A Record Breaking Month
The month of March is almost history and it's been a month of breaking new ground. We have just reached our highest ever readership on this website with 108,000 page views so far for a single month and our FaceBook feature on the Langeni Pass last week, was viewed 72,490 times, generating 2,300 Likes, 128 shares and 143 interactive comments. Of interest was the number of people involved in the construction who posted relevant and fascinating comments.
We are honoured to have been nominated for an award by the Western Cape Government Department of Cultural Affairs in the category 'Standardisation and/or Public Awareness of Geographical Names' and we thank everyone who posted messages of congratulations and encouragement on the Face Book entry. More on the award lower down this page...
Ben 10 Eco-Challenge Update
We had the first lady, Llesyri Joa, completing the Ben 10 Eco Challenge on an adventure motorcycle, thereby setting the bar not only for other ladies, but for the guys as well. The top 10 places for the challenge have now been booked in perpetuity and can be seen on the website, where the entry form is also available. Ben 10 Eco Challenge - Results and Entry Form.
Win a GoPro
As an incentive for those sitting on the fence and a reward for those that have already subscribed, we will be drawing the name of one lucky subscriber to win a GoPro4 Silver video camera. This will take place after the 31st August, when the incentive offer closes. Subscribe on this link for just R200 per year. MPSA - SUBSCRIBE
Wild Coast Radio
Wild Coast Radio in East London have us live on air, every Monday at 3.30pm for a 10 minute mountain pass talk. We will be posting the podcasts of these interesting chats on the website as soon as we receive them.
Featured pass of the week
Our featured pass this week is one of the passes of the Ben 10 Eco-Challenge and ranks as one of our personal favourites for its wonderful scenery, big altitude and general enjoyment. It offers waterfalls, a challenging drive, complete isolation and some of the finest Southern Drakensberg scenery you will find. We plan on keeping the featured pass 'open' each week for a day or two, to illustrate to potential subscribers the value that they can enjoy.
Win a GoPro Hero 4 Silver by subscribing
This week we are launching a competition where we will be drawing the name of one of our lucky subscribers to win the versatile and powerful GoPro Hero 4 Silver action camera. There are more details lower down this page.
Ben 10 Eco-Challenge hotting up!
Another long weekend behind the belt as motorists took to the highways and byways enjoying this magnificent country we live in. Reports are coming in that the Eastern Cape highlands had plenty of bikers and 4x4's driving/riding the Ben 10 Eco-Challenge. This is heartening news and wonderful to see the challenge is gaining momentum and acceptance. This week the next five people to complete the challenge, submitted their photographic proof and tracklogs. Well done to Zak Nel from Queenstown, who completed the challenge in 3 days in a Mitsubishi Triton 4x4, and Llesyri Joa and Bruce Muzik who nailed places 3 & 4 on adventure motorcycles. Llesyri is the first lady to complete the challenge. You go girl!
Scott Hoare and Johann Alberts have secured positions 5 & 6. Entries are now at 32 and counting. Just a reminder that there is no closing date and we will keep the challenge open as long as there is interest. The only limitation is that the challenge must be completed within 7 consecutive days or shorter. You can enter here: Ben 10 Eco-Challenge.
Featured pass of the week
Our featured pass this week is an absolute winner and yet few people have driven it. We filmed this fabulous pass in December, 2016 in perfect summer weather with inky blue skies. The pass displays some of the finest engineering to be seen anywhere in South Africa and offers, chicane style corners, arrestor beds, split level corners, vertical cuttings and a 235m long elevated viaduct over precious indigenous forests with some yellowwood trees older than 800 years. Two view sites near the summit offer views that will leave you breathless.
Magical Eastern Cape:
The Eastern Cape has an amazing variety of passes on offer and this week we take a closer look at a major high altitude pass, frequently under cloud in summer and snow in winter. It's located on the tarred R61 route between Graaff Reinet and Cradock and offers 33 kms of stunning Karoo mountain scenery on a modern, beautifully engineered tarred road.
