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Our next filming expedition is in the Northern Cape and we will be basing ourselves in Sutherland - notorious as the coldest town in South Africa as well as for its extraordinarily clear night skies - a prerequisite for the study of the celestial bodies. This fame and notoriety has worked in the Karoo town's favour as even trying to book accommodation 2 weeks in advance, proved to be something of a challenge with all sorts of clubs and biker adventure groups heading that way to experience the marrow chilling cold. I was told by several B&B owners in Sutherland that during winter they are often booked out a year in advance! So be a hero - Get Sutherland!

So it would seem that there is a masochistic streak in a lot of us! My excuse is I'm going to film. Our digs for the weekend include standard equipment like electric blankets, hot water bottles and oversized duvets (and home cooked Karoo lamb shank). For the record, we have detailed 19 possible passes to be tackled, of which we might be lucky to nail down 6 or 7, depending on the weather. At the top of our list are the Ouberg, Rammelkop and Verlatenkloof passes.

This week we have some interesting passes for you to ogle - with the main feature being on the great man himself: Thomas Bain. If you have a look at our FaceBook page, you will see that a direct relative of the Bain's is a subscriber to both this site and our FB page. She is Margaret Ruddock Carey. We have asked her to write us a short piece on how the family history and Bain connections unfold. Watch this space.

Published in Mountain Passes News

Our cover pic this week shows how people in the northern hemisphere have to cope with heavy snow-falls. Spare a thought for them!

Our feature story last week on the Rammelkop Pass drew lots of commentary and a lengthy discussion on at least one forum on the merits/demerits of tyre pressures and snow driving. One school of thought is that tyre pressures should be increased to reduce the footprint, so that the layer of ice can be cracked by the weight of the vehicle and so gain some purchase on the road below the ice. This theory is all good and well when the road under the snow/ice is tar or paved, but when you are on gravel, the road below will be muddy, so we stand by our advice of lowering tyre pressures to increase the footprint for all off-raod or gravel situations. Re-inflating to normal pressures is critical as soon as normal driving commences. Driving fast on under inflated tyres is dangerous and can result in a blow out as the tyre overheats due to the higher friction levels.

Winter is a good time for filming with green scenery (well, in the Western Cape at least!), snow, waterfalls and crisp clear air. We take you on a blitz tour of three passes.

[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

As promised, we bring you the harrowing tale of a Free State couple marooned in the snowfields of the Langberg - about halfway between Merweville and Sutherland during the last big snow storm. The lessons learned are sobering for the rest of us, who tend to see a snow excursion as a fun thing and few people realise how quickly things can go pear-shaped when severe weater systems arrive. This incident occurred shortly after traversing the Rammelkop Pass. Our cover photo shows the arrival of the Police Caspir, who rescued the couple, plus some 35 souls from 20 marooned vehicles on that single day. Take a bow SAPS!

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Published in Mountain Passes News

It's been a week of blizzards, snow, sleet, hail and rain over many parts of the country. A reader has sent us his harrowing tale of being marooned in a snow storm near Sutherland last week. We will be featuring that story in full next week (together with the pass where it happened). There are many lessons to be learned from his experience and we share them with you here. South Africans, in general, get very excited when the snow season starts. Many have never even touched snow and often sensibility goes out the window. Dont underestimate the dangers of that adventure into the snow fields.

Golden rules:
1. Always have a planned route. Stick to it and inform someone at home of your route and your ETA and give them a "panic" time.
2. Have a GPS with your waypoints plotted.
3. Have a proper spade in your vehicle (a shovel is actually better).
4. Take emergency food with you.
5. Drive on full fuel tanks (in case you get stuck, you can at least leave the motor running and have some warmth from the heater.
6. Take a sleeping bag with for each person and spare warm clothes (beanie, gloves, etc)
7. Remember the national emergency number for all networks is 112. DON'T LEAVE YOUR VEHICLE! DON'T try and walk to the nearest town unless you have it visual and are sure you will make it.!
8. If you are going into a remote area with no cell reception, it is worth hiring or borrowing a Satphone.
9. Once ice forms under compacted snow, the roadway becomes impossibly slippery. Keep your speed commensurate with conditions.
10. Even 4x4's can often slide off the roads under snow conditions. Be sensible. Try deflating your tyres to as low as 0,8 bar to gain more traction, but remember to keep your speed below 60 kph, should you do that. Tyre deflation increases the footprint (lengthways) and is often all that is required to get yourself out of trouble.

