Another action packed week for the people running the admin department at MPSA as our transition into the subscription module is happening relatively smoothly. Many of our subscribers had forgotten their user names and passwords, so we've created a special help page to help those having difficulties with the changeover. Please use this link:
If you are receiving this news letter, it means you are either an upgraded (paid) subscriber or still on the free option until the 28th February, 2017. We urge all of you who have not yet upgraded to the paid option, to do so BEFORE the end of this month, to avoid a bottle-neck on that day. For all of you that have already upgraded, thank you for your valued support of the project.
Over the past few weeks, we have systematically featured the passes forming part of the Ben 10 Eco Challenge. We especially went to the Eastern Cape in December to refilm all of the passes, to provide up to date video footage for everyone wanting to complete the challenge. There are only two passes left to feature and this week it is the turn of the steepest of the 10 passes.
We have a full news release this week.
Change is always difficult to cope with and we have some major changes taking place within the website this week. The most important change is the switch to a subscription based site. As all our regulars know, we have been working hard on this for the past 4 months (on the technical side of things), which are finally in place and we are ready for the roll-out. Lower down on this page we explain exactly how this will affect you and what actions you need to take to remain on the mailing list and to continue to enjoy full access to the website.
Secondly, after many requests, we are pleased to announce that a zipped file containing all 670 of the route files in a single download, can now be purchased from our online shop. For our paid subscribers there will be an additional benefit of a 10% reduction off any item on the online shop, including the Route Files digital download.
This week's featured pass takes us back into the beautiful Eastern Cape highlands, not far from Rhodes, where we introduce you to an off-the-beaten-track pass that will have you longing for the open spaces and big mountain-scapes.
Our YouTube channel has just surpassed the 1 million views mark. Finally we're in the premiere league! We are still tweaking the switch-over to the subcriber format and it looks like another week before this finally kicks in. We will provide detailed information in next week's news release.
For those wanting to enter the Ben 10 Eco-Challenge, here is the link: BEN 10 ECO CHALLENGE.
This week we leave the stunning scenery of the Eastern Cape Highlands behind and take a drive to Harrismith on the KZN/Free State border. This magnificent part of South Africa offers exceptional scenic beauty with unique sandstone formations stretching for many kilometres along the border.
Our featured pass this week, was submitted by one of our readers (Dennis Green) and we were most surprised when we researched this little pass as to just how steep it was. Our camera man, Mike Leicester, was so taken with this pass, that he urged us to get it into the front of the production queue. A comment he made was "....a bit like it would feel driving down a mine-shaft...."
So steep is this pass with gradients under 1:3 that it would be impossible to drive it if it weren't concreted. It has logged in as the second steepest pass nationally with an average gradient of just under 1:7 . It's not for the faint-hearted.
Just when we think it's safe to go in the water........ Records are made to be broken. We've had some astonishing numbers come across our desk this week, surpassing by a long margin any previous highs we had achieved. During December 2016 we logged over 100,000 page views. What makes this remarkable is that our readership was steady between 55,000 and 60,000 for the last 6 months of 2016. Also during December, a single Face Book post on the Sani Pass logged a fraction under 160,000 views over a period of just 3 days. Once everyone went back to work, we expected the numbers to return to late 2016 levels, but they have pegged in at 80,000. We have just passed the 10,000 LIKES mark on our FaceBook page as well. A massive thank you to everyone for this throroughly rewarding support.
The Ben 10 Eco Challenge which we've been talking about for over 3 months, was launched last Saturday. Entries are streaming in and already the number 1 spot has been claimed by Mr. Rudi Pieters, who completed the challenge on a BMW R1200GSA motorcycle. The gauntlet is down! We've had a few questions about the dates of the challenge.
We have just returned from a short filming trip into the Southern Cape, where we refilmed some of your favourite passes in the area, which included the fabulous Swartberg Pass and the lovely Schoemanspoort. We also refilmed the timeless Montagu Pass and finally got some decent footage of the Outeniqua Pass. On our way back we uncovered a brand new pass, called the Perdehoekdraai Pass close to Oudtshoorn. All of these new videos will be available on the website over the next few weeks.
We met a Canadian couple (over the age of 60) who have cycled through South America and most of Africa - finishing their trip off in South Africa. They have cycled in excess of 3800 km and used this website as part of their planning for the South African leg. The extraordinary thing is that through that entire journey the only thing that was stolen was a roll of toilet paper - and that by a baboon!
There are some new and important developments at Mountain Passes South Africa. After many requests for a downloadable file containing all the route files in a single folder, we will be making this available within the next 10 days via our online shop at a cost of R300.
The Ben 10 Eco-Challenge will be officially launched within the next two weeks and those interested will be able to enter online on the website. There will be a new submenu tab under the FIND A PASS menu tab. Entries will be free and there will be wonderful prizes on offer including accommodation at various hotels, lodges and guest houses in the area. Every successful person to complete the challenge will have their names listed on that page in perpetuity.
