We are good at arranging things, but it was a complete fluke that our news release this week co-incided with Valentine's Day. So what better theme to tackle in our news release, than a romantic note. That got us wondering how many romances were kindled (or children conceived) at the summit point of some or the other mountain pass around South Africa and if the nightly goings-on at the lookout point on Uys Krige Drive (overlooking Table Bay and the mountain) are anything to go by, then that tally is probably quite high!
We have moved!
The MPSA head office moved premises last weekend. The finishing touches still need some attention and a lot of boxes are scattered about the floorspace, but we have completed the move and this news letter will be the first to be published from the new premises. Our contact numbers and email details remain the same. If we were a little slow in responding to email requests, that is the reason, but we are back up to speed again now.
Pass of the week:
Our featured pass of the week is actually three back to back passes which cover a distance of 19 km through some of the most beautiful and rugged parts of the southern Cederberg and which we traversed during our Southern Cederberg Tour two weeks ago. [More lower down]
* FLOODS IN THE SOUTHERN CAPE
* SHACKLETON 1718
* STETTYNSKLOOF TOUR
* CAPE TOWN OFFICE RELOCATION
* NEW - PUBLIC SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS
* PASS OF THE WEEK
This week is once again jam-packed with news. Let's start with a summary of what's on offer this week.
We bring you a report back on our most successfull tour ever - the Southern Cederberg Tour. [More lower down]
Stettynskloof Tour: We unravel the remarkable, but tragic story which occurred on a stormy August day in 1963 when an SAAF Shackleton crashed in the Stettynskloof mountains near Worcester whilst on a training exercise killing all 13 crew on board. Our upcoming Stettynskloof Tour will take us close to the crash site, where the full story will be told to our guests. This tour is also full of surprises (some of which we may not reveal yet) but all we can say is - "Get your booking done as soon as possible".
The tour will include a half circumnavigation of the Brandvlei Dam as well as a visit to some of Worcester's historical buildings. We can take any vehicle along on this tour. The date is Saturday, 16th February and its a one day tour. Here is the link: STETTYNSKLOOF TOUR
Floods: Last week we mentioned floods up north on the Reef and this week we have seen very heavy rainfall in the south-eastern parts of South Africa, with Meiringspoort once again bearing the brunt of the damage. Thomas Bain famously disliked building roads through poorts for this very reason. He had wisdom far beyond his years and it was this very reason that resulted in the construction of the Swartberg Pass, which went over the mountain, rather than through it, like Meiringspoort.
In the Western Cape, February is usually the hottest, driest month of the year, yet last Saturday a large area of the Western Cape received good rainfall with some roads being damaged. In the Citrusdal area where our Southern Cederberg Tour started, over 15mm of rain fell the previous night. The spin-off for our tour was nicely dampened roads with almost no dust and pleasant, mild temperatures in the low twenties.
Relocating: It's a frenetically busy time for the MPSA Cape Town office, as we are moving our main admin office this week. It's a case of lots of to-ing and fro-ing as we move files, desks, computers and cabinets. This might result in a minor slow-down in pass production for a week or two, but it's all part of the process of elevating the website from a part-time to full time operation. These moves are always much bigger than what one anticipates. We will do our level best to maintain our daily social media presence in between all the chaos!
THE WEEK THAT WAS:
* Fires, floods and droughts
* Book a place on our new tour
* Listen to the podcast
* MPSA goes professional
* A six year stampede from zero to hero
* Pass of the Week
* Thought of the day
BUSH FIRES : From week to week in the publishing office in Cape Town we have a never ending treasure chest of information to share with you. One thing about South Africa is that it's never boring. The Western Cape has seen a series of bad mountain fires, with vast tracks of fynbos, plantations and forests laid to waste and sadly also loss of human life and personal property. Over the weekend yet another set of fires broke out in the Lions Head/Signal area, blanketing the city and environs on a thick veil of smoke.
FLOODS & DROUGHTS : On the Highveld soaring temperatures have finally brought on the annual onslaught of violent electrical storms with localised flash flooding, whilst in the North-West the drought is stretching into its 5th consecutive year, bankrupting farmers who have no funds left for fodder, diesel and simply being able to pay their monthly bills.
Africa (and South Africa) is a harsh land with a wide range of climate systems. It is that very diversity which makes it such a beautiful country to explore. Whether it's a herd of cattle on the N2 or a troop of baboons on the N1 or a kudu jumping over your car along a Karoo back road, there is never a dull moment.
