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.
As you receive this newsletter, the MPSA film crews are somewhere between Graaff-Reinet and Molteno, finding all those isolated little back-road passes and poorts, which you will be seeing over the next few months as production resumes in January 2017. One of our goals for the new year, is to produce the MPSA book. More news on that side of the project as things develope.
With most of our readers on holiday at this time of year, we feature something a little different today. Our 'Pass of the Week' is one of the best off-road passes on offer and all of it falls within the protection of a nature reserve ensuring a peaceful journey coupled with unsullied scenery.
The pass can only be driven in a high clearance 4WD vehicle, adventure motorcycle or MTB and once you've watched the videos, you will understand why. The pass traverses the South Africa-Lesotho border at it's summit and presents an exciting and challenging drive for the more experienced off-road driver, but It should never be attempted alone.
With some of the most exquisite Eastern Cape scenery on offer, there is usually also time to visit the beautifully designed buildings of the Mariazell Mission Station which is near the foot of the pass.
Christmas is almost upon us and each year we find something appropriate to gift to our readers. Today we have a bumper pre-Christmas edition featuring a double pass of great scenic value, featuring 3 videos with outstanding scenery.
With the annual influx of visitors from up-country to the coast, we thought it appropriate to feature a coastal pass this week. The Western Cape has by far, the largest number of mountain passes in South Africa and some spectacular passes close to the ocean. Perhaps the most famous is Chapman's Peak Drive, which must rank as the most frequently closed pass in South Africa, due to rain, rock-falls, accidents, fires, cycle tours, maintenance or suicides.
Although "Chappies" grabs most of the limelight, there is another big pass on the opposite side of the Cape Peninsula, spanning the entire eastern rim of False Bay, which can easily be overlooked by the short-stay visitor and it is this fabulous and magnificently restored road that we feature today.
It's a road of stunning coastal vistas, providing access to view sites, fishing spots, hiking trails, beaches, tidal pools, whale watching as well as access to several coastal towns such as Rooi Els, Pringle Bay, Betty's Bay, Kleinmond and Hermanus. Read on as we take you over this beautiful drive in a two part video series, exploring the history, nooks and crannies of this 'not to be missed' coastal drive. Driving the pass with knowledge, makes it so much more enjoyable.
December has arrived. It's a time of festivities, holidays - a time of giving. It's also a time when the road death toll increases dramatically. Drive defensively this festive season; comply with the speed limits; rest if you're tired and ensure your vehicle is roadworthy. We want you back next year.
2017 is going to be a huge year for MPSA and we are setting our goals at completing all 750 passes by Dec 2017. It is possible, as we produced just over 250 passes during 2016. With the addition of the new Ben 10 Challenge and other exciting developements, we are anticipating that 2017 will be a massive year for us. None of this success and achievement can be achieved without the support of the public - which is currently 60,000 strong each month. Our readers cover all race groups and genders and the appeal of the passes and poorts seems to be universal. Thank you for your support of this uplifting and challenging project.
This week we head off into the Little Karoo and specifically to the fascinating town of Steyterville, where we explore and drive the 'Poort of the Flags'. Besides the normal video, we added a second video on Steyterlville itself, as we dig back into it's rich history and uncover some detail - like the fact that Dr Danie Craven lived there and where he married his first wife - amongst other famous South Africans. This Karoo town is a fine example of how to 'get things right' post 1994.
We were swamped with inquiries about the Ben 10 Challenge which we mentioned in last week's news release. There were so many emails, that we simply will not be able to answer all of them, but for those who want to participate in the challenge, please be patient, as we promise to publish all the relevant details here as well as on our Face Book page as developements unfold.
This week we leave the green hills of Eastern Cape and head into the far north-western corner of the Northern Cape to explore what is probably the best known mountain pass in the Richtersveld. We'll take you over this tricky and slow pass to uncover the fascinating geology, flora and flora of this beautiful mountain desert that we are privileged to have within striking distance from both Johannesburg and Cape Town.
Judging by the number of inquiries we receive at Mountain Passes South Africa, it is clear that the 'silly season' has begun. Families making plans for the school holidays and people from all walks of life gearing up for an affordable local holiday; more and more people are seeking out the back roads - those discoveries we like to keep to ourselves; the roads less travelled. This week we even had inquiries from folk wanting to know which passes were best for viewing the super-moon.
In this world of media negativity, at MPSA we aim to always bring you uplifting, stimulating and positive news.
During mid-December, all our filming crews are heading for the Eastern Cape highlands where we plan on re-filming the Big 8, plus another two passes. The first is a new road (4x4 only) that will become the new highest altitude record holder with an altitude of 3001m, in the process exceeding Sani Pass by a considerable margin. This is the Ben Mac Dhui Pass. Weather permitting we will be filming it on December 16th.
The second is a contour traverse above the 2600m contour line, called the Tiffindell-Tenahead Traverse (TTT), which connects the Tenahead Lodge near the summit of Naude's Nek Pass with the Tiffindell Ski Resort on a rough jeep track (4x4 only) just inside the RSA-Lesotho border, which has incredible scenery.
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.