December to May is a very busy time at Mountain Passes South Africa. As usual we have lots of news to bring you and what better place to start than with our new Great Swartberg Tour. We only created this tour a few days ago and it instantly created a flood of inquiries to the point where the tour is virtually fully booked before we have even launched it. What is does show is that there is a need for multiple day tours where an element of adventure is included. (More lower down)
The move from our old premises to our new offices is close to being complete, with the last few boxes still waiting to be unpacked, but the main engine room is running at full steam ahead. The HQ is now based in Welgemoed, Cape Town, but our email addresses, and phone numbers remain unchanged.
Our featured pass this week is most unusual in that it is "Ver in die ou Kalahari" but notwithstanding its rugged and remote nature, the area carries with it a fascinating tale of heroes and villians. We unpack the remarkable story of Scotty Smith, who presided in that part of the world many years ago as a diamond smuggler, cattle rustler, conman, jail-breaker and fraudster, yet he had a soft spot for the poor. Our man up north, Mike Leicester, explored the region and researched some startling facts and folklore. (More lower down)
We are good at arranging things, but it was a complete fluke that our news release this week co-incided with Valentine's Day. So what better theme to tackle in our news release, than a romantic note. That got us wondering how many romances were kindled (or children conceived) at the summit point of some or the other mountain pass around South Africa and if the nightly goings-on at the lookout point on Uys Krige Drive (overlooking Table Bay and the mountain) are anything to go by, then that tally is probably quite high!
We have moved!
The MPSA head office moved premises last weekend. The finishing touches still need some attention and a lot of boxes are scattered about the floorspace, but we have completed the move and this news letter will be the first to be published from the new premises. Our contact numbers and email details remain the same. If we were a little slow in responding to email requests, that is the reason, but we are back up to speed again now.
Pass of the week:
Our featured pass of the week is actually three back to back passes which cover a distance of 19 km through some of the most beautiful and rugged parts of the southern Cederberg and which we traversed during our Southern Cederberg Tour two weeks ago. [More lower down]
* FLOODS IN THE SOUTHERN CAPE
* SHACKLETON 1718
* STETTYNSKLOOF TOUR
* CAPE TOWN OFFICE RELOCATION
* NEW - PUBLIC SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS
* PASS OF THE WEEK
This week is once again jam-packed with news. Let's start with a summary of what's on offer this week.
We bring you a report back on our most successfull tour ever - the Southern Cederberg Tour. [More lower down]
Stettynskloof Tour: We unravel the remarkable, but tragic story which occurred on a stormy August day in 1963 when an SAAF Shackleton crashed in the Stettynskloof mountains near Worcester whilst on a training exercise killing all 13 crew on board. Our upcoming Stettynskloof Tour will take us close to the crash site, where the full story will be told to our guests. This tour is also full of surprises (some of which we may not reveal yet) but all we can say is - "Get your booking done as soon as possible".
The tour will include a half circumnavigation of the Brandvlei Dam as well as a visit to some of Worcester's historical buildings. We can take any vehicle along on this tour. The date is Saturday, 16th February and its a one day tour. Here is the link: STETTYNSKLOOF TOUR
Floods: Last week we mentioned floods up north on the Reef and this week we have seen very heavy rainfall in the south-eastern parts of South Africa, with Meiringspoort once again bearing the brunt of the damage. Thomas Bain famously disliked building roads through poorts for this very reason. He had wisdom far beyond his years and it was this very reason that resulted in the construction of the Swartberg Pass, which went over the mountain, rather than through it, like Meiringspoort.
In the Western Cape, February is usually the hottest, driest month of the year, yet last Saturday a large area of the Western Cape received good rainfall with some roads being damaged. In the Citrusdal area where our Southern Cederberg Tour started, over 15mm of rain fell the previous night. The spin-off for our tour was nicely dampened roads with almost no dust and pleasant, mild temperatures in the low twenties.
Relocating: It's a frenetically busy time for the MPSA Cape Town office, as we are moving our main admin office this week. It's a case of lots of to-ing and fro-ing as we move files, desks, computers and cabinets. This might result in a minor slow-down in pass production for a week or two, but it's all part of the process of elevating the website from a part-time to full time operation. These moves are always much bigger than what one anticipates. We will do our level best to maintain our daily social media presence in between all the chaos!
