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Mountain Passes News

Milestones:

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]

Time travel exists right here in SA

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.

An Englishman, that became an Australian that died for the Boers

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]

We have a jampacked newsletter for you this week which covers interesting characters like Prof. Chris Barnard, Andrew Geddes Bain and modern engineers who appear to be performing magic on a scale that defies belief.....

A bridge too far

For those of you that travel the R60/R62 route through the Robertson/Ashton/Montagu area will be familiar with the major roadworks that have been taking place for the past two years. The complete realignment and refurbishment of this busy road, which attracts 7000 vehicles per day is a vital improvement to the roads infrastructure in the Western Cape.

The route through the impressive Cogmanskloof with its steep, contorted rock faces has been subject to blasting on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 12h00 and 14h00 causing long queues of vehicles on either side of the construction zone. When the entire project is completed by next year, it promises to be a wonderful new road with three impressive new bridges being constructed. We are waiting with bated breath to see how the new road is going to adapt to the old tunnel (the oldest road tunnel in South Africa) at Kalkoenkrantz as the tunnel is quite narrow and is unlikely to meet the new width standards. Will they widen it, especially considering that it's a national monument?

By far the biggest of the three bridges is the one in Ashton that crosses the Kingna River. We have been keeping an eye on the construction of this bridge over the last two years and did some further investigation into just how its peculiar design is going to work. [More lower down]

The Owl Route

You've heard of the Whale Route, the Wine Route, the Fynbos Route and many others, but how about doing the Owl Route? This week we head off to the Eastern Cape to introduce you to a wonderful gravel pass that is both remote and impressive. It will leave you with a wonderful sense of peace and solitude and you won't get lost as the very distinctive shape of the aptly named Kompasberg will be there to guide you.

The sleepy Karoo village of Nieu Bethesda is the destination and offers a fascinating place to rediscover your sense of inner peace. [More lower down]

Tankwa Tour

Another exciting venture taking shape for Western Cape readers is a three day trip through the Tankwa Karoo where we will offer limited spaces for visitors to drive with us as we refilm some of the classic passes with our new high-tech cameras and talk you through each pass via our crystal clear VHF radio sets.

The three day trip will include the Gannaga and Ouberg passes and at least 18 other passes and will include two overnight stays in lodges. The tour will include a stargazing event on the Saturday evening in Sutherland.

This trip is scheduled for mid September, but whilst a 4x4 is not a prerequisite, you will need a high clearance vehicle.

We are busy securing accommodation and pricing. We will have space to take 9 vehicles with us. The tour will also be detailed on our Facebook page.

Anyone interested in securing a spot should contact us via email or call 083 658 8888. [More lower down]

This week we head off to the bustling metropolis of Dirkiesdorp in the southern part of Mpumalanga, where the grass grows green in the summer and the cosmos lines the road-side in spring.

It is here too that some remarkable South African history can be uncovered and where real earthy characters like Swart Dirk Uys, Koos Bybel, Piet Italeni, Jannie Gyselaar, Kruppel Koos, Piet Hlobane and Vaal Piet seem unlikely characters from some forgotten novel.

We unpack the story of Swart Dirk Uys, his lovely daughter Sannie and an unlikely suitor in the form of a young Imperial French prince, whose flourishing relationship was cut short by the Zulus. Swart Dirk Uys is considered to be the founding father of one of South Africa's most succesful cattle breeds - the Drakensberger.

[Read more lower down]


Snow falling on Cedars

Not only is that a name of good film, but snow has fallen over a wide part of South Africa - even on the bluegums! Tiffindell recorded over 20cm of snow - one of the best snowfalls in a long time. The benefit of snow is that it releases water at a slow rate, which is much more beneficial to the earth than normal rainfall, allowing for superior uitilisation. It also fires up the spirit of adventure in most South Africans, but in general terms most of us have little or no snow driving experience. It's best to tackle snow drives with good preparation and if you're really heading off into the thick stuff, a set of snow chains is a sensible purchase - and of course the knowledge of how to fit them.

According to Snow Report, last week snow started falling in the north of Lesotho in the Maluti Mountains (Afriski area) during the early hours of Thursday morning. By sunrise on Thursday, there was light snow all across the Drakensberg from the north to the south, mainly on the Lesotho side, with some flurries in the southern KZN areas north of Kokstad and around Matatiele in the Eastern Cape. [Read 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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