Good weather - Bad weather
The huge frontal storm system that hit the Western Cape on Sunday brought with it plummeting temperatures, widespread snow from the Cederberg all the way to the Drakensberg and of course, lots of rain. Water levels in the dams of the drought stricken Western Cape have risen steadily since June and are now at 50,3% and climbing as rivers flow strongly through the catchment areas of the major dams like Theewaterskloof. Level 6B water restrictions remain in place in Cape Town and are unlikely to be lifted until a figure of 85% is achieved and only then will there be a gradual reduction in the level of restriction. It seems unlikely that Cape Town will be entirely free of water restrictions for the next 5 years.
In Sutherland the mercury dropped to minus 8 on Tuesday night. The infamous "Vries jou gat af" weekend was planned two weeks too early! A number of passes were closed between Sunday and Monday, which included the Theronsberg and Swaarmoed passes in the Western Cape and the Lootsberg Pass in the Eastern Cape.
The old Du Toitskloof Pass on the R101 is one of the best places to go waterfall chasing. With grim weather in the forecast last Sunday, we took the trusty Land Cruiser (plus the cameras just in case) and decided to see if we could film some of the waterfalls. Our previous highest count in the kloof was around 40. To say the weather was wild was putting things mildly as torrents of rain and gale force winds raged over the mountains. We counted and logged 147 proper waterfalls, although some of them were quite small, there were many much higher up the crags that we had never seen before. Dense clouds and heavy rain, prevented any photography, but the drive was something to behold. Despite the heavy traffic this is the place to go during or just after a storm if you want to see waterfalls.
Pass of the Week
This week we take you into the heart of the Cederberg to one of the oldest farms in the area, where recent changes to the infrastructure have breathed new life into this well known tourist farm, which has been servicing the needs of hikers, backpackers, climbers and campers for almost 80 years. [More lower down]
Beauty right in front of you
One of the problems with main routes (those with the N prefixes) are that they are almost always frenetically busy and those who ply these routes become caught up in the general traffic behaviour whether they like it or not.
Yet, there are some magnificent passes and poorts on our main routes. A good example is Du Toit's Kloof Pass on the N1 or Van Reenens Pass on the N3. There are many more examples and our featured pass today is one of those gems (on the busy R539 in Mpumalanga) that are often ignored, until you slow down and start looking around.
Today we take a drive along the 20 km Schoemanskloof west of Nelspruit, where we uncover some wonderful places to visit and history that you will find fascinating. In the summer months the kloof is lined with the pink flowering Kapok trees. We have a look at the origins of the trees and how useful they have been to modern man. [More lower down]
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)
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.