Latest News! 11th October, 2018

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Pietersfontein - discovery of the week! Pietersfontein - discovery of the week! - Photo: Trygve Roberts

The week that was:

* Discovering Pietersfontein & Patatsfontein
* That Ashton bridge!
* Latest tours information
* Mpindweni Pass podcast
* Pass of the Week - Komsberg Pass
* Five new passes to review
* Four passes with upgraded videos to watch
* A Karoo poem to still the soul by Helen Lockhart

Montagu - Dried fruit, David Kramer and fancy bridges

One of our followers, Mike Jones (a keen cyclist), wrote to us about some undiscovered passes hiding away in the mountains north-west of Montagu. His descriptions and photos were sufficient to get us out there armed with all our camera gear, but first we had to drive along the R60 via Robertson and Ashton.

As it is publicly known now, the construction company, Basil Read, that were contracted to complete the new road has gone into business rescue. The rehabilitation project covering the entire road between Ashton and Montagu has ground to a complete halt, leaving behind detours, half-built bridges, crunched up roads and some very frustrated residents.

We recently featured the ambitious looking arched suspension bridge in Ashton on our FaceBook page and were surprised to note (in the comments section) how upset the locals were about the bridge and the construction process. Clearly the roadworks have created more traffic congestion than there was before and tourism in the area has taken a big downturn.

Whilst the local government is figuring out how to get the project completed, the one thing we do know, is that the completion date has been extended by at least  two years. So, once we worked our way through the three stop/go's along Cogmanskloof and cleared through Montagu, we headed into the north-west through the Koo Valley to locate the new passes.

[More lower down...]

When you've filmed 700 plus passes, not much surprises us anymore, but suddenly our little gravel road opened up to reveal an enticing road climbing steadily up a long ridge towards the west. We got the cameras rolling and soon crested the summit of the Pietersfontein Pass. From there we were presented with an astonishingly beautful view over the farm, nestled in a green triangle of orchards and fields, with the road zig-zagging its way up the next neck and disappearing tantalisingly from view.

The Pietersfontein farm dates back to the mid 1700's and our source has provided us with a manuscript typed up on an old typewriter replete with with misaligned keys by one of the farm's older citizens (with a very clear mind). Don't go looking for this pass on the website as we still have to produce it. It promises to be a good one.

Wildflowers aplenty on the Komsberg Pass / Photo: Charon Roberts

Beyond Pietersfontein, the urge to explore the next pass was overwhelming and that one was even more impressive than the first one. It ends in a cul de sac at the gated entrance to the Doornkloof farm. Our research shows that it is possible to return to Pietersfontein via a different road that follows a river a little further to the south, but access would need to be obtained from the farm owner.

We then doubled back to Pietersfontein and headed north for a few kilometres to locate the starting point of the Patatsfontein Pass. This one cannot be driven unless in a 4x4 and the going is slow with much of the pass being driven in low range, but having said that, it's a grade 2 at worst. This road runs along a ravine hidden in the folds of the Waboomsberge and ends at the Patatsfontein farm in the east. When we produce this pass it will be in the form of a complete route which will include the entry and exit routes as well, as these add greatly to the enjoyment and scenic value on offer.

Whilst we were in the area we decided to refilm the Burgers Pass (Koo Pass) to upgraded 2018 standards. We last filmed this pass in 2014 and at the time wrote to Montagu Tourism about the large amount of litter below the main view-site. Fast forward 4 years and the litter is still there greatly detracting from the beautiful views over the Keisie Valley. It would take 6 labourers, one bakkie and a bundle of black bags and the view site could be properly cleaned up in a single day. All that is required for someone to take action. We had a similar situation in the Uniondale Poort about 3 years ago and contacted their tourism office who promised to contact the authorities. Two years later on a refilm, it was still the same. We can only do so much.

Riding the Dragon Tour

By the time this news release is published the lucky people going on this tour will be packing their vehicles in anticipation of what promises to a thoroughly enjoyable and adventurous tour, with multiple traverses over different passes, up and down the Drakensberg. With heavy snow in the area just a few days ago, this tour promises to be filled with excitement. Mike Leicester, our tour leader in Gauteng, has promised news and photos as the tour progresses. We'll post on Face Book for expediency.

