Latest News! 13th September, 2018

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Chapel at the Sheba Mine Cemetry Chapel at the Sheba Mine Cemetry - Photo: Mike Leicester


We have just indexed pass number 777. To put that into perspective.... It takes on average 22 hours to produce one pass (excluding the filming). So by process of simple arithmetic we have spent 17094 hours producing passes since 2013. That equates to 712,25 days or 23,74 months of working 24 hours per day. Believe it or not, we enjoy what we do!

You Tube - We have just passed the 1,475 million views milestone with our subscriber base climbing steadily.

Last month (August) we set all sorts of new records on our Instagram account which is being expertly managed by Lisa Roberts and the popularity of our Face Book page never fails to impress us with page views numbering well over 300,000 in August. Thank you for all that support! 

Eureka City to the Tankwa Karoo

Last week the first of two multiple day tours took place. Mike Leicester took a group of guests on a 20 pass excursion of which the highlight was a trip up to Eureka City. We have a guest blogger to relate his experience of the trip (lower down).

In the Western Cape our fully booked Tankwa Tour heads off to the wonderful plains of the Tankwa Karoo early on Friday morning, where we will be driving 21 passes over 3 days, including the two big gravel passes of Gannaga and Ouberg. A celestial tour has been setup for Saturday evening in Sutherland, which should be interesting to see who can withstand the sub-zero temperatures. We will do a full report back next week once the dust has settled (in both senses of the phrase).

It's only just begun....

During October we will be heading off to the Eastern Cape to film another 40 passes over a 10 day period. We have already started producing and publishing these passes with provisional fly-over animated videos. Have a look at some of the statistics of these big passes which include the Mbashe (Bashee) River Pass, Ramatselitso Pass (9th highest in SA), Dalibango Pass, Kobonqaba River Pass, Nungi Pass, Mkonkota Pass and the breathtaking Gwangxu and Mzintlava passes. And then there are still many more waiting to be mapped, indexed and filmed. [More lower down]

I found it!

One of the Eureka City Tour participants, Tom Cowell, sent us a short story of how he experienced the trip, which is always more authentic than us telling you. Here it is verbatim........... 

"As kids we rode our bicycles to and from school. Our bikes to us were as a horse is to a cowboy.  Mom always reminded us to leave early and stay off the main roads….a no-brainer because that’s where we had the most fun. 

So it was when my wife, Natalie, and I replied to a web site invitation from a dude, Mike (Chilli Boy) Leicester of MOUNTAIN PASSES SOUTH AFRICA, to join him in filming the famous Eureka City pass high in the Barberton Mountainlands Nature Reserve, little did we know the degree of professionalism and attention to detail that went into the planning of this 3 day trip. Mike not only has a wealth of knowledge of our mountain passes in South Africa, but also their colourful surrounding history that seems to make them come alive.  

John Pitchford at the old water wheel / Photo: Mike Leicester

On Friday our convoy of 4 vehicles travelled the N4 from Johannesburg via Nelspruit (Mbombela) to Barberton taking in no less than 12, off the beaten track, passes. As Mike put it, a devious route!  Describing 12 passes in a day, (I’m sure I counted 13 but altitude changes and 17 324 twists and turns can leave one requiring medical attention) is for now rather academic. At the start Mike presented all of us with detail and facts on each pass together with a pre prepared GPX route file for our GPS devices. This was a great way of connecting the dots and painting in the trip as we went.   

Mike arranged our accommodation in Barberton and cooked for us that night. What a beautiful meal…….all sure that’s where he got his nick name from. 

Saturday (Eureka Pass filming) was lead by Wynand Engelbrecht, a professional 4X4 tour guide who has an intimate and interesting knowledge of the area.  In the main this pass is a serious yet pleasant level 2/3 climb out the Mountainlands’ rivers, ravines and gorges passing within touching distance of long ago abandoned dwellings and diggings to reach the 1250 m ASL high plateau overlooking the town of Barberton in the west and “the valley of a thousand hills” in the east. After a few technical descents we lunched amongst the fascinating ruins & topography of Eureka City. 

Since what goes up must come down, after our lunch stop we descended to the Sheba mine “Golden Quarry” via the tricky steep & narrow “Golden Highway” – so called because the concrete mixture for the road strips used mine tailings which in today’s modern gold recovery methods is thought to still contain tons of gold. 

On Sunday morning Natalie & I say farewell to our new travel & adventure friends, John, Barry , Wesley and Bradley and head off back up the Saddleback pass and home via the Songimvelo Nature Reserve. 

Special thanks to Mike Leicester (Mountain Passes South Africa) for the opportunity to join him in the filming of Eureka City pass and experiencing his passion for that stuff.  We sure hope to do it again." 

Tom & Natalie Cowell

And so, on to our featured pass of the week. In keeping with our Mpumalanga theme, we are featuring the Masjiennek Pass between Lydenburg and Sabie, which even through it's a major pass in its own right, is often overlooked by it's more famous sister pass (I suppose that should be brother pass) - the Long Tom Pass.


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


New passes added this week:

Mkonkota Pass - A big gravel pass south of Ugie.

Dalibango Pass - A short, steep gravel pass in the old Transkei region.

Trygve Roberts

Thought for the day: "When you find yourself stressed, ask yourself one question: Will this matter in 5 years from now? If yes, then do something about the situation. If no, then let it go" ~ Catherine Pulsifer. 

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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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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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