Mountain Passes News

What's inside:

* Tours update

* Bain Tour story - Chapter 6

* South African History - Anglo Zulu War

* Podcast - Social media impact and a chat about Jagersfontein

* Pass of the week

* Words of wisdom

Tours Update
August 17/18th - Back of Beyond Limpopo Tour - 1 place open. Bookings close on Friday 9th.
August 23 - 25th - Cederberg Classic Tour - Fully booked.

September 21st to 24th - Ben 10 Eco Challenge V2 Tour - 4 places open.
September 27th to 29th - Lesotho Sani Tour - Fully booked.


Baviaanskloof - Smitskraal to Rooihoek

The water crossing at Smitskraal has seen the undoing of many a driver and rider. It is long and the underwater surface consists of thousands of loose fist sized stones. Most of the time the current is not swift, but bikers in great numbers have taken an unscheduled swim at this spot. One of our guests, Zena Becker, has a fear of deep water and built up a certain level of angst about this crossing. We have a habit of giving our guests nick-names and as soon as her fear of deep water became apparent, we dubbed her Zenaphobia. Once through that crossing she was all smiles and brimming with confidence!

The entire convoy waltzed through Smitskraal and no one had a bigger smile than Zena. This low altitude part of the Baviaanskloof offers fascinating geology and flora. A short while after Smitskraal, the next campsite (called Rooihoek) makes an appearance. There are toilet facilities and lovely campsites, but booking is essential. We stopped here for an early lunch break, before moving onto the next pass which is the Langkop Pass. [More lower down]


* Tours update
* Bain Tour story - Chapter 5
* South African History - Discovery of gold
* Podcast - Golden Gate Part 2
* Pass of the week
* Words of wisdom

Tours Update

Back of Beyond Limpopo Tour (17/18 Aug) - 2 places left

Cederberg Classic Tour - (23/24/25 Aug) - Sold out. Bookings closed

Ben 10 Eco Challenge V2 Tour (21/22/23/24 Sep) - 4 places left.

Lesotho - Sani Tour (27/28/29 Sep) - 1 place left

Thomas Bain Heritage Tour (Zandvlakte to Rooihoek)

After a particularly humorous drivers meeting on the lawns at Zandvlakte, we got going by 09h30 and bade farewell to our hosts Piet and Magriet Kruger. If you want to enjoy old-school farm style hospitality, then book in at Zandvlakte. Their food was superb and a great evening was enjoyed by the group the previous night. It had rained steadily throughout the night and some of the more conservative ladies were already asking questions about water levels in the kloof - the level of concern being commensurate with the voice pitch.

The distance from the farm to the western entrance control gate of the bioreserve is just a few kilometres. The poor Parks Board official manning the gate really had his hands full. He was a relief person and it was his first day. The 'kerkbasaar' traffic heading back to Patensie arrived behind our convoy, causing a traffic tailback of about 25 vehicles. The one driver who reached the gate ahead of our convoy was already into the 12th minute of trying to get his payment done and his permit issued, when I figured those at the back of the convoy would be there for at least an hour.

I persuaded the almost frantic guard to allow me to help him and I wrote out a single permit for our entire convoy and ensured that he received a handsome bonus for being sensible. The gratitude shone through his eyes! The kerkbasaar group behind us did a copy/paste and in short order all 20 vehicles were on their way. We pulled over and allowed the hungover and hasty young bulletjies to be on their way. [More lower down]

Newsletter In a nutshell

* Bain Tour continued
* SA History Part 12
* Podcast
* Feature on the Golden Gate Highlands National Park
* New passes added
* Words of wisdom

Very cold weather weather has continued over most of South Africa and in the Western Cape the last frontal storm has boosted dam levels to a four year high, with Theewaterskloof - the bigggest storage dam in the area - currently sporting a level of 60% with the City of Cape Town's average level of all the dams currently at 69.6%. This is wonderful news for the province which has laboured heavily under a long and devastating drought. It also augers well for a good wild-flower display this spring,

Thomas Bain Heritage Tour ~ The saga continues...

The weather on Saturday morning in Uniondale was rainy, cold and blustery, necessitating a Plan B for our drivers briefing, which was to get everyone into their vehicles and the briefing was done over the two way radios. This was the day the frontal system was supposed to clobber us, but as the day progressed it became increasingly pleasant, much to everyone's surprise.

We took a quick drive up the tarred Uniondale Heights Pass, then left the tar a few kilometres later as we cut across the Karoo highlands to intersect with the R332 near the summit of the Nuwekloof Pass. The rain that had fallen overnight gave us the benefit of a dust free drive as we made good progress into the east.

The Nuwekloof Pass was designed by Thomas Bain and it's an odd pass being a mixture between a pass and a poort, rather than a true mountain pass, but after a series of long sweeping bends, suddenly a hairpin bend makes an appearance and it is here that a sign proclaims the spot to be Raaskrans (Noisy Cliff). A towering near vertical cliff of some 80m in height forces the road (and the river) to the north-east and although awkward to stop, the spot is really a place where you need to get out of your vehicle and take in the spectacular geology. The hairpin is concreted and although the gradient is fairly gentle it soon becomes apparent that the concrete serves as the bed of the river for a distance of about 100m. It was bone dry during our traverse, but this must be a particularly nasty section in a flash-flood. The rest of the descent sees the road criss-crossing the river multiples of times as the road winds down the ravine and finally the poort opens up onto the upper plains of the western Baviaanskloof, which we had the good fortune of viewing under the arch of a massive rainbow.

