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What's inside?

* Training, trips and tours

* Ben 10 in December

* Wild Coast V5 Tour - The final day

* Swartberg Classic Tour - Day 2

* Podcast

* Pass of the week


Tours coming up:

September 10 - 16. Garden Route Tour. We had two cancellations and then resold both those places, but there is still one spot available. Click here for the full itinerary and online bookings. 

October 15/16th. Seven Sisters Tour. Fully booked.

October 30th. Grabouw Novice 4x4 Training Day. (5 places available)

November 15th to 19th. Kouga-Baviaans Tour. This popular tour always gets booked out quickly. We will be loading the tour onto the Shop page next week, so please book early to avoid disappointment. We have added some new features into this tour and extended it by a day, so as to allow a fuller exploration of the kloof. We have also included new starting and end venues with a great final night planned at the Karoo Theatrical Hotel in Steytlerville.

December 9th to 14th. Ben 10 Eco Challenge - Our final tour of the year will be held in early December. This tour is suitable for intermediate to more experienced offroad drivers. This tour is not suitable for novices. This will be our 7th running of this ever-popular challenge. If you want to put your name down on a priority list, send us an email to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Wild Coast Tour V5 - Day 10

The weather had cleared and the mud on the roads dried somewhat, ensuring a much easier day for our final day from Kob Inn to Morgan Bay. This is normally a very easy day from a technical driving perspective, but we had been hearing rumours that the ferry at Kei Mouth might be closed. An early morning call confirmed the rumours. The Kei River had been coming down in heavy flood, causing major silting with strong currents making it too dangerous for the ferries to operate. The crossing of the Kei by ferry is always one of the highlights of the tour and much anticipated by guests.

These things happen and that's why we always have a number of alternative routes in such an event. We left Kob Inn after another hearty breakfast at a more leisurely time of 09.30, heading north west along the eastern flank of the Qora River. The first pass for the day was the oddly named Cats Pass. Despite digging around a lot, we have never been able to find out after who or what this pass was named.

Then there's another oddity about Cats Pass. It is shown in the incorrect place on most maps - including Tracks4Africa. The pass is actually the road that traverses the Qora River Valley. Three rivers form a confluence just below the point where the road crosses the river. The first river is the Ngqageni; the middle one is the Qora and the last one is the Ntyiaba. The two smaller rivers form confluences with the Qora River just a little further downstream. For some unknown reason cattle love to spend time around these three bridges, as can be attested by the large volumes of cow dung on the roadway. There is so much of it, that drivers have no option but to drive through it. Your car will smell like a 'plaas bakkie' when you get home!

(Read more) 

Published in Mountain Passes News

What's inside?

* Out & About

* Wild Coast Tour V5 - Day 9

* Swartberg Classic Tour - Day 1

* Podcast

* Pass of the week


OUT & ABOUT

GRABOUW NOVICE 4X4 TRAINING DAY - 30th October, 2022.

We've had a lot of requests to repeat a novice 4x4 training day. The whole idea of owning a 4x4 is to allow you to get to places normal cars cannot go, yet many people have never even put their vehicles into low range and tested the limits of their vehicles and themselves. This should take place is stages. The building of confidence.

We've put together an attractive package in the beautiful mountains near Grabouw and Elgin, where not only will you complete the training module but it will also be a fun day in pristine surroundings with great mountain and lake views.

We've gone a step further and will have a professional videographer/photographer on site to get all those action packed moments onto a video stick for each driver. Tickets will sell fast on this one, so book your spot right away. We can only take 12 vehicles. There will be two facilitators to ensure everyone gets one on one training. The course comes with a certificate of completion. Everything including instruction notes, folders, radio hire, permit fees, certificates and memory sticks are included in the price.

The program will include tuition on how drive trains work, gearboxes, differentials and diff-locks, low range, traction control, and downhill assist. This will take place classroom style at the start of the tour and will last about an hour. Then comes the practical side of things where you will get to put your new found knowledge into practice. We will limit the obstacles to Grade 1 and 2.

The day will include a lunch break in the mountains. bring your own 'padkos'
Note: No alcohol allowed during training or tours. Click on the link for full itinerary and pricing: 

GRABOUW NOVICE 4X4 TRAINING DAY - 30th October, 2022.


