Latest News! 11th January, 2018

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Happy people doing the Ben 10 in the right spirit. Three Suzuki Jimnys completed the challenge together. Happy people doing the Ben 10 in the right spirit. Three Suzuki Jimnys completed the challenge together. - Photo: Ruan Jansen van Rensburg

Back to work and back to school

We're starting 2018 off with lots of news and interesting stories. Our featured pass this week ( a new one) has just been added to the website and whilst the pass won't get your adrenaline pumping (unless you're a cyclist), it is interesting in many ways, but it is especially the history of the area which caught our attention and a specific story which dates back to 1833, when the son of one of Hankey's founders, William Philip, decided to build an irrigation tunnel through a strip of mountain along the Gamtoos River, to enable valuable arable land to be properly irrigated. The story has an exceptionally cruel twist at the end, making this a "must-read" More lower down....

MPSA Price Structure for 2018

As with all things, our costs have also increased over the last year. Improved video equipment, faster computers, fuel price hikes, vehicle maintenance and better quality hosting platforms - it's a long list and we have to unfortunately raise our subscription fees a little to keep this rather large ship on an even keel and heading in the right direction. We spent many weeks studying trends, consulting with experts and after thorough research, here is the 2018 structure: (Fanfare!)

1. For existing subscribers the fee is going up from R200 to R225 per year. A small increase and our way of saying thank you for your loyalty.

2. New subscrptions for 2018 will be R250 a year. Still one of the best bargains on the internet.

3. We are also bringing in a new category of subscription for 6 months at R180 a year. This is the 'convenience shopping' package. This is to cater for those who want a shorter subscription or just want to use the website to plan a single trip - for example overseas visitors.

4. Gift vouchers will obviously be priced the same as the new annual subscription rate at R250.

Our goal is to retain 100% of existing subscribers, all of whom will know the value for money they are getting.

Here's how things will happen when your renewal becomes due. More lower down.....

Brand new photo competition

Enter and win!

Submit your best (only 1 please) photo to us and stand a chance to win a 1 year subscription to MPSA.

The rules are simple. The subject matter must be South African. Only original photos will be considered and must be taken by yourself or a family member.

Photos should be submitted in their original size and can be B&W or colour. Add a short explanation of where the photo was taken so we can caption it.

We'll put your name up in lights and publish the winning photo on our FaceBook page where it will be seen by up to 60,000 people. Entries open on the 11th and close on 31st January. Submit your photos to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Ben 10 Eco Challenge

More entries have arrived and a new batch of adventurers have completed the challenge. The latest group of 3 vehicles all completed the challenge in the diminutive, but highly capable Suzuki Jimny. This brand is now numerically the top in the list of 4x4 finishers. If that's not an advertising opportunity for Suzuki, then nothing is! More lower down....

Three groups of family and friends from Pretoria and Randfontein packed their Jimnys in preparation for the Ben 10 Eco Challenge and as we use one of these vehicles ourselves, we understand just how carefully the packing has to be thought about.

The group (all in white Jimnys) completed the challenge between Christmas and New Year and described the adventure as "the best time of our lives" and have urged us to encourage more people to do the event not only for the sheer driving enjoyment but as an opportunity to experience a remote and pristine part of South Africa, that few city folk ever get the opportunity to see.

So there you go, if a Jimny can do it - so can you! Get your entries in and remember, it's free! After every 20 completed entries we draw a prize for a 2 night stay in one of the supporting lodges and hotels. The first prize draw was won by Darell Gebhard of Knysna for a weekend for two at Tiffindell Ski Resort.

Enter here: BEN 10 ECO CHALLENGE

 

Subscriptions and Renewals

We've had many emails querying how the renewals will work. The first of the subscriptions are coming up for renewal during February 2018. The most common misconception is that renewals take place at a specific time each year (January). This is not correct, as the renewals occur on the anniversary date that you first took the subscription out. So if (for example) you took out a subscription in November last year, your renewal will only come up in November, 2018.

About 14 days before your subscription expires, you will receive an automated a reminder email from us, with a step by step instruction on how to renew. If you forget or ignore that first reminder, you will receive another one 7 days ahead of expiry and a final reminder will arrive three days before expiry.

Anyone may renew earlier, which is not a problem as our software will automatically credit any unexpired portion onto your term, thereby ensuring that you enjoy the full 365 days of each subscription.

Please note that to qualify for the discounted renewal rate, you must renew BEFORE the expiry date. If you miss the date, you may still renew but it will be at the normal rate of R250 for the year.

