Latest News! 14th June, 2018

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Long Tom cannon circa 1899 Long Tom cannon circa 1899 - Photo: Trygve Roberts

Some of you have been waiting for many years to enjoy our publication of Mpumalanga's most famous pass - The Long Tom Pass. There are a number of reasons why this mega-pass qualifies for so many superlatives. This week we take a deeper look at this hugely popular pass and what makes it as great as it is.

Most people dont realise that the traverse between Lydenberg and Sabie is made up of three official and separate passes. From east to west they are Koffiehoogte, Long Tom Pass and Masjiennek Pass. Together they make up a distance of 50 km including the 4 km plateau section separating Long Tom and Masjiennek. Had the passes not been separated by name, they would have formed the second longest in South Africa, being overshowed only by Prince Alfred's Pass in the Western Cape. [More lower down]

Despite the Long Tom Pass's beautifully engineered corners, the road carries with it a lethal cocktail of impending dangers, which include exceptionally dense and frequent mountain mists that can reduce visibility to less than 3m. Drivers who fail to adjust their speed to the visibility stand the very real possibility to driving into the back of a slow moving truck or stationary vehicle.

Many Mpumalanga drivers have resorted to driving with their hazards on. When we posted this snippet on our FaceBook page there was an instant rash of responses (mainly against the practice). One of the problems is that if you have your hazards on whilst underway, it means you can't indicate to overtake. Other comments are that drivers behind find it distracting. Whatever your opinion (including the legality issue) is that we found it quite effective in maintaining a safe distance from the vehicle in front in low visibility conditions and found the practice to be worthwhile. You can chip in your 2 cents worth in the comments section on the bottom of this page.

With the pass connecting Sabie and Lydenburg, the road carries both logging and mining articulated trucks. It is unlikely that on any day of the week, that you will be able to traverse this pass without coming across at least 6 of these big trucks crawling up or down the pass. This causes impatience with drivers of normal vehicles, and they often take huge risks, overtaking on double barrier lines and blind corners. These big trucks are also the main culprits for the rapid deterioration of Mpumalanga's roads.

But the real attraction of this pass is a twin pronged bonus of majestic Drakensberg scenery coupled with pioneer and Anglo-Boer War history that will astonish viewers who take the time to stop at the various historical view sites. Just as a small example - one (of the four) Long Tom cannons that were once hauled up these big mountains to bombard and control the English military in 1899, weighed an immense 5700 kg and was 7,5 m long, requiring a span of 16 oxen to pull it.

Take the hyperlink below and read up on the powerful history where the big cannons once boomed their 40 kg shells for almost 10 km across these beautiful mountains. We have opened all three of the adjoining passes which should be viewed in the order listed for the complete story to unfold. Enjoy!


* * * * *   K O F F I E H O O G T E    * * * * *


* * * * *   L O N G T O M    P A S S   * * * * *


* * * * *   M A S J I E N N E K    P A S S   * * * * *

New passes added this week:

Houtbosloop Pass (D210) - A scenic gravel pass offering views of Wonderkloof and access to the Sudwala Caves.

Trygve Roberts


Thought for the Day: "Quality is not an act - it's a habit" ~ Aristotle


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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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