* 2018 ABF Tour - Langeberg Conqueror
* Corrugations - the one feature of gravel roads that no-one enjoys. We show how how to beat the bumps.
* Podcast - a discussion on a range of topics from tiger fishing to Thomas Bain.
* Pass of the Week
* New passes added this week
For those of you in the Western Cape or anyone from inland coming to the Cape for the holidays, we are putting on a spectacular final tour of the year on Sunday 30th December, 2018 that makes for a perfect opportunity to get the family out for the day before the New Year celebrations begin. The tour includes a full ascent and descent of the Langeberg mountains (1493m ASL) on a private road not normally open to the public. We got special permission for this one, so it promises to be a fantastic fun filled family day that will include a range of other passes, mostly gravel, as we work our way through a wide 165 km long loop along the Karoo escarpment. Our last 3 tours were all sold out within 48 hours, so book online right now: LANGEBERG CONQUEROR TOUR
As many South Africans gear up towards the annual holiday rush to the coast, we are focussing on road safety - not just on the tarred roads, but especially on the gravel back roads. In today's news letter, we have a look at the topic of corrugations and how best to deal with them. Corrugations are abhorred by all drivers (and passengers) and can ruin a great country style drive, but there is a way to reduce the shaking and improve the ride. Corrugations are one of the main culprits causing rollovers.
It won't be the gnarly hills, flooded river crossings or the axle deep sands of Namaqualand that test the endurance of your vehicle, but the gutted corrugations of the roads that lead to many iconic off the beaten track destinations.
It's these corrugations that will see mirrors rattle apart, aerials come adrift, roof racks rub through paint and the contents of your camping kit eventually disintegrate until they resemble nothing of the finely organised packing system that you started with.
There are a hundred theories on how dirt roads become corrugated and they encompass everything from over-zealous truck drivers, to braking too hard before corners, to overloaded vehicles and over inflated tyres. Regardless of how corrugations form, driving on them is uncomfortable and eventually shakes your vehicle to pieces.
If you plan on travelling the backroads of South Africa then you are going to encounter endless kilometres of corrugated dirt roads, but you can take a few measures to reduce their bone-rattling affects.
It's not often that you're advised to go faster during an unpleasant driving experience but it is fact when driving over corrugations that 60kph may be a lot more comfortable than 30kph and 80kph - 90kph may be even better. We aren't suggesting you belt around the bush at 140 because when you eventually put your car on it's roof - you'll blame us, but there is a distinct speed that is 'right' for every vehicle.
The key is to synchronise all the elements of your car with the corrugations - the pressure in your tyres, the weight of your car and its suspension and handling characteristics. Finding the best speed for your particular vehicle will see these variables all align in some sort of harmony that sees you floating on top of the corrugations rather than rattling between them. [Read more lower down...]
The week that was:
* Try our new search feature
* Ben 10 Eco Challenge Update
* Sani Pass tarring update
* Mzintlava Pass - listen to the podcast
* Pass of the week
After many hours of tweaking and tuning, we are proud to announce the launch of our new search function. As with most things that experience growing pains, our original search function was struggling to cope with the ever increasing number of passes constantly being added to the database and after a few groans, it crashed completely. Fortunately there are at least 3 other ways of searching the database and most people use the Master Map as evidenced by the 90,000 page impressions.
You can now do refined searches. Once you have typed in the name of the pass you are looking for (the blank rectangle at the top right of each page), a display will show the results and at the head of that display, you will see options as follows: All words; Any words; Exact phrase; and Ordering. So now you can choose one of the first 3 options, depending on how sure you are of what you are looking for. Select "Oldest first" under ordering and click "search" again top left. This will more than likely deliver the exact result you are looking for. Try it - it's been worth the wait!
We also added a page with an alphabetical listing of all the passes, that can be found at Find A Pass - Alphabetical List.
At this time of the year, there is always an increase in the number of entries. As at this morning's count, there are 101 entries of which 40 have managed to complete it. That equates to a 60% attrition rate, which is a sure indicator that the challenge is a lot more difficult to complete than what most people imagine. [More lower down]
THE WEEK THAT WAS....
* Understanding road numbers
* Locked gates - what to do?
* Listen to the podcast - Montagu Tour
* Tours Update
* Pass of the Week
There are always controversial topics which need to be addressed, even on the gentle subject of mountain passes. Today we want to dispense some important information to all of you that take to the gravel roads, as you go exploring the back woods of South Africa. It is particularly relevant at his time of year as people plan their routes to the coast for the December holidays and many try to avoid the main trunk routes.
You will come across closed gates (and sometimes locked gates) from time to time. The subject of our news release today is how best to deal with those often tricky situations. The first item on the agenda are those little A4 sized white metal boards that appear every 200m or so - usually affixed to a fence or sometimes just knocked into the ground on a metal stake.