We have measured a temperature at the main viewsite at Matroosberg at minus 12C in 2012. Diesel freezes at minus 11C. The human brain tends to shut down quite rapidly too. On that day the door locks froze on our vehicle. If there is wind blowing, the wind chill factor will drop the ambient temperature by many more degrees.

This week we feature three passes frequently covered in snow.

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Published in Mountain Passes News

This morning we have completed the last two passes in Mpumalanga with a total of 46 passes crammed into the small province. For those of you that cant resist passes, this is a province where you can drive many passes in a compact area and there are some very challenging passes on offer. One of those is the Clivia Pass, which just happens to be the second biggest altitude gaining pass in South Africa. Whilst many of their passes are tarred (due to the high rainfall) it is a beautiful place with many interesting and historic places to visit, not least of which is the Blyde River Canyon. Explore Mpumalanga and try some of those beautiful big passes on offer.

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Published in Mountain Passes News

The week that was.......

The good news is, the platinum strike is over. The scary part is by how much that strike affected our GDP. A lowering of the fuel price almost went unnoticed, but for those of us that travel a lot, it is very good news. On the other hand, there is trouble brewing in the Middle East again. At least we can still escape into our beautiful mountains - on foot, bicycle, motorbike, car or 4x4.

Of late we have had some hilarious comments on this website and with due deference to those posters, we post them here as our Top 3 funniest. These are quoted verbatim:

1. How much will you charge to hire out the Helshoogte Pass for a wedding with 92 guests?
2. How much are the caddy fees at Fancourt?
3. We would like to buy some olive trees from you.

This week (as promised) we have moved our news promo to a Thursday. Let us know if you prefer this format or the old format which was Mondays and Thursdays.

As usual we take you across our beautiful land on a voyage of new discoveries and a revisit to some favourites.

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

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Our classic cover pic this week lures us into the unknown. Places we have not been to before.....

With the website being almost complete, we are making some changes. Good changes. Make a note of these, as they will effect especially the mapping side of the website.

Firstly, our Master Map is having a facelift. Previously the black dots indicated passes yet to be produced and the red dots indicated passes already produced. We are changing these icons to show the black dots as tarred or paved passes and the red dots as gravel or jeep track passes. This will make planning from the Master Map much easier for the gravel pass enthusiasts. The process of re-programming these icons has already begun and  should be completed by the end of this week.

The second change is that our weekly news bulletins are going to change from bi-weekly to once weekly and the new day we have selected will be on a Thursday. Why a Thursday, you might ask? Because statistically, we have our maximum number of views on Thursdays. So it's simple.

We are decreasing the news bulletins as the next six month phase is about promoting the website into the most popular South African travel site. You can expect to see us on travel forums, magazine editorials, radio and maybe even on TV. We're working on it! Of course there is absolutely nothing stopping you from checking out our newest productions. A shortcut is to click on the menu button FIND A PASS without going onto any of the provinces. The passes will display in chronolgical order from newest to oldest, regardless of provinces. If you prefer our usual email prompt with a small selection of suggested passes, then it's your choice.

This week we have a humdinger for you to cyber drive - the Antoniesberg Pass. Never heard of it? Well, read on......

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Published in Mountain Passes News

Sometimes we should just look and say absolutely nothing, as the person in our cover photo appears to be doing.

Whilst the northern hemisphere folk are enjoying their summer, it's brrrr.... time in South Africa. That doesn't stop us from travelling of course, and this week we bring you a few samples of South African passes that you might and might not know.  Our extended foray into Mpumalanga is drawing to a close wth over 40 passes produced in that province alone - and we have uncovered a number of great drives there. Today we visit the Masjiennek and Hilltop passes as well as a little known pass in the Garden Route.

[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 first serious cold front swept over South Africa this weekend, with the Western Cape taking the brunt of it. There were decent snowfalls on the mountains around Ceres, the Cederberg and as far east as Swellendam. That meant a complete revision of our filming itinerary and the video capturing of two big Karoo passes with lovely snow covered mountains in the background. We should have those two produced and online in about 10 days time.

Today, we visit a major historical pass dating back to the 1800's as well as a little known pass on the Garden Route where we can discover the settler roots of Barrington. We finish off our trio with a small gravel pass near beautiful Greyton.

Published in Mountain Passes News

In less developed countries motor vehicles are made to work hard and earn their keep - as our cover photo shows!

We bring you another historical road this week north of Knysna in the Southern Cape as well as a quick jaunt up to the Northern Cape for a very interesting 4x4 drive through the Namaqua National Park and then we finish up in the lowveld near Barberton's historical gold fields.

[To access the links expand this page, by clicking on the picture, 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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