*CYCLING THE PASSES
This week we take a look at the Cape Town Cycle Tour and some of the passes which cyclists ride during the event as well as an unknown and unusual pass in North West Province near Potchefstroom named after a famous Springbok cyclist.
Our man up north, Mike Leicester, has uncovered yet another wonderful bit of Africana, but this time with a more modern twist. Our featured pass this week is the Ertjiesberg Pass in North West Province - a province not very well endowed with mountain passes. With only 15 passes, it comes as no surprise that locals revere any road that resembles a pass and in the case of this particular pass they have something special and unique found nowhere else in South Africa.
Our story focuses on the redoubtable Ertjies Bezuidenhout. A superb Springbok cyclist whose skill was hill climbing. It was on this very pass near Potchefstroom where young Ertjies (whilst at university) built his strength to become a world class cyclist.
Adding heavy tools and lead weights onto his bicycle he rode the (then unnamed) pass up to four times a day and when his cousin was available, he would tow him up the pass as dead-weight on a second bicycle. His determination to become great was unstoppable. We look at the obstacles like the international sports boycott which hampered his progress and his ultimate and final (and fatal) race in 2012 at the age of 56 which took his life. This is a story of a true South African legend.
We also take a closer look at some of the passes that the 35,000 cyclists in this year's Cape Town Cycle Tour will traverse in various stages of pain and pleasure, depending on how much training has been put in!
[More lower down]
There goes the 2nd month of 2019 cascading into the history books. As always we look north and head forth (that phrase lifted from the more robust Afrikaans version of "Kyk noord en f*k voort"). Since we have relocated our offices and are running MPSA on a full time basis, it's as if someone has turned up the heat as everything seems to have suddenly escalated up onto a higher level. Inflows of emails have virtually doubled over the past 3 weeks as have the requests for public speaking engagements, tours and general information. Our days have turned into 13 hour shifts x 7 days per week!
This week our featured pass takes us up into the Eastern Cape Highlands, where we introduce you to one of the lesser known high altitude gravel passes that offers unsurpassed scenic beauty. It's awkward getting there and is without doubt one of those roads less travelled, but watch the video and you will agree that this one deserves to be added to your bucket list (or as someone once mentioned - a "bugget list" - it took me a few seconds to figure it out.)
We have updates on our next tour (coming up in March) and another 1 day tour scheduled for April as well as the hugely popular Great Swartberg Tour in May. [More lower down]
December to May is a very busy time at Mountain Passes South Africa. As usual we have lots of news to bring you and what better place to start than with our new Great Swartberg Tour. We only created this tour a few days ago and it instantly created a flood of inquiries to the point where the tour is virtually fully booked before we have even launched it. What is does show is that there is a need for multiple day tours where an element of adventure is included. (More lower down)
The move from our old premises to our new offices is close to being complete, with the last few boxes still waiting to be unpacked, but the main engine room is running at full steam ahead. The HQ is now based in Welgemoed, Cape Town, but our email addresses, and phone numbers remain unchanged.
Our featured pass this week is most unusual in that it is "Ver in die ou Kalahari" but notwithstanding its rugged and remote nature, the area carries with it a fascinating tale of heroes and villians. We unpack the remarkable story of Scotty Smith, who presided in that part of the world many years ago as a diamond smuggler, cattle rustler, conman, jail-breaker and fraudster, yet he had a soft spot for the poor. Our man up north, Mike Leicester, explored the region and researched some startling facts and folklore. (More lower down)
We are good at arranging things, but it was a complete fluke that our news release this week co-incided with Valentine's Day. So what better theme to tackle in our news release, than a romantic note. That got us wondering how many romances were kindled (or children conceived) at the summit point of some or the other mountain pass around South Africa and if the nightly goings-on at the lookout point on Uys Krige Drive (overlooking Table Bay and the mountain) are anything to go by, then that tally is probably quite high!
We have moved!
The MPSA head office moved premises last weekend. The finishing touches still need some attention and a lot of boxes are scattered about the floorspace, but we have completed the move and this news letter will be the first to be published from the new premises. Our contact numbers and email details remain the same. If we were a little slow in responding to email requests, that is the reason, but we are back up to speed again now.
Pass of the week:
Our featured pass of the week is actually three back to back passes which cover a distance of 19 km through some of the most beautiful and rugged parts of the southern Cederberg and which we traversed during our Southern Cederberg Tour two weeks ago. [More lower down]
* FLOODS IN THE SOUTHERN CAPE
* SHACKLETON 1718
* STETTYNSKLOOF TOUR
* CAPE TOWN OFFICE RELOCATION
* NEW - PUBLIC SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS
* PASS OF THE WEEK
This week is once again jam-packed with news. Let's start with a summary of what's on offer this week.
We bring you a report back on our most successfull tour ever - the Southern Cederberg Tour. [More lower down]
Stettynskloof Tour: We unravel the remarkable, but tragic story which occurred on a stormy August day in 1963 when an SAAF Shackleton crashed in the Stettynskloof mountains near Worcester whilst on a training exercise killing all 13 crew on board. Our upcoming Stettynskloof Tour will take us close to the crash site, where the full story will be told to our guests. This tour is also full of surprises (some of which we may not reveal yet) but all we can say is - "Get your booking done as soon as possible".
The tour will include a half circumnavigation of the Brandvlei Dam as well as a visit to some of Worcester's historical buildings. We can take any vehicle along on this tour. The date is Saturday, 16th February and its a one day tour. Here is the link: STETTYNSKLOOF TOUR
Floods: Last week we mentioned floods up north on the Reef and this week we have seen very heavy rainfall in the south-eastern parts of South Africa, with Meiringspoort once again bearing the brunt of the damage. Thomas Bain famously disliked building roads through poorts for this very reason. He had wisdom far beyond his years and it was this very reason that resulted in the construction of the Swartberg Pass, which went over the mountain, rather than through it, like Meiringspoort.
In the Western Cape, February is usually the hottest, driest month of the year, yet last Saturday a large area of the Western Cape received good rainfall with some roads being damaged. In the Citrusdal area where our Southern Cederberg Tour started, over 15mm of rain fell the previous night. The spin-off for our tour was nicely dampened roads with almost no dust and pleasant, mild temperatures in the low twenties.
Relocating: It's a frenetically busy time for the MPSA Cape Town office, as we are moving our main admin office this week. It's a case of lots of to-ing and fro-ing as we move files, desks, computers and cabinets. This might result in a minor slow-down in pass production for a week or two, but it's all part of the process of elevating the website from a part-time to full time operation. These moves are always much bigger than what one anticipates. We will do our level best to maintain our daily social media presence in between all the chaos!
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.