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What's in the news this week?

* Easter message

* Coverage of days 3 & 4 of the Ben 10 Tour with overview videos

* Podcast (Bastervoetpad Pass)

* Tours updates

* A life lesson from Mark Twain


EASTER - We wish all of our subscribers and followers (currently 19,000!) safe travels this Easter weekend. Make sure you arrive alive and more importantly that you return alive too. Accident statistics over Easter are frightening, so take care and drive defensively. Get off the main routes. Use our master map to plan a slower more interesting, safer and relaxing route to your destination.

Notre-Dame - With the burning of one of the most iconic churches in the world and billions of Euros already being pledged for its reconstruction, we thought it would be fitting to use a simple little country church for our Easter photo, which was taken near the Bastervoetpad Pass. Simplicity itself and a raw beauty in it's own right.

TOURS UPDATES

21st April - Merino Monster Tour - Bookings have closed.

17th - 19th May - Great Swartberg Tour - Fully booked.

21st - 23rd June - Thomas Bain Heritage Tour - 5 places left.

In the planning room:

September - Ben 10 Eco Challenge (Version 2). 5 days of mud and glory (and maybe some snow). Get your name down on the advance priority list.

October/November - Sani Pass/Lesotho/Katse Dam. 4 days. Get your name down on the advance priority list.

Create your own tour: Plan a tour that you think would be a winner and send it in to us and qualify for a 30% rebate if we use it. Some factors to consider. Accommodation and meals for around 25 people. Fuel availability. Distances less than 250 km per day. Tour length can be between 1 and 5 days. Send it to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

PUBLIC SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS: We will do a presentation at your function at no charge on the proviso it's within 30 km of Cape Town. Call us on 083 658 8888 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

PODCAST - A discussion on some of the challenges facing drivers on Day 2 of the Ben 10 Tour. LISTEN

BEN 10 ECO CHALLENGE TOUR
We take you through Day 3 and the dramatic 4th and final day of the tour when the happenings on Bastervoetpad meant we had to implement a number of alternative arrangements. [More lower down...]

 

Published in Mountain Passes News

This weeks highlights

* Day 2 of the Ben 10 Eco Challenge Official Tour

* Tours update

* Baviaanskloof flood damage update

* Two new podcasts


BEN 10 ECO CHALLENGE OFFICIAL TOUR

The adventurous and sometimes dangerous tour tested our skills and experience to the limits as we struggled with not only our own convoy of 15 vehicles but also two other groups numbering around 10 vehicles who arrived at the western start of Bastervoetpad more or less at the same time. It soon became evident that we needed to assist some of the bikers in other groups, who were taking regular falls on the ascent. [More lower down...]

TOURS CALENDAR UPDATE

April 21st - Waboomsberg/Merino Monster - A mostly gravel, one day trip near Ceres of 145 km with one of the main passes being on private land. 5 places open. Bookings close April 17th.
Book online: MERINO MONSTER TOUR


May 17th to 19th - Great Swartberg Tour (1 place open due to a cancellation) - Latest edit: 13h50 Ticket sold!
Book Online: GREAT SWARTBERG TOUR


June 21st to 24th - Thomas Bain Heritage Tour (7 places left)
Book online: THOMAS BAIN HERITAGE TOUR

Inquiries: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 083 658 8888

None of the above trips are suited to camping. No pets allowed (as we enter many nature reserves). Average accommodation costs are approximately R500 per person per night.


PODCASTS

This week we offer two new podcasts which include details of the recent Baviaanskloof floods as well as an interview discussion around Day 1 of the Ben 10 Tour. [More lower down]

 

Published in Mountain Passes News

The Ben 10 Wash-up

Last week we gave you an overview of the Ben 10 Eco Challenge Official Tour. This week we look into the first of the four days in more detail which illustrates the human interactions as the large group of people slowly bonded together to form a cohesive unit, taking care of each other, to ensure a successful outcome for all. The full story encompassing 23 chapters will be published over the next 3 weeks and thereafter will be permanently embedded under a separate menu tab on the main Ben 10 page. [More lower down...]


Wapadsberg/Merino Monster Tour

Our next 1 day tour in the Western Cape takes place on Easter Sunday (21st April) and includes 3 gravel and 3 tarred passes in the mountains north of Ceres. The route includes the magnificent Droelandskloof Pass with the anchor pass being the ascent and descent of the Wapadsberg Pass - a major climb to an amazing view-site. The route is suitable for any vehicle with reasonable ground clearance. We still have space left, so if you're looking for something different to do over that long Easter break, bring the whole family along as our prices are per vehicle and not per person. Book online here.

