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Mountain Passes News

The week that was

* The new normal

* Wildflowers

* Branding

* Road Signs

* Trips & Tours Updates

* Gawie se Water (Part 2)

* Podcast (History of Cogmanskloof)

* Pass of the week

* Words of wisdom/

 

Returning to normal

So what is normal? This wildly bizarre year has been a very unusual and tough year both financially (unless you nailed a PPE supplies tender!) and emotionally and yet, as the dust begins to settle there are so many questions unanswered and so many predictions by the best experts in the world that were completely wrong.

What the pandemic has done is brought many of us back to earth with a bang with the realization of just how fragile life is. It gave us time to be introspective.

One of the most difficult things at our HQ in Cape Town was striving to remain positive, amidst the overwhelming fear mongering news in the mainstream media, but somehow that persistence seemed to pay off with MPSA having come out of the lockdown much stronger than before. We expanded our social media following in a most dynamic way with an expected 50,000 followers to be reached by the end of September.

Trips & Tours Update

20th September - Wolvenberg 4x4 Training & Tour (4 places left) We have split this tour over two separate days Saturday 12th September & Sunday 20th September due to a bad weather warning for the original date (13th Sep). We therefore have 5 places available for this Saturday and 4 spaces for the 20th September. Anyone wanting to book for this Saturday should contact us directly on 083 658 8888 or on email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. as we will have to do a manual booking. Bookings for the 20th Sep can be done via our online system on the link above.

23rd - 28th September - Ben 10 Eco Challenge V3 Tour (Fully booked)

19th - 25th October - Swartberg 2020 Tour (Fully booked)

26th - 30th October - Mpumalanga Panorama Tour (4 tickets left)

12th - 21st November - Wild Coast Tour (Fully booked)

23rd - 25th November - Mpumalanga Highveld Tour (6 tickets left)

Wildflowers in profusion

This year has produced some of the finest wildflower displays in decades. From Posberg all the way up to Springbok and all over Namaqualand the displays have been phenomenal, but thanks to lockdown only a few have been able to enjoy the spectacle

Branding

With the acquisition of Cape Mountain Passes came the distinctive and instantly recognizable logo (and approved by the Western Cape Government). Over the next few weeks the adoption of this logo will become evident across all communication levels, including our vehicle branding, signage and written communications. 

The new logo which will be incorporated into our branding

Road Signs

Steady progress is being made on the refurbishment of 160 road signs that came with the takeover of the Cape Mountain Passes project. We have effectively used our wide social media reach to get the message across that the only place that's OK to put a sticker, is on your own property. On our sign fixing trip last Friday we published before and after photos of the Middelberg Pass summit sign, as well as detailed photos of every sticker on the signboard. Each of those will be systematically contacted with a request to desist and encourage others from the bad habit (which many people seem to think is the norm these days) We appreciate the overwhelming support of our subscribers and followers. Some of even offered to do the job for us or accompany us. That is a beautiful thing!

[Read more...]

The week that was:

* Severe weather

* Tiffindell Ski Resort 

* Trips & Tours Update

* Gawie se water

* Witterivier Tragedy

* Podcast (Penhoek Pass)

* Pass of the week

* Words of wisdom


 

Wild Weather

No one can deny that 2020 has been a very different year. It has shaped eveyones life in some form or the other. Some have suffered badly, whilst others have survived and even improved their businesses. The winter weather has broken all sorts of records with several towns in KZN having set new minimum temperature records. The drought which gripped the Western Cape for over 3 years has finally been broken. Dams are overflowing and rivers are running strong and clean from all the snowmelt. 

We have today received news of the temporary closure of the Tiffindell Ski Resort. Decisions will be made towards the end of September as to new opening dates. This affects anyone wanting to do the Ben 10 Eco Challenge as the boom across the road giving access to the Ben MacDhui Pass is closed and locked.

We are investigating all our options in terms of the rules for the Ben 10 Eco Challenge. In the current state it is not possible to complete the challenge without access to the pass. Anyone who has planned to do the challenge in the next 60 days should make contact with us, with respect to getting keys to unlock the boom. 

We will be there in person running our Ben 10 V3 Tour from the 23rd to 28th September and will be able to report back more accurately after that time.


Trips & Tours Update

Wolvenberg 4x4 Training & Tour 13th September (1 ticket left)

Ben 10 V3 Tour - 23 - 28 September - Fully booked

Swartberg Tour - 19 - 25 October - Fully booked

Mpumalanga Panorama Tour 26 - 30 October (4 tickets left) 

Wild Coast Tour -  12 - 21 November - Fully booked

Mpumalanga Highveld Tour 23 - 25 November (7 tickets left)

 

Gawie se water


Our focus last week on the imminent refurbishment of Bain's Kloof Pass near Wellington, had me digging around in our archives for a story sent in by Graham Katzenellenbogen (who insists that one bastion of the Castle of Good Hope was not named after him!)

