The week that was...

* SA Unmasked

* Tours

* Noma 5

* Wild Coast Tour V4 - Day 6

* Podcast

* Pass of the week

SA unmasked

For the tourism and hospitality industry the abolishment of having to wear masks is a significant milestone on the long and bumpy road back to normality. We look forward to seeing people smiling again; to hear voices that aren't muffled; to be able to connect with fellow human beings without all that induced fear. This is a momentous moment and we welcome it with open arms and warm smiles. No more will we see people driving alone in their cars masked up (well, I suppose there will be some die-hards). Let's just leave it there, before I write an essay!

More good news!

Bain's Kloof Pass opened for traffic on the 21st June and our scout on the ground, Kuba Miszewski, reports that the upgrades are excellent. We will be taking our guests over this pass as part of our Seven Sisters Tour in October

Cogmanskloof Pass is also now complete and the whole route from Ashton to Montagu is now open to traffic without any stop-go's. It's been a long wait, but worthwhile. The contractors, Haw & Inglis,  who took over this contract from the insolvent original contractors have done a fantastic job - not only of this historically important pass but the engineering marvel of the arch bridge and its transverse placement, is worthy of high praise. We will be refilming both of these passes within the next week or two.


  • Bookings for the Wild Coast Tour have been galloping along at a furious pace. This tour is now sold out.
  • The Garden Route Tour has 2 places available. This will be our inaugural tour through this popular part of South Africa. The tour has been designed to offer all the best the region has to offer, with plenty of secret roads and points of interests included. 
  • The Seven Sisters Tour and 4x4 Novice training day will be loaded soon. Watch this space.
  • The Swartberg Tour is fully booked and we are hoping for some snow up in the mountains to add some extra fun. 
  • We are working on a Baviaanskloof or Bedrogfontein Tour for November as well as a novice 4x4 training day in October. Details will be released as soon as we have clarity on the details.

Noma 5

The Xhosa lady known as Noma 5 has been trending via our Facebook page. Last week we mentioned 350,000 views. Believe it or not, that photo has now reached an audience of 1,891,087. It is by far our most successful social media post to date. So how exactly did that happen?

How does one know when you post something that will capture the imagination of a nation? The truth is you don't. It's all hit and miss and posts like this one give us an insight into what the public really enjoy seeing. Once we reached 100,000 followers on Facebook, our page got all sorts of new recognition and benefits from Facebook as well as some privileges we had not enjoyed before. The way the algorithms work is that authentic, original material seems to be king. It's been a long journey getting there, but we've made it. And we most certainly don't stop progressing either. Stemming from that post we have also reached an all time 28 day post reach of 3.6 million. Our next goal is 200,000 followers.

Wild Coast V4 Tour - Day 4

On this tour we had built in rest days for guests to recover from the more physical aspects of the tour. With that in mind we had decided to explore the possibility of visiting the construction site of the new Msikaba Bridge on the new N2 toll road. The idea was that I would probably go on my own as a recce trip, but the moment I mentioned this in the pre-trip communications, there was suddenly a lot of interest.

(Read more...)

Published in Mountain Passes News

The week that was....

* Snow

* Notalubani but her friends call her Noma5. 

* Trips & Tours

* Wild Coast Tour V4 - Day 3

* Podcast - Tulbagh

* Pass of the week


The first real cold snap of the winter has arrived with widespread reports of snow from the high lying areas. As always we advise snow deprived South Africans not to go snow-hunting without adequate preparation. Imagine a worst case scenario and pack accordingly. Last year several snow hunters had to be rescued from their vehicles from the Swartberg Pass. Don't be that driver.

The story of Noma5

During our Wild Coast V5 Tour, whilst passing slowly through one of the villages on a very muddy road, we spotted Notabulani standing by the roadside, immaculately dressed, regal and proud. We asked if we could take a photo. The result is what you see on the cover of this newsletter. When we got back, I set to the task of sorting and batching the trip photos. This pic caught my eye and I visualised it as a way of bridging the divide between rural and city and to present the face of the very essence of the Wild Coast. 