The Thomas Bain Heritage Tour

This brand new bespoke tour will take place during June or July over three days starting in George and ending in Patensie. It will include the 7 Passes Road, Gouna Pass, Kom se Pad, Prince Alfred's Pass, Uniondale Poort > Overnight in Uniondale for some spookstories.

Day 2 will route through a southern approach to the stunning Nuwekloof Pass and down into the western Baviaanskloof where we will visit a tree house, the Makedaat caves, a bonsai nursery and negotiate the 8 water crossings through Studtis Poort with an overnight stop at the Zandvlakte guest farm.

Day 3 will be spent exploring the Baviaanskloof eastern bio-reserve and include the passes of Grasnek, Langkop, Holgat and Combrinks with an overnight stop at Bruintjieskraal on the banks of the Grootrivier. The next day a short drive out through the Grootrivierpoort will end the tour at Patensie. No less than 12 of the passes on this tour were either designed or built by Thomas Bain. Bookings for this tour will open in a week's time. The tour is only open to 4WD vehicles.

April Fool

We also examine the April Fools Day phenomenon and explore the extraordinary success of our April's Fool post on Facebook. At the time of writing the post had 41,778 views over a 72 hour period. Remarkably the post (which took 5 minutes to knock together) ranks as one of our most successful posts ever. Understanding the power of social media is complex with this post knocking all the standard barriers down. [More lower down...]

Featured pass of the week

In keeping with our theme on the challenge passes, we feature another of the big 10 passes in the Eastern Cape Highlands. [More lower down]

Published in Mountain Passes News

BEN 10 ECO CHALLENGE OFFICIAL TOUR ~ An adventure of epic proportions

It's hard to believe just 7 days have passed since we left for the inaugural Ben 10 Eco-Challenge Official Tour. Despite our meticulous planning, Mother Nature - or in this case "Mokholo" - (the Great Mother) taught even the most experienced off-roaders amongst us a lesson or three.

Compressing this epic adventure into one news release is almost impossible. We will be serialising it over a week or two to bring you the full story in glorious Eastern Cape technicolour, with all the drama, intrigue and suspense of an adventure the 36 participants, who ranged from 8 to 76 years, will never forget as long as they live.

The 6 months of planning predictably had to cope with that ever changing game changer - the weather. We studied the weather history for the area going back 20 years and decided that late March would be an almost perfect time of year to run the tour, with not much rain and beautiful green scenery for all the participants.

In an effort to provide our guests with a convenient accommodation option, we decided to base ourselves at the Mountain Shadows Hotel near the summit of the Barkly Pass, for the 5 days of the tour. This allowed the group to travel light and efficiently each day and in addition we had the benefit of a daily meeting place of comfort and space to accommodate such a big group.

[Read more lower down]

Published in Mountain Passes News

As you read this newsletter, the MPSA team are somewhere between Lundin's Neck and Jouberts Pass on Day 1 of the Official Ben 10 Eco Challenge Tour. A massive amount of planning went into this trip and now it's only matters beyond our control (like the weather), that can affect the adventure. We will do our best to post regular pics and short videos on our Facebook page throughout the tour.

Our featured pass this week takes us right back to our roots and the peculiar set of circumstances of how Mountain Passes South Africa was born. The GoPro HERO1 had just been launched in 2010/11 and I had always wanted a waterproof video camera that could handle the rigours of adventure sports and film in HD.

The primary idea was to film my crew on a sailing/racing yacht with the idea being to iron out errors and improve performance. On the very first outing with the new GoPro, when the yacht club cancelled racing due to gale force winds, we decided to rather go for a sail than sit in the pub.

From there things went south rapidly (pun intended) as we planed out of the harbour at high speed and out onto Table Bay to enjoy the full power of the Cape Doctor. Just as we reached a speed of 20 knots (37 kph) we broached (a nautical term for a downwind capsize). [Read more lower down]

Published in Mountain Passes News

* LATEST MEGA PASS ADDED TODAY!

We have a marvellous new pass which is being published today and coincides with the opening of bookings for our next day tour on April 21st.

The pass, which is on private land (but accessible by permit) is known by local mountain bikers as the Merino Monster. It starts at the Merino farm near the summit of the Theronsberg Pass and climbs a whopping 705m in altitude to summit at the top of the Waboomsberg at 1836m ASL revealing magnificent 360 views over the Ceres Valley, Warm and Koue Bokkeveld and the Gydo Plateau.

