Latest News - 4th November, 2013

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Katse dam - Lesotho Katse dam - Lesotho - Photo: Trygve Roberts

Even the best laid plans go wong. Our 57 passes we scheduled for filming were not to be, but we did get 30 done, including, Moodies Pass, Gysmanshoek, & Muiskraal in the Heidelberg/Riversdale area.  The culprit was unseasonal rain. After an overnight stop in Port Elizabeth where we were able to see a privately restored 1937 Bentley Tourer.

The next day we filmed the Ecca Pass north of Grahamstown, followed by the Katberg Pass and the Devils Bellows - both of these are only possible to complete in a high clearance 4x4 with low range. Part of the road was obliterated by about six hundred trees which had been blown over in a wind storm. This involved some serious bush whacking, but we found our way back onto the road.

We tackled the Barclay Pass twice, both times being foiled by heavy rain. Tiffendel surprised us with a solid snowfall and the following day we drove Baster Voetslaanpad (which we were unable to complete due to rockfalls), Otto du Plessis (another 4x4 only pass - but it got our No.1 Wow factor vote). We finished the day off ascending the Volunteershoek (or Bidstone) pass right up above the snow line at 2600m ASL. The road had to be gingerly located under deep snow using a 3m zoom on the GPS. Click here to see our video overview of Tiffendel Ski Resort.

The next day we had a good run up Naude's Nek (the second highest pass in SA) and descended via the Pitseng Pass overnighting in Himeville in KZN at the beautiful Penwarne Lodge.

So far so good! Then came the Sani Pass, where the top 20% was under cloud, but we filmed it nontheless. Coffee at the Sani Pass Lodge at an altitude of over 2,800m ASL was taken around a cosy fire surrounded by dense white cloud.

Then there was Lesotho. The place completely overwhelmed me and after the first pass, I realized the project was too big and we were too pressed for time. It will have to be left for another time. The passes there make the SA passes look tiny. Several of the passes exceeded 3000m at the summit, with a number of the passes having an altitude gain in excess of 1000m. Lesotho is basically one gigantic mountain pass. Other than a small region on the Western side near Maseru, there are no straight roads. More news on Lesotho next week. We were "arrested" near Maseru on trumped up charges by corrupt police officers and were forced to pay a bribe to get our drivers licenses returned. We have made a short video clip on the incident here. We encourage all our readers to copy teh video clip link to the addresses listed under the description on YouTube. the more people who contact them about this incident, the more likely they will react and take action against these bad cops.

Our accommodation at Tabe Tseka had been given to someone else (this is darkest Africa remember?), which meant having to divert far north where we got rooms at Afri-Ski Mountain Resort. The 4 star resort was woefully short of staff (it's their off season) and by 8pm there was no water. That meant no showers, toilets - zilch! Not so lekker. The explanation was that the water had frozen in the pipes. What?-  at +4C! I don't think so. The service in the restaurant was also very slow with a frustrated manager flapping around and swearing volubly at his kitchen staff for the guests to hear. The resort is booked out a year in advance for the winter season, despite these issues. Maybe we just caught them on a bad day.

The space here is too small to write about Lesotho, but I will cover the salient bits in the weeks to come.

On the way back from Lesotho the weather played ball and we managed to get a range of passes filmed, including Lootsberg pass, Buys Poort, Perrieshoogte, Ghwarrie Poort, Perdepoort, and Potjiesberg Pass. Near Ladysmith we headed north to film the beautiful Seweweekspoort, then hooked a left to Laingsburg via the Koueveld Pass, Wittenek and Rooinek passes, before tackling the last 3 hours home on the N1 in heavy rain, which managed to rinse off two weeks packed up mud under the truck..

4100 kilometers at an average speed of 54 kph using over 800 liters of fuel. The things we do to provide top footage!

It was truly our pleasure.

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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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