Latest News! 15th September, 2016

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High altitude view High altitude view - Photo: Photo: Neels Botma

The north-eastern part of the Eastern Cape arguably spawned the finest collection of big gravel passes in South Africa. In the last decade various magazines and publications have touted these passes as the "The Big 8 Passes Challenge" and perhaps a little more dramatically "Riding the tail of the Dragon" with the dragon part being a reference to the last south-westerly segment of the Drakensberg. Yet other sources call this place "Wild Mountain Country"

Whatever the terms of reference are, there can be no doubt that the great passes on offer are all gravel with a single exception - the Barkly Pass. The others are Naude's Nek Pass (often misquoted as the highest pass in South Africa, which honour actually goes to the Sani Pass), Baster Voetslaan, Otto du Plessis, Volunteershoek, Carlislehoekspruit, Lundin's Nek and Joubert Pass.

We bring you one of these passes today in the form of a triple video set, which provides the viewer with a realistic asessment of whether they would try driving the pass or not.

Joubert's Pass was privately built by a group of local farmers. It's located to the east of Lady Grey and winds it's way up the slopes of the mighty Witteberg mountains through a solitary nek, which is often wild, windy and very cold - and so it should be with a summit height of 2234m ASL, making it the 9th highest pass in South Africa. If you fancy trying some snow driving, this is one of the passes which gets plenty of snow.

The farmers needed a road to get their produce to market and the government of the time were dragging their feet, stating that the pass would be too expensive to build. Well, as they say "n boer maak n plan" and soon the enterprising goup of men tackled the daunting job of building a mountain pass over the nek to Lady Grey, using nothing more than picks, shovels and large dollops of commonsense. They did a remarkably good job and the fact that the pass is still open and drivable today speaks volumes for their achievement. They completed the pass at around 20% of the government surveyor's estimate, in the year 1914.

Naude's Nek Pass to the east of Rhodes bears a similar story and it just goes to show what can be achieved with determination and enthusiasm. Joubert's Pass is a gem and it's surprisingly easy to drive with mostly quite reasonable gradients. Even the road surface is fairly good for most of the distance and this pass is quite managable in a normal car (in fair weather).

Besides the jaw-dropping views, there are waterfalls and the lovely Lady Grey dam where excellent swimming and fresh water fishing is allowed. The town is home to a growing number of big city escapees, artists and creatives and retains it's country charm of old Victorian homes, tall trees and wide, unpaved roads.

Do yourself a favour and drive this one before it's too late. Watch the videos and draw the bucket list closer.

We've just done our bi-annual update on our Extreme passes page which show (amongst other interesting trends), which passes are your favourites. It's no surprise that Sani Pass retains its number 1 slot with over 50,000 page views, followed by the Swartberg Pass with 35,000 and Gamkaskloof/Die Hel with 30,000. Check it out here for the full list: Most Popular Passes.

Click below for the Pass of the Week

***** JOUBERT'S PASS *****

Upgraded videos added this week:
Op de Tradouw Pass (R62) Western Cape (1 x video)
Tradouw Pass (R324) Western Cape (3 x videos)

Trygve Roberts

Thought for the day: "We must strive to live with purpose. When we live with purpose, we feel good inside." Brenda Nathan

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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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