BEN 10 ECO CHALLENGE OFFICIAL TOUR ~ An adventure of epic proportions
It's hard to believe just 7 days have passed since we left for the inaugural Ben 10 Eco-Challenge Official Tour. Despite our meticulous planning, Mother Nature - or in this case "Mokholo" - (the Great Mother) taught even the most experienced off-roaders amongst us a lesson or three.
Compressing this epic adventure into one news release is almost impossible. We will be serialising it over a week or two to bring you the full story in glorious Eastern Cape technicolour, with all the drama, intrigue and suspense of an adventure the 36 participants, who ranged from 8 to 76 years, will never forget as long as they live.
The 6 months of planning predictably had to cope with that ever changing game changer - the weather. We studied the weather history for the area going back 20 years and decided that late March would be an almost perfect time of year to run the tour, with not much rain and beautiful green scenery for all the participants.
In an effort to provide our guests with a convenient accommodation option, we decided to base ourselves at the Mountain Shadows Hotel near the summit of the Barkly Pass, for the 5 days of the tour. This allowed the group to travel light and efficiently each day and in addition we had the benefit of a daily meeting place of comfort and space to accommodate such a big group.
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As you read this newsletter, the MPSA team are somewhere between Lundin's Neck and Jouberts Pass on Day 1 of the Official Ben 10 Eco Challenge Tour. A massive amount of planning went into this trip and now it's only matters beyond our control (like the weather), that can affect the adventure. We will do our best to post regular pics and short videos on our Facebook page throughout the tour.
Our featured pass this week takes us right back to our roots and the peculiar set of circumstances of how Mountain Passes South Africa was born. The GoPro HERO1 had just been launched in 2010/11 and I had always wanted a waterproof video camera that could handle the rigours of adventure sports and film in HD.
The primary idea was to film my crew on a sailing/racing yacht with the idea being to iron out errors and improve performance. On the very first outing with the new GoPro, when the yacht club cancelled racing due to gale force winds, we decided to rather go for a sail than sit in the pub.
From there things went south rapidly (pun intended) as we planed out of the harbour at high speed and out onto Table Bay to enjoy the full power of the Cape Doctor. Just as we reached a speed of 20 knots (37 kph) we broached (a nautical term for a downwind capsize). [Read more lower down]
* LATEST MEGA PASS ADDED TODAY!
We have a marvellous new pass which is being published today and coincides with the opening of bookings for our next day tour on April 21st.
The pass, which is on private land (but accessible by permit) is known by local mountain bikers as the Merino Monster. It starts at the Merino farm near the summit of the Theronsberg Pass and climbs a whopping 705m in altitude to summit at the top of the Waboomsberg at 1836m ASL revealing magnificent 360 views over the Ceres Valley, Warm and Koue Bokkeveld and the Gydo Plateau.
We have obtained permission to take a tour group up this pass on the Sunday of the Easter weekend (21st). So if you're looking for an adventure of note suitable for the whole family, book a spot as soon as possible. We connect everyone up with 2 way radios which is included in the tour price, but we can only take a maximum of ten vehicles.
Although our tour is called The Merino Monster Tour, the pass is actually called the Waboomsberg Pass (explained on the pass page). The tour will include a stunning circuit of about 100 km which will include the magnificent Droëlandskloof old sheep trekking route, and 4 other major passes.
Next week we will be away on the inaugural Ben 10 Eco-Challenge Official Tour and both the Jhb and Cape Town offices are a hive of activity as all the final arrangements are being resolved. [More lower down]
*CYCLING THE PASSES
This week we take a look at the Cape Town Cycle Tour and some of the passes which cyclists ride during the event as well as an unknown and unusual pass in North West Province near Potchefstroom named after a famous Springbok cyclist.
Our man up north, Mike Leicester, has uncovered yet another wonderful bit of Africana, but this time with a more modern twist. Our featured pass this week is the Ertjiesberg Pass in North West Province - a province not very well endowed with mountain passes. With only 15 passes, it comes as no surprise that locals revere any road that resembles a pass and in the case of this particular pass they have something special and unique found nowhere else in South Africa.
Our story focuses on the redoubtable Ertjies Bezuidenhout. A superb Springbok cyclist whose skill was hill climbing. It was on this very pass near Potchefstroom where young Ertjies (whilst at university) built his strength to become a world class cyclist.
Adding heavy tools and lead weights onto his bicycle he rode the (then unnamed) pass up to four times a day and when his cousin was available, he would tow him up the pass as dead-weight on a second bicycle. His determination to become great was unstoppable. We look at the obstacles like the international sports boycott which hampered his progress and his ultimate and final (and fatal) race in 2012 at the age of 56 which took his life. This is a story of a true South African legend.
We also take a closer look at some of the passes that the 35,000 cyclists in this year's Cape Town Cycle Tour will traverse in various stages of pain and pleasure, depending on how much training has been put in!
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There goes the 2nd month of 2019 cascading into the history books. As always we look north and head forth (that phrase lifted from the more robust Afrikaans version of "Kyk noord en f*k voort"). Since we have relocated our offices and are running MPSA on a full time basis, it's as if someone has turned up the heat as everything seems to have suddenly escalated up onto a higher level. Inflows of emails have virtually doubled over the past 3 weeks as have the requests for public speaking engagements, tours and general information. Our days have turned into 13 hour shifts x 7 days per week!
This week our featured pass takes us up into the Eastern Cape Highlands, where we introduce you to one of the lesser known high altitude gravel passes that offers unsurpassed scenic beauty. It's awkward getting there and is without doubt one of those roads less travelled, but watch the video and you will agree that this one deserves to be added to your bucket list (or as someone once mentioned - a "bugget list" - it took me a few seconds to figure it out.)
We have updates on our next tour (coming up in March) and another 1 day tour scheduled for April as well as the hugely popular Great Swartberg Tour in May. [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.