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The week that was

* Corona - you cannot ignore it

* Wild Coast recce Trip - Chapter 5

* Kouga Baviaans Tour - Chapter 2

* Pass of the week

* Words of wisdom


What a week! The Corona story happened whilst we were on tour in the Baviaanskloof being totally isolated from the outside world with no mobile signal or internet connection whatsoever. It was only on the Sunday evening as we arrived at Bruintjieskraal near Patensie, that the lodge owner informed us of the bad news. Two of our guests on the tour run an international travel business and had to reluctantly leave the group a day early and head directly back to Johannesburg to deal with the detritus of cancellations and postponements.

We arrved back in Cape Town on Tuesday evening and then the harsh reality of what was happening struck me like a sledge hammer. For the next four days, it was like coming out of boot camp. I had to read so much negative material to keep myself informed - and try and sift the fake news from the real news. It left me feeling flat. But the show must go on and it is so important to keep a positive mindset. Reboot. Reboot. Reboot.

On Monday night the lockdown announcement was made, which in turn resulted in us having to postpone our Ben 10 V3 Tour which would have fallen within those dates. This morning I read an interesting and uplifting article written by a British teacher in the Far East, who has just come out of isolation and their lives are returning to normal again. It is important for us to understand what we are dealing with and that in time, our lives will also return to normal. 

In the meantime, set yourself up for success over the next 3 weeks:

1. Plan your days to be productive. Do all those repairs, chores you have been putting off. Clean the garage. Paint that room. Do a gardening project. 

2. Get us much quality sleep as you can and some daily Vitamin D sunshine.

3. Stay off the alcohol.

4. Sort our all your photo files. Create new albums. Play games like Monopoly and Scrabble.

5. Spend time with your kids. Set aside daily hours for online education.

6. Stay away from the negativity of the news channels where possible - and especially fake news sources.

7. Cyber drive a few passes every day.

8. Follow our Facebook page where you can enjoy daily doses of positivity and quality images.

9. Keep yourself busy. Don't panic buy, or hoard. Don't worry all the time.

10. If you are worried about your financial commitments, get hold of the company concerned and make arrangements for 3 months deferred payments. 

(More lower down)

Published in Mountain Passes News

The week that was:

* Covid-19

* Wild Coast recce trip - Chapter 4

* Kouga-Baviaans Explorer - Chapter 1

* Pass of the week

* Words of wisdom.


Covid 19

The pandemic is affecting each and every one of us in various ways. At MPSA we are strongly focused on remaining positive, as there are more than enough news outlets and websites that focus on the problem.  


Wild Coast Recce Trip - Report back - Chapter 4

After my visit to the Magwa Falls I still had to film those 4 back to back passes between Lusikisiki and Port St Johns and this time the light was good and the filming went smoothly. A second night at the Port St Johns River Lodge started with a long swim in the pool, a cold beer and a light dinner with just a handful of other guests there on a mid-week day.

Another four back to back passes awaited me on the R61 road to Mthatha of which the most impressive was the last one - the Tutor Ndamase Pass. He was a powerful political leader in the area and was widely respected. The new tarred pass is beautifully engineered and has impressive statistics with plenty of sharp bends counterpointed with magnificent scenery to make it a thoroughly enjoyable drive. [More lower down...]

Published in Mountain Passes News

The week that was

* Leisure Wheels Magazine

* Tours update

* Part 3 of the Transkei recce

* Podcast

* Pass of the week

* Words of wisdom


Leisure Wheels Magazine

This well-known magazine have invited us to become a regular monthly contributor. We have just finished the first instalment which will appear in their next issue. Grab yourselves a copy and enjoy the passes in print.


Tours Update

Kouga-Baviaans Explorer Tour (13th to 16th March)

By the time you read this newsletter out guests will be gathering in Joubertina on the R62 (Langkloof) on the eve of our departure on yet another adventure. We are heading into a wilderness area where there is no mobile reception whatsoever, but we will take photos and videos and relay them back to our HQ for publishing on Facebook and Instagram where you will be able to follow our progress and enjoy some of the highlights.


