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What's inside?

* Cederberg (Part 2)

* Upcoming Tours

* South African History - Chapter 19

* Pass of the week

* Podcast

* Words of wisdom


 Cederberg Classic Tour (Part 2)

Eselbank to Wupperthal ~ The highlight of the first day was undoubtedly the Eselbank waterfall. The access road is normally from the northern side, which doesn't allow a full view of the falls, so we managed to find a longer, but very rewarding access road aproaching from the south. The plateau area is quite flat and the sudden appearance of the deep gorge, caught us all by surprise. The views of the waterfall and gorge are spectacular, so we spent a fair amount of time taking pics and enjoying the unseasonally warm spring weather.

It was time to continue our journey as we traversed the little village of Eselbank with its quaint old buildings, rickety fences and peaceful people - to cross the river via a wet (but not deep) causeway and up towards the Rooibos plantations, where the track is often subject to some soft sandy sections.

Soon we were at the summit of the Eselbank Pass. This very steep pass is also sometimes called the Kerskop Pass, presumably because some rock in the area looks like the top of a candle. For those doing the descent for the first time and especially passengers sitting on the left, the steep drops-offs and narrow width can be quite intimidating, but with most of the steep parts having been concreted, the traction is good and it can be driven in almost any passenger car - but carefully!

[More lower down...]

Published in Mountain Passes News

What's inside?

* Ben 10 Eco Challenge latest

* Cederberg Classic Tour (report back)

* Limpopo Tour (report back - Part 2)

* South African history - Part 18

* Podcast

* Pass of the week

* Words of wisdom


Ben 10 Eco Challenge update
The winter months always see a sharp decline in Ben 10 Eco Challenge entries and results, but each spring, all the adventurers return and this spring is no exception with a flurry of new entries coming in. The total numbers stand at 210 at present and of those 109 have successfully completed the challenge. That's a 52% success rate and goes to show that the challenge is a lot more difficult than what most people think.

In two weeks time, we head back to Elliot and Rhodes for our second official Ben 10 Tour which starts on Saturday the 21st September and ends on Tuesday 24th September. We can still accommodate 1 vehicle, but entries close tomorrow afternoon at 1700 (Friday 6th September). If you have any questions please refer to our tour booking page for pricing and other details. If you want to know more about the actual challenge, please visit our Ben 10 Eco Challenge page.

Cederberg Classic Tour (report back)
Day 2 of the tour required an early start as it was going to be a full day. Despite the forecast of 30C as a maximum temperature for the day, it was quite chilly early in the morning as the convoy rumbled northwards towards to the historic Matjiesrivier farm. The Wegener family graveyard is right next to the road and a bright display of orange daisies contained within the thick old stone walls of the cemetry created an instant photo opportunity. The site is lovingly tended and well worth stopping at. This tough settler family owned this farm for almost 200 years; the inscriptions on the tombstones reading like a history book.

[Read more lower down...]

Published in Mountain Passes News

What's inside?

* Upcoming Tours
* Limpopo Tour - continued.
* Cederberg Tour - Part 1
* Podcast - Gravel Travel Tips Part 3
* Pass of the Week
* New passes added
* Words of wisdom

UPCOMING TOURS
We will be offering a few one and two day tours during October and November. You will be the first to know about them and we have a few delicious surprises in store for you. The only tour which still has a few tickets available is the Ben 10 Eco Challenge V2 Tour. If there is one mountain pass tour you have to do, it's this one. Four days of awesomeness > from the biggest mountains, to the greenest valleys; tumbling waterfalls; technical driiving; mind blowing scenery; great country food and new friendships made. Get all the info and sign up on this link: BEN 10 V2 TOUR.

Limpopo Tour - the story continues

The next two passes, Papstraat and Tarentaalstraat, followed each other back-to-back in quick succession. After a short stop to photograph an old building, we headed along a gravel link to Sandrivierspoort, then along the tarred R33 to Vaalwater. As we were running slightly ahead of schedule, it was decided to detour off of the planned route to visit one of the attractions near the town, a quaint little church on the farm Twenty-Four Rivers.

Designed by Sir Herbert Baker (he also designed the Union Buildings in Pretoria and many other prominent buildings in South Africa), the St. John the Baptist church was built using local materials and stone quarried in the area. It was dedicated on the 15th of July 1914 by the Right Reverend Michael Furse, Bishop of Pretoria at the time. The grounds are immaculately kept, and the complex consists of the church itself, as well as a few other buildings which were added later, all of them in the same style as the original construction. Sean, our photography fundi on this trip, was soon happily immersed in capturing images of the church from every conceivable angle, whilst the rest of us took the opportunity to relax and stretch our legs, a welcome break from the concentration of driving. [More lower down...]