Her photo has had over 351,000 views (at the time of writing) in the space of 4 days and will undoubtedly continue to increase over the next few weeks. Even locals have responded saying they know her well. She apparently has a wicked sense of humour and is a great story teller. Our readership has increased dramatically and for the first time in our 12 year history we have exceeded 2 million post views in a 28 day cycle. We are learning some serious lessons about social media and the power within. We'll make a point of tracking her down on our next Wild Coast Tour and present her with a hamper.

Trips & Tours

JULY - The upcoming Swartberg Tour in July promises to be a freezing affair. The tour is fully booked.

SEPTEMBER 2022 - Garden Route Tour (5 days)  - 5 places left. 

OCTOBER 2022 - Seven Sisters Tour (2 days) - To be launched next week.

OCTOBER 2022 - Novice 4x4 training day (1 day) - To be launched soon 

NOVEMBER 2022 - Kouga-Baviaanskloof ( 4 days) - To be launched soon

MAY 2023 - Wild Coast Tour (11 days) - 3 places left

Read more....

Published in Mountain Passes News

The week that was...

* Changes to our pricing system

* Upcoming Tours

* Wild Coast V4Tour - Day 2 continued

* Mvenyane

* Podcast

* Pass of the week

New tour price structuring explained

Having a number of years tour administration under the belt, we have established that every tour produces a number of solo drivers. One of our strategies that set us apart from the tourism industry is that we originally charged per vehicle and not per person. The reality is that very few vehicles have more than two occupants. The ratio is perhaps one every second tour, whereas the incidence of solo drivers is usually at least 2 on every tour. In an effort to make things more equitable for solo drivers, we have created a single supplement rate, which is about 80% of the old rate. To still make it affordable for vehicles with more than two people, we have a rapidly declining cost curve for that bracket, which is still very affordable - plus we have added in a zero cost for children under the age of 18, which makes the tours more accessible for families. The new system is already in place, so when you book, you will find a drop down menu that looks like this:


The system automatically calculates the price according to your category of choice.

Upcoming Tours

We launched our Wild Coast V6 Tour (May 2023) yesterday and already 6 of the 12 places available have been taken. If you want join this incredible adventure, here is the itinerary, pricing and booking link:


The Garden Route Tour is a brand new tour which we are running in September and showcases the best of Thomas Bain's work (including Prince Alfreds Pass, Bloukrans Pass, Grootrivier Pass and Robinson Pass) plus of course all the major passes like Outeniqua and Montagu passes. We have also included the Old Voortrekker Pass from Louvain in the north to Bergplaas in the south to add a small dollop of offroad driving into the mix. The five day tour criss-crosses the mountains from west to east from Mossel Bay to Storms River with many points of interest added in; photographic hotspots, forest walks, animal sanctuaries, great food and first class accommodation. We have 8 places available. Detailed itinerary, pricing and online booking on the link below:


In the middle of July we will be tackling the Swartberg using our unique routing that offers the very best of the beautiful and challenging Swartberg mountain range. The tour starts near Swellendam and includes 39 passes over the 4 days including the big ones - Swartberg Pass, Gamkaskloof/Die Hel, Meiringspoort, Seweweekspoort, Gysmanshoek and Rooiberg passes. This mid-winter tour is going to be special with a good chance of doing some snow driving.

Update: The Swartberg tour is now fully booked.


We have had a number of requests for novice 4x4 training which will only be available for people living in the Western Cape. Details to be published soon.

Read more....

Published in Mountain Passes News

The week that was...

* Trips & Tours

* Wild Coast Overview

* How will the fuel price affect our tours?

* Wild Coast Tour 2023

* Wild Coast Tour V4 Days 1 & 2

* Podcast

* Pass of the week

* New passes added

Trips & Tours

Our next tour is the Swartberg Classic in July and we have had one cancellation. Online Bookings can be done via the link.

The Garden Route Tour is happening in spring from the 10th to 16th September. This is a new tour and offers fabulous scenery, history dating back to the 1700's, stories of hardship and triumph and some of Thomas Bain's best passes and very comfortable overnight stops in lovely lodges and hotels.

