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The week that was...

* Ben 10 V5 Eco Challenge

* Trips & Tours

* Focus on the Du Toitskloof Pass

* Pass of the week

* Humour


The Ben 10 V5 Eco Challenge was completed yesterday. By next week we will start producing the stories and action of how things went. As you read this newsletter we will be on the road travelling back from Rhodes for our overnight stop in Wilderness and then back to our HQ in Cape Town tomorrow.

If you fancy joining us for a tour, you can review what's available with full itineraries and pricing on our Shop & Tours page here:

UPCOMING TOURS


Du Toitskloof Pass is located in the Western Cape Province of South Africa, on the regional route R101 between Paarl and Worcester. It was initially an animal track where a road was built around the time of World War II, including a 200m tunnel still in use today. Since the opening of the 3,9 km Huguenot Tunnel in 1988, the pass no longer forms part of the N1 national road and was renumbered as R101.

Originally 48 km long, the pass climbed to 820 metres. The Huguenot Tunnel, opened in 1988, is the largest curved structure in South Africa and shortens the road by 11 kilometres and is operated as a toll road. There is an impressive viaduct on the Paarl approach side, known as the Hugospoort Viaduct. It has gained some notoriety for being highly dangerous during periods of strong to gale force south easterly winds, which have the capacity to turn large trucks over. Similarly any high sided unladen delivery trucks as well as caravans have suffered this fate many times since it opened to traffic.

The surrounding peaks often sport a covering of snow and the Mountain Club of South Africa has huts in the area. Du Toits Peak is the highest mountain at 1,995 metres.

Prior to 1825, farmers used the pass to get to the interior beyond.  Another pass became the better route and in 1845, the route over the Bainskloof Pass was constructed, named after engineer Andrew Geddes Bain.

 (Read more...)

Published in Mountain Passes News

The week that was

* Goodbye Covid, hello Ukraine

* Trips & Tours

* The Ben 10 Story

* Pass of the week.

* Paraprosdokians


Goodbye Covid

It's something of a relief that Covid-19, which has completely dominated and saturated most media platforms for the last two years, (to the point of irritating absurdity) is finally on the wane - and fast too. In many (civilized) countries around the world, Covid has been officially declared pandemic non-grata - no more masks; no more PCR tests, no more proof of vaccinations. Poof! Just like that. It makes one wonder?

However, the Russian story now dominating the world press is quite scary and suddenly South Africa seems to be one of the safest places in the world. The irony! 


Trips & Tours

We are leaving this morning on our 5th Ben 10 Eco Challenge official tour. Looking at the weather forecast for the area, we are going to be doing some slipping & sliding. The Ben 10 never fails to attract adventurers and this year is no exception with the tour being fully booked. We have amended the routes and have taken advantage of the reopening of the Rhodes Hotel which allows us to spend two nights there, thereby shortening the distances considerably. We will provide a blow by blow account of all the action in the weeks to follow.

We still have two places available on the Wild Coast Tours in May as well as two places on the Swartberg Tour in July. Use the links below to review the itineraries and pricing:

WILD COAST TOUR V4 PONDOLAND (6th - 15th May)

WILD COAST TOUR V5 MBASHE (16th - 24th May)

SWARTBERG CLASSIC 2022 (10th - 15th July) 


The Ben 10 Story - Evolution of a concept.

2016 - Whilst planning the filming of the big high altitude passes in the Eastern Cape Highlands in 2015, we were approached by one of the partners of Tiffindell, Lew Campbell. He wanted to attract more visitors to the ski resort and invited us to film the rugged two spoor track up to the summit. At that stage it had no name, but the summit peak bore the name of Ben MacDhui - originally named after a peak in the Scottish Highlands. The obvious choice of name had to be the Ben MacDhui Pass.

We formulated an agreement that if the pass was to be indexed into the MPSA database, that the public would be allowed free access to the pass, subject to each guest signing an indemnity form, but no access would be allowed during the prime snow season (June to August) as the track ran across the ski slope. Later Tiffindell bulldozed a separate track that allowed access to the pass without having to cross the ski slope.

Published in Mountain Passes News

The week that was....

* Trips & Tours

* Wild Coast V3 Day 9

* Pass of the week

* New videos added

* Paraprosdokians


Trips & Tours

With Covid appearing to be on its way out of our collective lives, it seems the very real possibility of the end of the National State of Disaster is on the horizon - as is getting rid of the masks and the sanitiser. We have noticed a real upswing in inquiries for tour bookings, so our office is abuzz with activity.

