* Trips & Tours Updates
* Ben 10 V3 Tour fully booked
* King of the Mountains
* Can-do South Africans to aspire towards
* Pass of the Week
* Words of Wisdom
Our upcoming Ben 10 V3 Tour has sold out in record time. We will not be running another Ben 10 Tour this year, but will be scheduling the next one for 2021. Tickets for our Kouga Baviaans Explorer Tour in March are selling well with 6 places left at time of writing. We have included a 30 second teaser video lower down on this page to galvanise you into action. We are convinced that this tour is going to be pure magic and quite possibly the best tour we've ever put together.
Next week we will be heading off to the Wild Coast to do the detailed recce/planning for our longest tour to date: Wild Coast Adventure Tour, which will be held from the 12th to the 20th June, 2020. Keep an eye on our Shop & Tours page for when bookings open.
The Ben 10 Eco Challenge has an almost mystical allure to it. To date 257 people have entered the challenge but only 157 have managed to complete it. There have been some interesting entries. A father and daughter completed the challenge on single speed homemade bicycles on a budget of R20 per day; a motorcyclist rode all the passes in a single day; a man entered the challenge under the name of his dog (see Scruffy de Jager); and recently another dog actually ran all the passes with his owner - ironically the dog's name is Ben!
But there is one man who is a step or five ahead of the pack. He is Jaco Pretorius from Pretoria who ran the challenge last year thereby becoming the first runner to complete the event. Jaco was so enthused by his experience that he has decided to expand his challenge. A few weeks ago he tackled the Ben 10 on an MTB and a 4x4 - riding each of the passes first on his bike followed by the 4x4. And if that's not enough, he plans on completing a four way title by also doing the challenge on his adventure motorcycle. Today we feature the first chapter of Jaco's story of how things went. (More lower down...)
* Kouga-Baviaans Explorer Tour
* Ben 10 V3 Tour
* Garden Route Filming
* South African achievers
* Pass of the week
* Words of wisdom.
As promised the first 2 tours for 2020 have been uploaded onto our shop page. The first 5 places on the Ben 10 V3 Tour were sold within a week. Get in early if you want to join either of these tours.
This brand new tour promises to be a huge hit. We have been able to creatively plan four sustained days of sublime eco travelling through some of the most isolated and remote sections of the Southern Cape. Our routing begins at Joubertina and heads up into the Kouga Mountains where we will visit the Kouga Wilderness trails as well as drive two scintillating gravel passes all in one day. The next day we drive the Baviaans-Kouga 4x4 route (It's rated Grade 1 to 2, so easy enough for the average driver) and overnight in the Baviaanskloof at Doringkloof & Zandvlakte. All meals and accommodation have been pre arranged.
On Day 3 we drive the beautiful bioreserve section of the Baviaanskloof including all the big passes and the two water crossings with an overnight stop in the Cambria Valley where guests will enjoy a world class potjie specially made for MPSA. The final day we head through the Grootrivierpoort to Patensie, then up the mountain to take the T3 route west via the Antoniesberg Pass and finish in Steytlerville at the Royal Hotel for our final night festivities. Maximum 10 vehicles.
More detailed information and bookings can be done via this link: KOUGA-BAVIAANS EXPLORER TOUR
This year's Ben 10 Tour (and there will only be one in 2020) was planned to fall over the Easter weekend to minimise on having to take leave from work. We have made some more adjustments to the V2 Tour, which include timing it in autumn, where the temperatures should be pleasant, the rain should be over and the scenery should still be lush and green.
We have also built in an extra day into the tour to allow for contingencies, such as bad weather or mechanical breakdowns. It also gives us a spare day to include some non-pass driving activities like going to see the vulture colonies, visiting the rock art sites or going to see the historical Gatsberg. We have kept our prices very close to last year's price in an effort to make the tour as affordable as possible. More detailed information and bookings can be done via this link: BEN 10 V3 TOUR BOOKINGS
(More lower down...)
News of a bakkie that drove down a cliff off Naude's Nek Pass last week reached us quite quickly. We were contacted by Die Burger newspaper for our opinion on how dangerous the pass was, but we assured them that the pass was really not dangerous at all in fair weather. It appears that the 71 year old driver had plenty of experience and was driving carefully. The vehicle behind him, who was videoing the trip, stated that there were no brake lights or skid marks - the vehicle simply missed the turn and went straight over the cliff, falling some 100m and killing both occupants. It is our opinion that the driver more than likely had a heart attack or brain aneurism. Further information indicates that the incident did not occur on the pass itself, but on a side road leading to a farm. Our condolences to the family.
This newsletter was produced from our mobile office at Wilderness National Park - a place of natural beauty and tranquility. It is here that we find the inspiration to create new tours, fresh innovative concepts and recharge our 'mojo' batteries. It was at this very campsite back in 2012 that the first concept of Mountain Passes South Africa germinated - almost by accident.
The purchase of a GoPro video camera was where it all started. Idle minds are not necessarily a bad thing, as a thorough exploration of the User Guide prompted me to try out various ideas how I could maximise on the rather large sum of money laid out on the device.
Hiking, diving, climbing, and mountain bike videos were all quite disappointing, so onto the car it went and with surprisingly good results. I then wondered what I could film from the car and that's where the Eureka moment arrived. Nearby Whites Road was the first pass that I experimented with and here we are seven years later and the tally now stands at 888.
