* Aristata Tour
* Suzuki Jimny klaps the big passes
* Ben 10 Challenge sees 1st three cyclists completing the event
* Feature on the Ouberg Pass (Sutherland)
* 6 x brand new passes to review
* 4 x upgraded videos to watch
This week we have lots to tell you, but let's start with more details on our upcoming Aristata Tour. The tour has been specifically designed to allow normal cars to participate.
The two day (weekend) self-drive tour on 20/21 October includes a number of classic passes like Du Toitskloof and Tradouw passes, but we will be also be unpacking some new and less famous passes with very interesting history. We will stop in Ashton and have a close up on-site discussion at the new arched suspension bridge as well as drive Cogmanskloof with a stop at Kalkoenkrantz to view the old English fort.
The R62 will get us to beautiful Barrydale via the Wildehondskloofhoogte Pass, whereafter we will do an extensive drive in both directions of Tradouw Pass - one of Thamas Bain's many creations with multiple stops at varous points of interest.
The highlight of the day will be a south-north traverse of the exquisite Seweweekspoort, followed by the dizzying descent into the rugged Bosluiskloof, where we will be overnighting in a 4 star lodge in a nature reserve pampered with fully catered facilities.
The second day involves a magnificent gravel drive over no less than 6 back to back passes starting with the old wagon route over Gysmanshoek, after which a stop in the Moravian village of Suurbraak takes the route via some back roads over some passes you have probably never driven, but each is a delight in its own right. The distance is under 380 km each day, so there's plenty of time for stops and photography. We talk to you via our crystal clear VHF radio sets, which keeps everyone informed as we make progress along the tour. All in all there will be 25 passes of which 12 will be gravel. Come and experience the passes like never before.
We still have a few spots open, so get your bookings in as soon as possible. Book online here: MPSA Shop.
We received an email from Gavin Scott who drives a Suzuki Jimny and recently "discovered" the Mountain Passes South Africa website. He had this to say:
"Many thanks once again for a fantastic website. We have just returned from a great trip to the Eastern Cape, and the information on your site immensely enriched our experience. In fact, I would not even have known about a fraction of the passes in the area had it not been for the MPSA site!
We did Bedrogfontein, Suurberg, Katberg, Michel’s and all the major passes of the Ben10 challenge (I did not participate in the competition as it’s not my goal). The most difficult pass technically was Bastervoetpad, as my wife put it we had the pain without the scenic pay-off, as we had driven the pass in thick mist where we could only see metres ahead of us, relying on the GPS to show the way.
Ben Macdui still had snow around, which resulted in lots of mud. We could get to 2950m and no further due to the mud, and walked the rest of the way to the summit!" [More lower down]
Our recent tours - one to Eureka City near Barberton, and the other through the Tankwa Karoo were both hugely successful and thoroughly enjoyable. This prompted us to add two more tours into the calendar for 2018. The first comes up early in October and is called Riding the Dragon where the group will traverse the Drakensberg escarpment several times in either direction over some easy and difficult passes - including the notorious Bezuidenhout's Pass. This tour under the leadership of Mike Leicester is already fully booked.
In the Western Cape, we are setting up another stunning tour which will include major gravel passes like Bosluiskloof, Gysmanshoek and Seweweekspoort. This will be a two day (Sat/Sun) event over the weekend of 20/21 October and will include an overnight stay in self catering cottages somewhere near or in the Seweweekspoort.
Update: Bookings are now open for this tour at the MPSA Shop.
If you missed out on the Tankwa Tour, get in early on this one!
The last two weeks have been fascinating as our team have unearthed some amazing new passes - mostly in the Eastern Cape. Although we have published the new passes, we have not yet filmed them, so the videos on these passes are provisional videos consisting of Google Earth 3D animations, designed to help orienteer first time drivers of these passes.
And we're not joking when we use superlatives like "fascinating". Take for example the Moordenaarskloof Pass, which is only 2,5 km long and has 47 bends crammed into that distance, making it the pass with the highest average number of bends in South Africa which equates to 1 bend every 53 metres. Add an altitude drop of 177m and gradients of 1:5 plus the ghost of Jan Prinsloo which gallops down the kloof at midnight on a white stallion ~ and we have one fascinating bucket list pass on our hands.