6th to 9th March - the 5th (improved) version of the official Ben 10 Eco Challenge starts in two weeks' time. This tour has been fully booked for some time and remains one of our most popular offerings. This is the first time we are going to running this tour in March.

6th to 15th May - Wild Coast Tour V4 Pondoland - We have had a cancellation, so there is one ticket available.

16th to 24th May - Wild Coast V5 Mbashe Tour - This tour has one ticket available.

11th to 15th July - Swartberg Classic Tour - Bookings open today. We have scheduled this tour for mid-winter in the hopes of catching some snow. So if you fancy cold nights and crisp, clear sunny days, sign up for this popular tour.


CORRECTION on PLATTELAND TOURS LINK:

The link in last week’s e-Newsletter of Platteland Tours’ Road Trip to Namibia did not function correctly.

Here is the correct link to the Info Doc of the tour


Wild Coast Tour V3 - Day 9

This is always the longest day of the Wild Coast Tour and no easy way to shorten it. With this in mind, our routing took the most direct way to Willowvale, where our entire convoy refuelled causing something of a traffic jam. Vehicle's bellies full we drove directly to Idutywa and a short stint on the N2 before turning off onto gravel at a tourism sign "Collywobbles"

This was arguably the worst road we had driven on the tour. It was a case of shake, rattle and roll regardless of how fancy your suspension was. WE soon noted that the taxis and most locals were driving on a track well off to one side of the "road" which resembled the bottom of a stone quarry. It was 15 kilometres of bone jarring driving, but like all things, it eventually came to an end as we took our group down a very steep pass (unnamed) to the banks of the Mbashe River for a lunch break and some group photos.

[Read more...]

 

Published in Mountain Passes News

The week that was...

* Social media statistics

* Trips n Tours

* Platteland Tour Offering to Namibia

* Wild Coast V3 Tour - Day 8

* Pass of the Week


Social Media

Our Facebook page continues forging ahead with the latest number of followers being just over 96,000. We are hoping to reach the magical 100,000 figure by the end of June. Instagram is also growing fast with 14,300 followers. Our international followers have shown the largest growth in the past 6 months. SA expats (Saffers) stay glued to the page as it feeds their homesick blues.

Moderating this page is a never ending task. Of interest is that a local clothing brand "Stellies" posted a photo on their Facebook page showing a young lady putting their sticker on a road sign. Our inbox was flooded with our followers sending us the link. The result was a huge public backlash to a company that had openly encouraged their clients to put the Stellies stickers where they like. We have removed many of them from MPSA signs over the years. Within 2 hours they removed their post but have not posted any public apology. They have tarnished their brand in the process. It's a warning to other brands not to go for cheap advertising on road signs. Of interest is that Instagram removed our post on Stellies as it "violated community guidelines"

It would seem that our anti-sticker campaign started two years ago has now spread far and wide and that we have achieved our goal of making the public aware that it is vandalism. The toughest nut to crack was the biker community, but we have broken through most of the barriers now.


Trips & Tours

The Ben 10 Eco Challenge V5 Tour (4th to 8th March) remains fully booked with no cancellations.

Wild Coast Tour V4 Pondoland (6th to 15th May) if also fully booked.

Wild Coast Tour V5 Mbashe (16th to 24th May) One place available.

July 2022 - Swartberg Tour (Bookings to be opened next week)

September - Bedrogfontein Tour. (Bookings to be opened next week)

November - Garden Route Tour (5 days) Open to 4x2 vehicles


Platteland Tours Offering (Advertisement)

One of our joint-venture partners, Platteland Tours (based in Gauteng) is putting on two Self-Drive Guided tours to Namibia during May & June 2022 to cater for the demand to visit our beautiful neighbouring country.

Have you ever dreamed of visiting Namibia? Traveling in your own vehicle (no 4x4 is needed) but not knowing where to go; where to find the best tourist spots; where to sleep; what else to do and what to experience en route? The trip will take you on good gravel back-roads, to places where tour groups normally do not go, as well as to popular destinations like the Fish River Canyon, Kolmanskop ghost town, Luderitz, the wild horses of Aus, Sossusvlei, Swakopmund, Dune 7, the Namib Desert, Goanikontes, Hentie’s Bay, the Petrified Forest, Etosha Pans and much more.