You may also change your 1 year subscription to a 6 month subscription, but there is no discount on that option. Renewals that take place via a credit card payment are instant and those paid with an EFT, take one to two days as we have to manually check the payment and activate your account. If you are paying per EFT, please remember to email the proof of payment to us, so we can expedite your renewal.

Without your continued financial support, this website cannot exist. Thank you!

 

Baviaanskloof

You will be guaranteed to see baboons! / Photo: Baviaans Tourism

Our most recent trip through the Eastern Cape included a complete refilm of all the Baviaanskloof passes and poorts. We have just completed the fully upgraded project which turned out to be an enormous amount of work, but we are equally sure that fans of the Baviaanskloof will thoroughly enjoy the new videos, which have all been filmed in 1080HD.  All of the new videos were filmed on the GoPro 6 Black with the digital stabiliser feature activated. Considering we were filming from a Suzuki Jimny, the relatively smooth footage that you see, is nothing short of a technological miracle. All gravel passes in future will be filmed in this format, but be aware that it is a LOT bumpier in reality!

By next week all of the new Baviaanskloof videos will appear on the website on the superior Vimeo platform. As explained last week, Vimeo is similar, but superior, to YouTube in that the videos play back very close to the quality in which they were uploaded, whereas YouTube overcompress the videos which results in some pixelation issues. The first half are already on the Vimeo platform and the last three will be uploaded this Saturday. All our important passes in future wll be presented on Vimeo (or until such time as YouTube resolve their compression policy).  We have also created a new Baviaanskloof Overview & Orientation video, which is a good way for first time visitors to the Baviaanskloof to familiarise themselves with the salient features as well as the scope of the 182 km long traverse. Here are the links:

1. Overview and Orientation

2. Nuwekloof Pass

3. Studtis Poort

4. Grasnek Pass

5. Langkop Pass

6. Holgat Pass

7. Combrinks Pass

8. Grootrivier Poort

 

Videos 101 - Tweaking the balance between data usage and quality

Click the gear icon and select what setting suits your device

There is a trade-off between data usage and video quality when watching any videos. Our videos are preset to play on Auto. Effectively this means that the video player will 'read' your internet connection and play the video back (streaming) at a quality which will allow uninterrupted viewing. For example if your internet connection is one of the old Telkom types, the video will stream at 144, 240 or 380 (low quality). If you decide you would like to watch the video in a higher resolution, then you must click the gear icon (bottom right of the player) and select the quality you prefer. This might mean that you might have to wait a while for the video to download sufficiently to allow a smooth play-back (with no buffering).

If, on the other hand, you have a fast internet connection (like optic fibre), then the video will automatically stream at the highest quality setting. (We were filming at 720 HD last year and are now filming at 1080 HD). If you find that your data is being used too fast, then you can manually lower the quality setting in exactly the same way as explained above. This will use less data, but the downside is the quality will not be as good.

In general terms, the videos stream in reasonable quality on small screen devices (like mobile phones) and as screen size increases, the quality (or lack of it), will become more apparent. We try to provide you with top quality video (this is easily the most time consuming part of presenting a pass on this website) and we always recommend watching in the optimal quality setting.

 

Featured pass of the week

We trek to the citrus farming town of Hankey and after driving over the tarred pass between Patensie and Hankey, we get a birds eye view of the double horseshoe bends of the Gamtoos River. It is on the first of these big loops in the river, that a 90m high ridge forces the Gamtoos river into the north. It was at this narrow cliff that the son of one of Hankey's founders, William Philip got the idea to dig an irrigation tunnel clean through the mountainside. The mountain is made up of hard sandstone as well as Enon Conglomerate - a stable mix of round pebbles in a sandy matrix.

This was young William's first attempt at engineering and together with the help of locals began digging the tunnel with picks, shovels, chisels and hammers from either end. The dimensions are impressive. The tunnel is 238m in length and it took them over a year to dig it working 24 hours per day in shifts - at a rate of about 1 to 2 ft per day. Read the extraordinary history of South Africa's first ever irrigation tunnel and the tragic events that happened shortly after it's completion, by taking the click through link below:

* * * * *   R O C K L A N D    H E I G H T S   * * * * *



New passes added this week:
Langkop Pass (R332) Baviaanskloof - it's partially paved and very steep

 

Upgraded videos added this week:

Hankey Pass (R330) - an easy tarred pass between Hankey and Humansdorp

What's up next week? We will be producing videos on the Remkloof Pass, Van Stadens Pass and the Doringnek Pass, the last-named being something quite special.


Trygve Roberts
Editor

Thought for the day: "Our expectations greatly impact our happiness" ~ Steve Murphy 

Mountain Passes South Africa

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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.
 

Master Orientation Map

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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