When driving up the pass from the Wellington side about 2 km before the summit, a small clear stream of perennial water drops down the mountain and under the road. It's a popular spot set amongst shady trees where cyclists stop to fill their water bottles with the clean pure water. A small signboard announces the stream as "Gawie se water"

The owner of the old Grand Hotel in Ceres in the 1940s through to 1960s was Jock Levin.  The legend goes that Jock and the whisky-loving fraternity instructed those in their district visiting Scotland, not to return home without a unique privately stilled bottle of whisky from the Scottish highlands and unobtainable here.

[Read more...]

The week that was

* Spring

* Trips & Tours updates

* Upgrading of Bain's Kloof Pass

* Rietfontein history Part 3

* Podcast

* Pass of the week

* Words of wisdom


Spring ?

The blossoms have started. The wildflowers are amazing (best in a decade); lots of snow has fallen and a cold and wet winter is finally giving way to the joy of spring. This was also the most bizarre winter of all our lives, being mostly under lockdown.

There is a new energy about. One can almost feel it. Slowly but surely people are returning to normal and we predict that the next year will see a boom in local tourism. South African's are hungry to travel. Those that normally travel overseas are looking for local tours as an alternative. The tidal wave of pent up tourism has begun.

Trips & Tours Update

Johan BadenhorstWe are proud to announce our first formal joint venture tour operator. Johan Badenhorst of Platteland Tours will be operating under the MPSA brand. He is a highly experienced tour guide with over 19 years experience. He will be focusing on 4x2 tours in the Mpumalanga, Limpopo, Free State and Gauteng provinces. The tours will mirror the successful formula created by MPSA and offer excellent value for money with quality accommodation at fair prices.

The inaugural tour is a gem. It covers 26 passes over 5 days with many interesting side excursions to beguile and delight. It's aptly name the Mpumalanga Panorama Tour as it includes many passes in the vicinity of well known Panorama Route and of course, the Blyderivier Canyon and Graskop Gorge on the itinerary.

The joint venture will expand our tours into the northern sector of South Africa. This tour is being offered at a very special rate which will not be repeated again. To find out more and make an online booking take the link below:

MPUMALANGA PANORAMA TOUR

Another 2 tours will be added by next week.


Elgin 4x4 Training & Tour 

This fully booked event was a huge success. The tour was run on the Grabouw 4x4 venue, which offered fabulous scenery of forests, mountains, lakes and waterfalls as well as some challenging driving which kept all the novices on their toes. The successful event and demand has resulted in us offering a similar tour, but in a different area.

Wolvenberg 4x4 Training & Tour (Sunday, 13th September)

This is another first time venue for Mountain Passes South Africa. Guests will drive the Grade 1 to 3 route to the top of the mountains outside Rawsonville with sweeping views over the Worcester wine valley. In the process all the basics of offroad driving will be tutored. This will be followed by a bring & braai next to the river as well as a wine tasting session.
We only have one ticket available: BOOK HERE - WOLVENBERG 4X4 TRAINING & TOUR


BEN 10 V3 TOUR - (23 - 28 Sep) Fully booked

SWARTBERG TOUR - (19 - 25 Oct) Fully booked

WILD COAST TOUR - (12 - 21 Nov) Fully booked


Bain's Kloof Pass Upgrade

Important announcement by the Dept of Transport and Public Works of the Western Cape Government.

The Department intends to repair and rehabilitate Bain's Kloof Pass through the repair of existing road failed areas and the provision of a new asphalt surfacing. The Works also include the general improvement of the drainage in the pass. The project will also address the stabilisation of unstable slopes in the pass as well as the upgrading of certain of the existing rest areas. Improved safety of the road users will also be addressed by improving the riding quality of the road and the repair of the existing stone packed barriers.The construction contract will commence in August 2020 with an anticipated contract duration of 17 months.

The full article with more detailed information is available on our FaceBook page. You will need to scroll back a few posts to the 26th August: READ FULL ARTICLE.


History of Rietfontein (Part 3)

James McKay of 74th Highlanders in his book "Reminiscences of the Last Frontier War" records that after the landing of his regiment at Algoa Bay in May 1851, they marched to Grahamstown. They were engaged in patrolling the Waterkloof during July 1851. When on reaching Ayton's farm Rietfontein, they halted.

The following report in the "Grahamstown Journal" could possibly have referred to Rietfontein: 27/12/1853 - The 74th Regiment found 150 rebels at a deserted farmhouse and killed 4 of them. That evening the Regiment camped out at a spring where reeds grew.

[Read more]

Level 2 lockdown & Anti Cyclones

The news spotlight this week is shared between the announcement of Level 2, the return of load shedding and one of the coldest anti cyclones in many decades that has seen the mercury dropping well into double digit below freezing figures at several locations on the high ground all over South Africa. Major snowfalls have occured in the Eastern Cape over the last few days with snowy pictures streaming into our inbox of the Swartberg Pass, the Langkloof, Uniondale and Prince Alfred's Pass.