Subscriber update and tips
For those subscribing or upgrading, once your account has been activated, our system sends you an automated email with a click back authentication code, which verifies your email as the correct IP address. This is to ensure that we prevent any spam onto our system. Some servers tag these automated emails as junk mail or spam, so please remember to check your junk folder if you dont receive the authentication email within a day.
Ben 10 Eco-Challenge
Entries for the Ben 10 Eco-Challenge are at 28 already, with just 1 person having so far successfully completed the challenge. If you want to enter, please use this link to complete the entry form and please note that entry is free. The concept behind the challenge is to support eco-tourism in the Eastern Cape Highlands. Remember there are three weekend accommodation prizes being offered as prizes for those successfully completing the challenge. We will draw one lucky winner every time that 20 entries have completed the challenge. Weekends on offer are at Tiffindell Ski Resort, Tenahead Mountain Lodge and the Mountain Shadows Hotel.
Enter the challenge on this link: http://mountainpassessouthafrica.co.za/find-a-pass/ben10.html
As a reward to all those who have subscribed, there wll be various incentives available, so keep an eye on the online shop, plus we will announce these via this news letter. The news letter itself will remain free to everyone, as will all other menu components of the website, including the Master Map and the Extreme Passes page.
For those paying per EFT, please remember to email your proof of payment so we can activate your account as soon as we can. Also a reminder to anyone who genuinely cannot afford the subscription, that we do have a pro-bono policy in place, but will require proof of income to validate the free subscription. Just send us an email.
Today's pass is one of those off the beaten track roads that very few people know about. Often it is these scenic little quiet back roads that completely captivate the more adventurous traveller. This gravel poort follows one of those typical Karoo rivers which are bone dry for most of the year, yet become dangerous, raging torrents when the rains eventually come. This one is near Laingsburg and the famous flood of 1981 brings back vivid memories when floods in the area brought devastation and heartache to the small Karoo town.
Firstly we need to acknowledge the unprecedented support of our subscribers in terms of signing up for the annual subscription. What it tells us is that the vast majority understand the quality and effort that has gone into the creation and constant improvement to the website. Only one person out of all our subscribers had a small whinge about the cost of the subscription, but after a short email conversation, he too took up the subscription. In effect we have had 100% conversion to the new format. It wasn't without a few technical glitches here and there, but we have worked diligently on resolving all of the transfer problems and will continue to do so until every last subscriber is happy and logged in successfully with us.
In between resolving log-in issues we found a really nice pass for you to enjoy this week. It's one of our perennial favourites and rate it one of the two most beautiful poorts in South Africa. We refilmed it on the 14th December, 2016 in perfect summer weather and produced the 18 km long drive over a double feature video set.
Another action packed week for the people running the admin department at MPSA as our transition into the subscription module is happening relatively smoothly. Many of our subscribers had forgotten their user names and passwords, so we've created a special help page to help those having difficulties with the changeover. Please use this link:
If you are receiving this news letter, it means you are either an upgraded (paid) subscriber or still on the free option until the 28th February, 2017. We urge all of you who have not yet upgraded to the paid option, to do so BEFORE the end of this month, to avoid a bottle-neck on that day. For all of you that have already upgraded, thank you for your valued support of the project.
Over the past few weeks, we have systematically featured the passes forming part of the Ben 10 Eco Challenge. We especially went to the Eastern Cape in December to refilm all of the passes, to provide up to date video footage for everyone wanting to complete the challenge. There are only two passes left to feature and this week it is the turn of the steepest of the 10 passes.
We have a full news release this week.
Change is always difficult to cope with and we have some major changes taking place within the website this week. The most important change is the switch to a subscription based site. As all our regulars know, we have been working hard on this for the past 4 months (on the technical side of things), which are finally in place and we are ready for the roll-out. Lower down on this page we explain exactly how this will affect you and what actions you need to take to remain on the mailing list and to continue to enjoy full access to the website.
