Latest News! 5th July, 2018

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Matroosberg is usually the first mountain range to receive snow. Matroosberg is usually the first mountain range to receive snow. - Photo: Matroosberg.com

Good weather - Bad weather

The huge frontal storm system that hit the Western Cape on Sunday brought with it plummeting temperatures, widespread snow from the Cederberg all the way to the Drakensberg and of course, lots of rain. Water levels in the dams of the drought stricken Western Cape have risen steadily since June and are now at 50,3% and climbing as rivers flow strongly through the catchment areas of the major dams like Theewaterskloof. Level 6B water restrictions remain in place in Cape Town and are unlikely to be lifted until a figure of 85% is achieved and only then will there be a gradual reduction in the level of restriction. It seems unlikely that Cape Town will be entirely free of water restrictions for the next 5 years.

In Sutherland the mercury dropped to minus 8 on Tuesday night. The infamous "Vries jou gat af" weekend was planned two weeks too early! A number of passes were closed between Sunday and Monday, which included the Theronsberg and Swaarmoed passes in the Western Cape and the Lootsberg Pass in the Eastern Cape.

Chasing waterfalls

The old Du Toitskloof Pass on the R101 is one of the best places to go waterfall chasing. With grim weather in the forecast last Sunday, we took the trusty Land Cruiser (plus the cameras just in case) and decided to see if we could film some of the waterfalls. Our previous highest count in the kloof was around 40. To say the weather was wild was putting things mildly as torrents of rain and gale force winds raged over the mountains. We counted and logged 147 proper waterfalls, although some of them were quite small, there were many much higher up the crags that we had never seen before. Dense clouds and heavy rain, prevented any photography, but the drive was something to behold. Despite the heavy traffic this is the place to go during or just after a storm if you want to see waterfalls.

Pass of the Week

This week we take you into the heart of the Cederberg to one of the oldest farms in the area, where recent changes to the infrastructure have breathed new life into this well known tourist farm, which has been servicing the needs of hikers, backpackers, climbers and campers for almost 80 years. [More lower down]

Located in a picturesque valley in the rugged Cederberg range, is the Kromrivier (Crooked River). The Nieuwoudt family have owned this farm for several generations and started creating camping and small cabins for the hardier campers and hikers from as long ago as the early 1900's. The Nieuwoudt name occupies pride of place in the Cederberg region, where these pioneering families tried to tame the land. Wherever you go, the Nieuwoudt name pops up and it's no surprise that even the newest generation of Nieuwoudts are coming up with modern pioneering farming methods and concepts. Today, the main driving force is tourism and the Nieuwoudts understand it very well.

Take the back road through Algeria

The Kromrivier farm has sheep, goats, horses, poultry, vines, camping, cottages, a resaurant and more recently a micro-brewery. When approaching the Kromrivier farm from the north, the long gravel road from Clanwilliam traces a dusty and bumpy route through the beautiful Algeria valley, then up the Uitkyk Pass and from there it heads south for many kilometres along a high altiude plateau of pristine mountain fynbos and crystal clear streams, with the towering 2027m high Sneeuberg keeping a silent vigil on the right.

Before reaching Kromrivier the road bisects the Dwarsrivier farm, which lays claim to having the highest altitude vineyards in South Africa and where winemaker, Dawid Nieuwoudt, brings to life their award winning Shiraz wines, which can be sampled in their ultra modern and stylish tasting room. This farm also provides access to some of the best known rock formations like the Maltese Cross, the Wolfberg Cracks and Arch and of course a mid-winter visit to the observatory on the farm, to gaze at the stars in those clear night skies, is a must for the whole family (but dress very warmly!)

Just a few kilometres south of the Dwarsrivier farm, the road reaches a triangulated intersection. If you keep right you will drive over the Kromrivier Pass. Whilst the climb up to the summit is fairly mild, it is the descent down the flank of a very steep gorge, which gets passengers hearts thumping, as here the road narrows and clings precariously to the mountainside with near vertical drop-offs on the right. Wide views over the valley can be enjoyed and a birds eye view of the Kromrivier farm is on display like an artist's palette.

Although the pass' statistics are nothing spectacular, it is the rugged terrain and severity of this pass, which makes it a treat to drive. We refilmed this pass during June 2018 on a cold, blustery day and invite you to cyber drive it with us today. Even better, go there yourself and sample the ample plates of farm-fresh food and excellent craft beer as well as Cederberg wines in their new restaurant, which besides a huge fire-place, sports a leiwater canal running right through the restaurant under a glass panelled floorboard. Or book in to to one of their modern chalets, three of which have just been completed and more are under construction. Breathe in the pure mountain air and forget about city stresses.


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New passes added this week:

Sudwalaskraal Pass - A southern extension of the bigger Sudwala Pass on the R539 offering sweeping curves and fabulous Lowveld scenery.

Upgraded passes added this week:

Bothasnek Pass - A big tarred pass on the R38 between Barberton and Badplaas in Mpumalanga

Trygve Roberts

Thought for the Day: "If you're working on that you really care about, you don't have to be pushed. The vision pulls you" ~ Steve Jobs. 

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Mountain Passes South Africa is a website dedicated to the research, documentation, photographing and filming of the mountain passes of South Africa.

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