This town once hosted a major railway junction in the 1940's but is now better known for its notorious drug-rehabilitation centre. We visited the town recently and could palpably feel the depression and sombre mood of this once prosperous Northern Cape town. Of course, we're talking about Noupoort. The town lies on the N9 major route between Port Elizabeth and the Reef, but amidst the decaying buildings and dying railway sheds at Midlandia, the dorp is very much influenced by the business activities of the Noupoort Christian Care Centre - a topic in its own right. But just to the south of Noupoort there is a lovely pass well worth driving.....
Let it not be said that we dont cover every mountain pass in South Africa! Over the past three years we have had many requests from pass fans as to exactly where the fabled Donkies Pass is. This week we unveil the first of two passes named after the asses. It took a lot of research finding these two passes, but thanks to the meticulous work done by one of our readers, Brits Steyn, who submitted an exceptionally well researched list of passes in KZN and Mpumalanga, we are able to accurately pinpoint these two 'off the beaten track' passes.
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This week, we take pleasure in introducing you to a marvellous (and little known) gravel pass in the Western Cape, close to Wolseley. We discovered this pass whilst researching another obscure pass in this beautiful area. Whilst the gradients on the pass are quite reasonable, the road follows a convoluted route with several sharp switchbacks, up the mountain to a higher altitude plateau in the mountains, previously utilized as a pine plantation, but today is being progressively handed over to Cape Nature as part of the Waterval Nature Reserve.
At present the road is still under the control of Cape Pine (the old SAFCOL) and a permit is required to ulitilise the road. We provide details of how and where permits are obtainable. The area is designated for the use of mountain bikers, birders and hikers, but vehicles are allowed up the pass, subject to permit conditions.
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For those of you fortunate enough to have made a 10 day break out of the public holidays, we trust you're having a wonderful time wherever you are and for those of you labouring amongst the work force that are keeping SA's wheels turning - Sterkte!
We get some interesting mail from our readership, including one that arrived yesterday explaining the origin of the name Katbakkies - one of our most popular passes in the Western Cape. The owner of the farm Katbakkies at the summit of the pass has explained the name, so now we can finally put to bed all the other populist versions - and here are the two of the most common theories:
1. In the olden days, when cars were less powerful, they had to reverse up the steep inclines of the pass with their passengers sitting in the boot (kattebak) to help gain wheel traction. (Reality - The pass existed long before the advent of the motor car, so that story can be assigned to the sin-bin, as interesting as it sounds).
2. There is a rock close to the pass that strongly resembles the face of a cat. (Katbakkies = Cat's Face). The owner of the farm has assured us that no such rock exists on the farm or anywhere near the pass. This more reasonable theory, which is widely published, is also not true.
Today we bring you the real story behind the name....
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On the radio, newspapers and television its all about xenophobia and load shedding, but here we offer a ray of Karoo sunshine and an opportunity to discover some well hidden gems - in the form of beautiful mountain passes. Come and escape with us for a few minutes.
We are currently working on KZN and will have added 55 new passes to that province by the end of May, which will bring KZN's total up to the 80 mark. Our readers just keep submitting more and more, but there is light at the end of the tunnel and we are anticipating that the site will be complete before the end of 2015. This week our YouTube account clicked over past the 700 video mark!
In the pipeline over the next few weeks/months?
1. A whole new interface which will make the website more mobile friendly.
2. An online shop where you can buy some nice new kit sporting our logo in natural neutral colours.
3. Book a tour - A brand new venture where we will begin offering self-drive guided tours in the Western Cape. This will be promoted on our FaceBook page.
4. A full downloadable list of all the passes, province by province with accurate GPS co-ordinates, on a downloadable spreadsheet. This will be offerred at a small fee.
Today we feature a lovely (and little known) tarred pass north of Graaff-Reinet in the Eastern Cape, which is named after a pioneering family from 1838.
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April is probably the nicest month of the year. It brings with it an end to the harsh summer heat; the leaves turning crimson and yellow and a certain coolness that brings with it the certainty of autumn and of course, to those of us that live in the Western Cape, the discreet promise of much needed rain.
Autumn is also probably the very best time of year to visit the Karoo and today we bring you the final chapter of one of the impressive, high altitude gravel passes in the Central Karoo that very few people have experienced. This one is well worth the detour and you don't need a 4x4 to complete it either.
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We try to keep things positive at MPSA, but the Easter road death toll is one of the worst in our history. The authorities are blaming the No.1 cause on alcohol consumption, with the rest being of a lesser nature, but they have nontheless, mentioned a disregard for the rules of the road as being close to the top of the culprit list - add reckless overtaking, ignoring barrier lines, invalid drivers licenses, exceeding the speed limits and of course unroadworthy vehicles. Just as we think the nation is taking a step forward, it seems we take two backwards. To those of you who managed to return safely from your journeys, welcome home!
On to more pleasant things...... This week (which we rarely do), we're taking you off-road on a 4x4 route on a private game reserve in the Central Karoo. The owners graciously allowed us to traverse their land and film the pass leading to the mountain plateau. Cyber drive with us as we take you to a quiet place, where you can see the curvature of the earth and where the eagles soar the high ridges.....
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Of all the April Fool's stories this year, we thought the Escom story deserved the No.1 spot for originality - "South Africa will be switching from 220v to 115v domestic power supply - like America. This will mean we will have twice as much available power"
We have an outstanding pass for your bucket list this week. It is modern, yet built in the traditional method, it has fabulous scenery and offers fossils, wild game and even lions. To cap it all you can camp or hire a chalet at the foot of the pass. It makes this pass completely unique and we rate this one in our Top 20 SA all-round passes.
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The Spielberg Phenomenon
With new milestones reached, we have now reached the point, where we are asking YOU to film the passes we cant get to. It's quite easy when you know how and its also a lot of fun, hugely educational, plus you get to see your efforts published right here where 50,000 like minded people watch our passes each month. When you expand the page, we have provided a link that will will take you to a new page, where we guide you step by step through the process of filming a pass, or submitting a new pass, or simply sending in your photos.
We had a very successful filming trip to Beaufort West last weekend and managed to film 9 of the 10 passes on our schedule. Of the 70 odd film clips we had gathered, just one turned out to be corrupt and purely by ironic co-incidence, it was the Bastards Poort! We covered just over 1700km over 4 days and filmed the following passes:
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We are in the process of forming a partnership with the NGO campaign ARRIVE ALIVE. Both websites have a similar value system and serve the motoring community with the same intent. You can look forward to seeing more of their material on this website in the future. They have recently published an excellent article on safety issues when driving passes. We provide the link at the end of this article. It is well written and carefully researched and makes for a good read!
Mention the town of Calitzdorp and three things spring to mind - port wine, ostriches and the hot mineral spa. Today we bring you some of the lesser known secrets of this beautiful part of the Little Karoo and take you on one of the most scenic loop routes to be found anywhere in South Africa. The route includes a brace of lesser known passes, lots of gravel travel, an artists hamlet, a big waterfall, camel rides, several game farms, stunning scenery and the Cango Caves. The good news is this loop can be done in a normal car (in fair weather).
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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.
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.
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.