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Latest News! 31st January, 2019

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One of the 11 Dwarsberg Trout Hideaway campsites One of the 11 Dwarsberg Trout Hideaway campsites - Photo: Archives

THE WEEK THAT WAS:

* Fires, floods and droughts

* Book a place on our new tour

* Listen to the podcast

* MPSA goes professional

* A six year stampede from zero to hero

* Pass of the Week

* Thought of the day

BUSH FIRES : From week to week in the publishing office in Cape Town we have a never ending treasure chest of information to share with you. One thing about South Africa is that it's never boring. The Western Cape has seen a series of bad mountain fires, with vast tracks of fynbos, plantations and forests laid to waste and sadly also loss of human life and personal property. Over the weekend yet another set of fires broke out in the Lions Head/Signal area, blanketing the city and environs on a thick veil of smoke.

FLOODS & DROUGHTS : On the Highveld soaring temperatures have finally brought on the annual onslaught of violent electrical storms with localised flash flooding, whilst in the North-West the drought is stretching into its 5th consecutive year, bankrupting farmers who have no funds left for fodder, diesel and simply being able to pay their monthly bills.

Africa (and South Africa) is a harsh land with a wide range of climate systems. It is that very diversity which makes it such a beautiful country to explore. Whether it's a herd of cattle on the N2 or a troop of baboons on the N1 or a kudu jumping over your car along a Karoo back road, there is never a dull moment.

Last week we uncovered a fabulous new pass over private property, but if you're a paying guest at the farm (fly fishing, camping, hiking, mountain biking), you may drive the pass. It's a major pass at 18 km length and twists and turns its way along steep cliffs up the rugged Stettynskloof to terminate at the anchor dam of the Breedekloof Irrigation Scheme. [More lower down]

The Stettynskloof Tour. For Western Cape guests we have made special arrangements to take a small group along this new pass. It will form a part of a bigger concept where we will be checking out a range of dams in the Breede River Basin all linked by passes and awesome winelands scenery. This exciting new concept promises to be a stunning tour. It will take place on Saturday 16th February. Our tours are normally sold out within 48 hours, so if you want to enjoy this unique tour, we recommend booking today. Online bookings are now open at the MPSA Shop.

Listen to the podcast: To find out more about Stettynskloof and all its attractions, listen to the podcast which was broadcast live on Wild Coast FM last Monday.

Past, Present and Future:
A short history that details our progress from birth to age 6

2012 November: Bought a fancy new camera called a GoPro1. Started experimenting with it and wondered how it could be used best. Almost by mistake, we made our first shaky and very amateurish video, which was of White's Road in Wilderness; then started a small email group amongst friends who enjoyed the stories and adventure. We had about 15 people in the email group. Research showed there were around 420 passes in South Africa (Wikipedia), but the list included hiking trails. The reality was about 380 once we had finished cross referencing the names. Little did we know that by the end of 2018 we would have in excess on 1100! The first thoughts about setting up a website started - and grew from the Western Cape to include the whole of South Africa.

2013 January: Launched the MPSA FaceBook page with instant success. Amongst all the usual negative press and fake news, MPSA comes across as credible, positive and interesting. We very quickly learn to avoid anything even vaguely political after spending one specific night deleting vitriolic posts till the early morning hours. Hard lessons!

2013 February: Created a blog as the email group had become too laborious. Blog views increased so fast, we decided to create a website and registered the url MountainPassesSouthAfrica.co.za

2013 March: The MPSA version 1 website is launched and hosted by Inetimagery via the Hertzner platform.

2013 August: A website support company 'New Web Consulting' take over the technical side of our website and we migrate the site onto a Joomla platform which allows many great new features to be added to the site. It's a massive job, filled with technical glitches, but after a week or so, the new site is widely acclaimed.

2013 December: Website page views had grown to around 4000 per month and we had filmed and documented about 60 passes. We attain a Google No.1 search ranking in our category, which space we have completely dominated up till the present time.

2014 February: Launched our first newsletter

2014 June: Website page views had increased to 7000 per month and by the end of the year had increased to 9500 per month. Public speaking engagements begin.

2014 September: Graduated to a GoPro3 Black. Big improvement over the 1 series.

2014 November: Mike Leicester joins the MPSA research team to head up pass production for most of the northern sectors of South Africa including Gauteng, North-West Province, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Free State and KZN. This greatly accellerates pass production with passes quickly reaching the 300 mark.

2015 March: Large scale press coverage with a range of magazines and newspapers doing feature articles on the website. We scrapped Version 1 of the website and built Version 2 which was very well received by the public. By the end of 2015 the site was attracting over 20,000 page views per month with no sign of viewership abating.