Last week we uncovered a fabulous new pass over private property, but if you're a paying guest at the farm (fly fishing, camping, hiking, mountain biking), you may drive the pass. It's a major pass at 18 km length and twists and turns its way along steep cliffs up the rugged Stettynskloof to terminate at the anchor dam of the Breedekloof Irrigation Scheme. [More lower down]
The Stettynskloof Tour. For Western Cape guests we have made special arrangements to take a small group along this new pass. It will form a part of a bigger concept where we will be checking out a range of dams in the Breede River Basin all linked by passes and awesome winelands scenery. This exciting new concept promises to be a stunning tour. It will take place on Saturday 16th February. Our tours are normally sold out within 48 hours, so if you want to enjoy this unique tour, we recommend booking today. Online bookings are now open at the MPSA Shop.
THE WEEK THAT WAS
* Northern Cape filming trip report back
* Unveiling of a wonderful newly discovered pass in the Worcester Winelands
* Hanlie Booysens writes about her MTB ride of the Ben 10
* Listen to the podcast
* Featured pass of the week
Mike Leicester, who runs our office up north from Johannesburg, has just returned from a successful filming trip covering the last of the outstanding passes in the far north-western sector of the Northern Cape as well as a few stragglers in the Free State. Amongst the many passes he managed to film, he was the most impressed by Charles' Pass - a fairly short gravel pass between Pella and the Orange/Gariep River, where towering tock faces create an eerie sensation as the road weaves its way through a canyon and suddenly opens up on the banks of the mighty Gariep. [More lower down.]
The Cape Town filming crew took a visit to a hidden valley in the mountains to the south-east of Worcester in the Breedekloof region, where we filmed a very long new pass, previously unknown to us. This road runs over private property but it is possible to drive the pass if you are a paying guest at the Dwarsberg Trout Hideaway. The pass is a beauty - long, narrow and quite steep in places offering fantastic views over a narrow valley carved out by the Holslootrivier, which runs swift and clear into the north and later feeds into the Breede. The road terminates at the Stettyn Dam, making this an out and back route. [More lower down]
Hanlie Booysens, a star off-road cyclist and a subscriber to this website, recently completed the Ben 10 Eco-Challenge (on a bicycle of course). We were able to obtain a digital copy of her story as featured in the premier cycling magazine RIDE and with their permission publish the story of her challenge in this news letter. [More lower down]
Our featured pass of the week is an unknown one in the deeply forested part of Mpumalanga between Graskop and Sabie. Did you know that there are three Burgers passes in South Africa? There's one in the Western Cape near Montagu on the R318. There is another on the P308 near Utrecht in KZN and our featured pass is in Mpumalanga near Graskop. The first was named after a local councillor in Montagu and the other two more likely named after president T.F.Burgers who was head honcho of the then Zuid Afrikaanche Republiek from 1871 to 1877. [More lower down]
THE WEEK THAT WAS:
* Ben 10 new video
* Tower to Tower Tour feedback
* Pass of the week
This week we are featuring an unusual pass in Mpumalanga that many people have driven, but perhaps not realised that it's a mountain pass. A lovely tarred road with sweeping curves follows the southern side of the magnificent Blyderivierspoort Canyon and climbs an impressive 480m over 23 km. It's that long distance, which lulls drivers into believing they aren't really climbing, which produces an easy average gradient of 1:47. The pass has a number of false summits, which breaks the whole pass up into a series of smaller passes. Most of this traverse reveals tantalising glimpses of the canyon on the left, which requires detours down to the various view-points to marvel at some of the finest scenery on offer in South Africa. [More lower down]
The Ben 10 Eco Challenge is attracting an ever increasing number of participants with the latest number of entries standing at 125, with 55 having successfully completed it. That ratio of around 45% has remained constant since the event was launched and is a clear indicator that the challenge is not as easy as many people think. The latest trend amongst the adventure motorcycling fraternity is to try and complete the event in one day. This is definitely not in the spirit of the Ben 10 with the idea being to take your time, enjoy the scenery, relax and support local businesses. [More lower down]
* Back to school/back to work
* New tour launched today
* Latest Pass Planner available
* Ben 10 Eco Challenge sets a new record
* Social media update
* Pass of the week
* New passes published
It's back to school and back to work (and traffic congestion) for the vast number of South Africans this week as the year 2019 settles down to some semblance of normality.
Our pass of the week is a most unusual one in many ways. Not only does it require the driving of a partially deproclaimed road to get there, but the road in question was hacked out of the mountainside in the years 1940 to 1945, ostensibly for the use of ox-wagons. The construction work was carried out by a small group of enterprising farmers, who toiled through seven cold winters to build the precarious road from the Koue Bokkeveld down into the secluded valley in the southern Cederberg. [More lower down...]
Sunday, 3rd February - 1 DAY, 150 km, 6 passes.