The bad weather will pass quickly, but at last the hospitality and tourism sector can breathe a sigh of relief. Those businesses that have survived the last 5 months, can start gearing up for what we predict will be a boom in local tourism. We base this opinion on the major increase in inquiries we've had for our tours and at least two clients who had planned overseas trips in the second half of 2020, have booked on our tours. In a bizarre way, Covid 19 might just have awoken the sleeping giant of local tourism.


Trips,Tours & Training

We have just 2 places open for our 4x4 training introductory tour on September 13th at Wolvenberg near Worcester. If you're new to off-roading this is the perfect day tour to sharpen up on basic off-road skills and gain confidence in your own abilities and know your veheicle's abilities and limitations.

Book here: Wolvenberg 4x4 Training & Tour

All our other tours remain fully booked. We do run a 'waiting list book' for cancellations. Just pop us an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

For 2021 we will be scheduling tours to Lesotho/Sani Pass, Namaqualand/Richtersveld, Baviaanskloof, Swartberg, Garden Route, Bedrogfontein and Wild Coast.

If you want to be the first to hear about new tours, subscribe to our Tours Newsletter.


Fortified farms of the Eastern Frontier - Part 2

Rietfontein is one of the almost perfectly preserved fortified farms left in the Eastern Cape. The farm lies almost as it was the day the building was completed. Additions have been made to the original "I" shape (please refer to drawing lower down). In 1944 the open "Inside Stone Quad" was covered to serve as a living room. Part of the stone walls enclosing the homestead are missing, but the foundations are still clearly visible.
[Read more]

The week that was

 

* Trips & Tours update

* Level 2 on the horizon

* Social media on fire

* Signage & Branding

* Fortified homes of the Eastern Frontier

* Podcast

* Pass of the Week

* Words of wisdom


Trips and Tours Update

A reliable piece of information has been "leaked" to News24 indicating that the lockdown level will be lifted to Level 2 by the end of August or earlier and that the ban on cigarette and alcohol sales will also be lifted as well. This is an enormously important development in the first stages of recovery of the tourism and hospitality sector, which has seen hundreds, if not thousands of financial casualties. It effectively means (once officially announced) that our Ben 10 V3 Tour scheduled for the end of September will go ahead as planned, as will the other tours beyond the September timeline. In a bizarre way, the lockdown has awakened an urge amongst our clients to travel. We have literally been swamped with inquiries and requests. It's kept us very busy!!! Many of our clients who were planning overseas trips, have now decided to rather travel locally.

  • August 23rd : Elgin 4x4 Tour & Training (Fully booked)
  • September 13th: Wolvenberg Mountain Tour & Training (NEW!)
  • September 23rd - 28th: Ben 10 V3 Tour (Fully Booked)
  • October 19th - 25th:  Swartberg 2020 Tour (Fully Booked)
  • November 12th - 21st: Wild Coast Tour (Fully Booked)


Social Media

Strange things have happened during lockdown. Out normally steady list of subscribers and followers have doubled since lockdown with our website going from 1200 page views per week to 2400. Our Facebook page has shown results that have amazed us. To name a few examples.

  • A photo of a fireman's bicycle had 93,000 views.
  • A photo of Meiringspoort generated 370,000 views.
  • A photo of The Mountain Man near Wellington topped everything we have done before with an amazing post count of 433,000.

A year ago our post views would average between 1500 and 3000. What on earth has happened? We think Covid 19 is the root cause of this explosion in post views. Providing positive and uplifting posts seems to have worked really well. Every post we do is organically cultivated. No boosting. No payments. Just quality content - and that is exactly what the public want. They can see right through all the fake commercial content.

The more social media we do, the more clear it becomes.


Signage and Branding

Our new Suzuki Jimny had been decorated in our new logo and artwork. Based on comments on our Facebook page it seems to have found favour with almost everyone. Our trusty Land Cruiser is also in for a makeover and will be branded to look the same as the Jimny. 

The refurbishing of the road signs project is coming along slowly. We have now grouped the signs into 8 regions throughout the Western Cape and will tackle the project area by area until completed. Our thanks go to all who have offered to assist with the project.

Last week we went to do the Franschhoek Pass and were baffled to find the entire sign-board missing - presumed blown down (as it is right in the neck near the summit) or stolen (less likely). As this is a major tourist attraction, we would really like to reinstate the sign. The supporting poles are still there and in good condition. It's just the sign-board itself which must be clamped on. We are looking for a sponsor like a local winery or restaurant to adopt this sign. The cost of a sign is R20,000. We may not legally attach any advertisements to the sign itself, but we can offer such a sponsor a hyperlinked advert on the Franschhoek Pass page on our website for a period of 5 years. The page has had 27,626 views - a perfect target market for an astute businessman. Our social media pages will also prominently feature that business. If you know of someone who fits the profile, put them in touch with us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 083 658 8888.
Moving forward with precision.


Fortified homes on the Eastern Frontier

Part of the joy of running the MPSA project is discovering all the wonderful stories about South Africa's untold history and allowing the MPSA website to become the depository of all the stories. We received an email from Danie Malan - who has been an MPSA supporter for many years. He writes:

[Read more...] 

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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.
 

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Master Orientation Map 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.

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