* 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]
Our recent tours - one to Eureka City near Barberton, and the other through the Tankwa Karoo were both hugely successful and thoroughly enjoyable. This prompted us to add two more tours into the calendar for 2018. The first comes up early in October and is called Riding the Dragon where the group will traverse the Drakensberg escarpment several times in either direction over some easy and difficult passes - including the notorious Bezuidenhout's Pass. This tour under the leadership of Mike Leicester is already fully booked.
In the Western Cape, we are setting up another stunning tour which will include major gravel passes like Bosluiskloof, Gysmanshoek and Seweweekspoort. This will be a two day (Sat/Sun) event over the weekend of 20/21 October and will include an overnight stay in self catering cottages somewhere near or in the Seweweekspoort.
Update: Bookings are now open for this tour at the MPSA Shop.
If you missed out on the Tankwa Tour, get in early on this one!
The last two weeks have been fascinating as our team have unearthed some amazing new passes - mostly in the Eastern Cape. Although we have published the new passes, we have not yet filmed them, so the videos on these passes are provisional videos consisting of Google Earth 3D animations, designed to help orienteer first time drivers of these passes.
And we're not joking when we use superlatives like "fascinating". Take for example the Moordenaarskloof Pass, which is only 2,5 km long and has 47 bends crammed into that distance, making it the pass with the highest average number of bends in South Africa which equates to 1 bend every 53 metres. Add an altitude drop of 177m and gradients of 1:5 plus the ghost of Jan Prinsloo which gallops down the kloof at midnight on a white stallion ~ and we have one fascinating bucket list pass on our hands.
Then there is a brand new entry into our "Steepest Passes" category, which is the Mpindweni Pass, which we discovered whilst researching other passes in the immediate area. This is another short pass of only 2,6 km in length but it descends a mind boggling 467m via 9 hairpins to a horseshoe bend on the Tsitsa River, to knock Mount Paul Pass (near Harrismith) off the top spot podium spot, with an average gradient of 1:5 (1:5,567 to be exact). There are no concreted sections, so this will be one of the new extreme South African passes for adventure travellers to add to their bucket lists. This pass is the epitome of steep, but it's difficult to find. [More lower down]
MPSA is in the media again. This time on News 24. Here's the link:
Our 2018 Tankwa Tour has just been completed and as usual we prefer to publish the perspective of a tour participant which is published here verbatim:
"Have you ever wanted to try new adventures, visit those off the beaten track places, but thought that it was not possible, well we discovered over the last weekend that with the right organisation, leadership and caring it can be done, with ease.
My husband and I were part of a group tour which spent the last weekend driving on some of those roads less travelled through the Tankwa Karoo, which is in the Northern Cape. This was an absolute adventure from start to finish, with the added bonus of the most spectacular wild flower display which was totally unexpected.
I must add that we have a little Suzuki Jimny which our grandchildren call the “Noddy Car”, for those who don’t know what it is, it is a small 4x4 vehicle with low range capability, which we did not have to use at all, but in comparison to the other 4x4’s on the trip, it was tiny, so don’t let the size of your vehicle stop you from having the adventure of a life time. One can imagine our trepidation when we set off! Would it be able to cope with whatever was coming our way? The answer is yes, it did, so don’t let your fears of the unknown put you off if you are looking for the chance of a life time to explore the great unknown plains of South Africa. [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.