Mountain Passes News

The week that was:

* 2018 ABF Tour - Langeberg Conqueror

* Corrugations - the one feature of gravel roads that no-one enjoys. We show how how to beat the bumps.

* Podcast - a discussion on a range of topics from tiger fishing to Thomas Bain.

* Pass of the Week

* New passes added this week

Langeberg Conqueror Tour - 30th December, 2018

For those of you in the Western Cape or anyone from inland coming to the Cape for the holidays, we are putting on a spectacular final tour of the year on Sunday 30th December, 2018 that makes for a perfect opportunity to get the family out for the day before the New Year celebrations begin. The tour includes a full ascent and descent of the Langeberg mountains (1493m ASL) on a private road not normally open to the public. We got special permission for this one, so it promises to be a fantastic fun filled family day that will include a range of other passes, mostly gravel, as we work our way through a wide 165 km long loop along the Karoo escarpment. Our last 3 tours were all sold out within 48 hours, so book online right now: LANGEBERG CONQUEROR TOUR

Corrugations and Safety

As many South Africans gear up towards the annual holiday rush to the coast, we are focussing on road safety - not just on the tarred roads, but especially on the gravel back roads. In today's news letter, we have a look at the topic of corrugations and how best to deal with them. Corrugations are abhorred by all drivers (and passengers) and can ruin a great country style drive, but there is a way to reduce the shaking and improve the ride. Corrugations are one of the main culprits causing rollovers.

It won't be the gnarly hills, flooded river crossings or the axle deep sands of Namaqualand that test the endurance of your vehicle, but the gutted corrugations of the roads that lead to many iconic off the beaten track destinations.

It's these corrugations that will see mirrors rattle apart, aerials come adrift, roof racks rub through paint and the contents of your camping kit eventually disintegrate until they resemble nothing of the finely organised packing system that you started with.

There are a hundred theories on how dirt roads become corrugated and they encompass everything from over-zealous truck drivers, to braking too hard before corners, to overloaded vehicles and over inflated tyres. Regardless of how corrugations form, driving on them is uncomfortable and eventually shakes your vehicle to pieces.

If you plan on travelling the backroads of South Africa then you are going to encounter endless kilometres of corrugated dirt roads, but you can take a few measures to reduce their bone-rattling affects.

Get Your Tyres Down and Your Speed Up

It's not often that you're advised to go faster during an unpleasant driving experience but it is fact when driving over corrugations that 60kph may be a lot more comfortable than 30kph and 80kph - 90kph may be even better. We aren't suggesting you belt around the bush at 140 because when you eventually put your car on it's roof - you'll blame us, but there is a distinct speed that is 'right' for every vehicle.

The key is to synchronise all the elements of your car with the corrugations - the pressure in your tyres, the weight of your car and its suspension and handling characteristics. Finding the best speed for your particular vehicle will see these variables all align in some sort of harmony that sees you floating on top of the corrugations rather than rattling between them. [Read more lower down...]


The week that was:

* Try our new search feature

* Ben 10 Eco Challenge Update

* Sani Pass tarring update

* Mzintlava Pass - listen to the podcast

* Pass of the week

Search is your friend

After many hours of tweaking and tuning, we are proud to announce the launch of our new search function. As with most things that experience growing pains, our original search function was struggling to cope with the ever increasing number of passes constantly being added to the database and after a few groans, it crashed completely. Fortunately there are at least 3 other ways of searching the database and most people use the Master Map as evidenced by the 90,000 page impressions. 

You can now do refined searches. Once you have typed in the name of the pass you are looking for (the blank rectangle at the top right of each page), a display will show the results and at the head of that display, you will see options as follows: All words; Any words; Exact phrase; and Ordering. So now you can choose one of the first 3 options, depending on how sure you are of what you are looking for. Select "Oldest first" under ordering and click "search" again top left. This will more than likely deliver the exact result you are looking for. Try it - it's been worth the wait!

We also added a page with an alphabetical listing of all the passes, that can be found at Find A Pass - Alphabetical List.

Ben 10 Eco Challenge Update

At this time of the year, there is always an increase in the number of entries. As at this morning's count, there are 101 entries of which 40 have managed to complete it. That equates to a 60% attrition rate, which is a sure indicator that the challenge is a lot more difficult to complete than what most people imagine. [More lower down]


* Understanding road numbers

* Locked gates - what to do?

