This is our final news release of 2014. And what a year it's been! Breaking the Thursday news release tradition (simply because tomorrow you'll all be too busy with New Year celebrations), we're publishing one day early.

It's always good to review what one has achieved at this time of year. The website grew from 17000 page views per month in Dec 2013 to 45000 per month currently. The site received over 360,000 page views during 2014. Our FaceBook page rocketed from 400 LIKES a year ago to over 3000 LIKES to date. Our engagement with our readership has grown to the levels that just our email section alone, needs a full time employee. A large number of new reader submissions have been banked into storage for future production and the number of people online at any time of the day or night has grown by over 3000%. We write and post online on three of the major motorcycle adventure clubs, the Land Cruiser Club of South Africa, and CaravanParks.com. One of our goals.....

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Its been a funny month, but it is after all, the silly season. On the positive side we've seen the biggest drop in the oil price ever, with the pundits figuring a local drop in the fuel price of R1.05 per litre. For mountain pass affecionados that is very good news indeed and for your camera team that drives a 3 ton SUV, it is even better news! On the dark side....

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Today has marked another major milestone for the Mountain Passes team. We have eclipsed 10,000 page views in a single week for the first time. That equates to around 45,000 views per month. We thank all of YOU for the huge popularity that the site continues to enjoy. And it's not just the website that's bounding along - our FaceBook page today went past 3000 'Likes' - It's the best Christmas gift we could have hoped for!

We are featuring a range of great, historical passes over the festive season. These are perennial favourites amongst our readers and today we are showcasing the mighty........

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It's extraordinary how fast 2014 flew past. In many ways it's been a tough year for many busineses and the experts are forecasting an improvement for 2015. Let's hope they're right.

On our filming trips, we have a flattened copper coin affixed to our camera vehicle - a family token of happy days on holiday at Swartvlei Lagoon, Garden Route, standing with my kids as we taped a coin to the railway track, waiting for the steam train to roar past and watch the excitement on their faces as they found the result - a flat and deformed coin, quite unrecognizable from a few seconds before - and very hot!

It has been stated on various platforms that a feasibility study has been launched with a view to reinstating the rail link between George and Knysna. For many years the steam trains used to.......

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This week we are focussing on one of South Africa's greatest passes, and justifiably so. At the time is was first built it was hailed as the greatest engineering achievement of the Cape Colony and remains the oldest, unaltered pass in South Africa. We're talking about the fabulous Montagu Pass that was the first proper road from George over the Outeniqua mountains into the northern interior to the Langkloof and the Karoo beyond.

We look into the history of George and those enterprising men who conceived a pass of this magnitude - like Sir John Montagu and Charles Michell who pushed hard to get these roads approved. How about Dr W.Stanger who plotted the lines of the pass? How come his name has faded into history? And Mr. H.O. Farrell who was the first person to manage convict labour in the Cape relating to road construction. It became the norm to use convict labour for many years after that - even beyond 1900. This was such an intelligent plan by those in power, which put the criminals to good, hard work as they served their time and also must have given them a sense of purpose. The savings of labour costs to the government must have been well worth the effort as well. A real win-win compared to what we have today. I think enough said on that.

Then there is the almost legendary Henry Fancourt White, who was at that time, one of our most experienced road engineers. It's truly awe inspiring stuff and when one drives this pass today, it's easy to hear the imaginary crack of the whip over the oxen - and there is even a name given to one of the many bends on the pass: "Voorslagklapdraai"

We have three videos on this pass. The first two deal with the ascent whilst the third one covers the descent in full, from Heroldt to George. The first two videos were filmed in 2012, whilst the third one dates to October, 2014.

Many people think that Thomas Bain built this pass, which is not correct, as young Bain was only 14 years old at the time (1844). During the construction phase of the pass, Thomas Bain was still at school and he only became an apprentice engineer at the age of 18 under his father's mentorship and both Bains were involved fully with the Bainskloof and Michells passes near Wellington and Ceres respectively.

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Reflections of 2014

The year has flown by! Looking back at what we have achieved puts things into perspective. We produced 66 new passes and 42 news bulletins on this website. We introduced a new page rating  - the most popular passes by page views. We introduced downloadable route files and completed two system upgrades, as well as installed tighter anti-spam controls. We have steadily migrated the video clips to appear near the top of the pages, rather than the bottom (as requested by you). All the provinces have been migrated, other than the Western Cape, which is partially complete.

Our Face Book page swallowed up a fair amount of time too and 2440 people gave us a LIKE for our efforts. Our Twitter account was perpetually active with a nice big following.

There is a lot more to come and 2015 will see some new and exciting changes and challenges. We are planning a full upgrade to the look and feel of the website - all of it designed to make for a smoother and more pleasurable online experience.  We are slowly introducing road numbers for every pass that has one. We are working closely with Map-Studio in Cape Town to ensure this becomes a reality. These should be happening over the next 3 months - but we'll keep you informed via social media as well as via these news releases. Some of our latest passes already show route/road numbers - for example our feature pass this week.

