The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

What a week and lots of news to share! On the down side a spate of horrific traffic accidents involving heavy duty vehicles have claimed many innocent lives. The Alberton incident involved as many as 50 vehicles with many fatalities and serious injuries. All of these accidents can be blamed on either unroadworthy vehicles or speed and driver error. We urge everyone to drive defensively.

Fuel price down
The good news is that the price of oil is the lowest it has been for a very long time at $88US per barrel. That equates into another fuel price reduction, despite our weak currency. And that in turn equates into more passes to drive!

So what's in a barrel?
On the topic of the oil price, have you ever wondered why that commodity is measured in barrels? What is a barrel and why is this term used? It goes back to the 1800's when oil was first tapped from the earth in the US and was sold in old wine barrels of various sizes. In the USA the industry eventually decided to standardise the size of a barrel at 42 gallons (about 160 litres). And so the system spread world-wide and the term "per barrel" has remained as part of our daily lives. Odd how certain things just never went metric. Another example is gold, which is sold in "fine ounces". So what exactly is the difference between a fine ounce and a normal ounce? And why should it not be sold in milligrams?

Master Pass South Africa?
We have a new feature for you this week which has just been launched. Under our EXTREME PASSES listings, you will find a new category, called MOST POPULAR PASSES. This is based on the number of page views received and the plan is to audit the figures once per year. Newer passes added more recently will obviously have a lower score and those added in 2012 will naturally be higher. It does show a clear trend though and we were more than surprised to find a really out of the way, remote pass right on top of this list with over 14,000 page views! It is the Studtis Poort in the Baviaanskloof, which has firmly claimed the No.1 stakes by our readers. It beats Gamkaskloof (2nd), Swartberg Pass (3rd) and Sani Pass (4th) quite comfortably by more than 4000 page views. There are a few other surprises there as well. Visit the page (we've made it easy for you - just click the blue hyperlink above), and see where your favourite pass ranks in the national stakes.

Try our Trivia Quiz on Facebook
Our FaceBook page has wizzed through the 2000 "Likes" mark and continues to enjoy popularity.You can access our Facebook page directly from the Home Page. We run a weekly fun quiz to test your geography knowledge. Our last post enjoyed 39,000 hits with visitors from around the globe.

Where to this week?
This week our main pass feature is the stunning Steenbras Mountain Road at Gordons Bay on the False Bay coastline. We pay tribute to another remarkable engineer, Ronnie Fisk, who designed and plotted his 'convenience road', wearing out a brand new pair of army boots during the survey work.

[Expand this page to access the lnks, by clicking on the photo, the title or the green READ MORE button]

Published in Mountain Passes News

We have had a hugely positive response to the six page article in the SA4x4 magazine (October issue) causing our website and Facebook hits to spike sharply. As they say, the show goes on, and this week we introduce you to some old standards as well as some off the beaten track discoveries.

As far back as 1863 the main road between Laingsburg and Prince Albert ran through a rugged valley separated by the Swartberg and Elandsberg ranges. The much underrated Adam de Smidt, who spent most of his adult life in the shadow of his famous brother in law, Thomas Bain, won the contract to build not only the Seweweekspoort pass, but also the Bosluiskloof Pass. We feature this as our No.1 pass this week, not only for its rugged grandeur and long history, but also that as a passenger in our vehicle on that day of filming, we had the honour of having Dr. Graham Ross with us - who at the ripe old age of 90 mandhandled our truck over the Bosluiskloof Pass, whilst we did the filming. We used the opportunity to tap into Graham's extraordinary wealth of road building knowledge.

Our other two passes range from the far north in Limpopo near the Alpine like village of Haenertsburg, across to Free State's beautiful Golden Gate Highlands National Park via the Lichens Pass.

Published in Mountain Passes News

The offroad magazine SA4x4 produced a six page colour feature on this website in their October edition. It starts on page 74 and tells the story behind the website - how it germinated and grew into what it is today. The article also features some of our best photo's of the last few years. Get your copy!

