Swartberg Pass closed due to flood damage
Thomas Bain once wrote that the three biggest problems for road builders was 1. Water 2. Water and 3. Water! Prophetic words indeed from South Africa's most famous road engineer, who would be wincing in dismay as he looks down on the devastation that destroyed parts of his beautiful road, built 137 years ago. On the night of the 9th April, 2017 a freak cloudburst unleashed millions of litres of water over the northern sector of the pass, which sent a torrent down Mullers Kloof and washed away virtually the entire road from Malvadraai to Eerste Water. The repairs will be costly and take a long time. At the time of writing, the pass is still open from the Oudtshoorn side and Gamkaskloof, Elands Pass and Die Hel can (apparently) still be accessed. This is bad news for the little town of Prince Albert at the northern terminus of the pass, which relies on the tourism generated by the pass. Let's hope the local authorities see the repair work as a priority.
For those who had planned crossing the pass over the easter weekend, please make alternative plans. There have been reports that Meiringspoort also suffered damage from the same storm, so it's best to contact SAPS (De Rust) to find out the latest status on the poort.
If you're out on the highways and byways this coming weekend, please drive defensively and bring your family back home safely. With a nationwide bus drivers strike looming, things could become chaotic this Easter. Why not use our Master Map and plan your trip via some of the back roads, where all sorts of treasures await.
The late Dr. Graham Ross - a padmaker of note - was largely responsible for mentoring your scribe in the finer technical details of road engineering when this website was first started in 2012. One of the lessons we took from our relationship was that he wrote his thesis at the age of 74! You are never too old to tackle a new project! Dr. Ross was the consulting engineer during the construction of one of the Western Cape's well known passes, which we refilmed in December, 2016 and which is the subject of our featured pass this week.
We have a bumper news release for you this week and cover a wide range of topics and several new passes as well as refilmed videos, but let's get the obvious out of the way first.
OUTRAGE AND FURY: We studiously avoid the two dreaded topics - politics and religion, but this past week there has just been an avalanche of negative information flooding social media, radio, television and newspapers, so it's almost impossible to not be affected. We just want to say that the hundreds of thousands of people who intend protesting on Friday, please do so in a non-violent way and that somehow through this dense fog of uncertainty, that some level of sanity will prevail within our government.
WHAT'S ON THE CARDS? On the positive side: In the engine room of the MPSA production team, things are going full steam ahead and everything is on track for a bumper 2017 with lots to look forward to. Amongst the many new innovations we are considering or planning are the following:
1. The MPSA book, which will be in the form of a field guide and of a size that can be packed into the car with you.
2. Follow-me drone technology (intricate, expensive and riddled with rules and regulations)
3. Gyroscope technology to smooth out our video footage (especially on gravel roads)
4. An MPSA App which will enable any pass to be viewed directly from the App, without internet connection
5. Extended multi-day tours - the first of which will be into the Tankwa Karoo this winter.
6. The addition of the 31 passes of Lesotho as a separate section on the website
7. Many brand new local passes to be added to the website (approx. 130)
8. The upgrading of several of our earlier video efforts dating back to 2012/2013.
9. Prizes to be drawn for the Ben 10 Eco Challenge - we are expecting another rash of finishers during the next 6 weeks.
10. The lucky draw for the GoPro Hero4 Silver during September, where every subscriber's name will go into the hat.
11. The exploration and evaluation of the VoiceMap system, which is a GPS activated App which describes specific geographical or historic points of interest, as one drives over a pass, with audio via your smart phone.
FEATURED PASS: Our featured pass of the week is something completely different and takes us into Limpopo province near the town of Thabazimbi, from where we take a drive through South Africa's newest national park, to drive a very steep and convoluted road to the summit of the Waterberg massif - a drive that will take your breath away.
A Record Breaking Month
The month of March is almost history and it's been a month of breaking new ground. We have just reached our highest ever readership on this website with 108,000 page views so far for a single month and our FaceBook feature on the Langeni Pass last week, was viewed 72,490 times, generating 2,300 Likes, 128 shares and 143 interactive comments. Of interest was the number of people involved in the construction who posted relevant and fascinating comments.
We are honoured to have been nominated for an award by the Western Cape Government Department of Cultural Affairs in the category 'Standardisation and/or Public Awareness of Geographical Names' and we thank everyone who posted messages of congratulations and encouragement on the Face Book entry. More on the award lower down this page...
