Latest News! 13th December, 2018

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A highly risky crossing on a rising tide (Lindesfarne Causeway) A highly risky crossing on a rising tide (Lindesfarne Causeway) - Photo: Google Images


* How to survive the Silly Season

* Water crossings 101 - an essential guide

* Podcast - covering a full version of how to safely cross rivers

* Pass of the Week

* New passes added

Silly Season Safety

They call this time of year the 'silly season' for good reason (that was not intentionally meant to rhyme) and each December as the final school term winds up towards year end, families from every corner of South Africa set out for the modern version of the Great Trek as families unite over the festive season. Every year it's a bit like Russian Roulette.

The roads are packed with bumper to bumper traffic and drivers become increasingly agitated with the slow rate of progress and begin taking risks they would otherwise not normally take. Ignoring barrier lines is one of the most commonly abused traffic laws in South Africa as we observe on each and every filming trip we do shows how drivers right across the educational, financial and social spectrum take the law into their own hands and flagrantly disobey barrier lines and speed limits. It's become a free for all.

In this special issue we consider a number of safety issues that will help you get your family safely to their holiday destination and back home again.

Rivers of Sorrow and Joy

We visit beautiful Mpumalanga where the Drakensberg escarpment plunges more than 1000m down into the Lowveld and take you over a gravel pass ignored by most, but this one is well worth checking out, not only for it's superb scenery, but also for it's rich history. [Read more lower down...]

Basic Road Safety - Golden Rules

1. Plan your journey in bite sized chunks. Limit the distance you will drive in one day to 600 km. This will ensure that you are not driving at night and that you are not fatigued.

2. Get a good nights sleep and travel well rested. Plan regular stops for a leg stretch. A stop once every hour is recommended.

3. Don't drink and drive. It would seem unnecessary to state that, but at this time of year it is a brutal reality.

4. Stick to the speed limits. Allow faster traffic to pass. It reduces their frustration and makes the roads safer for everyone.

5. Have your vehicle checked out before your trip, paying attention to tyre tread depth, lights, brakes and general roadworthy items.

6. If you don't want to sit in endless traffic jams, try planning an alternative route along a quieter road.

7. Have the right attitude of courtesy from the moment you start your journey. Don't be a road hog. Don't take risks. Exercise patience and avoid road rage. It could completely spoil your entire holiday.

Water Crossings 101

For those who plan on taking the gravel roads, we offer a series of useful articles throughout December to help you get there safely. This week we focus on causeway, drift and river crossings.

In our December safety first feature series, we take an in-depth (pun intended) look at how to safely cross a flooded river.

First and foremost - Stop and assess the situation. Take your shoes off and roll up your pants. It's time to go walkies. Find your self a sturdy stick about 1,5m long and walk over the crossing, using the stick for balance and to probe for unseen underwater objects like logs or rocks.

Walk the entire crossing along both proposed wheel tracks. Once you have completed this soggy task, you will have a sound idea of the conditions and exactly how deep it is, as well as the strength of the current.

GOLDEN RULE: If you're not prepared to walk it, then don't drive it.

This approach is way too fast

In this photo, the driver is approaching the water much too fast. The spray might look impressive, but it's one of the most stupid ways to get across a river. The risk of aquaplaning is high as is the possibility of getting water into the electrics and electronics, not to mention losing control and rolling the vehicle.

Be smart - Never charge into water before you've checked things out on foot.

Always have a Plan B. Let's assume it's really important to get across a river. Think about the worst case consequences and make a decision on whether it's worth taking such a big risk.

If you do decide to "Go for it" make sure you remember the following:
1. Undo your safety belt (for a quick escape if needed)
2. Open all the windows and unlock the doors (to be able to escape being drowned)...
3. Drive with your door slightly open (the force of water will prevent you from being able to open the door)
4. Never try and swim upstream. Go with the current and scan a spot downstream where you will be likely to survive getting out of the river.
5. After considering all the above, reconsider if your decision is worth the risks.
6. Perhaps backtracking to a cosy guest house or farm stay might be a better idea.

Know your vehicle's wading depth

Once you've walked the crossing and you are satisfied that your vehicle has sufficient wading depth, engage 1st gear and stay in that gear until you are on the far side. Keep to a slow but steady speed not exceeding 10 kph. Try and create a standing bow wave in front of your vehicle. This wave should not break. If it starts breaking, slow down a bit. Behind that wave the water level will be lower and this help keep your engine relatively dry. If water rushes through the front grille, it can damage the radiator fan.

A snorkel fitted to an off road vehicle is designed to circulate dust free air into the vehicles engine system. It does not mean your vehicle can go underwater like a submarine!

The first thing you should do when buying a 4x4 is read up what the vehicle's wading depth is in the manufacturer's handbook. Take that measurement and mark it against your leg and make a mental note of where that is - for example just above the knee.

The next time you are faced with a water crossing and you do the walk test, you will immediately know whether your vehicle is capable (depth wise) of making it through. There is nothing more important than not drowning. It can wait - whatever it is.

Strong current flow is a game changer

If there is a strong current flowing, there are far bigger risks at stake. This will greatly add to the resistance of the water and the amount of power your vehicle will need. When you walk the river, and you struggle to maintain your balance, that is a sure indicator that the current will sweep your vehicle off the bridge or downstream.

So you made it through and the vehicle has been washed and unpacked. However, the differential casing has a breather hole and if you've driven through deep water, chances are you might well have water mixed in with the oil. Take your vehicle to your mechanic and let him check the diff oil for clarity - just in case.

Prevention is better than cure. OK, so now you are a water crossing paper graduate. Armed with all this new knowledge you can tackle water crossings with more confidence.

The last rule to remember: "If in doubt, leave it out!"

Listen to the podcast:

A full discussion on the do's and don'ts of water crossings

Pass of the Week:

This week we chase down the routes of the Voortrekkers as they headed into the far northern territories in their quest for self governance and prosperity. You don't need a 4x4 to drive this one, but some ground clearance will help to clear some of the rougher bits. Watch the video via the link below and decide for yourself.

* * * * *   C A S P E R' S    N E K    P A S S   * * * * *

New passes added this week:

Witsieshoek Pass - A big pass in the Drakensberg ending in a cul de sac and a bucket list item. (Provisional video)
Boesmanspoort - a hidden poort in a fold of the mountains north of the Swartberg range near Prince Albert (Provisional video)
Blounek - a very minor (but official) pass near Merweville in the Northern Cape (Provisional video)
Bitterwater se Hoogte - another minor Northern Cape pass in the Carnarvon area. (Provisional video)
Basterspoort - a remote and isolated small poort in the Loxton area of the N/Cape. (Provisional video)

Trygve Roberts

Thought for the day: "Man who jump without parachute, he be jumping to conclusion" ~ Confucius 

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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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