This week we head off to some smaller, lesser known, but no less interesting mountain passes. Lying just to the west of the N7 between Citrusdal and Clanwilliam is the tarred and charming Haarwegskloof Pass. Not many people even know of this pass. It also offers a much nicer alternative to the never ending Stop/Go's on the N7 at the moment (and probably for the next 2 or 3 years). This road later becomes gravel and takes you down the Kransvleikloof Pass to rejoin the N7 right next to the Clanwiliam Dam.

The Free State only has 6 official passes and we are currently working on a very interesting pass which runs right next to the Lesotho border, submitted by a reader, but that one will only go live in a week or two. In the meantime, we head off to the historic brownstone town of Clarens, which is one of the gateways to Lesotho, as well as to the beautiful Golden Gate Highlands National Park. The pass in question is the Noupoortsnek, just outside Clarens.

Finally, it would appear that Mike's Pass in KZN is no longer drivable in your own vehicle, but you can book a trip on one of the reserve's vehicles (min 4 persons) who will take you on a guided tour of this stunning pass. Details are on the pass page.  It's a humdinger!

[To access the links, expand this page by clicking on the photo, title or green READ MORE button]

Published in Mountain Passes News

Thank you for the tremendous support. This website hit 39,517 page views for the last 4 weeks. Without you we are nothing. We listen to your suggestions and deliver what you want, wherever possible. It is through public support that we have been able to continually refine the website to the best standards. Keep those suggestions coming in.

Last weekend we were in Johannesburg (not filming passes as there aren't many there) and had the experience of having no water supply for our entire stay - And it seems that large parts of the Reef have been completely without water since last week Saturday. As at last night, the situation had not changed. It is quite frightening to consider how quickly things can go pear shaped when basic services don't exist. Those in charge of the Rand Water Board are blaming Escom and they in turn are touting the "perfect storm" scenario. Hot weather; no rain; didn't anticipate the big demand; reservoirs ran dry. What do you think of our civil service?

New and undiscovered passes are being sent in by our readers at an alarming rate. We receive between 4 and 10 new pass suggestions per week. Please bear with us if your pass has not yet appeared in the listings. Each new pass has to be carefully researched, identified and processed. It's many hours of work and we produce (on average) three to five new passes per week. Our stockpile of unprocessed passes is growing faster than our production, but we will check out each and every suggestion  big or small. Our current total number of passes is around 370 and we have approximately another 200 waiting for processing.

Our main featured pass this week is a big, gravel pass in the Cederberg, which we recently re-filmed to our 2014 standards. We then take you across provincial borders to KZN and Limpopo for a look at other interesting roads.

[Expand this page to access the links by clicking on the photo, the title or the green READ MORE button]

Published in Mountain Passes News

It's mid month and the time for planning spring trips. As usual we offer a smorgasbord of passes across our beautiful country - something for everyone. We focus for a moment on litter and the ask the question: "Why do so many motorists throw litter onto the side of the road?" And it is not only limited to poor or uneducated people. During our travels and filming we are often astounded at the volumes of litter on the road side - and exactly how does one change the mindset of a nation? Someone once said that it should be seen positively in that it creates jobs for others!

We revisit two old favourites in the Ceres Karoo where we have refilmed two classics to our 2014 standards. We then head to the northern-most pass in Limpopo right into the Kruger - and finally loop down to Mpumalanga for a drive up the beautiful Bouldersberg.

[Expand this page to access the links by clicking on the photo, the title or the green READ MORE button]

Published in Mountain Passes News

The Dept of Water Affairs is raising the height of the Clanwilliam Dam wall. The cost of this construction is enormous as not only must engineers factor in the actual cost of the construction but certain sections of the N7 have to be completely rerouted that would have the road under water at the new 100% capacity point. In addition farms, private property and buildings have to be relocated. This stretch of road was long overdue for a revamp and the new road should make the journey a lot safer. The scale of the roadbuilding is impressive, but unfortunately it is playing havoc with traffic on the N7 between Clanwilliam and Citrusdal with about ten stop/go's in operation 24/7. We filmed in the area last weekend and after running out of time, decided to head back to Cape Town via the "fastest time" option on the GPS. That was a serious judgement error as we could have saved a lot of time by heading back on any of the gravel road options. Such is life!