Aristata Tour (4 days left to book your place)

There are still a few places open on this tour which is scheduled for next weekend (20/21 Oct). If you're a Capie, why not make a weekend of it and join this fantastic tour through some of the most beautiful gravel passes in the Western Cape, which will include Gysmanshoek, Seweweekspoort and Bosluiskloof with an overnight stay in the 4 star Boschluyskloof Lodge. Bookings close on Sunday 11th October. Book online at our Shop.

Send us an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we'll send you a brochure with all the details.

Listen on the radio

Each week we post the latest podcast of our radio chat which this week featured the Mpindweni Pass. The steepest pass (tar, concrete or gravel) currently on our website. You can listen by clicking this link:

Berg en Daal - Wild Coast FM - Mpindweni Pass in the Eastern Cape

Pass of the Week

Each week as we decide which pass to feature here, we realise that it's not only the big, famous passes that need to be publicised. Sometimes there are real gems on the back roads, where the traffic flow might be less than one car a day and one doesn't get caught up in "average traffic speed". Today's pass is one of those.

The Komsberg mountain is an extension of the Roggeveld Mountains as it reaches into the south and east in a long curving arc. For those who are willing to leave the luxury of the tarred R354 between Matjiesfontein on the N1 and Sutherland, there's a gravel road that curves to the west via a wide left hand loop that rejoins the R354 near the summit of the Verlatenkloof Pass about 20 km south of Sutherland. There are three passes along this road and if you're into wild flowers, try this road during September. It must be the best kept flower spotting secret in the Northern Cape. (See photo above)

The third of the trio  of passes (Bakenshoogte, Smoushoogte and Komsberg) is our featured pass and although it's not a major pass it does have a summit altitude of 1656m (despite the board at the summit claiming an altitude of 1721m, which is incorrect by a whopping 65m). The pass gets quite steep in places and has one very dangerous, unprotected corner with steep drop-offs, where a number of vehicles have come to grief over the years. Add in a high probability of snow in winter, some spectacular cuttings and those vertigo inducing drop-offs and we have a great pass that's well off the beaten track. It's well worth adding to your list and to add to it's attraction, it's quite doable in a normal car in fair weather.


* * * * *   K O M S B E R G     P A S S   * * * * *  

New passes added this week:

Road to Hell - An extreme 4x4 route in the N/Cape not suitable for inexperienced drivers. It is located about 35 km south-east of Vioolsdrift close to the Orange River and is a cul de sac. This is a provisional video only.  (N/Cape)

Ngwele Road Pass - A steep suburban pass featuring a double chicane corner set that connects Hillcrest with the villages around the southern side of the Inanda Dam in KZN. This is a provisional video only.

Bikamma Poort - A small poort that slices through the foothills of the Grootrivierberge to the north-west of Steytlerville in the E/Cape. This is a provisional video only.

Pella Pass - A rugged little pass between Pella and the Orange River, but you'll need a 4x4 due to the soft sand. This is a provisional video only. (N/Cape)

Plettenberg Bay Pass - A short tarred pass with lovely views over the Keurbooms River estuary.This is a provisional video only (W/Cape)


Upgraded videos added this week:

Verlatenkloof Pass - A major tarred pass on the R354 near Sutherland with impressive statistics. (3 new videos)

Smoushoogte - A small gravel pass in the Northern Cape between Matjiesfontein and Sutherland (N/Cape)

Bakenshoogte - A small gravel pass bedecked in wild flowers in springtime (N/Cape)

Oupoort - A moderate gravel pass on the R354 between Middelpos and Sutherland.



Trygve Roberts
Editor


Thought for the day : A poem by Helen Lockhart

The Karoo…

where the dust settles on my skin

where the wind calls my name,

where my heart beats to every footfall

where the open road spills into the sky above

where the grassy plains wave

where the mountain looms at the end of the road

where my soul aches to live

and yearns to lie down and die

where the windmills crank their weary song

where the stars flash morse code from life far away in the universe

where camels blink in the moonlight

and horses fly on dreams

where roads lead everywhere and nowhere

where people’s faces are etched with the winds of change

where magic and mystery walk hand in hand

down valley roads, glancing over their shoulders, beckoning me with secretive glances

where sacred ibises are hurled against the majesty of the blue sky

where hadedas call the night

where dusty dogs run free in streets of gold

where owls know me by name

where I learned to fly for the first time

where wise men seek the light

where each step is a dance of karoo magic

where the spaces in between are filled by heaven

where the earth is mine

where my soul finds its rest

where peace is in every breath

where I inhale and

know I’ve come home

 

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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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