April &May are probably the months of the year that most people use for longer travel type holidays as can be attested by the flood of email inquiries we received this month from folk needing advice and assistance with travel plans. We legally may not plan a route for you, but the website is so designed to provide all the information for each person to watch the videos, look at the facts, routes and maps and so make informed decisions on their own routes - and to take responsibility for those choices.
How to use the best feature on the website - The Master Map
The first and best tool to plan a trip is the MASTER MAP which is the first item under the FIND A PASS tab. Zoom into your area of interest and hover your cursor over any of the dots - the name of the pass will pop up. If you want to know more about that specific pass, left click on the dot, and another balloon will open inviting you to take the click through to that pass page. The black dots indicate tarred passes and the red dots are gravel passes.
It's fun and takes some time, but by the time you've properly researched your intended route, you will be armed with superior knowledge, which will make your journey so much more enjoyable. The master map is available to anyone, but only subscribers can see the content of the individual pages and the videos. That makes another 700 good reasons to subcribe!
Our featured pass this week is a real gem. It's in the Drakensberg and offers steep gradients, serious drop offs, a mix of gravel and concrete, incredible views, sharp corners, technical driving and lots of crisp alpine air.
To Mpumalanga we go
With the Easter weekend behind us, we can now focus on introducing you to something different in the north-eastern corner of South Africa - in Mpumalanga Province, which is the region of our featured pass this week.
There is still time....
Things are hotting up with the Ben 10 Eco Challenge likely to produce the next batch of successful entrants over the spate of public holidays creating long weekend holidays with enough time for people to complete the challenge. As soon as the first 20 places have been filled, we will draw the first lucky winner for a two day weekend at one of our sponsor's hotels. Watch this space!
Our Facebook page featuring the news of the floods and subsequent closure of the Swartberg Pass had 76,000 views, whilst an amazing photograph (which we think will still win some awards) of the Elands Pass descending down into Die Hel, taken by Cape Town based photographer, Bipin Prag, was viewed by 151,000 people on the MPSA Facebook page alone. We feature his photo as our introductory photo of this news release. Do visit our Facebook page which has the full story of how the photographer spent the night on the pass, during the fateful storm, where he captured an image unlikely to be repeated in the future.
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.
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.