Trygve Roberts

Trygve Roberts

We chat about the 4th & 5th days of the Ben 10 Eco Challenge Tour which took place in September.

*Apologies for the quality of the sound at the start (due to some interference with the antenna)

Listen to the interview:

Wednesday, 28 October 2020 15:23

Latest News! 29th October, 2020.

The week that was....

* Tours Updates

* Swartberg Tour summary

* Ben 10 V3 Tour - Day 5 / Finale

* Great South Africans - Series #6

* Cities of South Africa - Series #7

* Podcast - A day with the vultures

* Pass of the Week

* Words of wisdom

Trips & Tours

Wild Coast Adventure Tour - 12th to 21st November (Fully booked) 

Mpumalanga Highveld Tour - 23rd to 25th November (5 tickets available)

Atlantis Sand Training Day - 13th December (4 tickets available).

Book online

We are working on our program for next year and will publish dates of the new tours as soon as we have finalised matters.

Swartberg Tour - Report back

This thoroughly enjoyable tour deserves a detailed story on its own, which will take place over the next few weeks, but here is a short summary. The single most impressive item on this tour was the astonishing volume and variety of wild-flowers. The weather ranged from distinctly cool on the first day to a blistering 51C in Prince Albert on the 3rd day. The mercury dropped to 35C by 10 pm that night,

The day we visited the Gamkaskloof (Die Hel) was achingly painful to see the deeply wooded valley left in a charred and ashen state with no wildlife or birds present. The remaining family at Fonteinplaas are still there, licking their wounds and trying to rise above the double tragedy of the fire and Covid 19. Annatjie Joubert was there in person and spoke to us about the day of the fire - Christmas Day 2019 - when the valley caught fire and they still don't know how is started. All their guest cottages and the campsite went up in flames. Her son was standing on the roof wetting down the thatch of the restaurant as the flames raged around them. And finally it was time to stand on the lawn and pray. Suddenly there was a change in wind direction and the flames retreated up towards Elands Pass. Their home and the restaurant were spared.

Klipspringer family commonly seen on the road to Die Hel / Photo: Marius KrijtPlease go and visit. Take in the ashes and devastation. Have a meal and a drink there. If ever there was a family that needs our collective support, it is there in Die Hel. They have rebuilt three of the cottages as well as the campsite already. These are good South African people that need our support. More news next week.


Ben 10 V3 Tour - Day 5 (Finale)

After the rest day on the Sunday, we had a long day ahead of us which promised lots of action. The weather was perfect and our convoy left base at 08.30 sharp. Our routing took us along the R393 northwards over the Fetcani Pass. We took the shortcut to Rhodes over the Bokspruit Pass and arrived at Rhodes within an hour, where we paid a visit to the Rhodes Hotel, which is busy being revamped in preparation for the new grand opening.

The old hotel is an interesting place packed with antiques and one of the nicest pubs I've seen in a long time. We'll keep you posted on developments via these newsletters. It will certainly add a big attraction to anyone wanting to visit the village, which was hammered by a lack of tourism during lockdown.

Our first challenge pass of the day was Naude's Nek Pass. We stopped at the Naude memorial site at the foot of the pass to appreciate the fantastic work of the Naude family and their influence on the area, not least of which is the fabulous pass that they were instrumental in building. When one considers that the farmers had no education in terms of engineering, the gradients on the pass are actually very comfortable. 

[Read more....]

Tuesday, 27 October 2020 17:53

Port St Johns Airport Road

This very steep and winding road starts in the town of Port St Johns and winds its way up the lush mountainside, eventually curling back on itself to terminate at the old runway on the top of the mountain. The road is tarred or concreted all the way, so traction is good (even in wet weather) making this drive possible in any vehicle.

The 9.8 km long road has 69 bends, corners and curves to contend with and some fairly steep gradients of 1:5. The views from the end of the airstrip are superb and include a bird's eye view over the Umzimvubu River, the Gates of St John as well as the river mouth itself.

The road was well built many years ago making extensive use of concrete to ensure it would not suffer water damage from the heavy rains that fall in this area. The road has a false summit of 240m ASL which is reached at the 2.8 km mark, where after it undulates and descends until the 5.4 km mark. From this point the gradient ramps up steeply as the road reaches its maximum gradient of 1:6 before reaching the top of the mountain, where you can drive along the tarred runway to the various lookout points.