GARDEN ROUTE TOUR 10th to 16th September, 2022

Our inaugural Garden Route Classic Tour is almost fully booked. One ticket is still looking for ownership! Come and enjoy the very best of Thomas Bain's passes as we work our way from west to east over a number of mountain ranges and some places you've unlikely seen before. The traverse of the old oxwagon route (Voortrekker Pass) will set the pulses racing, but the quality of the venues we will be staying out will soothe the most frazzled soul.

Amongst the bigger passes we will be driving include Cloetes Pass, Robinson Pass, Outeniqua Pass, Kaaimans Pass, Montagu Pass, Voortrekker Pass, 7 Passes Road, Millwood, Kom se Pad, Prince Alfred's Pass, Paardekop Pass, Grootrivier Pass and the Bloukrans Pass.

(Read more...)

Published in Mountain Passes News

What's inside?

* 4x4 Novice Driver Training (30th October)

* Garden Route Tour 

* Wild Coast V5 Tour (Day 8)

* Swartberg Classic Tour (Day 0)

* Pass of the week


Driver Training - Sunday 30th October

There's a constant need for driver training. Many people buy 4x4's but have never been off-road with them. Owning a 4x4 allows one to get to places others cannot. Once you have the confidence to venture off on your own, there's a whole new world of adventure travel waiting for you. Once or twice a year we offer a novice training course, which is always popular. This year's training day will take place at the Grabouw 4x4 facility in the Western Cape. The course will be facilitated by Trygve Roberts in person, with Philip Wantling assisting. The tour price includes take-home training material and professional photos/videos of you and your vehicle loaded onto a memory stick as a memoir for the day. You will also receive a Certificate of Completion. This is an ideal training session for rank novices as well as intermediate drivers to brush up on your skills. Bookings will open soon.


Garden Route Tour

We have 1 place open on our inaugural Garden Route Tour  (10th - 16th September). Click here for full itinerary and pricing: GARDEN ROUTE CLASSIC


Trip Report

Wild Coast Tour V5 - Day 8

Our route for the day looked so easy on the map, but the heavy two day rain scenario had left the Wild Coast roads very wet and muddy. This is exactly why we insist on 4WD vehicles on these tours. We were going to need every ounce of traction available.

The highlight of the day was undoubtedly the Mbashe River Pass. To get to the eastern start of the pass, involved a long pull inland to an area known as Ntonyane. From 'The Haven' at the coast we climbed 417m in altitude to reach the eastern rim of the Mbashe Valley. Everything about the river and its valley and gorges is on an impressive scale. The pass itself is 14 km in length and loses/gains 383m in altitude. It offers lofty views of deeply incised and heavily wooded valleys, several Wild Coast villages and the crossing of the powerful Mbashe River via the historical Fyfe-King Bridge. 

(Read more...)

Published in Mountain Passes News

The week that was....

* Overview

* Garden Route Classic

* Wild Coast - Day 5 & 6

* Swartberg Tour report back

* Pass of the week


Overview

Another week of ups and downs with loadshedding, the usual SARS scams at this time of year and the Boks pulling off a decent win against Wales in Cape Town. The MPSA squad have unpacked, pressure washed all the mud off the Cruiser and crash landed into the world of administration as we depart the heady euphoria of an amazing Swartberg Tour. We'll cover that a bit later in this newsletter. 


Tours

All current tours are fully booked except for one place left on the Garden Route Tour. Here is the itinerary:

Saturday 10th September: The group meets up at the Rooiberg Lodge just outside Vanwyksdorp between 1400 and 1700 where we fit your two way radio and magnetic aerial, deflate tyres for gravel travel and have our meet & greet session where the finer details of the tour will be explained, indemnity forms signed, distribution of personal folders with notes, convoy driving order sheets, name tags and maps as well as a Q&A session. We enjoy a hearty dinner and a good night’s rest in preparation for the next day.

Sunday 11th September: 08h30 After breakfast we run a radio check to ensure everyone has comms and then we take to the road. Our route heads south towards the Langeberge along the R327, then east to cross the Gouritz River via the single lane low level bridge at the Jan Muller Pass and remain on gravel via Cloete’s Pass and descends to Herbertsdale. We take some fabulously scenic back roads via Haelkraal where we intersect with the tarred R328 and stop at the lovely 8 Bells Inn for lunch.

Our route ascends the Robinson Pass where after which we take a shortcut through some Klein Karoo farms to bypass Oudtshoorn. We descend the stunning Outeniqua Pass and finish the day at our overnight venue in Wilderness.

