This week we do the long trek up into the far northern corner of South Africa and more spefically into Limpopo's game reserve zone. Here, in the higher altitude, malaria-free climate there is game aplenty and weekends stays offer a fabulous retreat for weary city dwellers.
Connecting all these game reserves is a network of roads, of which many form passes and poorts. Our focus today falls on a gravel pass that most people have not even heard of. Join us for a few moments as we whisk you away into the dusty plains of Limpopo to discover one of the wonderful passes in this beautiful part of our country.
This week we head up into the Northern Cape and since this is officially the time of year of the spring flowers in Namaqualand, we've decided to introduce you to a big altitude gaining gravel pass between Leliefontein and Garies, that runs along the valley to the west of the Langkloof Pass, which we featured a few weeks ago.
Our featured pass is generally maintained to a good standard and can be driven in almost any vehicle. Besides the hundreds of acres of wild flowers on offer, there are granite smothered mountains that glisten in the sunlight, set against the bluest of skies that one only finds in Namaqualand.
All around you the ridges and rivers pulse with life as the winter comes to an end for a brief, but spellbinding few weeks as nature explodes into a frenzy of blossoms.
Week after week we dig into our treasure chest of mountain passes and take you into every corner of our beautiful and diverse country, as we introduce you to remote or forgotten passes and at other times we reawaken your interest in a well known or famous pass, where no matter how many times you travel it, it remains an absolute joy.
Our featured this week, is one of the latter. It was originally built by Thomas Bain and ranks as one of his best passes in terms of technical ingenuity. We recently refilmed this exceptionally lovely pass and bring it back to you today as fresh as a Namaqualand daisy in HD in a three part video set, covering every aspect of the pass, from technical engineering to history to tourism information.
We rate this pass amongst the Top 10 passes in the Western Cape and in the Top 20 nationally.
The north-eastern part of the Eastern Cape arguably spawned the finest collection of big gravel passes in South Africa. In the last decade various magazines and publications have touted these passes as the "The Big 8 Passes Challenge" and perhaps a little more dramatically "Riding the tail of the Dragon" with the dragon part being a reference to the last south-westerly segment of the Drakensberg. Yet other sources call this place "Wild Mountain Country"
Whatever the terms of reference are, there can be no doubt that the great passes on offer are all gravel with a single exception - the Barkly Pass. The others are Naude's Nek Pass (often misquoted as the highest pass in South Africa, which honour actually goes to the Sani Pass), Baster Voetslaan, Otto du Plessis, Volunteershoek, Carlislehoekspruit, Lundin's Nek and Joubert Pass.
We bring you one of these passes today in the form of a triple video set, which provides the viewer with a realistic asessment of whether they would try driving the pass or not.
From the bushveld in Limpopo we drive clean across South Africa to the wonderful Namaqualand, where the flowers turned this arid landscape into an explosion of colour this spring. It's a short season, so visitors need to get up there quickly whilst the show is still on. During our recent filming trip through the Northern Cape towards the end of July, the flowers had already started erupting in small pockets, so we had a good idea this year would bring on a spectacular display.
This week we feature one of the great gravel passes in Namaqualand with a big altitude drop, waterfalls, shiny granite outcrops in the mountains and surprisingly green vegetation. You can drive this one in a normal car, but it's a slow route with several farm gates to open and close, but the rewards are worth it - with roads to Leliefontein and Paul's Hoek all offering dazzling displays of flowers.
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.