Latest News! 22nd December, 2016

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Lost in the savage beauty of fly-fishing Lost in the savage beauty of fly-fishing - Photo: Archives/Anonymous

With Christmas just a few days away, we gave some serious thought as to our featured pass this week. We avoided the famous (and busy) passes, which you all know anyway, and have instead sought out one of those remote gravel passes that very few people ever have the opportunity to drive. Our gift to you - the voyage of discovery.

This pass is located in the high altitude region of the Eastern Cape about 25 km north of Elliot in a quiet and remote valley, incongruous amongst all the bigger, better known passes, including most of the so called Big 8. We feature the descent of the pass as well as a separate video covering the beautiful drive out of the valley - amidst tall poplar trees, peaceful farms, towering sandstone mountains, clear, swiftly flowing streams packed with trout and crisp clean skies that invigorate and calm the senses.

Rush-hour on the Bottelnek Pass probably equates to less than 3 vehicles per week. This drive is well and truly off the beaten track and if you've driven all the other big passes in the area, then seek out this very special road as it offers a different type of opportunity to appreciate the wild and rugged Eastern Cape countryside.

Depending on the weather, this pass can be driven in a normal car, but if it's been raining heavily, things could get very slippery, in which case a 4x4 would be a better option. If it's been snowing, dont drive this pass at all in any vehicle, as there are some very steep drop-offs and oddly cambered corners, which could easily induce a slide down the mountain.

The pass is aptly named as the valley down which it descends forms a bottle neck in the north-east. Once you've descended the pass, which is steep and has two very sharp hairpin bends, the road crosses the Bottelnekspruit, then follows this river for many kilometres along a beautiful valley. This exit drive is perhaps more beautiful than the pass itself as the road meanders between lonely farms amongst the foothills of the southern Drakensberg. Here you will see old barns built from dressed sandstone in that unique style specific to the part of the Eastern Cape, where the Scottish influence still runs deep to this day.

The road and the pass form a connecting road between the tarred R58 just west of Barkly East and the gravel surfaced R393 close to the Wartrail and New England area and services just 3 farms. If you're looking for peace, quiet and serenity, then bookmark this pass and spend half a day getting lost in its charm.

***** BOTTELNEK PASS *****

New passes added this week:
Amampoort (Northern Cape)
Amandeihoogte (Northern Cape)

We have just returned from another epic filming trip to the Eastern Cape, where we managed to dodge most of the bad weather and capture good video footage on over 60 passes and poorts over a period of 5 days. Our main goal was to refilm the Big 8 passes (Naude's Nek, Carlisleshoekspruit, Volunteershoek, Lundin's Nek, Joubert's Pass, Bastervoetpad, Barkly Pass and Otto du Plessis pass) as well as film the two new passes of Ben MacDhui and the TTT (Tiffindell Tenahead Traverse). The rain held off and other than some heavy mist on the Eastern side of Naude's Nek, we had a clean run on all the passes.

Once at Tiffindell, we joined up with our Jhb based film unit and tandem filmed the more difficult passes. Once the 10 big passes were completed, we split up in an effort to film as many passes as possible and at the time of writing this news release, our Jhb film unit is still out there working over Chistmas to get the best footage for you.

As mentioned a few weeks ago, these 10 passes will form the basis of the new Ben 10 Challenge, where any 4x4 driver, adventure motorcyclist or MTB cyclist may enter to drive/ride all 10 passes in 7 days. It's not nearly as difficult as it sounds, as we drove all 10 passes in 4 days (admittedly there wasn't much time for relaxing!). The challenge will carry a small entry fee and should be launched within the next six weeks. It will have it's own dedicated page on this website and once you've completed the challenge, you will be allocated a permanent number and your name and efforts will be displayed on the page in perpetuity. The challenge is being actively supported by the local tourism and hospitality industry. Several quality prizes will be on offer and details will be divulged closer to the launch date.

On the way to the Eastern Cape highlands, we managed to film a rash of new passes and poorts. These will be available progressively on the website over the next few months.

During one of the climbs of the Carlisleshoekspruit Pass, we were able to successfully recover a VW Polo TDi with a luggage trailer, which had lost traction on the lower gravel section. The driver then tried reversing to a more level area, at which point the trailer jack-knifed. They were in a fair spot of trouble and it was getting dark as well. Having access to our Land Cruiser, meant we could tow the Polo and it's trailer up to the first switchback, where we unhitched the trailer. We towed the Polo (which at that stage was emitting a distinct smell of a burning clutch) to the next hairpin, then reversed back down to hitch up the trailer, whilst the Polo's passengers were dispatched to get a lift in our other camera vehicle a little higher up the pass. Everyone made it up to Tiffindell in one piece and the family enjoyed a wonderful holiday at 2720m ASL. This is a valuable lesson to never attempt to tow a trailer up this pass in any front wheel drive vehicle.

Trygve Roberts

Thought for the day: "Wishing our readers, followers and friends a joyous festive season amongst family and friends. Thank you for your loyal support throughout 2016 and we promise to bring you more in 2017. Drive with care."

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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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