fbpx

The week that was....

* 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)

Ride the Dragon - an unforgettable weekend

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}

 

Published in Mountain Passes News

The week that was:

* 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

Montagu - Dried fruit, David Kramer and fancy bridges

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...]

Published in Mountain Passes News

News 24 / Traveller 24

MPSA is in the media again. This time on News 24. Here's the link:

https://bit.ly/2NS0qcL

Tankwa Tour - a huge success!

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...]

Published in Mountain Passes News

Milestones:

We have just indexed pass number 777. To put that into perspective.... It takes on average 22 hours to produce one pass (excluding the filming). So by process of simple arithmetic we have spent 17094 hours producing passes since 2013. That equates to 712,25 days or 23,74 months of working 24 hours per day. Believe it or not, we enjoy what we do!

You Tube - We have just passed the 1,475 million views milestone with our subscriber base climbing steadily.

Last month (August) we set all sorts of new records on our Instagram account which is being expertly managed by Lisa Roberts and the popularity of our Face Book page never fails to impress us with page views numbering well over 300,000 in August. Thank you for all that support! 

Eureka City to the Tankwa Karoo

Last week the first of two multiple day tours took place. Mike Leicester took a group of guests on a 20 pass excursion of which the highlight was a trip up to Eureka City. We have a guest blogger to relate his experience of the trip (lower down).

In the Western Cape our fully booked Tankwa Tour heads off to the wonderful plains of the Tankwa Karoo early on Friday morning, where we will be driving 21 passes over 3 days, including the two big gravel passes of Gannaga and Ouberg. A celestial tour has been setup for Saturday evening in Sutherland, which should be interesting to see who can withstand the sub-zero temperatures. We will do a full report back next week once the dust has settled (in both senses of the phrase).

It's only just begun....

During October we will be heading off to the Eastern Cape to film another 40 passes over a 10 day period. We have already started producing and publishing these passes with provisional fly-over animated videos. Have a look at some of the statistics of these big passes which include the Mbashe (Bashee) River Pass, Ramatselitso Pass (9th highest in SA), Dalibango Pass, Kobonqaba River Pass, Nungi Pass, Mkonkota Pass and the breathtaking Gwangxu and Mzintlava passes. And then there are still many more waiting to be mapped, indexed and filmed. [More lower down]

Published in Mountain Passes News

Time travel exists right here in SA

South Africa has no shortage of mountain passes and interesting places to write about and this week our featured pass of the week lies in the rugged mountains between Sutherland and Merweville. It's the small villages that pique our interest, so we decided to explore the history of Merweville in some detail. And what a treasure chest of stories we uncovered!

There's an immaculate grave site in the village that is lovingly tended by the local townsfolk, but what makes this grave-site so special is that it's more than 110 years old and fulfills a promise made back in 1902 by the local villagers.

An Englishman, that became an Australian that died for the Boers

This is the tragic story of yet another "Englishman's Grave" ~ On the outskirts of the village a signpost points the way to where a marble cross above a well-tended grave marks the final resting place of Lieutenant Walter Arnot from Australia who served with the British forces during the Anglo Boer War. His second name was 'Oliphant' which was particularly unusual and adds another question mark to this story.

Walter Arnot, was the son of Dr Henry Arnot, MD RN. He was born in Essex in England on 9 September 1860 and was educated at the Royal Naval School in New Cross, London. At the age of nineteen he moved to Australia to take up sheep farming and by the age of 20 was managing a large sheep station.

During the next eight years he held similar positions on other major sheep stations and was complemented on his stock management practices during a long drought. In 1888 he joined A Battery Field Artillery in Adelaide and was married in the same year. When the Anglo Boer war broke out in 1899 he joined the 3rd South Australian Contingent - the South Australia Bushmen Corps, as a sergeant. The Corps specialised in scouting and intelligence gathering. He arrived in Africa at the port of Beira in Portuguese East Africa and was promoted to lieutenant. [More lower down]

Published in Mountain Passes News

We have a jampacked newsletter for you this week which covers interesting characters like Prof. Chris Barnard, Andrew Geddes Bain and modern engineers who appear to be performing magic on a scale that defies belief.....

A bridge too far

For those of you that travel the R60/R62 route through the Robertson/Ashton/Montagu area will be familiar with the major roadworks that have been taking place for the past two years. The complete realignment and refurbishment of this busy road, which attracts 7000 vehicles per day is a vital improvement to the roads infrastructure in the Western Cape.

The route through the impressive Cogmanskloof with its steep, contorted rock faces has been subject to blasting on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 12h00 and 14h00 causing long queues of vehicles on either side of the construction zone. When the entire project is completed by next year, it promises to be a wonderful new road with three impressive new bridges being constructed. We are waiting with bated breath to see how the new road is going to adapt to the old tunnel (the oldest road tunnel in South Africa) at Kalkoenkrantz as the tunnel is quite narrow and is unlikely to meet the new width standards. Will they widen it, especially considering that it's a national monument?

By far the biggest of the three bridges is the one in Ashton that crosses the Kingna River. We have been keeping an eye on the construction of this bridge over the last two years and did some further investigation into just how its peculiar design is going to work. [More lower down]

Published in Mountain Passes News

The Owl Route

You've heard of the Whale Route, the Wine Route, the Fynbos Route and many others, but how about doing the Owl Route? This week we head off to the Eastern Cape to introduce you to a wonderful gravel pass that is both remote and impressive. It will leave you with a wonderful sense of peace and solitude and you won't get lost as the very distinctive shape of the aptly named Kompasberg will be there to guide you.

