Latest News! 12th July, 2018

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Some of the best views anywhere in South Africa at Mariepskop Some of the best views anywhere in South Africa at Mariepskop - Photo: Panoramio

The filming of the Mariepskop Pass right on the Mpumalanga/Limpopo border formed part of a week long filming trip bedevilled with heavy cloud, mountain mists and copious quantities of rain. Juggling rain showers with our filming schedule was never going to be an easy task and an entire day was set aside to film the second biggest altitude gaining pass (of 1100m) in South Africa. Just getting to the pass requires good planning and lots of spare time.

Based in Graskop, we first had to descend to the Lowveld via Kowyn's Pass with its old but futuristic tunnel design and multitude of potholes, as we headed towards a large and impressive dam - the Injaka dam, which provides water to the Bushbuckridge region.

Perhaps the most dangerous part of the Mariepskop Pass is navigating the numerous hazards on the southern approach road - the R40. It straddles a huge suburban area of mixed economic housing ranging from simple shacks to multistoried mansions - all falling under the universal name of Bushbuckridge.

This 35 km long drive to reach the Mariepskop turn-off is not for the faint-hearted. You have to pay radar-like attention to everything going on around you with taxis, slow cars, fast cars, trucks, buses, cattle, goats, dogs and pedestrians all adding to the alarming number of obstacles on the roadway. Traffic officers appear everywhere with radar traps and road blocks being the norm on any day of the week. In short, this is a rather chaotic place, that has new shopping centres popping up all over the show, so clearly there is investment and enough money around to make the place as busy as it is. [More lower down] 

It is with some relief, that the GPS beeps the upcoming turn, taking one off the main road and heading towards the 2000m high Mariepskop mountain, which can be seen from a very long distance away. Mostly this huge craggy mountain lies stoically at the northern end of the Drakensberg range with a mantle of thick, white cloud as it keeps vigil over the Blyde River Canyon very far below.

We had spent a lot of time and effort getting there to do the filming, so we were obviously disappointed to find ourselves under cloud near the start and well into the cloud-base by the time we were halfway up. Many prospective pass chasers who go to drive this colossus will find themselves in the same situation, so when watching the video set, understand and appreciate that this pass is rarely not under a blanket of cloud. It's something of a lottery whether you will get to enjoy the views or not.

We have produced eight videos covering both the ascent, descent as well as a seperate double video set covering the access road off the pass to the Klaserie waterfall and the waterfall itself. This will give drivers of non 4WD vehicles a very good idea of whether they will make it or not.

We unpack the history of this big mountain and the Moholoholo War of 1846 which saw hundreds of invading Swazi soldiers dying on the mountainside. Today it is a peaceful place, wreathed in soft cloud and drenching rain, where nature has once more been allowed to reign supreme.

For anyone who tackles the drive up to the summit, the rewards are enriching, regardless whether you get to take in the stunning scenery or not. You are guaranteed to encounter hardly any traffic as this one is well off the beaten track and to add to the mix, it's a dead end, so only the dedicated pass hunters will tackle this one.

This is without a shadow of doubt a bucket list pass, but perhaps it is best approached via the Blyderivierpoort and Hoedspruit side to avoid the Bushbuckridge approach if at all possible. Remember that the videos always make the driving look easier than what it is in reality. We recommend driving this one with a backup vehicle and especially so if you are not driving a 4x4.

Grab your popcorn, you will need about half an hour to watch the video set.

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Trygve Roberts

Thought for the day: "While we cannot change a past event, we can change our reaction to it, our understanding of it, and what we do with it." ~ Hamilton Beazley

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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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