The boards usually bear a number (eg P1392) with another number above (eg 0,0 in the photo example below). The lower number indicates the grade or importance of the road (in this example P is a minor gravel road) followed by its administrative number. This allows a roads inspector to notify repair crews where a specific problem is located. The higher number is a distance from the start indicator. In the photo below this was at the starting point of the road, hence 0,0.
When a road bears these white signs, it is a sure indicator that it is a road that is maintained by a local authority or government roads agency - and that is also your assurance that it is a publicly accessible road, [Read more lower down....]
"We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us". I recently saw this phrase at a friend's house, who spent almost 3 years restoring a 1960 series 1 Land Rover. That slogan was his inspiration ~ carved into a piece of wood on his desk as a constant reminder to complete the restoration project so he can travel with his beloved Landy across the back roads. It is a masterpiece!
Some years ago after returning from a tough filming trip into the Richtersveld, we slept over at a guest farm outside Springbok, and there on a small plaque on the bathroom door were these words that keep reminding me what Mountain Passes South Africa means to me: "Reis is die beste belegging" (Travel is the best investment). Never a truer word said.
I have taken the liberty of fine tuning that a little by adding in the words ~ "Reis is die beste belegging in Suid Afrika". Our travels of discovery into the furthest corners of South Africa never leave me with any doubt as to the accuracy and wisdom of that phrase. It frees the soul and rejuvenates the mind.
As 2018 is rapidly winding up towards the festive season where travel becomes a risky affair, we turn our attention to the quieter back roads, where our readers can plan journeys that will provide life-long memories and get them safely to their destinations - maybe a little slower, but a lot more relaxed and more importantly - alive! [More lower down...]
THE WEEK THAT WAS
* Garden Route wild fires
* Ben 10 Eco-Challenge Official Tour update
* Koue Bokkeveld Tour
* Pass of the week
At MPSA we strive to stay in the world of positivity, but this past week with all the wild fires in the mountains between George, Knysna and De Vlugt the news cannot be ignored. Road closures were the order of the day as the Outeniqua, Robinson and Montagu passes were all closed at some point. Tragically a number of lives were lost, as were homes, timber plantations and one of the casualties was the lovely old toll house at the foot of the Montagu Pass. Whether this graceful old building will ever be restored is a matter of conjecture. It stands forlorn, blackened - it's roof gone; a skeleton of it's former self.
Most fires are of course a natural phenomenon and when one looks at how quickly the vegetation around Knysna recovered, there is always hope that a good rainy season will quickly restore this beautiful part of the Garden Route.
If you are caught in a bush fire while driving there are several steps you should follow:
This week we head off to the beautiful Langeberg mountains. We filmed an historic wagon route and have just released a new 3 part video series covering this lovely route and the good news is you don't need a 4x4 to drive it. [More lower down...]
The interest level in our Ben 10 Eco Challenge Tour is huge, with 9 of the 10 places being snapped up in a matter of two days. This promises to be an event of note. We have all sorts of surprises built into this tour, which is more than just completing the challenge passes. [More lower down...]
* The Cooper Story
* Montagu Explorer - bookings now open
* Ben 10 Eco Challenge Official Tour - bookings opening soon
* Podcast - Aristata & Ben 10 discussion
* Pass of the week - Pietersfontein Pass
* Three new passes to review
This amazing father-daughter team have just successfully completed the Ben 10 Eco Challenge on bicycles. But not your normal high-tech 27 speed MTB's. They built their own bikes at home from scrap metal and designed them to have only one gear. Today you can read their incredible story (lower down..... )
Our newest tour coming up on the 18th November is the Montagu Explorer. It's a one day easy tour, packed with interesting features and a couple of surprises. The tour will include 7 gravel passes of which 5 you will unlikely even have heard of. Two lakes will be visited in the folds of the mountains as well as a drive up one of the highest peaks in the area with amazing views. We can take 4x2 vehicles with diff-lock or AWD vehicles with reasonable ground clearance. The 4x4 sections are not difficult and there is only one obstacle requiring careful attention.
This is a perfect outing for the whole family and covers a distance of 265 km and a total of 12 passes with enough variety to satisfy the most ardent pass enthusiast. It's affordable too at R790 per vehicle regardless of the number of passengers. It starts in Montagu and ends in Worcester. Our price includes the cost of the VHF 2 way radio rental.
Online bookings are open at the MPSA Shop
As mentioned in our previous newsletter, we have received many request to run a guided tour over the Ben 10 challenge passes. The good news is that it will happening from the 21st to the 25th March, 2019. We have already received over 20 provisional bookings, but we can only take 10 vehicles. Bookings will officially open within the next 7 days at our online booking page
[More lower down]
* New concept tours
* Ben 10 Tour
* Aristata Tour feedback
* Montagu Explorer Tour
* Ouberg Pass featured
* Three new passes to review
Our tours are going from strength to strength. On the cards are tours to the Gamkaskloof/Die Hel, Baviaanskloof and the big news is a tour of the Ben 10 Eco Challenge for which we have had many requests. So if you've been wanting to do the Ben 10 in the safety of an organised group, here is the opportunity..