Ben 10 Eco-Challenge Update
We had the first lady, Llesyri Joa, completing the Ben 10 Eco Challenge on an adventure motorcycle, thereby setting the bar not only for other ladies, but for the guys as well. The top 10 places for the challenge have now been booked in perpetuity and can be seen on the website, where the entry form is also available. Ben 10 Eco Challenge - Results and Entry Form.
Win a GoPro
As an incentive for those sitting on the fence and a reward for those that have already subscribed, we will be drawing the name of one lucky subscriber to win a GoPro4 Silver video camera. This will take place after the 31st August, when the incentive offer closes. Subscribe on this link for just R200 per year. MPSA - SUBSCRIBE
Wild Coast Radio
Wild Coast Radio in East London have us live on air, every Monday at 3.30pm for a 10 minute mountain pass talk. We will be posting the podcasts of these interesting chats on the website as soon as we receive them.
Featured pass of the week
Our featured pass this week is one of the passes of the Ben 10 Eco-Challenge and ranks as one of our personal favourites for its wonderful scenery, big altitude and general enjoyment. It offers waterfalls, a challenging drive, complete isolation and some of the finest Southern Drakensberg scenery you will find. We plan on keeping the featured pass 'open' each week for a day or two, to illustrate to potential subscribers the value that they can enjoy.
Win a GoPro Hero 4 Silver by subscribing
This week we are launching a competition where we will be drawing the name of one of our lucky subscribers to win the versatile and powerful GoPro Hero 4 Silver action camera. There are more details lower down this page.
Ben 10 Eco-Challenge hotting up!
Another long weekend behind the belt as motorists took to the highways and byways enjoying this magnificent country we live in. Reports are coming in that the Eastern Cape highlands had plenty of bikers and 4x4's driving/riding the Ben 10 Eco-Challenge. This is heartening news and wonderful to see the challenge is gaining momentum and acceptance. This week the next five people to complete the challenge, submitted their photographic proof and tracklogs. Well done to Zak Nel from Queenstown, who completed the challenge in 3 days in a Mitsubishi Triton 4x4, and Llesyri Joa and Bruce Muzik who nailed places 3 & 4 on adventure motorcycles. Llesyri is the first lady to complete the challenge. You go girl!
Scott Hoare and Johann Alberts have secured positions 5 & 6. Entries are now at 32 and counting. Just a reminder that there is no closing date and we will keep the challenge open as long as there is interest. The only limitation is that the challenge must be completed within 7 consecutive days or shorter. You can enter here: Ben 10 Eco-Challenge.
Featured pass of the week
Our featured pass this week is an absolute winner and yet few people have driven it. We filmed this fabulous pass in December, 2016 in perfect summer weather with inky blue skies. The pass displays some of the finest engineering to be seen anywhere in South Africa and offers, chicane style corners, arrestor beds, split level corners, vertical cuttings and a 235m long elevated viaduct over precious indigenous forests with some yellowwood trees older than 800 years. Two view sites near the summit offer views that will leave you breathless.
Magical Eastern Cape:
The Eastern Cape has an amazing variety of passes on offer and this week we take a closer look at a major high altitude pass, frequently under cloud in summer and snow in winter. It's located on the tarred R61 route between Graaff Reinet and Cradock and offers 33 kms of stunning Karoo mountain scenery on a modern, beautifully engineered tarred road.
Subscriber update and tips
For those subscribing or upgrading, once your account has been activated, our system sends you an automated email with a click back authentication code, which verifies your email as the correct IP address. This is to ensure that we prevent any spam onto our system. Some servers tag these automated emails as junk mail or spam, so please remember to check your junk folder if you dont receive the authentication email within a day.
Ben 10 Eco-Challenge
Entries for the Ben 10 Eco-Challenge are at 28 already, with just 1 person having so far successfully completed the challenge. If you want to enter, please use this link to complete the entry form and please note that entry is free. The concept behind the challenge is to support eco-tourism in the Eastern Cape Highlands. Remember there are three weekend accommodation prizes being offered as prizes for those successfully completing the challenge. We will draw one lucky winner every time that 20 entries have completed the challenge. Weekends on offer are at Tiffindell Ski Resort, Tenahead Mountain Lodge and the Mountain Shadows Hotel.
Enter the challenge on this link: http://mountainpassessouthafrica.co.za/find-a-pass/ben10.html
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.