Secondly, after many requests, we are pleased to announce that a zipped file containing all 670 of the route files in a single download, can now be purchased from our online shop. For our paid subscribers there will be an additional benefit of a 10% reduction off any item on the online shop, including the Route Files digital download.
This week's featured pass takes us back into the beautiful Eastern Cape highlands, not far from Rhodes, where we introduce you to an off-the-beaten-track pass that will have you longing for the open spaces and big mountain-scapes.
Our YouTube channel has just surpassed the 1 million views mark. Finally we're in the premiere league! We are still tweaking the switch-over to the subcriber format and it looks like another week before this finally kicks in. We will provide detailed information in next week's news release.
For those wanting to enter the Ben 10 Eco-Challenge, here is the link: BEN 10 ECO CHALLENGE.
This week we leave the stunning scenery of the Eastern Cape Highlands behind and take a drive to Harrismith on the KZN/Free State border. This magnificent part of South Africa offers exceptional scenic beauty with unique sandstone formations stretching for many kilometres along the border.
Our featured pass this week, was submitted by one of our readers (Dennis Green) and we were most surprised when we researched this little pass as to just how steep it was. Our camera man, Mike Leicester, was so taken with this pass, that he urged us to get it into the front of the production queue. A comment he made was "....a bit like it would feel driving down a mine-shaft...."
So steep is this pass with gradients under 1:3 that it would be impossible to drive it if it weren't concreted. It has logged in as the second steepest pass nationally with an average gradient of just under 1:7 . It's not for the faint-hearted.
Just when we think it's safe to go in the water........ Records are made to be broken. We've had some astonishing numbers come across our desk this week, surpassing by a long margin any previous highs we had achieved. During December 2016 we logged over 100,000 page views. What makes this remarkable is that our readership was steady between 55,000 and 60,000 for the last 6 months of 2016. Also during December, a single Face Book post on the Sani Pass logged a fraction under 160,000 views over a period of just 3 days. Once everyone went back to work, we expected the numbers to return to late 2016 levels, but they have pegged in at 80,000. We have just passed the 10,000 LIKES mark on our FaceBook page as well. A massive thank you to everyone for this throroughly rewarding support.
The Ben 10 Eco Challenge which we've been talking about for over 3 months, was launched last Saturday. Entries are streaming in and already the number 1 spot has been claimed by Mr. Rudi Pieters, who completed the challenge on a BMW R1200GSA motorcycle. The gauntlet is down! We've had a few questions about the dates of the challenge.
We have just returned from a short filming trip into the Southern Cape, where we refilmed some of your favourite passes in the area, which included the fabulous Swartberg Pass and the lovely Schoemanspoort. We also refilmed the timeless Montagu Pass and finally got some decent footage of the Outeniqua Pass. On our way back we uncovered a brand new pass, called the Perdehoekdraai Pass close to Oudtshoorn. All of these new videos will be available on the website over the next few weeks.
We met a Canadian couple (over the age of 60) who have cycled through South America and most of Africa - finishing their trip off in South Africa. They have cycled in excess of 3800 km and used this website as part of their planning for the South African leg. The extraordinary thing is that through that entire journey the only thing that was stolen was a roll of toilet paper - and that by a baboon!
There are some new and important developments at Mountain Passes South Africa. After many requests for a downloadable file containing all the route files in a single folder, we will be making this available within the next 10 days via our online shop at a cost of R300.
The Ben 10 Eco-Challenge will be officially launched within the next two weeks and those interested will be able to enter online on the website. There will be a new submenu tab under the FIND A PASS menu tab. Entries will be free and there will be wonderful prizes on offer including accommodation at various hotels, lodges and guest houses in the area. Every successful person to complete the challenge will have their names listed on that page in perpetuity.
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.