Sunday, 18 October 2020 14:16

Geelhoutboom Pass

This easy gravel pass can be driven in any vehicle, although like any gravel pass, things get quite slippery during and after rain. It boasts an impressive hight gain of 730m, which places it in position 20 in the biggest altitude gaining statistics. The 48 bends, corners and curves will keep you busy as each bend reveals new vistas over the citrus farms of the Gamtoos Valley and the densely wooded mountains to the east.

The road services a number of farms and provides an alternative and much more attractive route to Uitenhage. It also is the access road to the 4x4 only Antoniesberg Pass and Steytlerville and forms part of the T3 baviaanskloof Tourism Route system.

The road holds no apprarent dangers if speed limits are adhered to, but normal farming vehicles use the road frequently, so be aware of them.

Thursday, 15 October 2020 17:34

Latest News! 22nd October, 2020

The week that was

* Trips & Tours

* Ben 10 V3 Tour Day 4 (Series)

* Great South Africans (#5 Series)

* South African Cities (#6 Series)

* Pass of the Week

* Words of Wisdom

Trips & Tours

Swartberg 2020 Tour: As you read this newsletter our tour group will be winding our way through the beautiful Swartberg range. Our Swartberg tours are always popular, so if you missed out on this one, we will be repeating it again in 2021.

Mpumalanga Panorama Tour: Bookings closed

Wild Coast Tour: Fully Booked

Mpumalanga Highveld Tour: 5 places open

Atlantis Sand Training Day: 4 places left.

Book your tour online

Ben 10 V3 Tour Report Back (Day 4)

All or previous Ben 10 Tours were run over 4 days. For the 2020 version we decided to build a spare (contingency) day into the programme in case of bad weather or vehicle breakdowns. We had a loose Plan B plan for this day, in case everything was running smoothly. As things turned out, for most of our guests, the spare day delivered a fantastic adventure.

Geudeon van Zyl is the father of the Ria Reabow, owner of the Mountain Shadows Hotel, which we use as our base for these tours. Geudeon, who is a cattle farmer both locally and in the Free State, happened to be visiting during the time of our tour, and offered to "show us around"- and what a day it turned out to be. 

Some of our guests opted out for the day and took a drive through to Rhodes to check out the local cemetery (a historical hobby of theirs), whilst others revisited their old family farms in the Elliot area. We were minus 3 vehicles for our little excursion. We departed promptly at 08.30 heading for a tall peak visible from the hotel called Dawid se Kop, which stands a respectable 2515m tall and is frequently snow capped in winter. 

Looking at the peak from the southern perspective, it seemed impossible to get up those vertical krantzes, but Geudeon guided us around to the northern side of the peak, all the while regaling us over the radios with fascinating snippets about water arteries in the mountains and the finer points of sheep and cattle farming. We crossed two private farms, which our guide for the day had gone to some trouble to collect keys and permission to cross private land.

[Read more...]

Thursday, 15 October 2020 09:48

Berg en Daal - Day 2 of Ben 10 v3 tour

We chat about Day 2 of the Ben 10 V3 Tour.

Listen to the interview:

Wednesday, 14 October 2020 11:57

Latest News! 15th October, 2020.

The week that was

* Trips & Tours update

* Ben 10 V3 Tour Day 3 (Series)

* Great South Africans (Series - #4)

* South African Cities (Series #5)

* Podcast

* Pass of the Week

* Words of Wisdom

Trips & Tours

Mpumalanga Panorama Tour (26th to 30th October) - There are still a few tickets available for this wonderful tour taking in the historic towns and villages as well as the beautiful vistas along the Drakensberg Escarpment. Click here for more info & online bookings.

Wild Coast Tour (12th to 21st November) - Fully booked

Mpumalanga Highveld Tour (23rd to 25th November) Enjoy a leisurely and very affordable tour along the Mpumalanga Highveld guided by Johan Badenhorst. Click here for more info and online bookings.

Atlantis Sand Driving Course (13th December) - Join us for a fun day at Atlantis Dunes, north of Cape Town, as we teach you the fundamentals of soft sand driving. This is the 3rd module of our training programme. Click here to book.