Ben 10 Eco Challenge V3 Tour (9th to 13th April)

We have had a cancellation which means we have 1 ticket open for anyone owning a 4x4 with low range who wants to add their name to the Hall of Fame. We'll take you there and get you back safely. You need a minimum of two years offroad driving experience to do this tour. Read more about the Ben 10 Eco Challenge V3 Tour.


Wild Coast Tour (14th to 23rd May) 

This tour remains fully booked and appears to be an outright winner and one we will repeat again fairly soon based on the speed at which bookings came in and general demand. One of the innovations we have included in this tour is the inclusion of local specialist guides. One in the Matatiele area, another in the Mbotyi area, another at Hole in the Wall and a fourth at Mveso and the vulture colonies at Collywobbles.


Wild Coast Recce Trip (Part 3) Part 3

The mosquitoes at Port St Johns are large and hungry (or is it thirsty). Note to self - take Tabard with on the next trip. They don't whine like normal mosquitoes. They sound more like a drone. They land and bite in one smooth motion being quite happy to die on the job, as their next of kin arrive en masse to take up on the banquet. But if you set your aircon down to 16C they seem to keep away.

It was a beautiful morning with not a cloud in the sky and that particular tone of blue one only gets on the Wild Coast. Johan Thiart of HHO engineers (who works a lot in this area) offered to guide me up to the old airport on top of the mountain. I filmed the entire pass with one or two sections of the sinuous road being directly into the morning sun. The runway of about 1.5 km is not in bad condition and by Eastern Cape standards has more cow-pats than potholes, so a good pilot could still easily land a small aircraft there - although an approach from the north over the Mzimvubu gorge must be quite hair raising! 
(More lower down...)

Published in Mountain Passes News

The week that was!

* Tours update

* Wild Coast recce trip - Chapter 2

* Featured pass of the week

* Podcast

* Words of wisdom


Tours Update:

Wild Coast Tour - Fully booked

Kouga-Baviaans Explorer Tour - 2 places left. Bookings close on Friday 6th March.

Ben 10 Eco Challenge V3 Tour - We've had a cancellation, so there is 1 place available.

Use the hyperlinks above for more information and online bookings.


Wild Coast recce trip - Part 2 - Matatiele to Port St Johns

There were lots of emails to answer the next morning and downloading film clips from the GoPro took much longer than anticipated, leaving me with a 09.15 departure time. I refuelled the Jimny (that has to be the most rewarding part of driving it) and headed east to the bustling metropolis of Cedarville. This is one of those "if you blink you'll miss it" villages with it's own unique character.

I left the tar to film a small pass called Wepenersnek, then doubled back to the R56 tar road and took the next gravel road south. This is a magnificent drive on a surprisingly good gravel road. Next up was the Nungi Pass which was a visual feast of rolling grassy hills set to a backdrop of big mountains, dotted here and there with a few rondavels. This pass is a photographers delight.

Next up was the Colananek Pass which was troublesome in the extreme - not in terms of road condition, but there were techno gremlins about. Poor bluetooth connectivity between phone and GoPro, meant I had to traverse the pass up and down six times, until I eventually had the footage I wanted. The two Xhosa ladies sitting at the apex of one of the hairpin bends waiting for a taxi must have thought I was daft!

The scenery throughout this long gravel section between the two major tarred roads (R56 & N2) is mesmerising in its scope and tranquility. Sooner or later I needed to find a point to cross the Umzimvubu River in order to avoid having to drive through Mount Frere. The single width low level bridge seemed in good shape and other than a small herd of sheep which decided to cross the bridge at the same time, all went smoothly. The river was flowing strongly and as always it is a typical silt laden Transkei river moving millions of tons of fertile topspoil to the Indian Ocean at Port St Johns.