Our featured pass this week, had us stumped as far back as October, 2013, when a landslide blocked our way amidst soaking and persistent rain and poor video footage. We had no option but to admit defeat and vowed to return to film this amazing and very challenging pass. Like most of the really major gravel passes, this one lies in the very heart of the Eastern Cape Highlands. We made it back on the 17th December, 2016 in perfect weather.
We used two vehicles and three cameras to create over 22 Gigs of raw footage (around 7 hours of footage), which then had to be condensed and edited down to 28 minutes, which we devided up into 6 separate videos to do justice to this monumentally fabulous mountain pass.
Not everyone owns a 4x4, which is a prerequisite to complete this drive, and for those that cannot drive this one themselves, we invite you to sit next to our cameraman and enjoy all the best bits of this very tricky pass. And it's not all technical driving - there are alpine flowers, sandstone mountains, mountain donkeys and vistas that will truly take your breath away.
From the one extreme to the other! Last week we cyber-drove the highest pass in South Africa - the Ben MacDhui Pass at 3001m and today we whisk you to a pass that has a summit altitude of just 105m ASL and it's only 1,2 km long, but don't be skeptical as this pass has a whole lot of unusual and unique features not repeated on any other pass in South Africa.
It is the only pass that provides direct access to a modern Grand Prix race track and it's also the only pass to have been part of a Grand prix race track and in fact, South Africa's first ever Grand Prix circuit, which dates all the way back to 17th December, 1934.
In our video of this pass, we have added in one lap around the current Grand Prix race track. Potters Pass, which is one of only two passes with the city limits of East London, connects the area known as West Bank with Molteno Road and race track itself.
Take the cyber drive with us, as we take you back to the glory days of motor racing.....
We wish all of our readers a wonderful, healthy 2017 filled with travel and adventure and a sense of rediscovering this beautiful country we live in. With many of you still on holiday, the roads will be busy as families begin the exodus back to their homes. Drive defensively and rest often. The annual road death carnage in South Africa during holiday periods is a blight on our copybook.
In our final news release of 2016 we spoke of our FaceBook successes (amongst other things). On Thursday, 29th December, we posted a photo of the Sani Pass taken from an unusual angle. That post absolutely smashed any previous achievements we were crowing about by more than 150%. It was viewed by just under 160,000 people and amassed 1700 Likes and 180 comments. The post only contained one short sentence. We never know what to expect when we do our FaceBook posts, but that one was an education of note.
With the Sani Pass remaining in the news this week, one of its impressive records is about to take a tumble - As of the 1st January, 2017 it is no longer the highest pass in South Africa. That honour now goes to a new pass which reaches 3001m at its summit and it is our featured pass this week.
As the year of 2016 draws to an end, as is the norm, we take stock of what we have achieved in the past year - our successes and failures. Last week we were interviewed by 702 Radio on how to drive the Sani Pass, which immediately boosted page views and we topped 15,000 page views in one week for the first time ever. The total website hits since launch is now well in excess of 1,5 million! We anticipate that the 2 million mark will be attained during 2017.
Perhaps our biggest success this year has been the unprecedented growth of our FaceBook page which has amassed 8650 'Likes'. Our message of South African scenic beauty, rich history and positive messages seems to have found a deep-rooted need in many of our listeners in a social-media filled space filled mainly with negativity. Our sub-features on some of the beautiful old churches of the platteland were hugely popular, with one post attracting over 40,000 views in 3 days. Our FaceBook page states: "Typically replies in 1 hour" - that's something else we seem to be good at. Every single email is answered personally. Some days we receive more than 50 emails, so it is time consuming, but we believe it is those bits of attention to detail which sets us apart from rest.
A review of our demographics reveal that 46% of our viewers are female and 53% male. The age group mix is surprisingly well spread over the six age group categories, with about 34% accessing the website via mobile devices. All that time and money we spent on making the website mobile friendly during 2016 has proved its worth. A very interesting trend is the decline in the use of tablets. It would seem that with mobile phones being manufactured with ever larger screens, this has dynamically changed the tablet purchasing trends.
With Christmas just a few days away, we gave some serious thought as to our featured pass this week. We avoided the famous (and busy) passes, which you all know anyway, and have instead sought out one of those remote gravel passes that very few people ever have the opportunity to drive. Our gift to you - the voyage of discovery.
This pass is located in the high altitude region of the Eastern Cape about 25 km north of Elliot in a quiet and remote valley, incongruous amongst all the bigger, better known passes, including most of the so called Big 8. We feature the descent of the pass as well as a separate video covering the beautiful drive out of the valley - amidst tall poplar trees, peaceful farms, towering sandstone mountains, clear, swiftly flowing streams packed with trout and crisp clean skies that invigorate and calm the senses.
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.