This is the story of our first official tour of the Ben 10 Eco Challenge from 21st to 24th March, 2019.
We take you from the roots of the conceptualisation of the event through each of the 4 days as well as the epilogue.
Every person planning on doing the challenge should read this story and watch the four piece video set, which shows just how difficult it can get when nature decides to turn against you, and how quickly an adventure can turn into a disaster. It also showcases the incredible scenery and wonderful people that live in the area. Soak it all in.
The Golden Highway Pass connects the old mining ghost town of Eureka City, high up on a plateau of the Makhonjwa Mountains, with the Sheba Mine located in a valley far below. The end point is very close to the entrance of the famous Bray’s Golden Quarry. Originally just an unnamed track, the pass acquired its name when a local builder was contracted to provide concrete paving strips on some of the route. The story goes that he mistakenly used unprocessed ore extracted from the mine as part of his building mix, and that therefore an unknown amount of raw gold ended up as part of the road surface!
There are various routes that connect the De Kaap Valley with Eureka City, but all of these require the use of a 4x4 vehicle with low-range capability. They range from a Grade 2 to a Grade 3, but can quickly deteriorate to a Grade 4 or even a Grade 5 in wet weather. The Golden Highway Pass itself is not difficult (mainly because of the concrete paving), but fallen trees and boulders can block the pass at any time, so users should be prepared for this eventuality. There are numerous hairpin bends, at least four of which require a 3-point and perhaps even a 5-point turn, depending on the vehicle.
This is an impressive pass by any standards. At 7.9 km long it climbs a whopping 705m producing a stiff average gradient of 1:11 with the steepest parts reaching 1:6. Crammed within that distance are no less than 59 bends, corners and curves of which 5 are full hairpins and another 6 exceed 90 degrees.
The scenery is majestic and changes perpetually as the road winds its way up to the Waboomsberg summit point, to end at a cluster of telecoms towers. You will be treated to 250 degree views of the Warm Bokkeveld and making up the other 110 degrees are views of the Gydo Plateau.
Whilst the road is 98% gravel, there are 8 short tarred sections (with the odd pothole) ensuring reasonable traction on the steeper sections. Besides the wonderful views, you are also likely to spot small antelope like steenbok, duikers and klipspringers and for the birders, you are almost guaranteed to spot a few raptors, sunbirds and other LBJ's.
The pass falls entirely on private land and permission is required (at a fee) to drive the route (Contact numbers lower down). It is a cul-de-sac, so the whole route has to be retraced back to the start. This route is a viable alternative to Matroosberg in the snow season, as the road condition is far superior and holds very few real dangers.
Elandshoogte is a long rambling pass on the R396, which connects Maclear with Rhodes. The pass traverses the majestic forested intermediate area between the lower escarpment and the high mountains of the Drakensberg range. The road is usually in a reasonable condition and in fair weather can be driven in most vehicles, but in heavy rain or snow, a 4WD vehicle will be mandatory.
The pass contains 61 bends, corners and curves within its 10.7 km length and of those 16 are greater than 90 degrees and one is a full hairpin of 180 degrees. The road presents as an undulating road with no less than 3 false summits and routes through a commercial forestry zone, so please drive with your headlights on at all times to make your vehicle more visible to forestry vehicles that commonly use this road extensively.
The road follows the Naude's Nek Pass when driving from north to south and is itself followed by the Pot River Pass. Cautionaries include dense mountain mists with poor visibility, slippery surfaces in wet weather, forestry vehicles and ruts, wash-aways and corrugations.
In most parts of South Africa, this pass would be noticed, but this pass with its incongruous name and 112m altitude variance is dwarfed by its much bigger and famous challenge passes all around it, so it usually slips by unnoticed by most.
Despite the moderate nature of the pass it has four significant corners, two of which exceed 90 degrees. It is located on the R58 route between Lady Grey and Barkly East and is surrounded by towering mountains, rolling meadows, fast flowing streams and is also subject to snowfalls in winter with a hefty summit altitude of 1997m ASL.
There is one fairly steep section just to the east of the summit point where the gradients reach 1:10, but in normal weather this pass is doable in any vehicle. The irony of this pass is that the name, when translated from Afrikaans means Ground/Earth or Gravel Neck, turns out to be a tarred pass.
This pretty little pass is located on the R500 regional road between Fochville and Parys, in the North West province. The small hill on the western side does not have an official name, but for many years it has been known as “Ertjiesberg”, because this is where legendary South African cyclist Ertjies Bezuidenhout first honed the climbing skills that would make him so famous later in life. The road is quite bumpy and narrow, but overall is in a good condition with only a few potholes. There are just four corners on the pass, but it does have a fairly substantial 126 metre height difference over its 4.8 km length. Excellent views over the valley formed by the Vaal River are presented on the southern side.
THE LINK FOR THE ENTRY FORM IS AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS PAGE. PLEASE READ ALL THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS BEFORE COMPLETING THE ENTRY FORM.
01. The challenge is open and free to 4x4 vehicles, adventure motorcycles, MTB riders, walkers and trail runners. (Note that it is not possible to complete some of the passes in a normal car). MTB cyclists, walkers and runners are permitted to move between passes per vehicle. It is a requirement to be a paid up subscriber to MPSA at the time of registration and on the dates of completion. At present (2019) the subscription is R300 a year. This is to ensure that every entrant has full access to all the safety and technical information available on the website.
It comes as somewhat of a surprise to find this substantial pass in the otherwise flat and mostly featureless expanse of the Kalahari. It is located inside the Tswalu Game Reserve near Hotazel, and traverses a break in a long ridge of mountains called the Korannaberge. The road condition ranges from good in some sections to terrible in others, so this pass should not be attempted without a 4-wheel-drive vehicle.
The scenery is magnificent, provided that you enjoy the wide open spaces of this semi-desert, and as a bonus you are guaranteed to spot a multitude of animals on either side of, and on, the pass itself. This is a public road and no entry fees are applicable, but you required to stay on the main route at all times. Be careful when getting out of your vehicle to open and close the gates – four of the “Big 5” animals (there are no elephant) are present within the reserve.
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.