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Thomas Bain Heritage Tour -  Overview:

Another absolute winner, but the week before the tour showed alarming weather forecasts. As always the show goes on regardless of the weather. With a major frontal storm scheduled to arrive over Cape Town on Friday and Saturday, with gale force winds and bitterly cold temperatures forecast of 1C for Willowmore, we sent out an urgent bulletin to our guests to come well prepared for bad weather. 

The reality was a beautiful, sunny and warm morning of around 22C on day 1 rising to 25C later in the day with the Saturday and Sunday being cooler, but very pleasant and certainly nowhere near the 1C predicted. Water levels in the Baviaanskloof were quite acceptable and all our vehicles (which included two Suzuki Jimnys) made it through the route without any problems or mishaps. Over the next few weeks we will bring you several instalments of the highlights of this tour. This is another tour which we will definitely repeat again.


Great Swartberg Tour - The final chapter

The final day of the Swartberg Tour involved a repeat of the Elands Pass and the Gamkaskloof but in the opposite direction. It's so interesting that a pass looks completely different when driving it in the opposite direction and at a different time of day. We were at the Teeberg viewsite by 10.30 and then tackled those magnificent switchbacks down Mullerskloof past Droewaterval and the Wall of Fire. Our weather was unseasonably good with the only damper being the dust (if you'll pardon the oxymoron).

A brief stop at Prince Albert for fuel and figs (in that order) saw us back on the road on the way to the magnificent geology waiting for us in Meiringspoort and a short stop at the famous waterfall with its 9m deep pool. After De Rust we cut west all along the foothills of the Swartberg mountains (mainly to avoid all the roadworks on the Oudtshoorn/De Rust road) along a delightful gravel road that included the Rust & Vrede Pass. It connected us with the main road to the Cango Caves and Schoemanspoort and then back towards Calitzdorp on the old cement road and on to tackle the Rooiberg Pass.
[More lower down...]

Published in Mountain Passes News

We chat about the fabulous descent down Elands Pass into Die Hel and explore the Kloof in more detail..

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Published in MPSA Podcasts

The week that was:

* Winter has arrived
* Great Swartberg Tour
* SA History - Chapter 7
* Podcast of the week
* Featured pass of the week
* New passes added this week
* Thought for the day

Winter has arrived

Whilst massive amounts of arctic ice are breaking off the northern polar cap following unseasonably warm weather in Europe - causing some hectic weather systems, South Africa is experiencing very cold weather with many towns recording temperatures below freezing over the past 10 days, not least of which is Sutherland, dropping to minus 7C.

Snowfalls have been reported across large tracts of the Drakensberg, the Malutis, the Swartberg and the Hexrivier mountains (and Matroosberg) in the Western Cape. Before you venture off to drive in the snow, remember that without traction your vehicle is nothing more than a slippery sled. Don't drive alone; know your limitations.


Great Swartberg Tour

(the story continues...)

The Elands Pass looks interesting when you look at it on Google Earth and most of the photos are impressive, but when you see it with your own eyes for the first time, suddenly all the dimensions click in a like a giant jigsaw puzzle. There is depth at a level that a camera cannot capture. The sheer scale of the slopes down into the valley sharpens the senses as the road can be seen worming its way down the mountain in a series of switchbacks, but it is directly below your view-point that the road disappears out of your field of view - and that is where the mind starts playing tricks and the imagination kicks in.

We scan the road ahead and there are no vehicles ascending. Our 11 vehicle convoy starts the descent. Passing vehicles on this pass is not easy and the best places are on the hairpin bends at their widest points. Before we reach the first hairpin, someone in the convoy radios that there is a vehicle ascending. The rule of the road is that ascending vehicles have the right of way, but trying to move 11 vehicles out of the way is just impossible.

We reach the first hairpin and wait for the ascending vehicle, but it doesn't arrive. The driver had noticed our convoy coming down the pass and he decided to wait at a slight widening in the road but out of our field of view. After about 5 minutes it became apparent that there was a problem. We sent someone down on foot and asked the ascending driver to proceed up to where we were waiting, where we had left enough space for him to pull off the road. There is nothing to replace common courtesy and manners when dealing with situations like this. [More lower down...]

Published in Mountain Passes News

Great Swartberg Tour. Day 2 from Bosluiskloof to Teeberg view site including the Huisrivier Pass and the Groenfontein-Kruisrivier loop.

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Published in MPSA Podcasts

A talk on Part 2 of the Great Swartberg Tour.

