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Latest News! 24th May, 2018

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Is this the best biker road in the world? Is this the best biker road in the world? - Photo: Expedia

We have a jam-packed newsletter today. Forget about the city life and take a cyber drive with us to the distant corners of South Africa.

Never Ending Story

Each Thursday we feature a pass that most South Africans are not familiar with in an effort to bring the passes you don't know about into your living room via your desktop, phone or iPad. No matter how fast we produce passes, new ones get sent in by our readers, leaving that "passes to go" number wallowing around the 125 mark. It's been at that level for two years now, despite producing on average 3 passes per week. South Africa is a huge country with diversified scenery with much of our history on the smaller passes lost in the mists of time. Every story and snippet of folklore gets documented at MPSA and by the time this project reaches maturity, it should be the most comprehensive collection of true Africana available on the internet.

 

What happens in Sutherland stays in Sutherland

During a filming trip to the Northern Cape in 2014 we were based in Sutherland having dinner at one of the local restaurants, when a stranger approached me and asked me if I was the person behind Mountain Passes South Africa. It turned out he was a tour guide and had a group in the little Karoo town on an astronomy tour. He asked me if I knew which was the shortest pass in South Africa? The answer I told him was Sylvia's Pass in Jhb at 290m.

"No" he corrected me. "It's Grey's Pass in Cape Town. Go and check it out" (said with a huge grin)

It took us four years to get around to that! Last Sunday on a bleak, rainy day in Cape Town (that's something of an oxymoron these days), I packed the GoPro and set off to locate and film the mysterious Grey's Pass. More lower down......

On arriving in the city centre, many of the roads had been blocked off by traffic officials as there was some fun-run or walking event taking place. I followed my GPS which led me up Buitengracht, then left into Buitensingel, down the hill past Long Street and the first road left showed up as Grey's Pass.

A row of orange cones blocked the access, backed up by a traffic vehicle with the usual blue lights flashing. So, the shortest pass looked like it was not going to be the easiest to film! I parked nearby and walked over to the traffic officer and introduced myself and told him about the Mountain Passes South Africa project (he was blank) and asked if I could film the pass.

"No problem sir" came the answer.

And that's why our video looks like we arranged a police escort to film the pass! Funny how things turn out when one has a positive mindset. It took less than a minute to film the so called pass. It's just 97m long, has no corners and ends where the road bends through 90 degrees in front of the planetarium and becomes Queen Victoria Street and the name changes. The loss in altitude is a miniscule 1 metre. If it's official on the 1:50,000 topographical maps, it gets indexed at MPSA regardless of whether we think it's a pass or not.

In all our videos we produce a vertical profile animated graph so viewers can gauge the steepness of the pass, but in the case of Grey's Pass it was more or less a flat line that looked like the final graph of a cardiac arrest victim. So we had to leave that part of the animation out when we produced the video.

Digging up the history was the most difficult and time consuming part of the production and much of what we have written is conjecture. If you know more of the history on this pass, please drop us an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and get your name in lights.

Being a record breaking (in mediocrity) pass we've decided to leave it open to all for this week, together with our featured pass. Take the link here to access Grey's Pass and enjoy one of the shortest videos in our considerable collection.

Old Postal Route (Cederberg)

This Sunday (27th) the Cape Town unit are filming the long, bumpy but beautiful Old Postal Route through the Cederberg. The weather forecast is looking like a 50/50 call. We have opened this filming trip to include guests to allow an insight to how we go about producing our videos. The new videos should be produced within the next fortnight. Photos will be added to our FaceBook page to show what conditions are like. This route includes two steep gravel passes and a bridgeless river crossing. This concept of guests tagging along on filming trips will soon be expanded into the Johannesburg region as well.

Of Bikes, Bends, and Bananas 

Our much bigger featured pass this week lies some 2000 km further north-east in the lowveld, where much of South Africa's commercial timber (and subtropical fruit) is grown. Lying close to Sabie is one of the finest roads for sheer driving pleasure (with apologies to BMW). For those of you unfamiliar with motorcycles, we take you into their unique world in an effort to close the gap between motorists and bikers (no pun intended).

At MPSA we decided a long time ago to be "biker aware" and the response we get from the bikers is universally positive, with either a nod of the helmet or a friendly wave of acknowledgement - just for noticing them and giving them that extra margin of safety. These are fathers, husbands, brothers, artisans, professionals and businessmen. Falling off a bike is often fatal. In all groups there are those that are law abiding and those that aren't. This applies to both motorists and bikers. Understanding each other goes a long way towards being more tolerant. Try it.

This is a huge and growing community of educated people who find an enormous amount of pleasure in riding their machines on weekends or on longer adventure type trips. Accidents are numerous and the biking community have their own language and code of ethics that normal drivers know little about. It's a tight community of brotherhood (and sisterhood) that stretches right across the nation - and the world. We explore some of that today.

Close to Sabie on the scenic R536 is a majestic road built with the most perfectly banked and radiused corners. In biker parlance it's known as "The Infamous 22" as it is close as damnit to 22 km in length. It's an acknowledged biker run which is ridden at various speeds, depending on skill level and bike type. In our featured pass today we unpack the story behind the Infamous 22 and explore the pass that makes up the bulk of the run.

Credit to Mike Leicester (our man on the spot in the north) for the diligent research.

Put on your helmet, gloves and leathers and start that machine....

* * * * *   B E R G V L I E T    P A S S   * * * * *

 

New passes added this week:

Grey's Pass (Cape Town) - The shortest pass in SA at just 97m !!!

Hendriksdal Pass (R37) - A fairly easy, but magically scenic pass through the lowveld forests near Sabie.

 

Upgraded passes added this week:

Veraaiersnek (R36) - A fairly big tarred pass on the pothole peppered R36 between Orighstad and Lydenburg

Endumeni Pass (R68) - A scenic tarred pass in the heart of the Battlefields Route near Dundee in KZN

 


Trygve Roberts
Editor

Thought for the day: "The best time to start, is now"

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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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