(Read more...)

Published in Mountain Passes News

The week that was...

* Trips & Tours

* Wild Coast - the movie

* Wild Coast Day 7 - In the jungle

* Pass of the week


Trips & Tours

First things first. Let's get the bills paid! We still have a few spots open on both our Wild Coast Tours. If you have not visited the Wild Coast before, Here is the opportunity to experience it in the safety of a group, where you will visit all the best points of interest. The links below will provide access to the full itinerary, pricing and general information.

WILD COAST V4 TOUR (PONDOLAND)

WILD COAST TOUR V5 (MBASHE)


The Wild Coast MPSA full length video

We will soon be releasing a 35 minute video (produced and filmed by Derick van Eeden during our last Wild Coast Tour). Besides the full video, we will release it via social media and on our MEDIA page on the MPSA website in 11 separate clips of roughly 3 minutes each. It's a monumental amount of work editing a video of this nature; sifting through hours of footage and selecting the scenes that will capture the public's imagination. We have been privy to previewing some of the chapters and I can assure you, they are really worth waiting for. Our thanks to Derick for doing the hard yards.


Ben 10 Eco Challenge V5

We will be heading off to the Eastern Cape Highlands early in March to take our guests on 5th official Ben 10 Tour. This tour is fully booked. If you want to add your name to the waiting list in case of a cancellation, please email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Wild Coast V3 Tour - Day 7 - The story continues...

The Haven bowled us over with their delicious food. The wild oysters served up were of the finest quality I have tasted - and plentiful too. After breakfast it was time to saddle up our (proverbial) steeds and get ready for a day of fun and exploration. The idea was to do a west-east traverse of the Cwebe Nature Reserve. It looked so easy on the map, but we were in for a few big surprises.

(Read more...)

Published in Mountain Passes News

The week that was

* Weather watch

* Trips & Tours

* Tiffindell is for sale

* Wild Coast V3 Tour (Day 6)

* Revisiting the Oceanos

* Pass of the week


Some like it hot!

Whilst Gautengers are complaining they've been robbbed of their summer with cool temperatures and a vast amount of rain, those in the Western Cape are experiencing a heatwave of note. I guess it's nothing more than life in Africa. On January 22nd temperatures soared along the West Coast where Hopefield and Vredenburg recorded new record highs. It was slightly cooler in Cape Town at around 40C.


Trips & Tours

We still have some tickets open for May Wild Coast Tours. Check the itineraries and prices on the link below:

https://shop.mountainpassessouthafrica.co.za/product-category/tours/


Tiffindell for sale

Tired of life in the city? Why not buy yourself some high altitude real estate in the Cape Highlands and become the owner of a ski resort. Isn't that a cool idea?!


Wild Coast V3 - The story continues

Day 6 - Coffee Bay to The Haven

It was time to say farewell to the charms of Coffee Bay and go in search of new adventures. Convoy ready to rumble with radio checks done and heading back towards Hole in the Wall, where we took a right hand fork and then very carefully negotiated our way into a very dense local forest with an unpronounceable name - Mgxotyeni. The forest is a mix of indigenous trees as well as gum plantations. The very rough track we followed is used as a service road for a water pipeline; and then mainly by trucks. 

The track is basic at best and consists of rocks (some of them quite sharp as we found out), mud, leaves, branches, lots of shade and many spiders (drive with your window open at your peril!). Derek van Eeden had the misfortune of being the first vehicle to pick up a puncture on Day 2 of the tour and in a cruel twist of fate the dreaded sidewall snake bit his Discovery a second time on this tour. He handled his misfortune with aplomb.

[Read more...]

Published in Mountain Passes News

The week that was...

* Meiringspoort closed (again)

* Trips & Tours

* Wild Coast Day 5

* Pass of the week


More Crazy Weather

Heavy rain, storms, floods and tornadoes have inundated large parts of the interior with welcome rain in the grerater Karoo area as well as the normally bone dry Northern Cape. Gauteng, Mpumalanga and KZN have all had plenty of rain. On the morning of 16th January Meiringspoort was once again closed to traffic as floodwaters had coursed through the poort, overtopping the road and leaving behind mud, debris and tree trunks. The Karoo National Park was forced to close all its tourists routes (except the main road) as the park received a huge amount of rain over a short space of time. In the Western Cape heatwaves have been the order of day with temperatures above the mean average being recorded for January