THE WEEK THAT WAS:
* Fires, floods and droughts
* Book a place on our new tour
* Listen to the podcast
* MPSA goes professional
* A six year stampede from zero to hero
* Pass of the Week
* Thought of the day
BUSH FIRES : From week to week in the publishing office in Cape Town we have a never ending treasure chest of information to share with you. One thing about South Africa is that it's never boring. The Western Cape has seen a series of bad mountain fires, with vast tracks of fynbos, plantations and forests laid to waste and sadly also loss of human life and personal property. Over the weekend yet another set of fires broke out in the Lions Head/Signal area, blanketing the city and environs on a thick veil of smoke.
FLOODS & DROUGHTS : On the Highveld soaring temperatures have finally brought on the annual onslaught of violent electrical storms with localised flash flooding, whilst in the North-West the drought is stretching into its 5th consecutive year, bankrupting farmers who have no funds left for fodder, diesel and simply being able to pay their monthly bills.
Africa (and South Africa) is a harsh land with a wide range of climate systems. It is that very diversity which makes it such a beautiful country to explore. Whether it's a herd of cattle on the N2 or a troop of baboons on the N1 or a kudu jumping over your car along a Karoo back road, there is never a dull moment.
Last week we uncovered a fabulous new pass over private property, but if you're a paying guest at the farm (fly fishing, camping, hiking, mountain biking), you may drive the pass. It's a major pass at 18 km length and twists and turns its way along steep cliffs up the rugged Stettynskloof to terminate at the anchor dam of the Breedekloof Irrigation Scheme. [More lower down]
The Stettynskloof Tour. For Western Cape guests we have made special arrangements to take a small group along this new pass. It will form a part of a bigger concept where we will be checking out a range of dams in the Breede River Basin all linked by passes and awesome winelands scenery. This exciting new concept promises to be a stunning tour. It will take place on Saturday 16th February. Our tours are normally sold out within 48 hours, so if you want to enjoy this unique tour, we recommend booking today. Online bookings are now open at the MPSA Shop.
THE WEEK THAT WAS
* Northern Cape filming trip report back
* Unveiling of a wonderful newly discovered pass in the Worcester Winelands
* Hanlie Booysens writes about her MTB ride of the Ben 10
* Listen to the podcast
* Featured pass of the week
Mike Leicester, who runs our office up north from Johannesburg, has just returned from a successful filming trip covering the last of the outstanding passes in the far north-western sector of the Northern Cape as well as a few stragglers in the Free State. Amongst the many passes he managed to film, he was the most impressed by Charles' Pass - a fairly short gravel pass between Pella and the Orange/Gariep River, where towering tock faces create an eerie sensation as the road weaves its way through a canyon and suddenly opens up on the banks of the mighty Gariep. [More lower down.]
The Cape Town filming crew took a visit to a hidden valley in the mountains to the south-east of Worcester in the Breedekloof region, where we filmed a very long new pass, previously unknown to us. This road runs over private property but it is possible to drive the pass if you are a paying guest at the Dwarsberg Trout Hideaway. The pass is a beauty - long, narrow and quite steep in places offering fantastic views over a narrow valley carved out by the Holslootrivier, which runs swift and clear into the north and later feeds into the Breede. The road terminates at the Stettyn Dam, making this an out and back route. [More lower down]
Hanlie Booysens, a star off-road cyclist and a subscriber to this website, recently completed the Ben 10 Eco-Challenge (on a bicycle of course). We were able to obtain a digital copy of her story as featured in the premier cycling magazine RIDE and with their permission publish the story of her challenge in this news letter. [More lower down]
Our featured pass of the week is an unknown one in the deeply forested part of Mpumalanga between Graskop and Sabie. Did you know that there are three Burgers passes in South Africa? There's one in the Western Cape near Montagu on the R318. There is another on the P308 near Utrecht in KZN and our featured pass is in Mpumalanga near Graskop. The first was named after a local councillor in Montagu and the other two more likely named after president T.F.Burgers who was head honcho of the then Zuid Afrikaanche Republiek from 1871 to 1877. [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.