The website is growing and growing with page views heading for the 40,000 per month mark. It makes an ideal advertising platform for any business where you can focus in precisely on your geographical customer base. Check out the advertising tab for details.

Our main featured pass today is the undeniably impressive Ouberg Pass near Sutherland in the Northern Cape. It's a little out of the way, but it is a seriously enjoyable detour. If you haven't driven it, do so whilst you still can. We produced this pass in 2 parts to do it the justice it deserves.

[Expand this page to access the links, by clicking on the photo, title or the green READ MORE button]

Published in Mountain Passes News

This week we focus on the land of wild-flowers - the completely unique Namaqualand. It's a place of miracles - a wild landscape that is achingly dry in summer, yet transforms into a floral wonderland each August. The winter of 2014 has been cold and wet - the harbinger of excllent wildflowers. Our mountain pass this week takes us on a dusty little road between Springbok and Hondeklipbaai as we explore life in the 1800's - when copper was the Cape Colony's second biggest export - where convicts were brought by ship from Robben Island to the tiny and rocky coastal inlet dubbed Hondeklipbaai and made to walk the 70 km from the harbour to the site of the Messelpad Pass. We learn about Patrick Fletcher - another unsung roadbuilding hero.

This is also the very first reader video submission from Johan Buys of Durbanville, who did a great job of capturing the footage just the way we like it. All three passes featured this week are gravel passes. Go get some some dust on your tyres!

[Expand the page to access the links, by clicking on the photo, the title or the green READ MORE button]

Published in Mountain Passes News

Last week we posted a picture of the wild-flowers in Namaqualand on our FaceBook page. Social media is such an interesting phenomenon. To prove a point, that photo had  23,288 views; 734 Likes and 274 shares. It just goes to show, ladies never grow tired of flowers! Whilst on that topic, our FaceBook page is hugely popular and we have recently topped the 1000 Likes mark. Thank you to all of you for the support!

Our recent foray into the mountains around Sutherland unearthed some great footage and unusual things along the way. Make sure you watch the video on the Karelskraal Pass - it's something special and we are priveleged to be able to get to these amazing places as we complete the final series of passes in the Northern Cape. The sincereity of the Karoo people is earthy and their hospitality knows no bounds. We produced a short video on Sutherland itself which includes its history, people, architecture and astromical achievements.

[Expand this page to access the links, by clicking on the photo, the title or the green READ MORE  button]

Published in Mountain Passes News

It's that time of year again. Reports coming in from the Vanrhynsdorp and Springbok areas indicate a fantastic explosion of wild-flowers this year. It seems that Mother Nature is more reliable than some of our African banks! The next four weeks offer the very best of the wild-flower routes. Use our master map to plan your journey into these unique floral wonderlands.

Last weekend we filmed several passes in the Sutherland area including Amandel Nek, Ouberg, Rooipoort, Verlatenkloof, Rooikloof, Bloupoort, Die Poortjie, Karelskraal, Allemanshoek and Rammelkop passes. All of these will be live on the website in the next fortnight or so. We will also be producing a short video on the town of Sutherland itself - the history, the struggle, the cold and the famous night skies and all the little Karoo town has to offer.

Our featured passes this week are:

[To access the links, expand this page by clicking on the photo, the title or the green READ MORE button]

Published in Mountain Passes News

Someone once told me that the maximum number of degrees that a road can turn is 180 degrees. Our cover photo this week, proves otherwise. Magnifique!

The Western and Northern Cape wild flowers have already begun blooming. A sure sign that spring is around the corner. Our 'discovery of the month' is featured this week in the form of the Droelandskloof Pass - a 16 km gem well hidden in the folds of the mountains about 45 km north of Ceres. This is a road less travelled and is best not driven if time is an issue. It's long, slow and beautiful and will leave your senses tranquilised. Highly recommended. But watch both parts of the video carefully and take notes if you intend driving it.

[Expand this page to access the links, by clicking the photo, the title or the green READ MORE button]

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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