, it was time to prep the convoy for the last day and the easiest in terms of technical driving and distance.
We chose a different route this year, due to the fact that we had several 4x2 vehicles in our group. After leaving Swartberg Country Manor, we headed west, back over a section we had driven two days before via the Doringkloof and Huis se Hoogte passes.
At The Kruisrivier Valley, we turned left - destination Coetzeespoort.
We chat about the dangers of travelling over the festive season and we close the chapter on the Swartberg Classic Tour.
Listen to the interview:
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.