A short stint on the N2 was followed by a pleasant drive on a secondary tarred road to another small (and chaotic) town called Tabankulu. A black pot bellied pig (sow) with 8 tiny piglets dodged their way between the shebeens and spaza shops with even the taxi drivers allowing them safe passage. (More lower down)

Published in Mountain Passes News

The week that was:

* Recce Tour - the journey continues

* Kouga-Baviaans Tour latest

* Ben 10 V3 fully booked

* Wild Coast Tour sold out

* Podcast

* Featured pass of the week

* Words of wisdom


2020 has certainly started with plenty of action and there always seems to be so much to report on, yet so little time to get everything done. The admin office is extremely busy at this time of year processing Ben 10 entries, results, tours, bookings, registrations, validations, radio interviews, social media, magazine writing and not enough time to travel. Phew!

Trips and Tours Update

Recce: We take you with us for our second leg of our Transkei recce trip this week (see lower down).

Kouga-Baviaans Explorer Tour: Our first tour of 2020 comes up mid March where we will be doing the unusual traverse of the Baviaanskloof by starting in Joubertina, where we will spending a full day exploring the Kouga Wilderness. We then head east to Kareedouw and tackle some lovely gravel passes (Suuranysberg, Kouga and Meidenek) after which we will pop in for some light refreshment at the remote Baviaans Lodge run by our long standing friend Rob le Roux. The route then becomes a two spoor track as we wind our way over the protea clad Kouga Mountains past a honey-bush tea farm, that will bring us out at the Doringkloof farm in the central Baviaanskloof. Day 3 involves a traverse of the eastern bio-reserve over the best passes and water crossings of the Baviaanskloof with an overnight stop at the tranquil Bruintjieskraal. The final day we head even further north towards the Cockscomb Mountains and head west along the T3 route via the Antoniesberg Pass and finish up for a festive evening at the Royal Hotel in Steytlerville. We have 3 places still open on this tour. Bookings close next week Friday. MORE INFO & ONLINE BOOKINGS HERE.


Ben 10 V3 Tour: (Easter Weekend) Sorry this tour is now fully booked.


Wild Coast Adventure Tour: This tour is selling fast. There are only 3 places open at time of writing. We are proud to announce our first ever Wild Coast Tour where participants will enjoy 9 days/10 nights savouring the very best the region has to offer. Join us and enjoy driving to places few people have been before – all in the safety of a group of like-minded travellers.

The tour will start in Matatiele and end in Morgans Bay taking in many of the best sights and sounds of the unspoilt and remote Wild Coast, which is still as timeless as it was 70 years ago. Here are some of the points of interest we will be visiting:

*Mariazell Mission Station *Ramalitso’s Pass *Nungi Pass *Colananek Pass *Mzintlava Pass *Mbotyi *Magwa Falls *Lambazi Mouth (Port Grosvenor) * Magwa Tea Plantation * Port St. Johns Airport Pass * Tutor Ndamase Pass *Mlengana Pass & Execution Rock *Coffee Bay *Hole in the Wall *Kob Inn *The Collywobbles *Mveso *Vulture colony *Shixini River Mouth *Nongqawuse’s Pools *Trennerys *Kei River Pont *Morgans Bay and a whole lot more. For more information and online bookings CLICK HERE. (STOP PRESS - The last 3 tickets were sold out between the time the newsletter was written and the publishing time - less than 5 hours)


Part 2 Transkei Recce Trip

I guess I was in a state of disappointed reverie and doing my best not to have an accident in the crazy traffic in Mthatha, where everyone seems hell bent on jamming into every intersection with the traffic lights changing over and over and the cars going nowhere. I eventually scooted down a few side roads (thanks to the nippy Jimny) and managed to extricate myself out onto the Port St Johns road, where my Garmin 276CX with the calm English lady speaking had directed me towards. She might be calm but sometimes she's not that smart, or maybe it's me? (More lower down) 

Published in Mountain Passes News

The two weeks that were

* Report back on the first 2 days of the Wild Coast recce trip

* Baviaans-Kouga Tour coming up in March

* Ben 10 on 6 wheels (Part 2)

* Podcast

* Pass of the week

* Thought for the day


Recce for a week:

Apologies for no newsletter last week. I had very good intentions of writing the newsletter in the evenings during the recce trip, but a combination of events, which included getting lost twice, load shedding, no signal and driver fatigue put paid to those naive notions, so today you're getting a bumper version.