What's inside???

* Upcoming trips & tours

* Thomas Bain Heritage Tour feedback.

* SA History - Nongqawuse: The Dead Will Arise

* Pass of the Week - The Road to Hell

* New passes added this week

* Words of wisdom

Trips & Tours (Click for more info and online bookings)

17, 18 August - Back of Beyond Limpopo Tour

23, 24, 25 August - Cederberg Classic Tour

21, 22, 23, 24 September - Ben 10 V2 Tour

27, 28, 29 September - Lesotho-Sani Tour

Report back: Thomas Bain Heritage Tour - Day 1

The Langkloof section of Prince Alfred's Pass is our favourite part, as it is here that the road narrows significantly and the engineering feats of Mr. Bain still stand proudly 140 years on. Waterfalls and narrow bridges, ferns and forests all passed by as our convoy laboured up the final stretch towards the summit, past the bend known as Tiekielief Draai. The story goes that the convicts who had served their time in the prison works programme, then received their "ticket of leave". The prisoners struggled with the English, and the phrase morphed into "Tiekielief". It was on that part of the construction of the pass, that several of the prisoners received their freedom.

Once over the summit of Prince Alfred's Pass, we drove past Avontuur and took the new direct road via the Uniondale Poort to arrive at our overnight venue in Uniondale. The town was once the centre of the wagon manufacturing industry, but with the advent of the motor car, the area turned to farming and tourism as a new source of income. Part of the tourism package is the famous Uniondale ghost. A story so vivid in the retelling that it continues to draw visitors to the town in a regular stream. According to the locals, Good Friday is the right night to lurk on the lonely moonless roads. [More lower down...]

What's inside?

* New winter tours

* Report back on the Thomas Bain Heritage Tour (including an update on Angie's)

* South African History ~ Chapter 10

* Podcast of the week

* Pass of the week

* New passes added

* Words of wisdom by Sir Richard Burton


We have just opened bookings for two brand new tours during the month of August. Want to shrug off those winter city blues? There's is no finer way than getting out into nature.

August 17th & 18th - Back of Beyond Limpopo Tour. This two day weekend tour covers some beautiful mountain passes and a whole brace of nature reserves. Overnight in style and comfort without a care in the world. R1995 per vehicle. Bring friends and family and save as we charge per vehicle and not per person. Your guide will be Mike Leicester. Max 6 vehicles. 4x4 / high clearance mandatory. For more details take the link:  Back of Beyond Limpopo Tour.

August 23rd to 25th - Cederberg Classic Tour. A three day exploration of the 175000 ha. Cederberg Wilderness area, taking in all the best points of interests. Wildflowers, waterfalls, old churches, historical grave sites, remote mountain villages, Rooibos plantations, several major gravel passes, river crossings, wine tasting, craft beer breweries, superb country food and four star accommodation. R4495 per vehicle. Guided by Trygve Roberts. Max 10 vehicles. Open to any high clearance vehicle (4x4 or 4x2). For full details on online bookings take this link: Cederberg Classic Tour.

September 21st to 24th - Ben 10 Eco Challenge V2 Tour. This legendary tour packed with jaw dropping scenery and some of the trickiest gravel road driving in South Africa will be the experience of a lifetime. Ten challenge passes will be driven over 4 days, whilst evenings will be spent at our base for this tour - the 3 star Mountain Shadows Hotel. Open only to 4x4 vehicles, with low range and adequate ground clearance. Drivers must have two years off-road driving experience. Max 10 vehicles. R6750 per vehicle. (Only 4 places open). There will be two guides on this trip to ensure your safety and successful completion of the challenge. For more information and online bookings go here: Ben 10 Eco Challenge V2 Tour.

September 27th to 24th - Lesotho-Sani Tour. If you want to experience Lesotho's high altitude passes and mind blowing scenery coupled with a drive down the Sani Pass, whilst it's still gravel, then this tour is for you. This tour can be done in any 4x4 (a requirement for Sani Pass) and there's a good chance we might experience snow on this tour. This tour is suitable for novice and intermediate drivers. Experience the engineering marvels of the Katse Dam and overnight in quality lodges. There will be two guides on this trip to ensure your safety and peace of mind. R5965 per vehicle. There is 1 place open. For more information and online bookings go here: Lesotho-Sani Tour.

Report back: Thomas Bain Heritage Tour - Day 1 (Part 2)

After a hearty lunch at Totties Country Kitchen at Rheenendal we left the tar briefly to descend down Thomas Bain's first pass of the 7 Passes Road - the Phantom Pass, so named after the Phantom moth that proliferates there, smothering the Knysna River valley in a beautiful display of gray and blue once a year. [More lower down...]

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Mountain Passes South Africa

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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