 

Published in Mountain Passes News

What's inside?

* Lighthouses & Shipwrecks - a new branch of MPSA

* Face Book followers tops 20,000
* Droughts & Floods
* Bain Tour - The final chapter
* Limpopo Tour - Report back Part 1
* South African History Chapter 16
* Pass of the week
* New passes
* Words of wisdom


Lighthouses and Shipwrecks of South Africa
As a natural extension of our passes project, we will be launching our brand new project on lighthouses and shipwrecks of South Africa. Content for the site will be provided by Mike Leicester, who has been actively studying this subject for many years and has accumulated a vast amount of knowledge. The new site will be launched in September and you will be the first to see it. Initially the site will be structured around the 50 lighthouses along our coastline and the shipwrecks (which number several thousand) section will be added as time permits. We believe the site will be a winner.

Face Book
Yesterday the counter ticked over onto 20,003 followers. Why do we put so much effort into our social media? It is far and away the best way for us to attract new subscribers to the MPSA website, yet the conversion rate is less than 1%. Those of you that follow our FB page might have noticed that we have gradually morphed from a pure passes page to embrace a far wider range of topics, yet each day will always take us back to our mountain pass roots. By posting on a wider range of interesting topics, whilst sticking to our formula of positivity and avoiding politics and religion, we have rapidly accelerated our follower group in the past 6 months. 

Droughts & Floods
The Mother City breathes again - After an agonising and prolonged drought of 4 years, the drought is now officially broken, with the dams serving the greater Cape Town area standing at 81.7%. However, whilst Capetonians have reason to celebrate, there are still large parts of the interior that are far from out of the woods. Water is our single most precious resource. At MPSA we think that the use of potable water must never go back to where we were a few years ago. Get rid of the water hungry lawns, English plants and get those succulents going. So many people have created exceptional gardens that use hardly any water at all. It simply has to be the way forward.

The Bain Tour (Cableway to Patensie)
This tour has so many fond memories and the lasting friendships that have been forged by the 25 people who shared this thoroughly enjoyable trip. We are already planning our next Baviaans excursion! [More lower down]


Published in Mountain Passes News

WHAT'S INSIDE?

* Spring flowers look promising
* Baviaanskloof - The story continues
* South African history - the 1st Anglo-Boer War.
* Podcast - how to prepare for your next gravel travel adventure
* Pass of the week 
* Words of wisdom


It's been an excellent winter for the Western Cape with drenching rain falling for many weeks. The wheat and canola fields are a blaze of green and yellow; the dams are full and the rivers are flowing strongly. The region's biggest dam, Theewaterskloof, is currently at 71% and water continues to flow strongly in the catchment area. The big question is, should water restrictions be relaxed or remain?

Springtime is arguably the best season to travel and destinations like the Namaqualand National Park beckon. Our fully booked spring tour into the Cederberg area will include a visit to the Biedouw Valley - a well-known area to see the wild-flowers. We will bring a full report on the tour towards the end of August. [More lower down]

Published in Mountain Passes News

What's inside:


* Tours update

* Bain Tour story - Chapter 6

* South African History - Anglo Zulu War

* Podcast - Social media impact and a chat about Jagersfontein

* Pass of the week

* Words of wisdom


Tours Update
August 17/18th - Back of Beyond Limpopo Tour - 1 place open. Bookings close on Friday 9th.
August 23 - 25th - Cederberg Classic Tour - Fully booked.

September 21st to 24th - Ben 10 Eco Challenge V2 Tour - 4 places open.
September 27th to 29th - Lesotho Sani Tour - Fully booked.

 

Baviaanskloof - Smitskraal to Rooihoek

The water crossing at Smitskraal has seen the undoing of many a driver and rider. It is long and the underwater surface consists of thousands of loose fist sized stones. Most of the time the current is not swift, but bikers in great numbers have taken an unscheduled swim at this spot. One of our guests, Zena Becker, has a fear of deep water and built up a certain level of angst about this crossing. We have a habit of giving our guests nick-names and as soon as her fear of deep water became apparent, we dubbed her Zenaphobia. Once through that crossing she was all smiles and brimming with confidence!