I have to admit that of all the road trips I have done in my life this one was easily the best. It threw everything at me and the challenges were often quite serious - and therein lies the enjoyment. Over the next three weeks we will relate the story for you to enjoy at home. 

To prepare thoroughly for our Wild Coast Tour, I had to do a solo trip with minimal luggage and equipment so as to travel light and efficiently. Calculations prove that we saved R8000 on fuel by using the little 1300cc Suzuki Jimny in favour of the 4.5 Land Cruiser. I can now confidently say after 4000 km, I can evaluate the Jimny on and off-road competently. But let's start at the beginning.

I left Cape Town later than planned and routed to Kirkwood (in preference to PE as I have an aversion of big cities) via Worcester, Robertson, Ashton, Swellendam and from there on the N2 all the way to Uitenhage. We have recently acquired one of the new Jimnys, but decided to use the 2017 model for this trip in the interests of fuel economy.

I refuelled in Robertson and asked the attendant to inflate the Jimny's tyres to 1.6 bar (we normally run at 1.4). He must have thought I was crazy to ride on such soft tyres and took it upon himself to rather put in 2.6 bar but failed to tell me. By the time I reached Swellendam the harsh ride started getting to me, so I decided to check the pressures! Problem solved by deflation and driving became fun again. Later in the trip on the really bad Transkei roads, I lowered pressures down to 1 bar and had a reasonably good result in terms of ride comfort and traction.

At highway speeds the 1.3 Jimny tends to be a little slow (having a happy cruising speed of 100 kph), but on gravel it's simply dynamite. Activate the 4WD button and the Jimny becomes exceptionally agile. The key is getting the tyre pressures right. We found that 1.6 (with a light load) was too hard, but 1.3 all round was fine on good gravel roads and the rough stuff, drop them down to 1.1 or even 1.0 bar. The Jimny is so light, that you will barely notice any sidewall bulging. Having such a short wheel base, if you hit corrugations at speed, the Jimny tends to become a little skittish, but the 4 wheel drive always kicks in to straighten the vehicle out. At first this is a little disconcerting, but one soon gets the hang of it. There is no substitute for gravel road experience. We also found that with the absence of any mass on the roof, its cornering ability on tar and gravel was excellent; often outperforming much bigger and faster vehicles.

The trip went smoothly arriving in Kirkwood at 6.30 pm. Small problem though, as I couldn't find the B&B that I had booked and paid for. It became crystal clear after phoning them that I was in the wrong town. Their establishment was actually in Addo even though a search for "Accommodation - Kirkwood" brought their name up! Don't believe everything you read on the internet! 

I reached "The Kraal" just after 7 pm and checked in for a cold beer and light supper, which had barely been finished, when load shedding began - a perfectly good reason to have an early night. At 3 am there were noises which turned out to be an intruder who had been caught inside the grounds by their security guard, resulting in the police arriving to arrest him.

Part of the recce trip was to film as many passes as possible. Only one pass fell within camera range on day one, which was a small gravel pass near Riversdale called Brakhoogte. [More lower down]

Published in Mountain Passes News

THE WEEK THAT WAS


* Trips & Tours Updates

* Ben 10 V3 Tour fully booked

* King of the Mountains

* Can-do South Africans to aspire towards

* Pass of the Week

* Words of Wisdom


Trips and Tours

Our upcoming Ben 10 V3 Tour has sold out in record time. We will not be running another Ben 10 Tour this year, but will be scheduling the next one for 2021. Tickets for our Kouga Baviaans Explorer Tour in March are selling well with 6 places left at time of writing. We have included a 30 second teaser video lower down on this page to galvanise you into action. We are convinced that this tour is going to be pure magic and quite possibly the best tour we've ever put together. 

Next week we will be heading off to the Wild Coast to do the detailed recce/planning for our longest tour to date: Wild Coast Adventure Tour, which will be held from the 12th to the 20th June, 2020. Keep an eye on our Shop & Tours page for when bookings open.