Listen to the interview:

Published in MPSA Podcasts

* Great Swartberg Tour - Part 3

* The social media phenomenon

* South African History - Part 5

* Podcast

* Featured pass of the week


Great Swartberg Tour - Day 2

Bosch Luys Kloof Lodge is the kind of place you say "I wish we could stay a day longer"

The sense of timelessness is palpable as our group wake up to another perfect late autumn morning after a good night's rest. The biggest problem on the tours is over-eating and not getting enough exercise. The full breakfast is taken with the patio doors open as a young kudu bull wanders through the gardens a few metres away. What a heavenly place.

It's time to hit the road and soon our big convoy is rumbling up the Bosluiskloof Pass. It looks completely different in the ascending mode with the early morning sun making for wonderful photographic opportunities. The roads are as dusty as ever and our convoy soon stretches out to the standard 7 km from front to back. [More lower down...] 

Published in Mountain Passes News

A review of day 1 of our recent Great Swartberg Tour.

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Published in MPSA Podcasts

* Great Swartberg Tour - We continue with the story this week that takes us from Buffelspoort Canyon to Bosluiskloof.

* South African History - Chapter 4 - Early Portuguese explorers.

* Our latest upper level ad: Moving up into 7th gear.

* Podcast: A talk covering the first day of the Swartberg Tour. LISTEN

* Lesotho Update

* Pass of the Week: One of our subscribers bravely volunteered to film a few passes for us. This week we feature the first of those passes. Well done Fraser Mackintosh!


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The Great Swartberg Tour - Part 2

Dust on the Wind ~ Kansas.

The Karoo is much drier than we know it. Four years of drought have dried up the rivers and dams. As we left Buffelspoort it was evident that the dust on the roads was not normal. It's like talcum powder. It hangs in the air for many minutes and as there is no wind to blow it away, the dust becomes and ever increasing problem on our tour, with our convoy predictably stretching out to 7 km. [More lower down]

Published in Mountain Passes News

In our news release this week:

* GREAT SWARTBERG TOUR REPORT BACK

* SOUTH AFRICAN HISTORY CHAPTER 3

* PASS OF THE WEEK

* WORDS OF WISDOM

 

Great Swartberg Tour

We can say with confidence that this was our best tour ever. The weather was sublime, not to say unusually warm for May and the time-frames ran like clockwork. We always seem to have a great bunch of people on our tours and this one was no exception. Our accommodation was mostly wonderful and the mechanical problems that did occur were of a relatively minor nature. It was 4 days of non-stop magical scenery with the only issue being a lot of dust, but dirt roads will have dust unless it's raining. But let's start at the beginning.....

Happy Birthday!

We left Cape Town for Laingsburg on Thursday 16th to spend our pre-tour evening at the Witteberg Nature Reserve where we shared a meal and some champagne with the reserve owner and our long standing friend ~ Frik Linde. My wife and Frik both had birthdays during that week, hence the champagne! And what better place to celebrate a birthday than under the Karoo stars?

Friday 17th May and day 1 of the Great Swartberg Tour. We were up at 0530 and working our way along the jeep track towards the main control gate at Witteberg, when up ahead in the dark, we picked up the tail lights of another vehicle. We caught up to it as the driver was struggling with the electronic code to open the gate.

Hempies Du Toit

A stocky farmer climbed out of his Land Cruiser bakkie and introduced himself as "Hempies Du Toit - Aangename Kennis" In the reflected light from our headlights I immediately recognized the well known ex rugby star. We swapped contact details and now MPSA has driving rights between Witteberg and Anysberg Reserves. What a stroke of pure luck! I can already see a new tour in the planning!

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Published in Mountain Passes News

Today as you read this news release, we are heading up to the Witteberg Nature Reserve to spend the pre-tour evening with our good friend Frik Linde, where we will be having a Karoo style braai under the crisp clear stars. The next morning (Friday 17th) marks the start of our Great Swartberg Tour. Our rendezvous point is the Laingsburg Flood Museum where we will be attending a talk on the great flood of 1981.

Our routing takes us to a national heritage site - Buffelspoort. A 12 km long canyon with near vertical walls of 650m and from there on to the Seweekspoort and Bosluiskloof passes to keep the kudus company at our overnight lodge. The next day we tackle the Swartberg Pass and Gamkaskloof with an overnight stop and group dinner at Fonteinplaas in Die Hel. We have arranged for Annatjie Joubert - (the last true descendant land owner of the original klowers) - to chat to us about the astonishing history.

Our last day includes a visit to Prince Albert, Meiringspoort, and then over the Rooiberg Pass to our final overnight stop at the Rooiberg Lodge. This tour was fully booked in short order and based on its popularity, we will be repeating it in 2020 or even sooner. Watch our FaceBook page for daily updates. (More lower down...)

Published in Mountain Passes News
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Mountain Passes South Africa

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.
 

Master Orientation Map

Master Orientation Map 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.

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