The entire convoy waltzed through Smitskraal and no one had a bigger smile than Zena. This low altitude part of the Baviaanskloof offers fascinating geology and flora. A short while after Smitskraal, the next campsite (called Rooihoek) makes an appearance. There are toilet facilities and lovely campsites, but booking is essential. We stopped here for an early lunch break, before moving onto the next pass which is the Langkop Pass. [More lower down]

 

Published in Mountain Passes News

Inside:
* Tours update
* Bain Tour story - Chapter 5
* South African History - Discovery of gold
* Podcast - Golden Gate Part 2
* Pass of the week
* Words of wisdom


Tours Update

Back of Beyond Limpopo Tour (17/18 Aug) - 2 places left

Cederberg Classic Tour - (23/24/25 Aug) - Sold out. Bookings closed

Ben 10 Eco Challenge V2 Tour (21/22/23/24 Sep) - 4 places left.

Lesotho - Sani Tour (27/28/29 Sep) - 1 place left


Thomas Bain Heritage Tour (Zandvlakte to Rooihoek)

After a particularly humorous drivers meeting on the lawns at Zandvlakte, we got going by 09h30 and bade farewell to our hosts Piet and Magriet Kruger. If you want to enjoy old-school farm style hospitality, then book in at Zandvlakte. Their food was superb and a great evening was enjoyed by the group the previous night. It had rained steadily throughout the night and some of the more conservative ladies were already asking questions about water levels in the kloof - the level of concern being commensurate with the voice pitch.

The distance from the farm to the western entrance control gate of the bioreserve is just a few kilometres. The poor Parks Board official manning the gate really had his hands full. He was a relief person and it was his first day. The 'kerkbasaar' traffic heading back to Patensie arrived behind our convoy, causing a traffic tailback of about 25 vehicles. The one driver who reached the gate ahead of our convoy was already into the 12th minute of trying to get his payment done and his permit issued, when I figured those at the back of the convoy would be there for at least an hour.

I persuaded the almost frantic guard to allow me to help him and I wrote out a single permit for our entire convoy and ensured that he received a handsome bonus for being sensible. The gratitude shone through his eyes! The kerkbasaar group behind us did a copy/paste and in short order all 20 vehicles were on their way. We pulled over and allowed the hungover and hasty young bulletjies to be on their way. [More lower down]

Published in Mountain Passes News

Newsletter In a nutshell

* Bain Tour continued
* SA History Part 12
* Podcast
* Feature on the Golden Gate Highlands National Park
* New passes added
* Words of wisdom


Very cold weather weather has continued over most of South Africa and in the Western Cape the last frontal storm has boosted dam levels to a four year high, with Theewaterskloof - the bigggest storage dam in the area - currently sporting a level of 60% with the City of Cape Town's average level of all the dams currently at 69.6%. This is wonderful news for the province which has laboured heavily under a long and devastating drought. It also augers well for a good wild-flower display this spring,

Thomas Bain Heritage Tour ~ The saga continues...

The weather on Saturday morning in Uniondale was rainy, cold and blustery, necessitating a Plan B for our drivers briefing, which was to get everyone into their vehicles and the briefing was done over the two way radios. This was the day the frontal system was supposed to clobber us, but as the day progressed it became increasingly pleasant, much to everyone's surprise.

We took a quick drive up the tarred Uniondale Heights Pass, then left the tar a few kilometres later as we cut across the Karoo highlands to intersect with the R332 near the summit of the Nuwekloof Pass. The rain that had fallen overnight gave us the benefit of a dust free drive as we made good progress into the east.

The Nuwekloof Pass was designed by Thomas Bain and it's an odd pass being a mixture between a pass and a poort, rather than a true mountain pass, but after a series of long sweeping bends, suddenly a hairpin bend makes an appearance and it is here that a sign proclaims the spot to be Raaskrans (Noisy Cliff). A towering near vertical cliff of some 80m in height forces the road (and the river) to the north-east and although awkward to stop, the spot is really a place where you need to get out of your vehicle and take in the spectacular geology. The hairpin is concreted and although the gradient is fairly gentle it soon becomes apparent that the concrete serves as the bed of the river for a distance of about 100m. It was bone dry during our traverse, but this must be a particularly nasty section in a flash-flood. The rest of the descent sees the road criss-crossing the river multiples of times as the road winds down the ravine and finally the poort opens up onto the upper plains of the western Baviaanskloof, which we had the good fortune of viewing under the arch of a massive rainbow.

Published in Mountain Passes News

What's inside???