The passes are marked (G) for gravel and (T) for tar:
Jan Muller Pass (G); Cloetes Pass (G); Hagelkraal Pass (G); Robinson Pass (T) – Ascending; Brakpoort (T); Beweraaskloof Pass (T); Outeniqua Pass (T) – Descending; Kaaimans River Pass (T)
Overnight at Wilderness Karos Hotel in Wilderness. (Dinner, bed and breakfast)

Monday 12th September: Depart 0900 after breakfast.

Our routing will be: White’s Road (G) (ascending); ** Map of Africa ** viewpoint; Silver River Pass (T) (7 Passes Road); Kaaimansgat Pass (T) (7 Passes Road); Montagu Pass (G) Oldest unaltered pass in SA; ** Louvain Farm**; Old Voortrekker Pass (G) (Quite a technical drive); ** Bergplaas Forestry Station **; Hoekwil Pass (T)
Overnight at Wilderness Karos Hotel. (Dinner, bed and breakfast)

(Read more...)

Published in Mountain Passes News

The week that was....

* The drama continues

* Trips & Tours

* Wild Coast - the final leg

* Pass of the week


Overview

I can't think of any two years in my lifetime more dramatic than the last two.

Droughts, Day Zero Water, graft & corruption, a failing economy, Covid, Ukraine, rocketing fuel prices and now Stage 6 load shedding. One needs broad shoulders to deal with all this stuff. Our backup generator decided to fail right as Stage 6 started last week leaving us literally and figuratively in the dark. You can't find the little burglar alarm and gate batteries anywhere as the public begin to realise how vulnerable their systems are. At least they're not rushing about to buy bakkie loads of toilet paper! The name of the game is remain positive and put some of that energy out there - even if its not in the form of electricity. 

MPSA is hugely dependent on having fast internet 24 hours a day, so we will have to invest in an upgraded inverter system to keep the lights on when Eskom cannot.


Time for a quick commercial

Trips & Tours are selling extremely well.

SWARTBERG CLASSIC (July) - Fully booked and as you read this newsletter we will be enjoying our final day of the tour. Expect an action packed report.

GARDEN ROUTE CLASSIC (Sep) - Two spots available.Come and enjoy this inaugural tour and lets make some history.

SEVEN SISTERS TOUR (Oct) - Fully booked.

WILD COAST TOUR (May 2023) - Fully booked


Wild Coast Tour V5 - A new group

Once our new group of guests arrived in Coffee Bay, it was back to basics; fitting radios and running through the driver's briefing details. The weather remained miraculously fine, but the big rain forecast that had been threatening for a week was creeping onto the forecast map. 

On day one, we took our group to Mapuzi Caves - the first time we have ever gone to this remote and difficult to reach spot. We parked our vehicles on a grassy ridge and negotiated a "fee" for parking there with the landowner across the road - all of this done via our local guide Mzo, acting as interpreter. Not many locals can speak English, so it's a sound idea to use a local guide to ensure there are no misunderstandings (especially when it comes to money). This fellow started his negotiations off at R100 per vehicle to park for an hour, immediately putting Sandton City to shame. We ended up at R10 per vehicle which seems to be about the average price most people are happy with.

The more agile guests followed Mzo down to the caves via a footpath that is perilously close to vertical. The only way to ensure you won't fall, is to go down on your backside. One guest turned around when the gradient became too much, but the rest of the guests all made it down to the rocky beach where the caves are located. The caves are huge and according to the locals, this is where the ANC stored arms and ammunition during the armed struggle. They rigged a gantry with a pulley system to lower their cargo down the mountainside. The arms stash was never discovered by the South African government at the time.

(Read more...)

Published in Mountain Passes News

The week that was...

* Trips & Tours

* Wild Coast V4 Tour Day 6 & 7

* Cartography & myths

* Hole in Wall

* Pass of the week


Trips & Tours

July: The Swartberg Classic Tour (fully booked) starts this Sunday. The weather is looking great!

September: Garden Route Classic (5 days) - 2 tickets still available

October: Seven Sisters Tour (2 days) - Fully booked.

October: 4x4 Novice training day (1 day) - Details to be announced soon. (Western Cape)

November: Kouga Baviaans (4 days) - Details to be announced soon.

May 2023: Wild Coast V6 Tour (11 days) - Fully booked.


