Mountain Passes News

The week that was

* Trips & Tours

* Great South Africans

* Cities of South Africa

* Pass of the Week

* Words of wisdom


Trips & Tours

Swartberg Tour 2020 (19-25 October)
We have just had a cancellation come in for this tour. There is 1 place available. More information, pricing and online bookings on this link: SWARTBERG TOUR 

Wolvenberg 4x4 Training did not disappoint as we took the second half of the trainees up the mountain to learn module 1 of offroad driving skills. With a forecast of rain we went well prepared and slightly modified the format that we used the previous week. We had a full turnout of 10 vehicles which included Jimnys, Fortuners, Land Cruisers, Jeeps and Pajeros.

The weather was on the edge but the rain mercifully held off for most of the tour. Our guests, who were all a little tentative at the start ended the day with big smiles, having been liberated into the world of responsible offroading.

We are working on a sand driving course for beginners which will be held at Atlantis Dunes. We anticipate running this 1 day tour during December. Our driver training modules will be expanded to include rock, stone, sand and mud. When all four modules are completed, drivers should be competent.

 Mpumalanga Panorama Tour - Bookings for the tour are coming in with just 3 tickets left. Don't miss out on our inaugural joint venture tour with Johan Badenhorst. This tour (which is suitable for high clearance 4x2 vehicles as well as soft roaders) includes some well known passes plus some you've probably never driven before. Passes include Crossroads, Wilgekraal, Chom se Hoogte, De Beers Nek, Patata Nek, Schoemanskloof, Wonderkloof, Houtbosloop, Sudwalaskraal, Sudwala, Hendriksdal, Koffiehoogte, Mac Mac, Burgers, Bonnet, Robbers, Caspersnek, Blyderivier Poort, Kowyns, Graskop Concrete Road (optional), Klipkraal, Bergvliet, Kiepersol, Bakenkop, Long Tom, Masjiennek & Santa. Get full info and pricing as well as online booking here: MPUMALANGA PANORAMA TOUR

Mpumalanga Highveld Tour - A shorter 'closer to home' tour for all our mountain pass followers up on the reef offers three days of fascinating travel around the smaller villages and interesting towns of the Highveld and will include the following passes:  Jantjieshoek, Kastrolnek, Kempslus, Knights, Burgers, Hattingshoogte, Barrowfield, Mollshoogte, Ossewakop (optional), De Jagersnek, Laingsnek, Ingogo Heights, Brinkshoogte, Schuinshoogte (optional), Oom Louis se Hoogte, Kwaggasnek & Majubanek. This tour (which is suitable for high clearance 4x2 vehicles as well as soft roaders) lasts for 3 days and represents excellent value for money. Read more and online bookings here: MPUMALANGA HIGHVELD TOUR


Ben 10 V3 Tour

When you read this newsletter, we will be at the summit of the Barkly Pass near Elliot, starting our first day of the Ben 10 Eco Challenge V3. This will be our first cross-provincial border tour since lockdown started and we are all really excited about being up in the mountains again with a new group of people who will soon be earning their Ben 10 badges. We will report back on progress via our FaceBook page.

We took a call from one of the owners of Tiffindell this morning and absorbed the heartbreaking story of how Covid 19 killed their business by starving the cash flow. It came at the worst possible time, just before the winter season started. Lew Campbell has told us that they are working hard at reopening the ski resort in the near future. In the meantime, the Ben MacDhui Pass remains closed. Anyone who has entered the Ben 10 Eco Challenge will still receive their stripes.

Travelling up to Elliot via Graaff Reinet we were distressed to learn that our favourite restaurant in Graaff Reinet, called POLKA, has closed down. Yet another small business that just could not survive the lockdown. Covid 19 has well and truly given the South African hospitailty industry a severe beating. One must ask the question and say: "Was it really worth it?"

Great South Africans (New Series)

Thamsanqa Kambule (15 January 1921 – 7 August 2009) was a South African Mathematician and Educator. He was the first black professor at the University of the Witwatersrand, and was the first black person to be awarded honorary membership to the Actuarial Society of South Africa. He was awarded the Order of the Baobab in 2002 for his services to mathematics education.

Thamsanqa Kambule

Kambule was born in Aliwal North.His mother died when he was 18 months old, and his aunt was responsible for raising him. He did not attend school until he was 11 years old, when he joined Anglican St Peter's School in Johannesburg. He completed a Teachers Diploma at Adams College in 1946 and a Bachelor's degree at the University of South Africa in 1954.