* Listen to the podcast - Montagu Tour

* Tours Update

* Pass of the Week


Knowledge is everything

There are always controversial topics which need to be addressed, even on the gentle subject of mountain passes. Today we want to dispense some important information to all of you that take to the gravel roads, as you go exploring the back woods of South Africa. It is particularly relevant at his time of year as people plan their routes to the coast for the December holidays and many try to avoid the main trunk routes.

You will come across closed gates (and sometimes locked gates) from time to time. The subject of our news release today is how best to deal with those often tricky situations. The first item on the agenda are those little A4 sized white metal boards that appear every 200m or so - usually affixed to a fence or sometimes just knocked into the ground on a metal stake.

The boards usually bear a number (eg P1392) with another number above (eg 0,0 in the photo example below). The lower number indicates the grade or importance of the road (in this example P is a minor gravel road) followed by its administrative number. This allows a roads inspector to notify repair crews where a specific problem is located. The higher number is a distance from the start indicator. In the photo below this was at the starting point of the road, hence 0,0.

When a road bears these white signs, it is a sure indicator that it is a road that is maintained by a local authority or government roads agency - and that is also your assurance that it is a publicly accessible road, [Read more lower down....]

Why is travel important?

"We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us". I recently saw this phrase at a friend's house, who spent almost 3 years restoring a 1960 series 1 Land Rover. That slogan was his inspiration ~ carved into a piece of wood on his desk as a constant reminder to complete the restoration project so he can travel with his beloved Landy across the back roads. It is a masterpiece!

Some years ago after returning from a tough filming trip into the Richtersveld, we slept over at a guest farm outside Springbok, and there on a small plaque on the bathroom door were these words that keep reminding me what Mountain Passes South Africa means to me: "Reis is die beste belegging" (Travel is the best investment). Never a truer word said.

I have taken the liberty of fine tuning that a little by adding in the words ~ "Reis is die beste belegging in Suid Afrika". Our travels of discovery into the furthest corners of South Africa never leave me with any doubt as to the accuracy and wisdom of that phrase. It frees the soul and rejuvenates the mind.

Christmas is a time to travel

As 2018 is rapidly winding up towards the festive season where travel becomes a risky affair, we turn our attention to the quieter back roads, where our readers can plan journeys that will provide life-long memories and get them safely to their destinations - maybe a little slower, but a lot more relaxed and more importantly - alive! [More lower down...]


* Garden Route wild fires

* Ben 10 Eco-Challenge Official Tour update

* Koue Bokkeveld Tour

* Pass of the week

How to survive a bush fire

At MPSA we strive to stay in the world of positivity, but this past week with all the wild fires in the mountains between George, Knysna and De Vlugt the news cannot be ignored. Road closures were the order of the day as the Outeniqua, Robinson and Montagu passes were all closed at some point. Tragically a number of lives were lost, as were homes, timber plantations and one of the casualties was the lovely old toll house at the foot of the Montagu Pass. Whether this graceful old building will ever be restored is a matter of conjecture. It stands forlorn, blackened - it's roof gone; a skeleton of it's former self.

Most fires are of course a natural phenomenon and when one looks at how quickly the vegetation around Knysna recovered, there is always hope that a good rainy season will quickly restore this beautiful part of the Garden Route.

If you are caught in a bush fire while driving there are several steps you should follow:

  • Try and park in a clearing or area of low vegetation
  • Close all vents, windows and doors
  • Shelter in the car below window level with a woollen blanket over you if available
  • When the fire passes, get out of the car and move safely to an already burnt area

Pass of the Week

This week we head off to the beautiful Langeberg mountains. We filmed an historic wagon route and have just released a new 3 part video series covering this lovely route and the good news is you don't need a 4x4 to drive it. [More lower down...]

Ben 10 Eco Challenge Official Tour

The interest level in our Ben 10 Eco Challenge Tour is huge, with 9 of the 10 places being snapped up in a matter of two days. This promises to be an event of note. We have all sorts of surprises built into this tour, which is more than just completing the challenge passes. [More lower down...]

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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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