* Upcoming trips & tours

* Thomas Bain Heritage Tour feedback.

* SA History - Nongqawuse: The Dead Will Arise

* Pass of the Week - The Road to Hell

* New passes added this week

* Words of wisdom


Trips & Tours (Click for more info and online bookings)

17, 18 August - Back of Beyond Limpopo Tour

23, 24, 25 August - Cederberg Classic Tour

21, 22, 23, 24 September - Ben 10 V2 Tour

27, 28, 29 September - Lesotho-Sani Tour


Report back: Thomas Bain Heritage Tour - Day 1

The Langkloof section of Prince Alfred's Pass is our favourite part, as it is here that the road narrows significantly and the engineering feats of Mr. Bain still stand proudly 140 years on. Waterfalls and narrow bridges, ferns and forests all passed by as our convoy laboured up the final stretch towards the summit, past the bend known as Tiekielief Draai. The story goes that the convicts who had served their time in the prison works programme, then received their "ticket of leave". The prisoners struggled with the English, and the phrase morphed into "Tiekielief". It was on that part of the construction of the pass, that several of the prisoners received their freedom.

Once over the summit of Prince Alfred's Pass, we drove past Avontuur and took the new direct road via the Uniondale Poort to arrive at our overnight venue in Uniondale. The town was once the centre of the wagon manufacturing industry, but with the advent of the motor car, the area turned to farming and tourism as a new source of income. Part of the tourism package is the famous Uniondale ghost. A story so vivid in the retelling that it continues to draw visitors to the town in a regular stream. According to the locals, Good Friday is the right night to lurk on the lonely moonless roads. [More lower down...]

Published in Mountain Passes News

The week that was and still is!

* Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey!

* Trips & Tours

* Thomas Bain Heritage Tour report back

* South African History - Chapter 9

* Featured pass of the week

* New passes added this week

* Words of wisdom


Brrrrr! Up in Gautengaleng temperatures today have plummeted to below zero, with decent snowfalls being recorded on all the major mountain ranges from the Hexriver mountains in the west to the Drakensberg in the east. Lesotho really got clobbered with the main route (A1) to Afriski being closed on Monday. Each year the snow draws visitors in their thousands and as always we issue a cautionary about snow driving. South Africans in general have little or zero snow driving experience. It is different to any other type of off-road driving, so think carefully before you rush out to experience the snow in your brand new 4x4.

1. Don't travel alone
2. Go prepared for an emergency. Pack blankets, dry clothes, beanies, gloves, emergency food, hire a satellite phone, record emergency assist numbers.
3. Know your limitations. Just because you are in a 4WD vehicle does not make you invincible. Think ahead.
4. Invest in snow chains and know how to fit them.
5. Be aware of the dangers of black ice (rhime ice) on tar. No traction means its like driving a vehicle on ice skates. Steering makes no difference. Your vehicle will slide in a straight line down the easiest route (which is usually down a cliff).

The expression 'cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey' is not rude at all. It comes from the days of the big sailing ships that carried cannons. The iron cannon balls were stacked in pyramids on a brass plate (brass to prevent the iron balls from rusting). This plate was called a "monkey" by the mariners. When the ship sailed into very cold weather, the iron cannon balls would contract faster than the brass and would end up popping off the monkey and around the deck. Thus the expression. There are a number of sources that claim this story to be "twak" but it sounds very plausible, so we'll roll with it for now!


Trips &Tours

August 9th -11th & 23rd - 25th:  We are offering 2 tours during August. One in the Cederberg (23rd-25th) and the other up north in Limpopo Province ober the long weekend (9th to 11th). Check our shop and tours page later this week for more details. Bookings have just  opened for the Cederberg Classic Tour.

September 21st to 24th The Ben 10 Eco Challenge V2 Tour - 4 places left.

September 27th to 29th The Lesotho-Sani Tour - 1 place left.

October or November - Wild Coast Tour - A multiple day tour taking you places you can only dream of and taking in some of SA's biggest gravel passes. Details will be published soon.

Thomas Bain Heritage Tour - Every tour we do, seems to be 'the best tour ever' and this one certainly felt like it deserved that tag. We met in the dreamy village of Wilderness and soon had our group kitted out with radios. During the introductions one of our guests introduced himself as Andre "I'm an undercover agent for SARS" That would set the tone of humour for the next three and a half days. [More lower down...]

Published in Mountain Passes News

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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.
 

Master Orientation Map

Master Orientation Map 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.

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