Swartberg Pass Update
This week we have the first authenticated update on progress on the flood damage to the Swartberg Pass. Anyone who was hoping to include a drive over the pass in 2017 can now definitely cancel those plans, as the provisional time frame to complete the repairs is set at 15 months, which will take us to August, 2018. Due to the historical nature of the pass and it's status as a national monument, the process of getting the paperwork signed off for construction work to commence is more complicated than normal.
The budget for the repair work is estimated at between R25m & R30m. Heritage Western Cape still need to sign the paperwork off and they have been given 30 days to complete their inspections and considerations. More information lower down this page.....
Our featured pass this week is something very unusual in that it is fairly long at over 16 km and is without question the pass with the most (4) alternative names on our 700+ pass database. We take you with us on a dusty and corrugated drive between two tiny settlements, with quaint names like Kharkams and Spoegrivier and we dig into the wonderful history of the area and take a peek at Bethelsklip - an open air place of worship dating back to the 1800's and still utilised to this day. More on this lovely 'road less travelled' lower down this page....
Whilst the vast majority of South Africa shivers in ice cold temperatures, with ice and snow around, your editorial team in Cape Town continue to 'enjoy' summer style weather with daily temperatures in the upper 20's. The Western Cape now has a very serious water crises looming, which will be felt next summer, unless a lot of rain falls over the next four months. The city's biggest water supply dam - Theewaterskloof - is a frightening sight at the moment.
When snow falls, South African's get the fever - an almost reckless need to get to the snow to drive, ride, play or build a snowman. Whilst this eagerness is understandable, we wish to pass on some sage advice on the subject, which we go into some detail a bit lower down.
Each May we take a long hard look at our statistics. This helps us to gauge how we are doing, who we are connecting with and it forms the yardstick by which we measure our success. More below......
Our featured pass this week is in the Northern Cape. We take you on a faraway drive down the Bokkeveld Mountains on a very old gravel pass, which once had the involvement of Thomas Bain and it dates back to 1880. This one is for those with high clearance vehicles and a spirit of adventure, as it involves some tricky navigation. More below.......
The northern and southern filming crews have assembled a wonderful collection of new passes and poorts over the recent holiday cycle, both big and small - each with its own special beauty or story. So for the next few months these will all be progressively released onto the website. Mike Leicester uncovered a beauty of a "new" pass whilst filming in KZN recently. This wonderful gravel pass has easy gradients, magnificent Drakensberg scenery, a spooky old tunnel and can be driven in any vehicle with reasonable ground clearance. More about that lower down.
15 have conquered the Ben 10
As expected there were another batch of Ben 10 Eco Challenge finishers over the recent long weekend. One of these was Craig Fouche and his wife who completed the challenge in the diminutive, but very capable Suzuki Jimny. This couple entered into the true spirit of the challenge and if you look up their post on our Facebook page, you will see just how much fun they had. Well done!
In addition we have received video footage taken by a biker completing the ascent of the Ben MacDhui Pass, which we have embedded on that page. Take a look at the video and see just how tough it is physically to ride this pass on a motorcycle. Thanks to Grant Leicester for the footage.
Well, the April/May holidays are done and dusted and for all those of you that made it home safely - well done! Both the Jhb and Cape Town based film crews were also on the road during this period - mainly in the Eastern and Northern Cape with at least 40 new passes having been filmed. This material will appear progressively over the next few months.
Illegal road closures
One of the contentious issues raised this week is that of illegal road closures and how best to deal with them. We cover that thorny topic in more detail lower down this page.
Featured pass of the week:
The financially rich (and smallest) province of Gauteng sports a total of 11 passes - most of which fall under the category of suburban passes. It is one of these that is our featured pass this week. It offers fascinating history, great views and is very accessible to those living in the metropolis.
April &May are probably the months of the year that most people use for longer travel type holidays as can be attested by the flood of email inquiries we received this month from folk needing advice and assistance with travel plans. We legally may not plan a route for you, but the website is so designed to provide all the information for each person to watch the videos, look at the facts, routes and maps and so make informed decisions on their own routes - and to take responsibility for those choices.
How to use the best feature on the website - The Master Map
The first and best tool to plan a trip is the MASTER MAP which is the first item under the FIND A PASS tab. Zoom into your area of interest and hover your cursor over any of the dots - the name of the pass will pop up. If you want to know more about that specific pass, left click on the dot, and another balloon will open inviting you to take the click through to that pass page. The black dots indicate tarred passes and the red dots are gravel passes.
It's fun and takes some time, but by the time you've properly researched your intended route, you will be armed with superior knowledge, which will make your journey so much more enjoyable. The master map is available to anyone, but only subscribers can see the content of the individual pages and the videos. That makes another 700 good reasons to subcribe!
Our featured pass this week is a real gem. It's in the Drakensberg and offers steep gradients, serious drop offs, a mix of gravel and concrete, incredible views, sharp corners, technical driving and lots of crisp alpine air.
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.