Turning back the clock
Some years ago, we heard about a wild and woolly route through the Cederberg and Tra Tra mountains that connects a farm in the Tankwa region near the R355 with the Biedouw Valley in the Cederberg. It even has a name - The Old Postal Route - and legend has it that the post was delivered by a lady! Some say she travelled the route on foot. Others she was on horseback and yet another legend has it that she used a horse and cart. This was apparently done twice a month. Whatever the mode of transport, this lady has our utmost respect as this route is tough even by modern standards in a 4x4.
As tough as the post-lady
It's been difficult establishing exactly which version is accurate, but as is the case in so many of our passes and poorts, the folklore and legends get manipulated to suit the tongue of the story teller. Once you've driven this tough route, you will see why it's fairly easy to dismiss the first version, as the route is over 53 km long and traverses two substantial passes and a bleak plateau area where there is hardly any water or shade in the blistering summer season and in winter is subject to icy temperatures and snow on the high ground.
A marathon video editing exercise
We filmed this route in late May this year and took a number of guest vehicles with us as a tour option, which proved to be highly successful. Like the Bedrogfontein 4x4 route, the Old Postal Route proved to be quite a challenge to film, resulting in an 8 piece video set. The information is comprehensive and for those intending to drive the route, the information and videos will prepare you thoroughly. For those who don't have a 4x4, you can cyber drive the route kilometre by kilometre via our videos. [More lower down]
Some of you have been waiting for many years to enjoy our publication of Mpumalanga's most famous pass - The Long Tom Pass. There are a number of reasons why this mega-pass qualifies for so many superlatives. This week we take a deeper look at this hugely popular pass and what makes it as great as it is.
Most people dont realise that the traverse between Lydenberg and Sabie is made up of three official and separate passes. From east to west they are Koffiehoogte, Long Tom Pass and Masjiennek Pass. Together they make up a distance of 50 km including the 4 km plateau section separating Long Tom and Masjiennek. Had the passes not been separated by name, they would have formed the second longest in South Africa, being overshowed only by Prince Alfred's Pass in the Western Cape. [More lower down]
The minions have been messing around with our publishing dates, resulting in this news release being published two days too early. Apologies for that. We shall beat them about the head with a wet toothbrush.
Passes and Canyons
This week we leave the lush forests of Mpumalanga behind and head off to the lofty peaks of the Eastern Cape Highlands, where we introduce you to a major tarred pass, which few people are even aware of as we explore one of the biggest canyons in South Africa - The Xuka River Canyon. (More lower down)
Listen on the Radio
For the past year we have had a regular slot on the radio station - Wild Coast FM 98,6. Each Monday at 3.30 in the afternoon we have a 10 minute interview on their 'Berg en Daal' show, where we chat about one of South Africa's passes and the fascinating stories that are interwoven into the building of these roads. (More lower down)
The Feminine Touch
The MPSA office in Cape Town is a frenetically busy place and as the popularity of the website keeps growing, we need to grow our administrative side of things to keep pace. As from 1st June, Lisa Roberts will be joining the MPSA team and taking charge of some of the social media side of things. She will be mainly involved with the subscription, marketing and developement side of things on the social media front, which is her field of expertise. (More lower down)
When delivering the post was a real job
The story goes that postal deliveries between Wupperthal and the Tankwa Karoo were done by a lady on horseback in the late 1800's. She must have been a character of note as riding that route is definitely not for sissies, with blistering hot summers and ice cold winters (including occassional snow). We say: "Give that girl a Bells!"
This old postal route still exists today and can be driven by the public in suitably equipped 4WD vehicles and with the appropriate permissions. We drove this wonderful route last Sunday and opened it to guests to experience how we do the filming and come up with the final product which you see on this website. We take a look at some of the highlights of the trip in this news release, but this is not our featured pass of the week, as the videos still have to be produced (about 700 Gb worth of footage!)
Over the Bonnet
Our featured pass is a real gem and provides fascinating history dating back to the original gold rush in the old ZAR. We head off to Graskop and take a very winding pass past old gold mines - through lush vegetation, dotted with Kiepersol trees and stories of murder, mayhem and the folly of man's greed.
More lower down.....
We have a jam-packed newsletter today. Forget about the city life and take a cyber drive with us to the distant corners of South Africa.
Never Ending Story
Each Thursday we feature a pass that most South Africans are not familiar with in an effort to bring the passes you don't know about into your living room via your desktop, phone or iPad. No matter how fast we produce passes, new ones get sent in by our readers, leaving that "passes to go" number wallowing around the 125 mark. It's been at that level for two years now, despite producing on average 3 passes per week. South Africa is a huge country with diversified scenery with much of our history on the smaller passes lost in the mists of time. Every story and snippet of folklore gets documented at MPSA and by the time this project reaches maturity, it should be the most comprehensive collection of true Africana available on the internet.
What happens in Sutherland stays in Sutherland
During a filming trip to the Northern Cape in 2014 we were based in Sutherland having dinner at one of the local restaurants, when a stranger approached me and asked me if I was the person behind Mountain Passes South Africa. It turned out he was a tour guide and had a group in the little Karoo town on an astronomy tour. He asked me if I knew which was the shortest pass in South Africa? The answer I told him was Sylvia's Pass in Jhb at 290m.
"No" he corrected me. "It's Grey's Pass in Cape Town. Go and check it out" (said with a huge grin)
It took us four years to get around to that! Last Sunday on a bleak, rainy day in Cape Town (that's something of an oxymoron these days), I packed the GoPro and set off to locate and film the mysterious Grey's Pass. 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.