2015 November: Radio interview with 702 on the Sani Pass suddenly expanded national awareness of the website. Indexed passes on the site reach the 500 mark. Pass production time is decreased from 22 hours down to 10 hours per pass, by working more efficiently and with better equipment. (make that more expensive!)

2016 March: Version 3 of the website is launched (the current one) and is an instant hit with our viewers.

2016 June: We launch our online shop covering a range of MPSA offerings which include the tours.

2016 September: In collaboration with Tiffindell Ski resort, we conceive the Ben 10 Eco Challenge concept and within a month turn it into reality as a social upliftment programme to help tourism improve in the Eastern Cape Highlands. The challenge currently has had 129 entries of whom 58 have successfully completed it. It has made a difference to the hospitality industry and has grown to become the premiere offroad challenge for 4x4's, adventure motorcycles, mountain bikers and runners.

2017 February: We made a big decision to run the site as a subscriber based site due to the ever increasing costs of running the site which by that stage had reached encyclopaedic proportions and our costs were becoming impossible to  fund privately.  We kept the annual fee very low in the hope of attracting 5000 subscribers. Amazingly this had almost zero effect on viewership and page views remained high. We have learned that there is an understated expectation that everything on the internet should be free. We have campaigned tirelessly for the past two years to convince viewers that if each viewer pays a small amount it allows the site to continue to become better. This is however, easier said than done and we are still a long way from our 5000 subscribers target. In office, we called this 'The Draadsitters Campaign"

2017 March: Nominated for an award by the Western Cape Government, but we dip out to Peter Slingsby of Slingsby maps, but are chuffed to be nominated.

2017 June: We are approached by Wild Coast FM to run a permanent live chat show every Monday, which reaches a new audience in the Eastern Cape. This symbiotic arrangement continues to the present time. We also add a new podcast menu button.

2017 August: We launch our Instagram account which attracts a much younger audience and is more visually focussed than text. The account steadily gains traction and by the end of 2018 post views are hovering around 60,000 views per month.

2017 October: After a frustrating and non existent communication effort with YouTube (who are compressing our videos so much that they are pixellating), we make the decision to host our videos on Vimeo. For this we have to pay (in US$) but we have ad free videos and far superior quality. For our 2000 strong YouTube following we continue to upload all the videos to YouTube as well. We are consuming bandwidth at the rate of 100Gb per month.

2017 November: We are invited to appear on the TV breakfast show Expresso. This greatly accellerates our website viewership and by the end of 2018 we are regularly reaching over 60,000 page views per month.

2017 December: Upgrade to a GoPro6 Black with digital stabiliser. Expensive but what an incredible improvement to the quality of the footage!

2018 March: Nominated and win the award from the Western Cape Government in the category 'Significant Contribution to Geographical Place Names'

2018 August: Self-drive tours are introduced and quickly become so popular that every tour is fully booked with a waiting list. That same month we introduce tours from Johannesburg, which are guided by Mike Leicester.

2018 October: Lisa Roberts joins the Cape Town office as our creative artist. She takes over the Instagram account and produces those awesome ads for our tours. We make the decision to dump all our Google Ads in an effort to keep the website uncluttered and without distractions.

2018 November: Email volume hovers at over 8000 for the year. Just answering each and every email consumes around 3 hours each day. Newsletter subscribers surpass the 3000 mark.

2018 December: We publish our 800th pass and are astounded to see that since launch we have had around 4 million page views. FaceBook post views average 120,000 per month. Our most popular pass (Sani Pass) tops 100,000 page views. Our bank of passes stands at just over 1100, indicating a lot of work waiting to be done with around 270 passes pending production/research. You Tube Channel reveals just under 2 million views. We are in the big league.

2019 January: The pace and growth of the project has become a full time job and can no longer be managed doing it part time. Major changes are made (properties sold and career changes implemented) and as at 1st February, the Cape Town office will be officially a professional one and finally the dream of this project being my full time career has come to fruition. This is not without financial risk, but we are so passionate about this project that we believe the risk is worth taking and failure is simply not an option.

There are big things in the wings this year, which could elevate MPSA into a major national advertising platform, but we can't disclose details just yet. What we can say is that without YOU, our loyal followers and subscribers, we are absolutely nothing. We will continue to strive to improve our products and services with dedication and hard work. 2019 is going to a VERY interesting year! Cyber Drive with us - or do it in real time on one of our bespoke tours.

Pass of the Week

Check out the page, watch the videos and then book on the tour (Saturday 16th February) We can only take 10 vehicles. We release the tours to our subscribers first and a day later the Face Book ad goes live, so if you want to go on this tour, book right now! (The booking link is higher up this page)

* * * * *   S T E T T Y N S K L O O F    P A S S   * * * * *

 


Trygve Roberts
Editor

Thought for the day: "Push yourself, because no-one else is going to do it for you" ~ Anonymous

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Mountain Passes South Africa

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.
 

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