This week our featured pass is another hidden gem, yet it's hugely popular with locals and especially mountain bikers. This 4 km long pass is gravel and has many corners to contend with, a low level bridge and a very steep and razor sharp hairpin. Steep sided gorges smothered under indigenous forests are bisected by streams with amber coloured water, whilst birdsong is the counterpoint to the burbling sound of the gentle rapids. So join us as we head down to the Garden Route to unpack this beautiful pass.
Whilst we were filming in the Knysna area, we drove along the Old Cape Road and were mortified to see the the devastation in the forests above the popular seaside town. We made a short video which you can watch lower down on this page. The residents that suffered severe losses are slowly trying to rebuild their humble homes. Many didn't have insurance and have resorted to caravans, tents and awnings as makeshift homes right next to the blackened ruins of their original homes. It's a sad and heartbreaking scene. As the fire relief and initial outpouring waned, people have been left struggling to cope with their shattered lives. More lower down.....
Today we head off to KZN to drive a well known pass on a major route on the N11 between Volksrust and Newcastle. What makes this pass so interesting is the remarkable history attached to it coupled with beautiful Drakensberg scenery, but be warned that this is a very busy road, plied by large trucks and other commercial traffic.
Lang’s Nek was named after William Timothy Lang, who bought a farm located to the north and east of Mount Majuba in Northern Natal in 1874. This is extremely well documented and cannot be disputed, but for the last 130 years, the pass itself, the road, the railway and the battlefield have all been erroneously spelled as “Laing’s Nek”. How this occurred is a mystery – perhaps a battlefield reporter or a cartographer made a careless mistake, and this has somehow been brought forward in perpetuity. Early maps of the region all have the correct spelling. Read more.....
This week we head off to Limpopo province and more speciifically to the prosperous little town of Lephalale (Ellisras). We're going to drive an interesting gravel pass of 18 km that offers a variety of driving conditions, which include soft sand, deep ruts and washaways, dense bush, wild animals, steep gradients and some tricky driving lines.
Mike Leicester filmed this pass on the 17th June, 2017 in perfect weather, which shows exactly what prospective drivers of this pass can expect. The Grootwater Nature Reserve is quite big and the entire pass lies within its borders, but the road is publicly accessible, so there are no controls or fees applicable. Normal sedan vehicles will not cope with this road (in terms of lacking ground clearance) but you can drive it in a high clearance vehicle from east to west. To drive it the opposite direction, you will need a 4x4. Many adventure motorcyclists have fallen on this road, mainly due to the rapidly changing conditions and multiple sections of soft sand, which in biker parlance equates to "The Sand Monster"
For adventure motorcyclists we strongly recommend not riding this route alone and for motorists, it would be a good idea to carry two spare wheels, due to the likelihood of punctures.
This area covers several diverse features like rare antelope species; over 500 private game reserves, South Africa's largest coal reserves, two huge power stations (including the controversial Medupi which is still not fully operational) but more importantly, we unpack the story behind the original "bosberaad" where South Africa's negotiations into democracy took place in 1989 between F.W De Klerk and Cyril Ramaphosa. More lower down.........
Circles in the Sand
A photo of some old stone ruins in Mulamalanga sparked off a huge amount of interest on our Face Book page last week (20,853 views), with many interesting snippets of information coming to the fore. The Blaauboschkraal ruins can be seen near the Crossroads Pass in Mpumalanga, which is about 6 km from Machadodorp / eNtokozweni. What makes these ruins so fascinating is the relatively new resource of anyone being able to study these stone circles via satellite imagery on Google Earth. Try it and see for yourself.
The stone circles are fascinating as they dont have any entrance points, so could not possibly have been used as traditional kraals. So what then was the purpose of these circles and unique patterns? Academics date the ruins between 75,000 and 200,000 years old and cover an area so vast as to equal that of modern day Johannesburg. It would have taken a group of people in excess of 1 million to construct all these walls.
Various theories have been put forward, some of them quite different. Read more lower down..........
We scuttle off to the Eastern Cape today and take you on a modern tarred pass offering amazing scenery; a glimpse into the rural lifestyle of the traditional Xhosa people; some excellent engineering; and we dig into the dappled history of the town of Mount Fletcher.
This is a long pass at 12,3 km and it displays an altitude variance of 262m. We offer some sage advice about driving in this part of the Eastern Cape, where livestock on the road makes driving in the daytime a risky business and an absolute no-no at night.
Besides the obvious dangers of livestock on the road, there is another danger which has become increasingly apparent in modern times with our faster cars - and that is the issue of slow moving local vehicles. Many of the vehicles owned by the locals are old and delapidated and they drive along these modern roads at very low speeds; often blissfully unaware of the speed differential or the option of driving in the emergency lane to facilitate faster traffic coming past.
This week we bring you an update on the exciting Ben 10 Eco Challenge and some guidance with navigating the inner sanctum of the website. More lower down .......
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.