We are still finalising dates for the Seven Sisters Tour (another new tour of 2 days with some unforgettable experiences included) as well as the next Baviaanskloof and Bedrogfontein tours. Watch this space. The new Wild Coast 2023 V6 Tour will open for bookings next week.

Wild Coast Overview

Spending over 3 weeks along the Wild Coast during May puts one into a mental time lag. Where on earth do we start relating this epic adventure? It was an overwhelmingly successful tour with wonderful guests, exceptionally good weather (with only 3 days rain), no punctures, no mechanical breakdowns, a handful of fun recoveries and the welcoming locals of the Wild Coast ensured we were well taken care of.

We included a number of new points of interest on these two tours, which included a visit to the new Msikaba bridge construction site, the Msikaba vulture colony, Majola Tea Estates, kayaking on the Mpako River, Banyana Falls, and a new route to the Collywobbles.

Fuel price

Our journey from Cape Town and back covered about 3500 km and that brings me to the next point. The current fuel price hike of roughly R2.25 per litre inevitably results in a knee jerk reaction with people cancelling trips to faraway places, but let's put this into perspective.

Based on an average SUV consumption of 10 km per litre, about 350 litres of fuel will be used on this trip. That means an additional cost of R787 onto your fuel bill. If taken as a percentage of the overall cost of a Wild Coast Tour it works out at just 2.4%. That is the equivalent of 2 bottles of good wine (or 4 bottles of plonk) or one meal for 2 at an average restaurant. Relax your knees please! 

I recall back in 1979 the fuel price increased by a whopping 42%. You should have seen that knee jerk reaction! We all survived it. We still went on holidays. We still travelled. This too shall pass. The Rand is currently undervalued. There are also other positive indicators that this will not be a fuel armageddon. Travel remains the best investment.

New Wild Coast Tour for 2023

With each tour we complete, we sit down and review every aspect and determine what can be improved on. So even if you did a Wild Coast Tour a year ago, you will find the new tour quite different (and hopefully much better). We ask our tour guests for feedback and we pay attention to their suggestions and comments. That way we get valuable input from people who really know what they're talking about.

Our 2023 Wild Coast Tour will take place during May 2023. The reason we choose this month is that there is little rain; the scenery is still green from the summer rains; mild to warm days (24C to 27C) with little wind; it's out of season so accommodation is more freely available and prices are better. We will be setting the dates and loading the tour onto our shop page during the next week. Here is the provisional itinerary:

Day 0 - Meet & Greet at Resthaven in Matatiele

Day 1 - Matatiele to Mbotyi via Nungi, Colonanek, Tabankulu, Mzintlava and Lusikisiki.

Day 2 - Walk to Waterfall Bluff & Cathedral Rock. (Chill day at the lodge for the not so fit)

Day 3 - Drive to the new Msikaba Gorge Suspension Bridge and later to the Msikaba vulture viewing site.

Day 4 - Angel, Fraser and Magwa Falls, Mount Thesiger for some fun drag racing, overnight at Umngazi River Bungalows

Day 5 - Umngazi to Coffee Bay (a day of big gravel passes and amazing scenery

Day 6 - Mapuzi Caves, Little Hole in the Wall, Hole in Wall, White Clay Restaurant (legendary)

Day 7 - Coffee Bay to The Haven - another day of scintillating scenery and some challenging gravel passes

Day 8 - Cwebe Nature Reserve, Banyana Falls and Forest Walk, drive to Kob Inn via some more major passes.

Day 9 - Collywobbles vulture viewing via some secret back roads that will beguile and enchant (heart of the Wild Coast)

Day 10 - Kob Inn via Cats Pass to Centane and we cross the Kei River via the vehicle ferry to Morgan Bay where the tour ends.

That is 11 nights & 10 days of Wild Coast magic that will guarantee to leave you a renewed and more relaxed person.
Bookings open next week.

(Read more...)

Published in Mountain Passes News

In this newsletter...

