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.....
Mmakgomo Tshetlo (Talk Radio 702) interviews Trygve Roberts from Mountain Passes South Africa on the iconic Sani Pass
Listen to the interview:
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.
This is a complex contour road offering four small passes along its 27 km length. The road generally remains at the 2600m contour level and the vast majority of the route comprises contour road driving as it follows the shapes of the hills and buttresses. The route is doable in a high clearance 4x2 with diff-lock, but when things get muddy or snowy, it is definitely a 4x4 route. Although the road gets quite rough in places, these don't last long and most of this route is Grade 1 to 2. The road connects the Tiffindell Ski Resort in the west with the Tenahead Mountain Lodge in the east, and provides a shorter, but slower alternative to the Naudes Nek Pass. Beyond Tenahead Lodge, the road connects at the Naudes Nek lookout point at 2500m ASL.
Although we have named this route the TTT (Tiffindell-Tenahead Traverse) which aptly describes the purpose of the road, this is a more modern take on its routing. It's also referred to by the locals by three other names: The Cairntoul Road (named after a farm on the eastern side of the traverse); Die Patrollie Pad (The Patrol Road) and Die Grenspad (the Border Road). The road has been used for many years to patrol stock theft into Lesotho. There are several small patrol huts, linked with radio sets, which can be seen along the route. These are occupied by 'young local herdsmen' who keep an eye on the hillsides and relay any suspicious activity to the main SAPS base at Cairntoul, from where the heavyweights are dispatched on horseback or by 4x4.
The Ben MacDhui Pass is the new record holder of the highest altitude summit in South Africa at 3001m. It replaces the previous record holder, the Sani Pass [2876m]. This is a new road which has recently been opened. The pass comprises three distinct sections:
1. The access toad to the Tiffindell Ski Resort.
2.The maintenance track for the ski-lift.
3. A two spoor jeep track from the highest ski-lift pylon to the summit point
This is an out and back route and a high clearance 4x4 with low range is needed to complete this drive. We have rated the pass as a Grade 3 in 4x4 parlance and would not recommend driving the route in severe weather and especially not when there is heavy snow. Allow approximately an hour and a half to complete it both ways and add for additional time at the summit. It is often windy and cold (even in summer) so take appropriate clothing with you. The pass traverses private property and it is necessary to sign in at the Tiffindell office before you proceed up the pass.
This very short and fairly minor 'pass' is nothing more than a slight bump in the flat Karoo topography and is located about midway between Fraserburg and Loxton in the Northern Cape, just off the R356 on a minor gravel road that connects the R356 with the R361. The spelling of this pass is baffling and we are convinced that it's a spelling mistake which has been carried forward over the years and has now become fact. The correct name is no doubt Amandelhoogte, which makes a lot more sense. In a bizarre way, the odd spelling is probably a good thing, as there is an Amandelnek Pass in the Tankwa Karoo, which would be bound to cause confusion.
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.
This poort is the for more serious pass hunter. It's is a rough, two-spoor jeep track suitable for high clearance 4x4 vehicles only. The 7,7 km long poort sweeps in and around several low mountains in the far north-eastern segment of Namaqualand. This is a quintesessential 'road to nowhere'. Carry two spare wheels and be prepared for any emergency on this desolate and lonely road. The poort descends a total of 94m producing typically easy poort type gradients of 1:82 with even the steepest parts being a fairly mild 1:20.
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.