Ben 10 V3 Tour report back: (Series - #3)

Friday 26th September: After two back to back tough driving days, we decided to slot in the easiest day of the tour to give our guests a bit of a break. After the usual slap-up breakfast at Mountain Shadows Hotel, we got the convoy on the move heading NNE to Barkly East and an opportunity to top up on fuel. The R58 along this stretch is a pleasure to drive and at 80 kph, there's time to take in all the fabulous scenery and of course there are a number of passes along the way - like the Kraai River Pass, Grondnek and Benjaminshoogte. 

Our route for the day was an anti-clockwise circular route taking in Jouberts Pass, Otto du Plessis Pass and the timeless Barkly Pass for the second time on the tour. Just before reaching Benjaminshoogte (where a number of the old railway reverses are located), we took the long, but scenic gravel alternative to Lady Grey via Joubert's Pass. This lovely drive offers magnificent scenery via a number of old farms, where the Lombardi poplars stand tall against the blue backdrop of towering mountains, where crystal clear streams offer some of the finest fly-fishing in South Africa and where vultures patrol the craggy cliffs for a morsel of food.

There are a number of interesting and graphic road signs along this road - like Kar Wegspoel Drif. Apparently one of the local farmers and his wife got caught in a flash flood coming home after a day's revelling in Lady Grey and just manged to escape out of their vehicle, before it washed away down the stream. There's another gulley marked 'Car Sump Drift' and one look at the sharp entry angle into the concreted drift easily tells the story that more than one motorist has damaged a sump at this innocuous spot.

The road meanders through valleys, crossing rivers, heading generally northwards, but at the 20 km mark there is an abrupt change of direction into the west and this also marks the start of the eastern climb up Joubert's Pass. This approach is actually quite gentle with fairly easy gradients and the road is mostly in a reasonable condition. 

Wednesday, 07 October 2020 17:59

Latest News! 8th October, 2020

The week that was

* Trips & Tours

* Ben 10 Tour Day 2 Report back (Series #2)

* Great South Africans (Series #2)

* South African cities (Series #3)

* Podcast

* Pass of the Week

* Words of Wisdom

Trips & Tours

Swartberg 2020 Tour (19th to 24th October) - All the participants are busy packing for this brand new version of our popular Swartberg Tour. It remains fully booked with no cancellations.

Mpumalanga Panorama Tour (26th to 30th October) - There are still a few tickets available for this wonderful tour taking in the historic towns and villages as well as the beautiful vistas along the Drakensberg Escarpment. Click here for more info & online bookings.

Wild Coast Tour (12th to 21st November) - Fully booked

Mpumalanga Highveld Tour (23rd to 25th November) Enjoy a leisurely and very affordable tour along the Mpumalanga Highveld guided by Johan Badenhorst. Click here for more info and online bookings.

Atlantis Sand Driving Course (13th December) - Join us for a fun day at Atlantis Dunes, north of Cape Town, as we teach you the fundamentals of soft sand driving. This is the 3rd module of our training programme. Click here to book.

Photography Tour: We are working with a photographer in putting together a tour which will be focussed (pun intended) on amateur photographers who are keen on learning how to improve their landscape photography. We are still working on the details, but the tour will include mountain pass driving as part of the package. We will publish more information as soon as we have finalised matters. Let us know per email if you would be interested on such a tour. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Ben 10 V3 Tour - Report back

Day 2: The weather forecast for Friday 25th September indicated very strong winds of 90 kph for our area. The nature of mountain passes are such that at the necks where the passes reach the highest point, the wind strength can often be much higher than the forecasted speed. We selected another tough route for the day which often means arriving back at base in the dark. It is a challenge, after all, and part of the adventure is having to deal with the hard yards.

We left the Mountain Shadows Hotel promptly at 08.30 bound for Barkly East where a number of our drivers wanted to top up their tanks, and especially the Jimny's which have a nominal rage of 400 km. Once regrouped we rumbled out of Barkly East and soon turned right towards Loch Bridge. The bridge was completed in 1893 by Joseph Newey (who was responsible for all the sandstone bridges in the area, most of which are still standing firmly) and is one of the last single width stone bridges still in daily use in South Africa.

Photos and videos done, we drove up the Tierkrans Pass and paused halfway up to admire the rail reverses. These clever reverse systems work much like the switchbacks on a hiking trail, with the exception that the train would go forward down one section, then reverse down the next, until it reached the valley floor or plateau. The concept was put forward by a local German woman from Barkly East, who reasoned that the construction of the reverses had to be much cheaper than building tunnels and bridges. It remains one of only three such systems in the world, the others being in Canada and China. 