Your team at MPSA is currently discussing our biggest tour concept ever and it's bound to be a winner. We have had countless requests to lead a group through the 10 passes of the Ben 10 Eco Challenge. Many people want to tackle it, but getting a group together can be problematic. The concept is to run the tour over a 4/5 day window some time between February and April 2019. The routing and accommodation planning will all be handled by MPSA. All you have to is pitch up and conquer!
We will be able to accept 10 vehicles on the trip. This promises to be the trip of a lifetime filled with spectacular views, some nerve wracking drop-offs, gradients steep enough to let the adrenaline overflow and some of the finest scenery to be enjoyed anywhere in South Africa - all packaged with good food and decent accommodation. The tour will have the two most experienced mountain pass experts guiding the group - One in the front and the other doing sweep.
Watch this space for details. Other tours in the planning room include an exclusive tour over the Swartberg Pass with an overnight stop in Die Hel. The other tour taking shape is a full traverse of the Baviaanskloof.
Last weekend we ran our successful Aristata Tour in the Western Cape, which followed in the footsteps of some of the great road engineers, like Thomas Bain and Adam de Smidt. Ages in the tour group ranged from 25 to 70 so we had an interesting mix of wonderful people who all joined this tour for the same reason - to travel the roads less travelled and learn about our old and new passes.
The Aristata Tour was not just about the beautiful Aristata Protea. The first pass was the old Du Toitskloof Pass with its many winding bends and stellar views. History discussed on this pass clarified the role of the Italian POW's and their strong bonds with the townsfolk of Paarl. The south easter was howling through the pass, so our stops were brief!
[Read more lower down...]
* Ride the Dragon Tour - report back and a particpant's perspective
* Links to watch some of the 4x4 action on video clips (Bezuidenhouts Pass)
* Featured Pass - Joubertspoort north of Montagu
* Five new passes to review
* Two upgraded videos of gravel passes in the Tankwa Karoo
* Listen on the radio (Joubertspoort podcast)
Our Ride the Dragon Tour was eventful, to put it mildly. These trips get planned a long way ahead of time and of course, the one unpredictable factor is the weather. The tour went ahead as planned to a point, but the going was slow as the first rain storm lashed the convoy with a vengeance on day one, reducing visibility and slowing the speed down to 30 kph (and that was on a tarred road!). Amongst the group were two riders on adventure motorcycles. Needless to say they got drenched. Even the toughest pass of the weekend was tackled in horrendous conditions. Two ladies in a Subaru XV joined the tour and we publish today a well written account of the tour from their perspective.
Mike Leicester did a great job caring for the safety and guiding the group up and down these passes in a trip they will all remember for a very long time. It would seem the greater the adversity, the stronger the team bonds.
Here is Verity Meijer's version of the tour:
"Renamed for this trip by the writer – The Dragon’s Wrath Tour!!
We are adventurous and love the roads less travelled. My travelling buddy and I are the travelling Grannies. I drive a Subaru XV. We have recently completed a solo trip of the passes in the Richtersveld – so we were bold.
4X4 listings are always confusing for a Subaru XV driver, so a check with Mike Leicester prior to booking – all good except Bezuidenhout’s Pass. (We could drive a safer route and meet them at the bottom of the Pass). We booked.
[Read more lower down}
* 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
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...]
MPSA is in the media again. This time on News 24. Here's the link:
Our 2018 Tankwa Tour has just been completed and as usual we prefer to publish the perspective of a tour participant which is published here verbatim:
"Have you ever wanted to try new adventures, visit those off the beaten track places, but thought that it was not possible, well we discovered over the last weekend that with the right organisation, leadership and caring it can be done, with ease.
My husband and I were part of a group tour which spent the last weekend driving on some of those roads less travelled through the Tankwa Karoo, which is in the Northern Cape. This was an absolute adventure from start to finish, with the added bonus of the most spectacular wild flower display which was totally unexpected.
I must add that we have a little Suzuki Jimny which our grandchildren call the “Noddy Car”, for those who don’t know what it is, it is a small 4x4 vehicle with low range capability, which we did not have to use at all, but in comparison to the other 4x4’s on the trip, it was tiny, so don’t let the size of your vehicle stop you from having the adventure of a life time. One can imagine our trepidation when we set off! Would it be able to cope with whatever was coming our way? The answer is yes, it did, so don’t let your fears of the unknown put you off if you are looking for the chance of a life time to explore the great unknown plains of South Africa. [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.