Kambule taught in Zambia, Malawi as well as several schools in South Africa before being appointed Principal of Orlando High School in Soweto in 1958. He campaigned to ensure the children had the best education possible, despite the restrictions of the Bantu Education Act, 1953. Orlando High School had a library named after Robert Birley, a visiting professor at the University of the Witwatersrand. He led the Rand Bursary Fund, a support program that provided scholarships for pupils in need. The fund allowed more than 1,000 students to complete high school. His former pupils included Desmond Tutu and Jackie Selebi. 

In 1978 he joined the University of the Witwatersrand, where he became the first black professor. He published a series of maths textbooks for non-specialist teachers. He retired in 1976 and promptly became the Principal of O R T Step College of Technology. He was awarded an honorary doctorate in 1997 and a doctorate of education in 2006. In 2002 he was awarded the Order of the Baobab from Thabo Mbeki. He became known as The Rock for his transparent principles.

Kambule died on 7 August 2009.  [Source - Wikipedia]

South African cities - 2. Piermaritzburg

Pietermaritzburg  is the capital and second-largest city in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. It was founded in 1838. Its Zulu name is umGungundlovu is. Pietermaritzburg is popularly called Maritzburg in Afrikaans, English and Zulu alike, and often informally abbreviated to PMB. It is a regionally important industrial hub, producing aluminium, timber and dairy products. The public sector is a major employer in the city due to the local, district and provincial governments being located here.

 The week that was

* Bain's Kloof rock versus heavy duty truck

* Trips & Tours

* Wolvenberg 4x4 Training Tour report back

* Tiffindell Ski Resort and Ben MacDhui Pass closed

* Cities of South Africa (New!)

* Podcast (Cogmanskloof Part 2)

* Pass of the week

* New passes this week

* Words of wisdom

 Stuck between a rock and a hard place

There can only be one explanation (maybe 2) / Photo: NARI Media

The driver of large truck had some explaining to do to his employer when he took this huge vehicle along Bain's Kloof Pass, ignoring the height warning chains and multiple height restriction signs and firmly jammed his truck under the historic overhanging rock known as Dacre's Pulpit, which has a height restriction of just 3.8m.

He caused a traffic jam of note as the pass had to be closed at either end for a long time as traffic officials and recovery crews struggled to untangle the wreckage. The truck came off second best and fortunately the pulpit remains firmly in place.

It does beg the question to be answered: 'How does a person who is a qualified heavy duty truck driver, who is entrusted with a vehicle worth several million Rand, do something as utterly stupid as this'.

This incident comes just ahead of the pass being closed for 18 months for repairs and resurfacing.

Trips & Tours

20th September - Wolvenberg 4x4 Training Tour (4 tickets left)

24th to 28th September - Ben 10 Eco Challenge (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)

Tiffindell Ski Resort closed

Tiffindel Ski Resort is closed. This affects anyone wanting to do the Ben 10 Eco Challenge. We have had confirmation from the owner, Lew Campbell, that the property is out of bounds to the public. Effectively this means that the Ben MacDhui pass (3001m) - the highest motorable pass in South Africa, is closed to the public until further notice. We have posted an advisory on the Ben 10 Entries page as well as the relevant pass page.

Once the dust has settled and we have more accurate information regarding the ski resort's future, we will keep you informed. There are several options on the table of how we will deal with the Eco Challenge which has grown to become the most popular offroad challenge in South Africa and we will most definitely come up with an innovative plan to keep it going.


 Wolvenberg 4x4 Training Tour report back.

This fully booked tour was scheduled to take place on Sunday 13th September, but a severe weather warning forced us to rethink the logistics in favour of safety. We moved the date one day earlier, but only some of the guests could make it, so we offered the tour to be repeated on Sunday 20th September for those that couldn't make the earlier date. The result was that we had a small compact convoy of 6 vehicles and beautiful warm weather, which is always a game changer on the enjoyment meter.

In our group, we had two brand new Jimnys and two Fortuners, plus our sweep guide in a VW Amarok and myself in the Land Cruiser. The first problem we encountered was that both the Fortuners (automatics), despite having selected 4WD low range, were emitting warning beeps. It took a little while and a reference in the handbook to figure out what the problem was. It is necessary to come to a complete stop and put the vehicle into neutral before selecting 4WD LR. As soon as we figured that out both vehicles were fine. They simply stopped and repeated the procedure as per the handbook. Thanks to Andrew Hepburn for the heads up.

[Read more...]

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


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:


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]

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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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