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Mountain Passes News

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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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.

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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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