 * History of Graaff- Reinet (Part 1)

 * The Rebellion

 * Stockenstrom - the game changer

 * The Great Trek

 * Pass of the week


Graaff-Reinet is the sixth oldest town in South Africa and had its origins as a far-flung frontier settlement at the very limits of the old Cape Colony. The first European inhabitants of the area were the trekboere, or nomadic farmers, who moved away from the restrictive rule of the Dutch East India Company at Cape Town in search of suitable grazing for their cattle and fat-tailed sheep. The first permits for establishing farms in the district were awarded in 1770, including the farms Uitkomst (Outcome), Vergenoegd (Far Enough) and Slegtgenoeg (Bad Enough).

These nomadic farmers first reached the plains of the Camdeboo and the Sneeuberge in the mid-eighteenth century and in answer to a dire need for a settlement to serve their needs Landdrost Mauritz Woeke was despatched to the area from Cape Town. He selected a beautiful site within the broad sweep of the Sundays River and the surrounding mountains in 1786, naming the new settlement Graaff-Reinet after the Dutch Governor Cornelis Jacob van de Graaff and his wife Reynet.

The trekboere had settled the surrounding countryside from the early 1770s and as was common in almost all parts of the Karoo they came into conflict with the indigenous San or Bushmen who had been resident in the area for countless centuries.


The hunter gatherer lifestyle of the San conflicted with the pastoral lifestyle of these early farmers and conflict was the inevitable result. As the San were increasingly deprived of their best hunting land they resorted to killing the farmer’s livestock in order to survive. A state of almost perpetual conflict between these early settlers and the San raged for almost 30-years with more than 3,000 San killed in the conflict. The few survivors from this unfortunate period either moved away into the vast northern spaces of the Great Karoo or were assimilated into the population of the Khoikhoi who worked for the new white settlers.

(Read more...)

Published in Mountain Passes News

In this newsletter:

* Tulbagh - the 7th oldest town in South Africa

* Land van Waveren

* Roodezand

* Montpellier

* The Earthquake

* Michells Pass


This week in our series on the oldest towns in South Africa, we have a look at the town of Tulbagh. It's the 7th oldest town in SA est. 1795. The valley was discovered in 1658 by Pieter Potter, a surveyor who worked for Jan van Riebeeck. In 1699 14 farmers settled in the valley, and the town started developing around 1743. Tulbagh was the last stop for the Boers who took part in the Groot Trek before heading into the unknown interior of the country. The town was named after the former Dutch Governor, Ryk Tulbagh. In the 1860’s, the town grew exponentially and saw the extension of a railway and several roads were built.

Travel back in time over 300 years...  Charming Church Street boasts the largest number of Cape Dutch, Edwardian and Victorian provincial heritage sites in one street in South Africa, all lovingly restored post the devastating earthquake of 1969.

Before road engineers conquered the forbidding mountains at Paarl and Wellington, Tulbagh was in fact the trekker's last stop en route from the Cape of Good Hope before entering the country's wild and untamed interior to the north.

In the heady days following the discovery of diamonds at Kimberley in the 1860s, Tulbagh enjoyed a flowering of prosperity. Yet after the construction of Michel's Pass, and the advent of the railway effectively bypassing the town, it subsided into a rural backwater – which paradoxically preserved its historic character. While causing much structural damage, the earthquake of 1969 resulted in a national fundraising effort and a very successful restoration project.

(Read more...)

Published in Mountain Passes News

The week that was...

* Oldest towns of SA (Series)

* Uitenhage

* Arrival of the railway yards

* Quality Schools

* VW (you and me)

* Pass of the Week

Over the next few weeks these newsletters are coming to you pre-written whilst we are on tour along the Wild Coast, and as such do not follow our normal format.

9th oldest town in South Africa

This probably comes as something of a surprise to learn that the 8th oldest town in South Africa is Uitenhage. It's the second oldest town in the Eastern districts of the former Cape Colony. Founded in 1804 by Jacob Glen Cuyler, the town was named in honour of the Cape Commissioner-General Jacob Abraham Uitenhage de Mist. It was originally part of the Graaff Reinet district, and was known as the administrative border for the Cape Colony. 

When the Cape Commissioner-General split the two districts in half, Uitenhage was named a prime location for timber farming. Its abundance of water and picturesque setting made it quite popular, and the climate was regarded as so healthy that Cape Town patients were recommended by their doctors to recuperate there.