Wild Coast V4 Tour - Day 6

Another perfect weather day saw the group departing Cremorne Estates at Port St Johns, heading up the R61 towards Libode over a series of tarred passes, which included Isinuka Poort, Butyabuse Pass, Mngazi River Pass and impressive Tutor Ndamase Pass. Our goal was to drive the Mlengana Pass which allows a close up view of Execution Rock. 

Our cartographers in the early 1900's had mistakenly noted the Mlengana Mountain as Execution Rock. This stems from Xhosa legend when King Faku is said to have thrown his enemies off the rock to certain death and their blood flowed red down the Mngazi River. Once you see this little piece of real estate for yourself, you'll quickly realise that scaling the vertical cliffs of the mountain with or without prisoners would have been close to impossible. Also it is a fair distance away from the river. The real execution rock is a much smaller cliff further down the valley, much closer to the river.  Moral of the story is: Don't believe everything you see on the maps. Still, it's a nice myth that seems set to remain forever. Why spoil a good story with facts?

Our photos and videos done, we continued down the lovely old pass and through the village of Masameni. Instead of returning to Port St Johns via the R61, we went exploring and took this group on a proper recce trip into the mountains. The drive was brilliant, through lofty hills, with attractive villages as well as the Majola Tea Estates, which is not quite as big as Magwa, but a major tea grower in the area.

(Read more...)

Published in Mountain Passes News

The week that was....

* Bain's Kloof Pass 

* Tours & Trips

* Escom - a lost cause

* Wild Coast V4 Tour - Day 5

* Podcast

* Pass of the Week

* Plato


Bain's Kloof Pass

Last week we reported that the pass had reopened to normal traffic. Just one day after writing that newsletter a pantechnicon attempted driving over the newly opened pass and got itself horribly stuck, causing some damage to the roadway and retaining walls. We posted the photo (above) on our social media platforms and a storm of comments followed. It would appear that rookie truck drivers relying on GPS instructions are often routed from the N1 via Bain's Kloof Pass. Once they have made the commitment and entered under the gantry with the chains just after the Breede River crossing in the north, it's already too late,  as there is nowhere to turn a large truck around, so they carry on getting themselves ever deeper into trouble.

The question must be raised whether Bain's Kloof Pass should become a toll road, reserved strictly for vehicles under 5 tons, motorcycles and cyclists. There are two safe alternative routes (N1 and R46) for heavy trucks and fast traffic. The new road surface allows for faster speeds. Motocycles might well be heading that way to race their machines around the many curves and corners. A toll road would solve the problem of trucks heading up the pass, plus funds generated could pay for the installation of CCTV camera systems to control grafitti vandals and speed offenders. We would recommend a maximum speed of 40 kph on the pass. The pass is a national monument and although no-one likes a toll road, it seems like a very sound solution. 


Trips & Tours

July - Swartberg Tour - Fully booked

September - Garden Route Classic (5 days) - 3 places left

October - Seven Sisters Tour (2 days) - Bookings have just opened - 8 places left


Eskom

Load shedding has done an enormous amount of harm to our country. It affects the entire population negatively. Reading up on the state of the power utility it seems that Eskom is not trying to raise more capital for increased generating capacity. This is due to the fact that private companies are standing by ready to breach the gap with solar and wind power (many wind farms have been built but are not yet connected to the grid). Eskom will shrink in size in the months and years ahead and become an ever decreasing role player in the power game (pun intended). The sooner the better! 


Wild Coast V4 Tour - Day 5

The day of the waterfalls.

It was time to say farewell to our hosts at Mbotyi River Lodge and head south. We did our 6th traverse of the Mbotyi Pass and drove the short jeep track to the Fraser Falls view point. The feature of this waterfall is that one is not expecting such a dramatic scene after driving through some flat and innocuous meadows. At first glance it looks like the water is pouring out of a hole or tunnel in the mountain, but this is merely an optical illusion.

(Read more...)

Published in Mountain Passes News

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.


Tours

  • 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


Snow!

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:

1 VEHICLE / 1 PERSON
1 VEHICLE / 2 PERSONS
1 VEHICLE / 3 PERSONS
1 VEHICLE / 4 PERSONS

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:

WILD COAST V6 TOUR 

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:

GARDEN ROUTE V1 TOUR

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.

SWARTBERG CLASSIC TOUR 2022

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

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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.
 

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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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