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.
Pluto’s Vale is quite unique, in that it consists of a combination of a genuine poort and a steep pass. These follow one another along the gravel DR02039 road that extends eastwards from the R67 near Grahamstown to Committees Drift and Breakfast Vlei. Like the adjacent Queen’s Road to Fort Beaufort and the nearby Ecca Pass, the route was constructed by Andrew Geddes Bain during the Frontier Wars in the mid-19th century. Despite diligent research, no clue as to the origins of the unusual name of this pass has come to light.
Kingo Hills Pass is situated just off the R67, about halfway between Grahamstown and Fort Beaufort in the Eastern Cape. Also known as Douglas Heights and (incorrectly) King Hills Pass, it is named after Kingo Hill, the summit (581 metres ASL) of which is located just north of the pass summit coordinates. The road is badly maintained, with major ruts and corrugations, and it is not recommended that you drive this pass in a normal car, although a four-wheel drive vehicle would not be required except in wet weather.
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.
Unlike most other poorts in South Africa which are generally quite flat, Debruinspoort does have a significant altitude gain of 225 metres. It is located on the gravelled R344 road between Adelaide and Grahamstown, just south of the crossing of the Great Fish River at Piggott’s Bridge and to the west of the Kwandwe Private Game Reserve. Other than some wash-board corrugations, the pass is well maintained and in a good condition, and should present no problems for any type of vehicle.
This beautiful and fairly steep gravel pass on the P3320 link road between Rhodes and Wartrail, offers wonderful high altitude scenery of mountains, valleys and winding rivers in the Eastern Cape highlands about 14 km south-west of Rhodes. Nestled in the midst of the well known Big 8 passes, this little known pass provides a scenic shortcut for those wanting to get to the Bastervoetpad Pass and the Barkly Pass. The pass has a simple high-low vertical profile and is 3,2 km long producing an average gradient of 1:15 with the steepest parts being at 1:8. The road is suitable for all vehicles in fair weather.
This very small poort is located in an east-west running mountain range 22 km north-east of Willowmore (as the crow flies). The poort lies on private farm land, but a polite request to drive the little poort will be granted by the farm owner. Please close any farm gates. At 1,2 km, this poort is very short but nontheless displays typical poort characteristics as it crosses the small stream once near the northern end, then follows the western bank till the turn-around point, where you have to retrace your route back to the farmstead. The road is rough and very basic and not suitable for cars lacking ground clearance. This poort will typically only be driven by the more serious pass hunter. For the rest, cyber drive it here and forget about it.
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.
Mount Paul stands as a lonely sentinel, surrounded on all sides by flat plains in the Eastern Free State highlands. Being the only high point in the area, it was an obvious site to erect telecommunication towers, and to do this an access road needed to be built. Originally a rough-and-ready offroad track, the road has been upgraded in a number of phases to now include concrete paving and strips on the steeper sections, vastly improving traction for maintenance vehicles. With maximum gradients of around 1:3, this pass is not for the faint-hearted, but if you can summon up the courage to tackle this daunting traverse, the fantastic views from the summit are well worth the effort.
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.