Over the next few decades the town grew steadily as English-looking and Georgian white houses sprung up accompanied by beautiful little gardens and a number of important buildings like the post office. The town’s first Dutch Reformed Church was built in 1843, and the Zwartkops River became the epicentre of the area’s wool washing industry.

Uitenhage became a municipality in 1877. Soon after, the construction of a railway line and station began, connecting the town to other parts of the Eastern Cape and beyond.

A proper town hall was erected in 1882, as well as a library and new school building. A number of new religious buildings also sprang up in the 1890s, including St Katherines Anglican Church, St Joseph's Roman Catholic Church, the Congregational Church and the Wesleyan Jubilee Chapel.

Vee Double U and me

By 1910 Uitenhage was a thriving town with a healthy economy built on agriculture and railway industries.

Uitenhage is known for the large industries situated there. The largest of these industries are the Volkswagen of South Africa and Goodyear factories. An automotive supplier park, Alexander Park Industrial, has also been created directly next to the Volkswagen factory, thus allowing automotive component manufacturers to construct their manufacturing plants close by.

 (Read more) ....


Published in Mountain Passes News

The week that was...

* Wild Coast here we come

* Garden Route Classic Tour

* Seven Sisters Tour

* Caledon

* George

* Pass of the week

It's off to work we go!

As you read this newsletter we will be on our way to Cradock for our first overnight stop en-route to Matatiele where we will be meeting our first group of guests for the long awaited Wild Coast V4 Pondoland Tour. The two back to back tours cover a period of 21 days away from HQ and that equates into a trunk full of careful planning; writing newsletters in advance and ensuring the social media treadmill gets fed its daily rations. 

As always we will be returning with fresh photos and videos and as a bonus, now that we are more intimately familiar with the Wild Coast, we plan on filming 19 new passes along the route, which we will process over the period June to December.  We will divulge all our best passes to our subscribers.

Garden Route Classic

We have just launched the Garden Route Classic Tour. Please note that we have deviated from our usual "per vehicle" pricing system to a "per person" system. Over the last few years we have monitored the number of passengers per vehicle. The vast majority book for 2 people, then there are the single drivers and by far the minority are those with more than two people in a vehicle. So we did some head scratching and came to the conclusion that it would please most of our guests better (especially the solo drivers) if we charged per person. We will be keeping an eye on bookings and monitor the feedback from guests. For two people the rates will be much the same as they were before, but for people with 3 or 4 in a vehicle it will be more expensive. 

Go here for online bookings: GARDEN ROUTE CLASSIC

Seven Sisters Tour (Proposed)

Progress on the Seven Sisters Tour is taking shape nicely and it should go live for online bookings towards the middle of June. We already have a number of pre-bookings for this tour. If you want your name to be added to the early bird list, send us an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Oldest towns of South Africa (New series)

In 10th place is Caledon in the Overberg which was established in 1811. This one catches many people by surprise.

Caledon is situated on the N2 national road in the Overberg region in the Western Cape province of South Africa, located about 113 kilometres east of Cape Town next to mineral-rich hot springs. As of 2011 it had a population of 13,020. It is located in, and is the seat of, the Theewaterskloof Local Municipality.

The town has a Mediterranean climate of warm, dry summers and cool, wet winters. Temperatures are modified by its close proximity to the South Atlantic Ocean, just over the Klein River Mountains to the south. The place was originally known in Dutch as “Bad agter de Berg” (Bath Behind the Mountain). A bath house was built in 1797 and a village called Swartberg sprang up, which was later renamed Caledon in honour of the Irish peer Du Pre Alexander.

Caledon is famous for its hot springs, discovered by the early Khoi-Khoi people before the Europeans attributed healing properties to the iron-rich waters and opened a sick house and later a sanatorium, which was destroyed by fire. The seven springs, one of which is cold and the other six thermal, are warmed by contact with rocks heated by pressure deep under the ground to a steady temperature of 49.5° Celsius. Interestingly, the waters of Caledon are also free of any organic matter and when submitted, in 1893, to the Chicago World Fair, they were awarded first prize as the world’s top quality mineral waters. The Caledon district is primarily an agricultural region. 