The Ben 10 Eco Challenge has an almost mystical allure to it. To date 257 people have entered the challenge but only 157 have managed to complete it. There have been some interesting entries. A father and daughter completed the challenge on single speed homemade bicycles on a budget of R20 per day; a motorcyclist rode all the passes in a single day; a man entered the challenge under the name of his dog (see Scruffy de Jager); and recently another dog actually ran all the passes with his owner - ironically the dog's name is Ben!

King of the Mountains

But there is one man who is a step or five ahead of the pack. He is Jaco Pretorius from Pretoria who ran the challenge last year thereby becoming the first runner to complete the event. Jaco was so enthused by his experience that he has decided to expand his challenge. A few weeks ago he tackled the Ben 10 on an MTB and a 4x4 - riding each of the passes first on his bike followed by the 4x4. And if that's not enough, he plans on completing a four way title by also doing the challenge on his adventure motorcycle. Today we feature the first chapter of Jaco's story of how things went. (More lower down...)

Published in Mountain Passes News

The Week that was:

* Kouga-Baviaans Explorer Tour

* Ben 10 V3 Tour

* Garden Route Filming

* Podcast

* South African achievers

* Pass of the week

* Words of wisdom.


Trips and Tours

As promised the first 2 tours for 2020 have been uploaded onto our shop page. The first 5 places on the Ben 10 V3 Tour were sold within a week. Get in early if you want to join either of these tours.


Kouga-Baviaans Explorer Tour (12th to 16th March - 4 days)

This brand new tour promises to be a huge hit. We have been able to creatively plan four sustained days of sublime eco travelling through some of the most isolated and remote sections of the Southern Cape. Our routing begins at Joubertina and heads up into the Kouga Mountains where we will visit the Kouga Wilderness trails as well as drive two scintillating gravel passes all in one day. The next day we drive the Baviaans-Kouga 4x4 route (It's rated Grade 1 to 2, so easy enough for the average driver) and overnight in the Baviaanskloof at Doringkloof & Zandvlakte. All meals and accommodation have been pre arranged.

On Day 3 we drive the beautiful bioreserve section of the Baviaanskloof including all the big passes and the two water crossings with an overnight stop in the Cambria Valley where guests will enjoy a world class potjie specially made for MPSA. The final day we head through the Grootrivierpoort to Patensie, then up the mountain to take the T3 route west via the Antoniesberg Pass and finish in Steytlerville at the Royal Hotel for our final night festivities. Maximum 10 vehicles.

More detailed information and bookings can be done via this link: KOUGA-BAVIAANS EXPLORER TOUR


Ben 10 Tour V3

This year's Ben 10 Tour (and there will only be one in 2020) was planned to fall over the Easter weekend to minimise on having to take leave from work. We have made some more adjustments to the V2 Tour, which include timing it in autumn, where the temperatures should be pleasant, the rain should be over and the scenery should still be lush and green. 

We have also built in an extra day into the tour to allow for contingencies, such as bad weather or mechanical breakdowns. It also gives us a spare day to include some non-pass driving activities like going to see the vulture colonies, visiting the rock art sites or going to see the historical Gatsberg. We have kept our prices very close to last year's price in an effort to make the tour as affordable as possible. More detailed information and bookings can be done via this link: BEN 10 V3 TOUR BOOKINGS

(More lower down...)

 

Published in Mountain Passes News

Naude's Nek Pass in the news

News of a bakkie that drove down a cliff off Naude's Nek Pass last week reached us quite quickly. We were contacted by Die Burger newspaper for our opinion on how dangerous the pass was, but we assured them that the pass was really not dangerous at all in fair weather. It appears that the 71 year old driver had plenty of experience and was driving carefully. The vehicle behind him, who was videoing the trip, stated that there were no brake lights or skid marks - the vehicle simply missed the turn and went straight over the cliff, falling some 100m and killing both occupants. It is our opinion that the driver more than likely had a heart attack or brain aneurism. Further information indicates that the incident did not occur on the pass itself, but on a side road leading to a farm. Our condolences to the family.

Wilderness National Park

This newsletter was produced from our mobile office at Wilderness National Park - a place of natural beauty and tranquility. It is here that we find the inspiration to create new tours, fresh innovative concepts and recharge our 'mojo' batteries. It was at this very campsite back in 2012 that the first concept of Mountain Passes South Africa germinated - almost by accident.