The sleepy Karoo village of Nieu Bethesda is the destination and offers a fascinating place to rediscover your sense of inner peace. [More lower down]

Tankwa Tour

Another exciting venture taking shape for Western Cape readers is a three day trip through the Tankwa Karoo where we will offer limited spaces for visitors to drive with us as we refilm some of the classic passes with our new high-tech cameras and talk you through each pass via our crystal clear VHF radio sets.

The three day trip will include the Gannaga and Ouberg passes and at least 18 other passes and will include two overnight stays in lodges. The tour will include a stargazing event on the Saturday evening in Sutherland.

This trip is scheduled for mid September, but whilst a 4x4 is not a prerequisite, you will need a high clearance vehicle.

We are busy securing accommodation and pricing. We will have space to take 9 vehicles with us. The tour will also be detailed on our Facebook page.

Anyone interested in securing a spot should contact us via email or call 083 658 8888. [More lower down]

Published in Mountain Passes News

This week we head off to the bustling metropolis of Dirkiesdorp in the southern part of Mpumalanga, where the grass grows green in the summer and the cosmos lines the road-side in spring.

It is here too that some remarkable South African history can be uncovered and where real earthy characters like Swart Dirk Uys, Koos Bybel, Piet Italeni, Jannie Gyselaar, Kruppel Koos, Piet Hlobane and Vaal Piet seem unlikely characters from some forgotten novel.

We unpack the story of Swart Dirk Uys, his lovely daughter Sannie and an unlikely suitor in the form of a young Imperial French prince, whose flourishing relationship was cut short by the Zulus. Swart Dirk Uys is considered to be the founding father of one of South Africa's most succesful cattle breeds - the Drakensberger.

[Read more lower down]


Snow falling on Cedars

Not only is that a name of good film, but snow has fallen over a wide part of South Africa - even on the bluegums! Tiffindell recorded over 20cm of snow - one of the best snowfalls in a long time. The benefit of snow is that it releases water at a slow rate, which is much more beneficial to the earth than normal rainfall, allowing for superior uitilisation. It also fires up the spirit of adventure in most South Africans, but in general terms most of us have little or no snow driving experience. It's best to tackle snow drives with good preparation and if you're really heading off into the thick stuff, a set of snow chains is a sensible purchase - and of course the knowledge of how to fit them.

According to Snow Report, last week snow started falling in the north of Lesotho in the Maluti Mountains (Afriski area) during the early hours of Thursday morning. By sunrise on Thursday, there was light snow all across the Drakensberg from the north to the south, mainly on the Lesotho side, with some flurries in the southern KZN areas north of Kokstad and around Matatiele in the Eastern Cape. [Read more lower down]

Published in Mountain Passes News

Rusty Gate

Onbekendepas, Helderstroom Pass, Theewaterskloof Pass and Elandskloof Pass are all alternative names for the Rusty Gate Pass, named after a farm near the summit of this wonderful traverse of the Donkerhoek Mountains that separate the Theewaterskloof Dam from the Helderstroom Valley near Villiersdorp in the Western Cape.

Today we take a cyber drive over this lovely set of farms amongst proteas, fruit orchards, sparkling dams and pine forests as we uncover yet another gravel road gem. But it is in the research of the area that the real earthy history of South Africa comes to the fore. [More lower down...]

Like a ghost in the night....

Our web-service host is moving the entire MPSA website to a faster, better server this week. By the time this newsletter is published it will all be fait accompli. The transfer to the new server will take place during the early hours of Wednesday morning, and the benefits to you will be a faster site with quicker page downloads. There might be a few gremlins during the switchover, but we are anticipating that most issues should be resolved within 48 hours.

Another innovation is that we are developing a more refined search system with variable parameters, which will make the search function more optimized. We will announce this refinement as soon as it's ready for rollout.

We experienced an issue with one of our old Mailing List providers, which meant that that about a third of our subscribers did not receive last week's newsletter. We apologise for that.

The incident helped accelerate our plans to switch over to a new Mailing List provider, that offers more potential for future growth, and this newsletter email is sent out via this new service. We also took the opportunity to update the look of our newsletter email. We hope you like it.

Ben 10 has gone to sleep

The cold weather, rain and snow seems to have kept all our intrepid Ben 10 Challenge competitors tucked away warmly under their duvets, as we have not seen a single finisher in the past few weeks. Before you know it, spring will be here and all the adventurers will up in the mountains, enjoying the big challenge passes again. Remember entry is free, so sign up and go for an adventure that you will never forget.

Published in Mountain Passes News

Koringberg

From the ghost towns of Mpumalanga we head far south this week to visit a town so small, you might not have even have heard of it. It has a population of 1,600, has three churches, a railway station and a museum. This tiny village, tucked away in the rolling wheatfields north of Moorreesburg, is called Koringberg (and it appears to be a well kept secret by city folk investing in country property).

Close to the village is a fair sized mountain of the same name and a narrow gravel pass that winds its way up and over the Koringberg and down the other side in a dazzling array of switchbacks, to put a smile on the face of even the most jaded offroad driver (but please read our cautionaries on this pass before you rush off to drive it).

Doing the research on this dorpie, we discovered why this bread basket region of South Africa is called Die Swartland. In just a few hundred years the entire vegetation system has been changed from natural Renosterveld to today's endless fields of wheat and canola. [More lower down]

Published in Mountain Passes News

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Sign up to receive our weekly newsletter with News and Updates from Mountain Passes South Africa

Subscribe to our Site

Subscribe for only R300 a year (or R210 for 6 months), and get full access to our website including the videos, the full text of all mountain passes articles, fact-file, interactive map, directions and route files.

Register

 

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.

View Master Orientation Map...