The featured pass today impressed us so much that we created a special tour with it being the anchor pass and one we are confident will be thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated by our guests. We thought of calling this one the Vertigo Tour as at least four of the six passes have very steep drop-offs not suitable for those that suffer from acrophobia.
We always try to release new tours on a Thursday in conjunction with this newsletter, to give our subscribers first opportunity to book a place. As is the case with many of our tours, we get special permission to enter roads and areas not normally accessible by the public. This tour will be unforgettable. Our tours are booked out in short order, so if you live in the Western Cape, book online here: Southern Cederberg Tour
It is our great pleasure to wish each and every one of you a healthy, prosperous and adventure filled year ahead. We hope that MPSA will be part of your life during the year ahead and beyond. We have lots of wonderful new ideas and concepts for 2019 as we forge ahead with our plans to run the project on a full time basis.
What better way of kickstarting 2019 with an early departure on a pass filming day on January 1st. With perfect filming weather in the Western Cape, the Cape Town crew headed north towards Citrusdal with the idea of refilming some of the passes in that area, and more specifically the trio of passes on the R303 - a long connecting road between Citrusdal and Ceres with a mix of tar and gravel and one of those roads offering incredibly beautiful scenery, but be warned, the road is on the rough side and if it weren't for the 4WD capability of the Suzuki Jimny, we might have had no footage at all.
So with Elandskloof, Middelberg and Buffelshoek passes under the belt, it left just one new pass to locate and film. The pass in question was the Piet Esterhuysen Pass, which is accessed off the R303, but it is one of those passes that falls under that awkward category of a partially deproclaimed road. As is the case with other roads in that category (Sanbona Wildlife Reserve springs immediately to mind) a certain amount of jumping through hoops is required before entry can be obtained. [More lower down]
Saturday,12th January - Fully Booked. You can view past and future tours (when booking opens) at the MPSA Shop.
You can also subscribe (free) to receive Tour updates, which gives you first bite at the cherry.
Our next tour is being formulated as we speak and will probably be scheduled for last weekend of January.
The final newsletter of 2018 is always a time to reflect and take stock of our achievements and failures for the year. We had both of those in abundance and for those of you that read all the way to the bottom of the page, our 'Thought for the day' quote mostly reflects what is happening at MPSA at the time.
This year we have been successful in completely avoiding politics and we have been singularly focused on remaining in a positive space, despite all the doom and gloom that gets fed into our head space on a daily basis. The end of year gives us an opportunity to reflect on where we were a year ago versus today. [But more of that lower down...]
One of our guests for the Ben 10 Official Tour in March next year, has had to withdraw due to health issues. There is one space up for grabs. Book tour online (Late edit - Sorry, this spot has now been taken)
We still have a few tickets available for our first tour of 2019, which is the Tower to Tower Tour between Moorreesburg and Piketberg in the Western Cape. We have amended the entry requirements from 4x4 only to 4x2 with good ground clearance (as we can use a safe escape route for 4x2 vehicles if necessary). This tour involves an ascent and descent of the Koringberg, followed by a visit to a mission station tucked away in a hidden kloof, then down an historic pass where the first concept of a looped flyover was invented 130 years ago by a South African farmer. Book tour online
We remain up north as we take you for a cyber drive on the gravel surfaced Shiyalongubo Pass. A pass once driven, will long be remembered. [More lower down...]
* Jingle Bells
* Road safety
* How to fix a puncture
* Book on our next tour
* Pass of the week
* New passses added
In this penultimate newsletter of 2018 we take time out to wish every one of our subscribers, followers and friends who enjoy our passes and poorts across our beautiful country, a relaxing and safe time with your families over the holiday season. More importantly we wish you safe travels and in that process, we continue with our December theme on road safety.
In today's issue we focus specifically on punctures and how best to deal with them and we offer a step by step guide on how to be self-sufficient when your spare wheel has already been swapped and you get that dreaded second puncture hundreds of kilometres from the nearest town.
For our featured pass this week, we take you up into the northern-most sector of Limpopo province to cyber-drive the 24 km long and absolutely magnificent Abel Erasmus Pass. We take a peek at the man himself who attained some fame as a fearless hunter and earned the respect of locals of all races who gave him the nick-name 'Ndabulu Duzi' for his practice of waiting until the last possible moment before firing on his quarry.
Bookings have just opened for our first tour of 2019 - The Tower to Tower Tour - a one day bonanza only open to 4WD vehicles with low range. What sets our tours apart from the rest is that we don't charge per person, but per vehicle. Our tours are normally booked out in a day or two, so grab your spot: BOOK NOW!
There are also some new passes produced this week, so sit back, relax and enjoy the South Africa many people don't know about. [More lower down...]
* 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
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.
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...]
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.
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.