Trips & Tours

We still have a few spots ope on our two Wild Coast Tours in May, which is a great time to tour with lovely sunny weather being the norm at that time of year. If you want to join us on either of the Wild Coast Tours, you can read the full itinerary and pricing at this link: MPSA WILD COAST TOURS


Wild Coast V3 Tour - Day 5

Coffee Bay - Mapuzi - Hole in the Wall - White Clay

The good weather just kept following us (and we weren't complaining!) Local Xhosa guide, Mzo was ready and waiting to take us to some of the local points of interest. Mzo drove up front with us in the Land Cruiser and we handed the mike over to him. He is quite a character - full of good humour, knowledge and enthusiasm. 

Our first destination for the day was Mapuzi. Its only a few kilometres to the north-east of Coffee Bay, but the road getting there is well - to put it mildly - quite rough. The route traverses a few Wild Coast villages and then suddenly an amazing view opens to the right as a landscape filled with Wild Coast wonders is spread out at your feet. The Mapuzi river lazily flows into the blue waters of the Indian Ocean in the distance, but closer there is a dramatically steep cliff dropping straight down to thunderous surf some 60 metres lower down. The wind was pumping and photography was difficult trying to hold cameras steady in the strong updraft up the cliff face.

[Read more...]

 

Published in Mountain Passes News

The week that was....

* More wild weather

* The Misunderstood Dam

* Tours & New Tours for 2022

* Wild Coast Story - Day 3

* Pass of the Week

* New passes added

* Upgraded videos added


Wild Weather

This summer has produced a lot of rainfall with most of the country seeing overflowing dams and some torrential downfalls. Aughrabies has been massive and other videos have surfaced (Karkloof in KZN comes to mind) showing enormous amounts of water flowing in most rivers. All the Vaal and Orange River dams are more than 100% full, as is the Katse Dam in Lesotho.


The Misunderstood Dam

Even more surprising is the Beervlei Dam near Willowmore which never seems to have water in it, is now very close to being full. In fact has filled twice between November and January) This dam has an interesting story which many people don't know about. The dam was built in the 1950's as a flood control dam and it's meant to be EMPTY. When the Grootrivier floods, this is the dam that contains the inflow (it can hold 86 million cu.m.) and prevents flood damage further downstream. As the water in the catchment area is high in salinity, the Beervlei Dam was never designed to store water for irrigation due to the water contamination with salt. When the dam fills up it is quickly released in a controlled manner for irrigation downstream before the salinity has a chance to contaminate the water. 

The dam must be one of the most maligned infrastructures in SA and most people are critical of it as it is mostly empty. Urban legends have flourished about long term droughts, a poorly built dam wall, and bad planning by the DWA. Of course we now know that those stories are all hogwash. Water flowing into the dam is fed by the Grootrivier, which drains a large part of the Karoo.

There's always something new to learn!


Tours Update:

Ben 10 Eco Challenge (5th to 9th March) - Fully booked
Wild Coast V4 Pondoland Tour (6th to 15th May - 1 ticket left)
Wild Coast V5 Mbashe Tour (16th to 24th May) - 2 tickets left)


Garden Route Saunter (NEW!!)

We are busy adding the final touches to a brand new tour - the Garden Route Saunter, which will start in Riversdale and end at Storms River Mouth. This 5 day tour will be open to normal vehicles and include a mix of about 70/30% gravel and tar. The route will cover many passes including all the famous ones in the Garden Route like Garcia's Pass, Robinson Pass, Montagu Pass, 7 Passes Road, Prince Alfred's Pass, Grootrivier Pass and the Bloukrans Pass. Points of interest will include a forest walk, the Big Tree, Spitzkop, Jubilee Creek, Millwood, De Vlugt, World of Birds, Natures Valley, Storms River Bridge and the Storms River National Park.

The tour is scheduled to take place in July.


The Wild Coast Adventure

Day 4 - Port St Johns to Coffee Bay

The rain forecast didn't materialise, much to everyone's relief. We departed promptly after breakfast from The Spotted Grunter, heading along the new R61 towards Mthatha, traversing three passes in quick succession. These were Isinuka Poort, Butybuse Pass and the Mngazi River Pass, after which we turned south at Tombo. The R61 is in beautiful condition with a wide, smooth surface and adequate emergency lanes. The only negative are the speedbumps (or traffic calmers, as they are called these days), which appear regularly and speed has to be dropped from 100 kph all the way down to 30 kph. The minibus taxis with their very low front clearance have to cross them dead slow - and often at an angle. It makes driving on the R61 a bit frustrating, but with the high number of taxi accidents in the region, I suppose the authorities had little choice but to go that route.

