"We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us". I recently saw this phrase at a friend's house, who spent almost 3 years restoring a 1960 series 1 Land Rover. That slogan was his inspiration ~ carved into a piece of wood on his desk as a constant reminder to complete the restoration project so he can travel with his beloved Landy across the back roads. It is a masterpiece!
Some years ago after returning from a tough filming trip into the Richtersveld, we slept over at a guest farm outside Springbok, and there on a small plaque on the bathroom door were these words that keep reminding me what Mountain Passes South Africa means to me: "Reis is die beste belegging" (Travel is the best investment). Never a truer word said.
I have taken the liberty of fine tuning that a little by adding in the words ~ "Reis is die beste belegging in Suid Afrika". Our travels of discovery into the furthest corners of South Africa never leave me with any doubt as to the accuracy and wisdom of that phrase. It frees the soul and rejuvenates the mind.
As 2018 is rapidly winding up towards the festive season where travel becomes a risky affair, we turn our attention to the quieter back roads, where our readers can plan journeys that will provide life-long memories and get them safely to their destinations - maybe a little slower, but a lot more relaxed and more importantly - alive! [More lower down...]
THE WEEK THAT WAS
* Garden Route wild fires
* Ben 10 Eco-Challenge Official Tour update
* Koue Bokkeveld Tour
* Pass of the week
At MPSA we strive to stay in the world of positivity, but this past week with all the wild fires in the mountains between George, Knysna and De Vlugt the news cannot be ignored. Road closures were the order of the day as the Outeniqua, Robinson and Montagu passes were all closed at some point. Tragically a number of lives were lost, as were homes, timber plantations and one of the casualties was the lovely old toll house at the foot of the Montagu Pass. Whether this graceful old building will ever be restored is a matter of conjecture. It stands forlorn, blackened - it's roof gone; a skeleton of it's former self.
Most fires are of course a natural phenomenon and when one looks at how quickly the vegetation around Knysna recovered, there is always hope that a good rainy season will quickly restore this beautiful part of the Garden Route.
If you are caught in a bush fire while driving there are several steps you should follow:
This week we head off to the beautiful Langeberg mountains. We filmed an historic wagon route and have just released a new 3 part video series covering this lovely route and the good news is you don't need a 4x4 to drive it. [More lower down...]
The interest level in our Ben 10 Eco Challenge Tour is huge, with 9 of the 10 places being snapped up in a matter of two days. This promises to be an event of note. We have all sorts of surprises built into this tour, which is more than just completing the challenge passes. [More lower down...]
* The Cooper Story
* Montagu Explorer - bookings now open
* Ben 10 Eco Challenge Official Tour - bookings opening soon
* Podcast - Aristata & Ben 10 discussion
* Pass of the week - Pietersfontein Pass
* Three new passes to review
This amazing father-daughter team have just successfully completed the Ben 10 Eco Challenge on bicycles. But not your normal high-tech 27 speed MTB's. They built their own bikes at home from scrap metal and designed them to have only one gear. Today you can read their incredible story (lower down..... )
Our newest tour coming up on the 18th November is the Montagu Explorer. It's a one day easy tour, packed with interesting features and a couple of surprises. The tour will include 7 gravel passes of which 5 you will unlikely even have heard of. Two lakes will be visited in the folds of the mountains as well as a drive up one of the highest peaks in the area with amazing views. We can take 4x2 vehicles with diff-lock or AWD vehicles with reasonable ground clearance. The 4x4 sections are not difficult and there is only one obstacle requiring careful attention.
This is a perfect outing for the whole family and covers a distance of 265 km and a total of 12 passes with enough variety to satisfy the most ardent pass enthusiast. It's affordable too at R790 per vehicle regardless of the number of passengers. It starts in Montagu and ends in Worcester. Our price includes the cost of the VHF 2 way radio rental.
Online bookings are open at the MPSA Shop
As mentioned in our previous newsletter, we have received many request to run a guided tour over the Ben 10 challenge passes. The good news is that it will happening from the 21st to the 25th March, 2019. We have already received over 20 provisional bookings, but we can only take 10 vehicles. Bookings will officially open within the next 7 days at our online booking page
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* New concept tours
* Ben 10 Tour
* Aristata Tour feedback
* Montagu Explorer Tour
* Ouberg Pass featured
* Three new passes to review
Our tours are going from strength to strength. On the cards are tours to the Gamkaskloof/Die Hel, Baviaanskloof and the big news is a tour of the Ben 10 Eco Challenge for which we have had many requests. So if you've been wanting to do the Ben 10 in the safety of an organised group, here is the opportunity..
Your team at MPSA is currently discussing our biggest tour concept ever and it's bound to be a winner. We have had countless requests to lead a group through the 10 passes of the Ben 10 Eco Challenge. Many people want to tackle it, but getting a group together can be problematic. The concept is to run the tour over a 4/5 day window some time between February and April 2019. The routing and accommodation planning will all be handled by MPSA. All you have to is pitch up and conquer!
We will be able to accept 10 vehicles on the trip. This promises to be the trip of a lifetime filled with spectacular views, some nerve wracking drop-offs, gradients steep enough to let the adrenaline overflow and some of the finest scenery to be enjoyed anywhere in South Africa - all packaged with good food and decent accommodation. The tour will have the two most experienced mountain pass experts guiding the group - One in the front and the other doing sweep.
Watch this space for details. Other tours in the planning room include an exclusive tour over the Swartberg Pass with an overnight stop in Die Hel. The other tour taking shape is a full traverse of the Baviaanskloof.
Last weekend we ran our successful Aristata Tour in the Western Cape, which followed in the footsteps of some of the great road engineers, like Thomas Bain and Adam de Smidt. Ages in the tour group ranged from 25 to 70 so we had an interesting mix of wonderful people who all joined this tour for the same reason - to travel the roads less travelled and learn about our old and new passes.
The Aristata Tour was not just about the beautiful Aristata Protea. The first pass was the old Du Toitskloof Pass with its many winding bends and stellar views. History discussed on this pass clarified the role of the Italian POW's and their strong bonds with the townsfolk of Paarl. The south easter was howling through the pass, so our stops were brief!
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* 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.
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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.
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.