* The Cooper Story
* Montagu Explorer - bookings now open
* Ben 10 Eco Challenge Official Tour - bookings opening soon
* Podcast - Aristata & Ben 10 discussion
* Pass of the week - Pietersfontein Pass
* Three new passes to review
This amazing father-daughter team have just successfully completed the Ben 10 Eco Challenge on bicycles. But not your normal high-tech 27 speed MTB's. They built their own bikes at home from scrap metal and designed them to have only one gear. Today you can read their incredible story (lower down..... )
Our newest tour coming up on the 18th November is the Montagu Explorer. It's a one day easy tour, packed with interesting features and a couple of surprises. The tour will include 7 gravel passes of which 5 you will unlikely even have heard of. Two lakes will be visited in the folds of the mountains as well as a drive up one of the highest peaks in the area with amazing views. We can take 4x2 vehicles with diff-lock or AWD vehicles with reasonable ground clearance. The 4x4 sections are not difficult and there is only one obstacle requiring careful attention.
This is a perfect outing for the whole family and covers a distance of 265 km and a total of 12 passes with enough variety to satisfy the most ardent pass enthusiast. It's affordable too at R790 per vehicle regardless of the number of passengers. It starts in Montagu and ends in Worcester. Our price includes the cost of the VHF 2 way radio rental.
Online bookings are open at the MPSA Shop
As mentioned in our previous newsletter, we have received many request to run a guided tour over the Ben 10 challenge passes. The good news is that it will happening from the 21st to the 25th March, 2019. We have already received over 20 provisional bookings, but we can only take 10 vehicles. Bookings will officially open within the next 7 days at our online booking page
[More lower down]
* New concept tours
* Ben 10 Tour
* Aristata Tour feedback
* Montagu Explorer Tour
* Ouberg Pass featured
* Three new passes to review
Our tours are going from strength to strength. On the cards are tours to the Gamkaskloof/Die Hel, Baviaanskloof and the big news is a tour of the Ben 10 Eco Challenge for which we have had many requests. So if you've been wanting to do the Ben 10 in the safety of an organised group, here is the opportunity..
Your team at MPSA is currently discussing our biggest tour concept ever and it's bound to be a winner. We have had countless requests to lead a group through the 10 passes of the Ben 10 Eco Challenge. Many people want to tackle it, but getting a group together can be problematic. The concept is to run the tour over a 4/5 day window some time between February and April 2019. The routing and accommodation planning will all be handled by MPSA. All you have to is pitch up and conquer!
We will be able to accept 10 vehicles on the trip. This promises to be the trip of a lifetime filled with spectacular views, some nerve wracking drop-offs, gradients steep enough to let the adrenaline overflow and some of the finest scenery to be enjoyed anywhere in South Africa - all packaged with good food and decent accommodation. The tour will have the two most experienced mountain pass experts guiding the group - One in the front and the other doing sweep.
Watch this space for details. Other tours in the planning room include an exclusive tour over the Swartberg Pass with an overnight stop in Die Hel. The other tour taking shape is a full traverse of the Baviaanskloof.
Last weekend we ran our successful Aristata Tour in the Western Cape, which followed in the footsteps of some of the great road engineers, like Thomas Bain and Adam de Smidt. Ages in the tour group ranged from 25 to 70 so we had an interesting mix of wonderful people who all joined this tour for the same reason - to travel the roads less travelled and learn about our old and new passes.
The Aristata Tour was not just about the beautiful Aristata Protea. The first pass was the old Du Toitskloof Pass with its many winding bends and stellar views. History discussed on this pass clarified the role of the Italian POW's and their strong bonds with the townsfolk of Paarl. The south easter was howling through the pass, so our stops were brief!
[Read more lower down...]
* Ride the Dragon Tour - report back and a particpant's perspective
* Links to watch some of the 4x4 action on video clips (Bezuidenhouts Pass)
* Featured Pass - Joubertspoort north of Montagu
* Five new passes to review
* Two upgraded videos of gravel passes in the Tankwa Karoo
* Listen on the radio (Joubertspoort podcast)
Our Ride the Dragon Tour was eventful, to put it mildly. These trips get planned a long way ahead of time and of course, the one unpredictable factor is the weather. The tour went ahead as planned to a point, but the going was slow as the first rain storm lashed the convoy with a vengeance on day one, reducing visibility and slowing the speed down to 30 kph (and that was on a tarred road!). Amongst the group were two riders on adventure motorcycles. Needless to say they got drenched. Even the toughest pass of the weekend was tackled in horrendous conditions. Two ladies in a Subaru XV joined the tour and we publish today a well written account of the tour from their perspective.
Mike Leicester did a great job caring for the safety and guiding the group up and down these passes in a trip they will all remember for a very long time. It would seem the greater the adversity, the stronger the team bonds.
Here is Verity Meijer's version of the tour:
"Renamed for this trip by the writer – The Dragon’s Wrath Tour!!
We are adventurous and love the roads less travelled. My travelling buddy and I are the travelling Grannies. I drive a Subaru XV. We have recently completed a solo trip of the passes in the Richtersveld – so we were bold.
4X4 listings are always confusing for a Subaru XV driver, so a check with Mike Leicester prior to booking – all good except Bezuidenhout’s Pass. (We could drive a safer route and meet them at the bottom of the Pass). We booked.
[Read more lower down}
* Discovering Pietersfontein & Patatsfontein
* That Ashton bridge!
* Latest tours information
* Mpindweni Pass podcast
* Pass of the Week - Komsberg Pass
* Five new passes to review
* Four passes with upgraded videos to watch
* A Karoo poem to still the soul by Helen Lockhart
One of our followers, Mike Jones (a keen cyclist), wrote to us about some undiscovered passes hiding away in the mountains north-west of Montagu. His descriptions and photos were sufficient to get us out there armed with all our camera gear, but first we had to drive along the R60 via Robertson and Ashton.
As it is publicly known now, the construction company, Basil Read, that were contracted to complete the new road has gone into business rescue. The rehabilitation project covering the entire road between Ashton and Montagu has ground to a complete halt, leaving behind detours, half-built bridges, crunched up roads and some very frustrated residents.
We recently featured the ambitious looking arched suspension bridge in Ashton on our FaceBook page and were surprised to note (in the comments section) how upset the locals were about the bridge and the construction process. Clearly the roadworks have created more traffic congestion than there was before and tourism in the area has taken a big downturn.
Whilst the local government is figuring out how to get the project completed, the one thing we do know, is that the completion date has been extended by at least two years. So, once we worked our way through the three stop/go's along Cogmanskloof and cleared through Montagu, we headed into the north-west through the Koo Valley to locate the new passes.
[More lower down...]
* 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]
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.