We have obtained permission to take a tour group up this pass on the Sunday of the Easter weekend (21st). So if you're looking for an adventure of note suitable for the whole family, book a spot as soon as possible. We connect everyone up with 2 way radios which is included in the tour price, but we can only take a maximum of ten vehicles. 

Although our tour is called The Merino Monster Tour, the pass is actually called the Waboomsberg Pass (explained on the pass page). The tour will include a stunning circuit of about 100 km which will include the magnificent Droëlandskloof old sheep trekking route, and 4 other major passes.

Ben10 Eco-Challenge Official Tour

Next week we will be away on the inaugural Ben 10 Eco-Challenge Official Tour and both the Jhb and Cape Town offices are a hive of activity as all the final arrangements are being resolved. [More lower down]

Published in Mountain Passes News

*CYCLING THE PASSES

This week we take a look at the Cape Town Cycle Tour and some of the passes which cyclists ride during the event as well as an unknown and unusual pass in North West Province near Potchefstroom named after a famous Springbok cyclist.

Our man up north, Mike Leicester, has uncovered yet another wonderful bit of Africana, but this time with a more modern twist. Our featured pass this week is the Ertjiesberg Pass in North West Province - a province not very well endowed with mountain passes. With only 15 passes, it comes as no surprise that locals revere any road that resembles a pass and in the case of this particular pass they have something special and unique found nowhere else in South Africa.

Our story focuses on the redoubtable Ertjies Bezuidenhout. A superb Springbok cyclist whose skill was hill climbing. It was on this very pass near Potchefstroom where young Ertjies (whilst at university) built his strength to become a world class cyclist.

Adding heavy tools and lead weights onto his bicycle he rode the (then unnamed) pass up to four times a day and when his cousin was available, he would tow him up the pass as dead-weight on a second bicycle. His determination to become great was unstoppable. We look at the obstacles like the international sports boycott which hampered his progress and his ultimate and final (and fatal) race in 2012 at the age of 56 which took his life. This is a story of a true South African legend.

We also take a closer look at some of the passes that the 35,000 cyclists in this year's Cape Town Cycle Tour will traverse in various stages of pain and pleasure, depending on how much training has been put in!

[More lower down]

Published in Mountain Passes News

There goes the 2nd month of 2019 cascading into the history books. As always we look north and head forth (that phrase lifted from the more robust Afrikaans version of "Kyk noord en f*k voort"). Since we have relocated our offices and are running MPSA on a full time basis, it's as if someone has turned up the heat as everything seems to have suddenly escalated up onto a higher level. Inflows of emails have virtually doubled over the past 3 weeks as have the requests for public speaking engagements, tours and general information. Our days have turned into 13 hour shifts x 7 days per week!

This week our featured pass takes us up into the Eastern Cape Highlands, where we introduce you to one of the lesser known high altitude gravel passes that offers unsurpassed scenic beauty. It's awkward getting there and is without doubt one of those roads less travelled, but watch the video and you will agree that this one deserves to be added to your bucket list (or as someone once mentioned - a "bugget list" - it took me a few seconds to figure it out.)

We have updates on our next tour (coming up in March) and another 1 day tour scheduled for April as well as the hugely popular Great Swartberg Tour in May.  [More lower down]

Published in Mountain Passes News

December to May is a very busy time at Mountain Passes South Africa. As usual we have lots of news to bring you and what better place to start than with our new Great Swartberg Tour. We only created this tour a few days ago and it instantly created a flood of inquiries to the point where the tour is virtually fully booked before we have even launched it. What is does show is that there is a need for multiple day tours where an element of adventure is included. (More lower down)

The move from our old premises to our new offices is close to being complete, with the last few boxes still waiting to be unpacked, but the main engine room is running at full steam ahead. The HQ is now based in Welgemoed, Cape Town, but our email addresses, and phone numbers remain unchanged. 

Our featured pass this week is most unusual in that it is "Ver in die ou Kalahari" but notwithstanding its rugged and remote nature, the area carries with it a fascinating tale of heroes and villians. We unpack the remarkable story of Scotty Smith, who presided in that part of the world many years ago as a diamond smuggler, cattle rustler, conman, jail-breaker and fraudster, yet he had a soft spot for the poor. Our man up north, Mike Leicester, explored the region and researched some startling facts and folklore. (More lower down) 

 

Published in Mountain Passes News

Valentine's Day

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!

If you were one of those who were proposed to or did the actual proposal on a pass, why not send us your story and the winning entry will receive a free gift from us. Send to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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]

Published in Mountain Passes News

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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.
 

Master Orientation Map

Master Orientation Map 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.

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