[Read more...]

Wednesday, 07 October 2020 00:11

Berg en Daal - Day 1 of Ben 10 v3 tour

A chat about day 1 of Ben 10 v3 tour.

Listen to the interview:

Wednesday, 30 September 2020 16:15

Latest News! 1st October, 2020

The week that was

* Trips & Tours

* Ben 10 V3 Tour report back 

* Great South Africans

* South African Cities

* Pass of the week

* Words of Wisdom

Trips and Tours

We have just arrived back from our most successful Ben 10 Eco Challenge ever. There is so much to write about that we have decided to break it up into five weekly instalments covering one day at a time. Read more lower down.

The next tour is the Swartberg Tour from the 19th to the 24th October, We have had one cancellation, so if you're looking to get out into the mountains for a fabulous tour through all the best parts of the Swartberg range, then grab the last open ticket here: SWARTBERG TOUR INFO AND ONLINE BOOKINGS.

 Mpumalanga Panorama Tour: 26th to 30th October - 3 tickets left. Don't miss out on our inaugural joint venture tour with Johan Badenhorst. This tour (which is suitable for high clearance 4x2 vehicles as well as soft roaders) includes some well known passes plus some you've probably never driven before. Passes include Crossroads, Wilgekraal, Chom se Hoogte, De Beers Nek, Patata Nek, Schoemanskloof, Wonderkloof, Houtbosloop, Sudwalaskraal, Sudwala, Hendriksdal, Koffiehoogte, Mac Mac, Burgers, Bonnet, Robbers, Caspersnek, Blyderivier Poort, Kowyns, Graskop Concrete Road (optional), Klipkraal, Bergvliet, Kiepersol, Bakenkop, Long Tom, Masjiennek & Santa. Get full info and pricing as well as online booking here: MPUMALANGA PANORAMA TOUR

Mpumalanga Highveld Tour - A shorter 'closer to home' tour for all our mountain pass followers up on the reef offers three days of fascinating travel around the smaller villages and interesting towns of the Highveld and will include the following passes:  Jantjieshoek, Kastrolnek, Kempslus, Knights, Burgers, Hattingshoogte, Barrowfield, Mollshoogte, Ossewakop (optional), De Jagersnek, Laingsnek, Ingogo Heights, Brinkshoogte, Schuinshoogte (optional), Oom Louis se Hoogte, Kwaggasnek & Majubanek. This tour (which is suitable for high clearance 4x2 vehicles as well as soft roaders) lasts for 3 days and represents excellent value for money. Read more and online bookings here: MPUMALANGA HIGHVELD TOUR

Wild Coast Tour: 12th to 21st November - Fully Booked.

MPSA Atlantis Sand Training Day - We are planning this one day course for Sunday 13th December. Bookings should open this weekend. If you would like to attend this course it will stand you in good stead how to cope in soft sand conditions.

Tours for 2021: During December we wil be mapping out our tours for 2021. In the planning melting pot we have the following tours in mind:

Bedrogfontein Tour

Ben 10 Wet & Wild Tour

Drakensberg Ride the Dragon Tour

Kouga Baviaanskloof Tour

Richtersveld Tour

Namaqualand Tour

Wild Coast Tour

Tankwa Tour

Snow Patrol Tour

Mpumalanga Gravel Tour

Lesotho/Sani Tour

3 x Training Day Tours: Introduction to 4WD driving; Steep ascents/descents and rock crawling; safe recoveries; sand & mud driving.

Ben 10 V3 Tour Report back:

This was our first long tour post-Covid and we were all relishing the opportunity to get out into the mountains and do what we love doing - sharing our passion for mountain passes with like minded guests.

September 23rd: All guests arrived timeously at the Mountain Shadows Hotel during the afternoon of Wednesday 23rd Sep as radios were fitted and tyre deflation got underway. The driver's briefing took place punctually at 1800 where the group were briefed on the hard yards that were to follow over the next 5 days. With good warm weather forecast for the 24th September, we broke the news that we would be tackling Bastervoetpad Pass on the first day (normally we leave it for the end as confidence is built during the preceding days). The briefing was followed by Happy Hour and a lovely three course meal that the hotel is famous for. 
[Read more lower down...]

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Mountain Passes South Africa is a website dedicated to the research, documentation, photographing and filming of the mountain passes of South Africa.

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