Our readers (that's you!) sent in so many pass suggestions that we have had to stack them up in a queueing system. Rest assured we will not run out of raw material for a very long time! The website was mentioned in both Weg! and Go! magazines, whilst SA4x4 published a six page story about the concept and ideas behind the website.

We have also been contacted by the Post Office, who have requested our guidance in the design and theme of a new 2015 series of stamps featuring famous South African mountain passes. How cool is that!

We can safely say that we achieved our goals for 2014 and then some!

This week we sample some new fare across this wide and beautiful land of ours and like last week - it's a 1-2-3 gravel fest!

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This week all three our featured passes are on gravel, but all of them can be driven in a normal family car. It's a great time of year to get out into the bundu and discover South Africa. Our production team are in full swing with a series of great "off the beaten track" passes which are currently in production. We hope to have all of these live on the site before Christmas.

This is an appropriate time to thank all of you who have taken the time to write to us and tell us your stories, sent in photo's, suggested new passes and a few have even attempted videography! And also thanks to those who have spotted errors and helped us in some small way to make the site as valuable and accurate as it is today. By our calculations (and these have to be amended weekly) we still have around 200 passes in the storage vault, so we still have a long way to go and many hours of hard work ahead of us.

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During our recent 10 day pass filming expedition we uncovered a number of new gems in the Southern Cape / Klein Karoo area, which will be introduced over the next two weeks. Our main feature this week takes us over the Outeniqua mountains on a rugged offroad track over the old ox-wagon trading route, known as the Voortrekker Pass. We have produced this pass in two videos. There is  a lot of additional detail in the text which we were unable to fit into the video narration, so make sure you read the text as well as watch the videos, if you intend driving the route. You will need a "proper" 4x4 vehicle for this one, with low range and good ground clearance.

Barberton and the surrounding areas are rich in history and mountain passes. We head to Jock of the Bushveld country to drive the tarred Botha's Nek Pass

In keeping with our promise, we introduce you to the third of the four Heidelberg passes, which is the Seekoeigat Pass - a lovely gravel pass running along the foothills of the mighty Langeberg. You can do this one in a normal car.

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Each Thursday we tempt you to cyber drive South Africa. Unleash your sense of adventure or simply go on a scenic drive. There is something for everyone in this vast land of ours. One of our readers suggested a listing of easy gravel passes to drive. We've given that some thought and come to understand that one man's easy is another's difficult, so we might be stepping in where angels fear to tread. Perhaps those decisions are best left to the individuals taste.

In similar vein, this website is widely used by the motorcycling fraternity and we have had many requests to provide a route rating for motorcyclists within our Fact File system. Once again, after a lot of deliberation, we are reluctant to make judgements on the degree of difficulty of a road, due to the wide range of skills within that motorcycling fraternity. Ratings are probably best also left alone. We just thought we would explain the rationale behind these decisions.

This week we head into the much loved Cederberg in the Western Cape to drive the Grootrivierhoogte Pass, which can get hairy for front-wheel drive cars during rainy weather. This pass is very steep and climbs incessantly through multiple bends. It's a classic and one of our favourites. We move from there into the old Transkei to discover a real gem - South Africa's newest pass. A surprising find in this rural part of the Eastern Cape. A big, modern tarred, multi-lane pass with a viaduct. It makes a good read even if you cant get there. This pass was sent in by one of the engineers who worked on the project, Johan Thiart.

We complete our journey with a visit to our second unofficial Langeberg pass, following on from last weeks traverse of the Boosmansbos Pass. 

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South African mountain passes are a never ending source of intrigue with some astonishing history, as our forefathers tried to tame this vast sub-continent. This week we take a look at the ghost town of Bowes Dorp in Namaqualand and discover a bizarre connection with the Faberge business name. These interesting stories and anecdotes come from our  readers, and as is the case this week, we publish the story straight from the horses mouth, so to speak. Chris Boyle did the honours.

We are currently working hard on many of the reader submissions. John Irvine submiited the Bedrogsfontein Pass, which turned out to be more than just a pass, but an entire one day offroad route through pristine and varying landscapes. It was only when we were doing the Google earth plot of this road, that we realised we had actually driven it many years earlier - long before the passes project was conceived.Take a day off and drive this one, but you will need a 4WD vehicle with low range.

Finally we divert to the Southern Cape, where we recently uncovered four unofficial passes. This was the day we had Dr. Graham Ross with us to ensure we had an engineer onboard, to pass comment on these lovely passes, which we will feature one by one over the next few weeks. It would seem that the Western Cape had far too many passes for the authorities to officially give names to.

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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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