Whilst South Africa enjoys yet another public holiday, it's worthwhile considering the origins of why May 1st is celebrated globally.
Most people correctly believe that it is a celebration of the trade union movement and a day to acknowledge workers rights. Exploring the date a little further back in history, May Day, in medieval and modern Europe, represented the celebration of the return of spring.
The observance probably originated in ancient agricultural rituals, and the Greeks and Romans held such festivals. [More lower down...]
17th to 19th May - Great Swartberg Tour (Fully booked)
21st to 24th June - Thomas Bain Heritage Tour (3 Places open)
21st to 24th September - Ben 10 Eco Challenge V2 Tour (9 places open)
27th to 29th September - Lesotho/Sani Tour (Bookings will open in the next 7 days)
A chat about the unusual story behind the Golden Highway Pass near Barberton in Mpumalanga. Click here to LISTEN.
The Week that was:
* Easter - Floods, Accidents and Drinking and Driving Arrests
* Podcast on the Merino Monster Tour
* New Ben 10 Eco Challenge V2 Tour
* New Lesotho - Sani Tour
* Featured pass of the week
* Words of Wisdom
Easter is a special time of year and the inevitability of the carnage on the roads starts unfolding in the days following. Not only have we had a major weather system moving across South Africa causing massive flooding in the Northern Cape, KZN, Eastern Cape and Gauteng, but several fatal accidents on the N3 and R318 have once again put a damper on the true spirit of Easter.
Whilst heavy rain falls over most of South Africa, the Western Cape is experiencing unseasonal gale force south easterly winds - enough to blow trucks over on the Miaspoort viaduct at the Hugenote Tunnel.
In KZN the floods have claimed 70 lives and the situation along the Wild Coast at Port St. Johns looks dire. Drunk driving arrests made up the bulk of the 1000 plus arrests made over the Easter weekend. One inebriated motorist was arrested with his drink still firmly in place in his cupholder. When on earth will we learn?
On a lighter note we bring you some feedback on our Easter Tour and news on two new tours which are starting to take shape and which we know are going to very popular with our readers. These tours are mostly in response to YOUR requests. [More lower down]
Featured pass of the week: We head up into the north-eastern sector of our beautiful country into the heart of the Mpumalanga historical mining region near Barberton, where we introduce you to a most unusual new pass with a fascinating history. [More lower down]
Podcast - Listen to a discussion on our recent Merino Monster Tour which took place over the Easter weekend. Click here to listen.
What's in the news this week?
* Easter message
* Coverage of days 3 & 4 of the Ben 10 Tour with overview videos
* Podcast (Bastervoetpad Pass)
* Tours updates
* A life lesson from Mark Twain
EASTER - We wish all of our subscribers and followers (currently 19,000!) safe travels this Easter weekend. Make sure you arrive alive and more importantly that you return alive too. Accident statistics over Easter are frightening, so take care and drive defensively. Get off the main routes. Use our master map to plan a slower more interesting, safer and relaxing route to your destination.
Notre-Dame - With the burning of one of the most iconic churches in the world and billions of Euros already being pledged for its reconstruction, we thought it would be fitting to use a simple little country church for our Easter photo, which was taken near the Bastervoetpad Pass. Simplicity itself and a raw beauty in it's own right.
21st April - Merino Monster Tour - Bookings have closed.
17th - 19th May - Great Swartberg Tour - Fully booked.
21st - 23rd June - Thomas Bain Heritage Tour - 5 places left.
September - Ben 10 Eco Challenge (Version 2). 5 days of mud and glory (and maybe some snow). Get your name down on the advance priority list.
October/November - Sani Pass/Lesotho/Katse Dam. 4 days. Get your name down on the advance priority list.
PODCAST - A discussion on some of the challenges facing drivers on Day 2 of the Ben 10 Tour. LISTEN
BEN 10 ECO CHALLENGE TOUR
We take you through Day 3 and the dramatic 4th and final day of the tour when the happenings on Bastervoetpad meant we had to implement a number of alternative arrangements. [More lower down...]
This weeks highlights
* Day 2 of the Ben 10 Eco Challenge Official Tour
* Tours update
* Baviaanskloof flood damage update
* Two new podcasts
The adventurous and sometimes dangerous tour tested our skills and experience to the limits as we struggled with not only our own convoy of 15 vehicles but also two other groups numbering around 10 vehicles who arrived at the western start of Bastervoetpad more or less at the same time. It soon became evident that we needed to assist some of the bikers in other groups, who were taking regular falls on the ascent. [More lower down...]
April 21st - Waboomsberg/Merino Monster - A mostly gravel, one day trip near Ceres of 145 km with one of the main passes being on private land. 5 places open. Bookings close April 17th.
Book online: MERINO MONSTER TOUR
May 17th to 19th - Great Swartberg Tour (1 place open due to a cancellation) - Latest edit: 13h50 Ticket sold!
Book Online: GREAT SWARTBERG TOUR
June 21st to 24th - Thomas Bain Heritage Tour (7 places left)
Book online: THOMAS BAIN HERITAGE TOUR
None of the above trips are suited to camping. No pets allowed (as we enter many nature reserves). Average accommodation costs are approximately R500 per person per night.
This week we offer two new podcasts which include details of the recent Baviaanskloof floods as well as an interview discussion around Day 1 of the Ben 10 Tour. [More lower down]
Last week we gave you an overview of the Ben 10 Eco Challenge Official Tour. This week we look into the first of the four days in more detail which illustrates the human interactions as the large group of people slowly bonded together to form a cohesive unit, taking care of each other, to ensure a successful outcome for all. The full story encompassing 23 chapters will be published over the next 3 weeks and thereafter will be permanently embedded under a separate menu tab on the main Ben 10 page. [More lower down...]
Our next 1 day tour in the Western Cape takes place on Easter Sunday (21st April) and includes 3 gravel and 3 tarred passes in the mountains north of Ceres. The route includes the magnificent Droelandskloof Pass with the anchor pass being the ascent and descent of the Wapadsberg Pass - a major climb to an amazing view-site. The route is suitable for any vehicle with reasonable ground clearance. We still have space left, so if you're looking for something different to do over that long Easter break, bring the whole family along as our prices are per vehicle and not per person. Book online here.
This brand new bespoke tour will take place during June or July over three days starting in George and ending in Patensie. It will include the 7 Passes Road, Gouna Pass, Kom se Pad, Prince Alfred's Pass, Uniondale Poort > Overnight in Uniondale for some spookstories.
Day 2 will route through a southern approach to the stunning Nuwekloof Pass and down into the western Baviaanskloof where we will visit a tree house, the Makedaat caves, a bonsai nursery and negotiate the 8 water crossings through Studtis Poort with an overnight stop at the Zandvlakte guest farm.
Day 3 will be spent exploring the Baviaanskloof eastern bio-reserve and include the passes of Grasnek, Langkop, Holgat and Combrinks with an overnight stop at Bruintjieskraal on the banks of the Grootrivier. The next day a short drive out through the Grootrivierpoort will end the tour at Patensie. No less than 12 of the passes on this tour were either designed or built by Thomas Bain. Bookings for this tour will open in a week's time. The tour is only open to 4WD vehicles.
We also examine the April Fools Day phenomenon and explore the extraordinary success of our April's Fool post on Facebook. At the time of writing the post had 41,778 views over a 72 hour period. Remarkably the post (which took 5 minutes to knock together) ranks as one of our most successful posts ever. Understanding the power of social media is complex with this post knocking all the standard barriers down. [More lower down...]
In keeping with our theme on the challenge passes, we feature another of the big 10 passes in the Eastern Cape Highlands. [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.