At the time I envisioned a compact website featuring just the Cape's best passes, but that idea was soon scrapped when people started asking about Sani Pass, Long Tom Pass and other major passes all over South Africa. The concept was amended and redesigned to cope with this bigger vision.
So the inevitable question is "What will we do when we have all 1100 passes filmed and documented"?
The reality is that early passes need to be refilmed and the work and progress never stops.
* 2020 has begun. The party's over.
* New tours in the making
* Refliming a classic in the Cederberg
* Featured pass of the week
* Words of Wisdom
By the time you read this newsletter it will be fait accompli being back to work/ back to school. Hope you are all ready and recharged to deal with the first month of the year and the first year of the new decade. Year end is always a rational time to step back a few paces and look at your life, make some alterations and more importantly implement them.
As mentioned in our previous newsletter, we have kept the renewal subscriptions down to an increase of just R10 in an effort to encourage our subscribers to enjoy our offerings for another year. We are convinced that if renewals were automated, that many more would be happy to renew. How this works is that our accounts system sends you an email advising that your subscription is due and will automatically be charged to your card. If you don't want to renew, you reply and say no. For many busy people the hassle of having to log on, go through the process of completing forms, completing card details is often just too much hassle. We believe that an auto-renewal process will be well received by most of our subscribers.
Dealing with EFT renewals will bring some new challenges, but we are investigating ways to resolve some of the issues. We will advise as and when the new process will be ready and it will be voluntary to switch to the new system.
You might notice that we have changed the look of our Home Page. The Latest News page which was always imbedded at the bottom of the home page has now been miniaturised and moved to the top of the page where the space is shared with the featured pass of the week. We think this is a more user friendly format. We hope you do too.
Our mobile office will be based in Wilderness for the next two weeks, where we will find the inspiration to dream up exciting new adventures for 2020. These will be displayed on our shop page as soon as possible. One of the routes we will be exploring next week is a 4x4 route over the Swartberg range, which starts off the Swartberg Pass and ends near Klaarstroom. If we are happy with the route, it could be included in a new tour. Watch this space.
[More lower down]
* The festive season is over - it's back to work!
* Report back on the final leg of our recent Lesotho Tour.
* Podcast - Listen to a talk on the impact of social media
* Pass of the week
* Words of wisdom
Back to work!
The silly season is over. We hope your waistline coped with the onslaught, but more seriously that you managed to survive the roads. We haven't received official accident figures yet and it's not our station to report on bad news, so I'm sure you will hear the statistics on the main stream news channels.
Lesotho Tour - the adventure continues
Driving past the Letseng mine is similar to the mines on the Witwatersrand, except the man made mountains are grey instead of cream coloured. Once past Letseng there is a long and steady descent to the main town in the area.
Mokhotlong is located in the mountainous north-eastern part of Lesotho. The name is a Sesotho word which means "Place of the Bald Ibis". Thabana Ntlenyana, the highest point in southern Africa, is found near the town.
Mokhotlong’s role as a police post first brought people to this part of Lesotho in 1905, and it developed into a trading centre for the Highlands region. However, it was preserved from major development by its remote location. Not until 1947 was radio contact established with Maseru, the capital city. An air strip was built and a road cleared through the town to link Mokhotlong with the rest of Lesotho, but even so, it continued to be outfitted with provisions and supplies by pack mules from South Africa via Sani Pass.
Our convoy rumbled on to reach the 14th pass of the tour - the Kotisephola Pass (or Black Mountain Pass).
This is a mega pass by any standards. It's very long at 32 km and displays an altitude variance of 1066m. With a summit height of 3244m ASL, headaches and nose bleeds might be experienced by travellers from the coast who have not had time to acclimatise.
Packed into that length is a total of 139 bends, corners and curves of which 8 have angles in excess of 90 degrees and of those, 6 are hairpin bends, all of which occur on the south-eastern section of the pass. The pass is subject to lots of snow in winter and ice on the roadway will make things highly dangerous, even for 4WD vehicles. Chatting over the two way radios we recalled driving this pass in 2012 whilst construction was underway and the very odd sight of seeing Chinese trucks and road building equipment as well as Chinese nationals doing the manual labour. We never saw a single local employed on these projects.
Rumours abounded at the time of the Chinese labourers being convicts. After completing their "sentence" it was said that they were then free to live in Lesotho as free men but were not allowed to return to China. Whether any of these stories were fact or fiction, we do not know. But what we do know is that the time it took to drive the pass then and now was about 80% shorter. The roads are actually excellent and a real pleasure to drive on.
It didn't take long and we arrived at the Lesotho border post at the summit of the Sani Pass. We stopped in at the highest pub in Africa for a bit of refreshment. We could not have wished for more perfect weather and for your scribe this was the first time ever traversing this iconic pass in clear weather. What a treat.
High on the Drakensberg escarpment, on the border between South Africa and Lesotho, Sani Mountain Lodge (previously known as Sani Top Chalets) offers comfortable accommodation beneath a sea of stars at night and breathtaking landscapes during the day. Sani Mountain Lodge boasts stunning views, cosy fires, adventure, and great hospitality. [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.