The purchase of a GoPro video camera was where it all started. Idle minds are not necessarily a bad thing, as a thorough exploration of the User Guide prompted me to try out various ideas how I could maximise on the rather large sum of money laid out on the device.

Hiking, diving, climbing, and mountain bike videos were all quite disappointing, so onto the car it went and with surprisingly good results. I then wondered what I could film from the car and that's where the Eureka moment arrived. Nearby Whites Road was the first pass that I experimented with and here we are seven years later and the tally now stands at 888.

At the time I envisioned a compact website featuring just the Cape's best passes, but that idea was soon scrapped when people started asking about Sani Pass, Long Tom Pass and other major passes all over South Africa. The concept was amended and redesigned to cope with this bigger vision.

So the inevitable question is "What will we do when we have all 1100 passes filmed and documented"?

The reality is that early passes need to be refilmed and the work and progress never stops.

Published in Mountain Passes News

The week that was!

* The festive season is over - it's back to work!

* Report back on the final leg of our recent Lesotho Tour.

* Podcast - Listen to a talk on the impact of social media

* Pass of the week

* Words of wisdom


Back to work!

The silly season is over. We hope your waistline coped with the onslaught, but more seriously that you managed to survive the roads. We haven't received official accident figures yet and it's not our station to report on bad news, so I'm sure you will hear the statistics on the main stream news channels. 

Lesotho Tour - the adventure continues

Driving past the Letseng mine is similar to the mines on the Witwatersrand, except the man made mountains are grey instead of cream coloured. Once past Letseng there is a long and steady descent to the main town in the area.

Mokhotlong is located in the mountainous north-eastern part of Lesotho. The name is a Sesotho word which means "Place of the Bald Ibis". Thabana Ntlenyana, the highest point in southern Africa, is found near the town.

Mokhotlong’s role as a police post first brought people to this part of Lesotho in 1905, and it developed into a trading centre for the Highlands region. However, it was preserved from major development by its remote location. Not until 1947 was radio contact established with Maseru, the capital city. An air strip was built and a road cleared through the town to link Mokhotlong with the rest of Lesotho, but even so, it continued to be outfitted with provisions and supplies by pack mules from South Africa via Sani Pass.

Our convoy rumbled on to reach the 14th pass of the tour - the Kotisephola Pass (or Black Mountain Pass). 

This is a mega pass by any standards. It's very long at 32 km and displays an altitude variance of 1066m. With a summit height of 3244m ASL, headaches and nose bleeds might be experienced by travellers from the coast who have not had time to acclimatise. 

Packed into that length is a total of 139 bends, corners and curves of which 8 have angles in excess of 90 degrees and of those, 6 are hairpin bends, all of which occur on the south-eastern section of the pass. The pass is subject to lots of snow in winter and ice on the roadway will make things highly dangerous, even for 4WD vehicles. Chatting over the two way radios we recalled driving this pass in 2012 whilst construction was underway and the very odd sight of seeing Chinese trucks and road building equipment as well as Chinese nationals doing the manual labour. We never saw a single local employed on these projects. 

Rumours abounded at the time of the Chinese labourers being convicts. After completing their "sentence" it was said that they were then free to live in Lesotho as free men but were not allowed to return to China. Whether any of these stories were fact or fiction, we do not know. But what we do know is that the time it took to drive the pass then and now was about 80% shorter. The roads are actually excellent and a real pleasure to drive on.

It didn't take long and we arrived at the Lesotho border post at the summit of the Sani Pass. We stopped in at the highest pub in Africa for a bit of refreshment. We could not have wished for more perfect weather and for your scribe this was the first time ever traversing this iconic pass in clear weather. What a treat.

High on the Drakensberg escarpment, on the border between South Africa and Lesotho, Sani Mountain Lodge (previously known as Sani Top Chalets) offers comfortable accommodation beneath a sea of stars at night and breathtaking landscapes during the day. Sani Mountain Lodge boasts stunning views, cosy fires, adventure, and great hospitality. [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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