[Read more]

Published in Mountain Passes News

The week that was

* Goodbye 2021 / Hello 2022

* Tours

* Swartberg Classic Tour - Final chapter

* Wild Coast V3 Tour - Day 4 Waterfalls

* Pass of the week 


Happy New Year!

Just when we all collectively heaved a sigh of relief that 2021 was written into the history books, the very first thing that hit the headlines in 2022 was parliament being set on fire in Cape Town - and that under a bizarre and strange set of circumstances. As you all know we don't do politics here, but it does make one think.

Despite that, we wish you all a healthy and prosperous 2022. May your travel wishes come true.

We have a drawer full of plans for the year ahead with some innovative new ideas which you will see unfold as the year progresses. 

On the social media side we grew our followers by just over 40,000 on Facebook to reach 93,000 by the end of December, 2021. The growth has been phenomenal. Likewise our Instagram followers have increased by a whopping 112%. The formula we have developed of good quality photos coupled with interesting topics seems to have attracted the right audience of likeminded people. The amount of man-hours put into our social media efforts amounts to around 4 hours per day, seven days per week.


Tours Availability

To see the full itinerary, pricing and online bookings click on a link below:


Swartberg Classic Tour - The final leg

Uitspan Pass

This was the highlight of the traverse of the P1649 route. There are three passes that traverse the Gouritz River. From south to north these are the Gouritz River Pass on the N2 national road, the Jan Muller Pass (Gravel) which bridges the river some 32 km further north (as the crow flies) and lastly the Uitspan Pass, which crosses the Gouritz River another 16 km northwards. The latter is the pass we selected for the tour.

The Gouritz River is an interesting river which has caused farmers and road and rail builders many problems over the years. Its gorge is deep and wide, yet for most of the year it is dry and dormant, but when the rains come, this river can be savagely lethal.

[Read more...]

 

Published in Mountain Passes News

The week (and the year) that was....

* 2021 in review
* Tours news
* Swartberg Classic Day 4
* Wild Coast V3 - Day 3
* Pass of the week


2021 in review

For most South Africans 2021 was a difficult one both financially, physically and emotionally. Lockdown regulations decimated the hospitality and tourism industries in particular. Many borderline businesses went under and with it their employees lost jobs and income. Families with plans to see relatives overseas have been put on hold or cancelled. The knock-on effects have been severe. Conspiracy theories have abounded leaving many people sceptical. Covid changed everyone's lives. The secret now is learning to work around it and continue to make a success of whatever you do. At MPSA we studied the graphs where the virus spiked and calculated when not to run our tours.  During an initial spike phase, most people are reluctant to book a tour, but as soon as the initial knee jerk reaction has passed (usually about 4 to 6 weeks) people start planning again and our booking system gets busy. 

We have also been fortunate that many of our clients that would normally have travelled overseas, decided to go local and in a bizarre twist of fate, worked out favourably for us. We are grateful.

Plans for 2022 are forging ahead with a very positive outlook. Already the first three tours are close to being fully booked. Two additional tours will be added over the next two weeks. 

We wish all of you a prosperous, healthy New Year filled with travel, love and happiness.


Tours Availability

To see the full itinerary, pricing and online bookings click on a link below:

March 4th to 9th 2022 - Ben 10 Eco Challenge V5 (4 tickets left)

May 6th to 15th 2022 - Wild Coast V4 Pondoland Tour (1 ticket left)

May 16th to 25th 2022 - Wild Coast V5 Mbashe Tour (1 ticket left)


Swartberg Classic Tour - Day 4

Day 4 - Thursday 14th October, 2021

After a hearty breakfast at the Patat Restaurant at the Swartberg Country Manor, it was time to prep the convoy for the last day and the easiest in terms of technical driving and distance.

We chose a different route this year, due to the fact that we had several 4x2 vehicles in our group. After leaving Swartberg Country Manor, we headed west, back over a section we had driven two days before via the Doringkloof and Huis se Hoogte passes.

At The Kruisrivier Valley, we turned left - destination Coetzeespoort.

[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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