(Read more...)

Published in Mountain Passes News

The week that was...

* Out and about

* Msikaba Gorge

* Oh Darling

* Seven Sisters Pass (New)

* Garden Route Gravel Travel Tour (New)

* Rivers of Joy and Sorrow

* Pass of the Week

Out and About

It's been a busy week at the MPSA offices in preparation for our longest tour to date amounting to a total of 21 days. Bookings for the Wild Coast V4 Pondoland have closed (fully booked), but we still have a few places open on the Wild Coast V5 Mbashe Tour. Bookings close this Saturday at 18.00. Our next Wild Coast Tour will only be in 2023 so if you're keen, don't miss out on this opportunity.

Amongst the highlights of this tour are Mapuzi, Hole in the Wall, Coffee Bay, 4x4 tracks through beautiful forests, Mdumbi Beach, kayaking on the Mthatha River, lunch at White Clay, lots of unchartered passes, a 2 day stay at the The Haven, The Dwesa-Cwebe Nature Reserve, dolphin watching at Kob Inn, Collywobbles Vulture Colony, take the pont over the Kei River and finish at the awesome Morgan Bay Hotel. Enjoy the oysters, fresh fish and calamari. Savour the friendliness of the local Xhosa people. Chill on the beach. Read a book. Make new friends. Tour in the safety of a group under expert guidance. Have FUN!


Msikaba Bridge

This morning we have received news that we have been granted permission to take our guests to see the construction site of the Msikaba Gorge Bridge. This will form part of the many points of interest on the Wild Coast V4 Tour.

The cable-stayed bridge is being built by a joint venture of Concor Infrastructure and Mota Engil Construction. The bridge over the Msikaba Gorge near Lusikisiki in the Eastern Cape forms part of the N2 Wild Coast project being undertaken by the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral). It will have a main span of 580m supported from a pair of 127m-tall pylons.

The deck will be 194m metres above the valley floor, making it the third highest bridge in Africa, eclipsed only by the existing Bloukrans Bridge with a height of 216m and the Mtentu Bridge which, when completed, will be 223m high. Approach roads and the pylon foundations and anchor blocks for the Msikaba Bridge are under construction.

(Read more...)


Published in Mountain Passes News

The week that was...

* Trips & Tours

* KZN Floods

* Affected areas along the Wild Coast

* Ben 10 Eco Challenge - Day 5

* Pass of the week

Trips & Tours

Bookings for the Wild Coast Tour V4 (Pondoland) close today.

Bookings for the Wild Coast Tour V5 (Mbashe) close on 30th April.

There is still one ticket left for the Swartberg Classic Tour in July.

Use the links above to review the itineraries and pricing.

Floods & Mopping Up

A massive amount of damage and a tragic loss of life (mainly in the KZN coastal region) marks another dark period for the beleaguered province, but in the true South African spirit, communities are standing together and helping out with beach clean ups and other damage. Some areas are still without water and electricity. There has been criticism in the media and on social media as to how government have been slow/inept in responding to the disaster.

Further down the south coast, the damage was less, but the entire section down to East London, also received lots of rain with numerous reports of flood damage. With our Wild Coast Tours coming up in less than 2 weeks' time, we made a series of phone calls to the various venues we use to establish if roads, water, sanitation and electricity supply was intact. 

Everyone is working flat out to ensure full services are in place. We might have to come up with some alternative routes to our usual ones, should there be significant flood damage to roads and/or bridges. It certainly adds some additional excitement to the tour! We will do our best to report on conditions via these newsletters (we will be in the Wild Coast for 24 days in total), as well as via our social media pages.

Ben 10 – Day 5 (The tough test)

We asked the kitchen staff at the Rhodes Hotel to serve us breakfast a bit earlier as we had a really big day ahead of us. We had four major challenge passes waiting for us. It was going to be a long, tough day and towards the end of the day, I had to remind some of the older guests that things were going to be tough especially towards the end of the day.

(Read more)

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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