* 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.
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]
*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]
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]
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)
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
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.