Then there is a brand new entry into our "Steepest Passes" category, which is the Mpindweni Pass, which we discovered whilst researching other passes in the immediate area. This is another short pass of only 2,6 km in length but it descends a mind boggling 467m via 9 hairpins to a horseshoe bend on the Tsitsa River, to knock Mount Paul Pass (near Harrismith) off the top spot podium spot, with an average gradient of 1:5 (1:5,567 to be exact). There are no concreted sections, so this will be one of the new extreme South African passes for adventure travellers to add to their bucket lists. This pass is the epitome of steep, but it's difficult to find. [More lower down]
MPSA is in the media again. This time on News 24. Here's the link:
Our 2018 Tankwa Tour has just been completed and as usual we prefer to publish the perspective of a tour participant which is published here verbatim:
"Have you ever wanted to try new adventures, visit those off the beaten track places, but thought that it was not possible, well we discovered over the last weekend that with the right organisation, leadership and caring it can be done, with ease.
My husband and I were part of a group tour which spent the last weekend driving on some of those roads less travelled through the Tankwa Karoo, which is in the Northern Cape. This was an absolute adventure from start to finish, with the added bonus of the most spectacular wild flower display which was totally unexpected.
I must add that we have a little Suzuki Jimny which our grandchildren call the “Noddy Car”, for those who don’t know what it is, it is a small 4x4 vehicle with low range capability, which we did not have to use at all, but in comparison to the other 4x4’s on the trip, it was tiny, so don’t let the size of your vehicle stop you from having the adventure of a life time. One can imagine our trepidation when we set off! Would it be able to cope with whatever was coming our way? The answer is yes, it did, so don’t let your fears of the unknown put you off if you are looking for the chance of a life time to explore the great unknown plains of South Africa. [More lower down...]
We have just indexed pass number 777. To put that into perspective.... It takes on average 22 hours to produce one pass (excluding the filming). So by process of simple arithmetic we have spent 17094 hours producing passes since 2013. That equates to 712,25 days or 23,74 months of working 24 hours per day. Believe it or not, we enjoy what we do!
You Tube - We have just passed the 1,475 million views milestone with our subscriber base climbing steadily.
Last month (August) we set all sorts of new records on our Instagram account which is being expertly managed by Lisa Roberts and the popularity of our Face Book page never fails to impress us with page views numbering well over 300,000 in August. Thank you for all that support!
Eureka City to the Tankwa Karoo
Last week the first of two multiple day tours took place. Mike Leicester took a group of guests on a 20 pass excursion of which the highlight was a trip up to Eureka City. We have a guest blogger to relate his experience of the trip (lower down).
In the Western Cape our fully booked Tankwa Tour heads off to the wonderful plains of the Tankwa Karoo early on Friday morning, where we will be driving 21 passes over 3 days, including the two big gravel passes of Gannaga and Ouberg. A celestial tour has been setup for Saturday evening in Sutherland, which should be interesting to see who can withstand the sub-zero temperatures. We will do a full report back next week once the dust has settled (in both senses of the phrase).
It's only just begun....
During October we will be heading off to the Eastern Cape to film another 40 passes over a 10 day period. We have already started producing and publishing these passes with provisional fly-over animated videos. Have a look at some of the statistics of these big passes which include the Mbashe (Bashee) River Pass, Ramatselitso Pass (9th highest in SA), Dalibango Pass, Kobonqaba River Pass, Nungi Pass, Mkonkota Pass and the breathtaking Gwangxu and Mzintlava passes. And then there are still many more waiting to be mapped, indexed and filmed. [More lower down]
South Africa has no shortage of mountain passes and interesting places to write about and this week our featured pass of the week lies in the rugged mountains between Sutherland and Merweville. It's the small villages that pique our interest, so we decided to explore the history of Merweville in some detail. And what a treasure chest of stories we uncovered!
There's an immaculate grave site in the village that is lovingly tended by the local townsfolk, but what makes this grave-site so special is that it's more than 110 years old and fulfills a promise made back in 1902 by the local villagers.
This is the tragic story of yet another "Englishman's Grave" ~ On the outskirts of the village a signpost points the way to where a marble cross above a well-tended grave marks the final resting place of Lieutenant Walter Arnot from Australia who served with the British forces during the Anglo Boer War. His second name was 'Oliphant' which was particularly unusual and adds another question mark to this story.
Walter Arnot, was the son of Dr Henry Arnot, MD RN. He was born in Essex in England on 9 September 1860 and was educated at the Royal Naval School in New Cross, London. At the age of nineteen he moved to Australia to take up sheep farming and by the age of 20 was managing a large sheep station.
During the next eight years he held similar positions on other major sheep stations and was complemented on his stock management practices during a long drought. In 1888 he joined A Battery Field Artillery in Adelaide and was married in the same year. When the Anglo Boer war broke out in 1899 he joined the 3rd South Australian Contingent - the South Australia Bushmen Corps, as a sergeant. The Corps specialised in scouting and intelligence gathering. He arrived in Africa at the port of Beira in Portuguese East Africa and was promoted to lieutenant. [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.