Good morning South Africa!
This morning we are featured in Business Day Live. You can read the article here: BUSINESS DAY LIVE
Today we head into the Eastern Cape, as we introduce you to yet another unknown gravel pass near Cala in the Highlands. This pass is fairly rough and traverses the true rural parts of the old Transkei, where life revolves around a much slower clock - where the cattle grow shiny and fat on the good pasturage and the colourful thatched huts speak of a tribal culture ingrained into the timeless mountians and valleys of this traditional part of South Africa, which remains unspoilt and charming to those who dare to tackle the rutted back roads. More lower down........
Just past the halfway mark through the year and we take a look at the statistics and what makes Mountain Passes South Africa tick? Our You Tube Channel has amassed a staggering 1,129,130 views with 1,100 subscribers. The channel now hosts 1,229 videos.
We have some very knowledgable people who regularly crack our FaceBook quizzes which have become increasingly popular, with page views ranging between 5000 and 60,000. Our followers on FaceBook now total 13,897 and we should top the 14,000 mark within the next week. More lower down......
Rain, Snow and Cold.... but not nearly enough
We are past the halfway mark of the winter, yet the Western Cape remains very much on the dry side. We headed into one of our favourite spots last weekend - the magnificent Cederberg. Normally at this time of year the roads are muddy and the causeways are mostly flooded, but this year, although the rivers are all flowing, they are nowhere near their normal levels. For those of us that live in the Western Cape, the warning bells of a long drought are ringing loudly. Saving water is now a way of life.
The new generation of farmers
We visited three farms in the area - Mount Ceder, Kromrivier and Dwarsrivier. All of these farms are managed by forward thinking young people, who are investing in fresh, innovative ideas. Ever thought about living off the grid? Well, more and more people are getting it right and our weekend accommodation at Mount Ceder had every modern amenity, yet everything ran off just two solar panels and a deep cycle battery. That included a big fridge/freezer. More on that lower down......
Our featured pass of the week is in KZN, which is one of two provinces where we still have a lot of filming work to complete (the other being Mpumalanga). Our pass this week is a mix of gravel, tar and concrete and ends at the top of the mountain in a Cul-de-Sac where a range of nature activities can be enjoyed, including trout fishing, hiking and camping. Draw your bucket list closer, as this pass is one every adventure enthusiast must add to their list.
Winter has arrived!
With widespread snow falls recorded across most of the high lying mountains from the Cederberg in the west to the Drakensberg in the east, there have been some great photos sent in from various parts of the country. Whilst it's a huge amount of fun bundling the family into the family car and heading off to find the snow, this can often lead to serious consequences. Snow driving mostly has the following ingredients which make up a lethal cocktail: Inexperience; Over-confidence; Ego and Alcohol. Lower down on this page we take you through a short safety check list, which should ensure a safe snow driving trip for you and your family.
Another Swartberg Pass update
We have been sent information from a business owner in Prince Albert, that SAPS are concerned about the disregard for the road closure signs at the northern end of the pass and have issued a warning to all residents (and by proxy their guests) that they will be patrolling that end of the pass - especially over weekends and will be looking specifically for anyone (including adventure bikers) who disregard the road closure signs. There you have it - plain and simple. Pass it on!
Pass of the week
Our Jhb filming crew headed up by Mike Leicester, have uncovered a great gravel pass, which is bound to have appeal for the more adventurous traveller. This new 'discovery' can be enjoyed via our video, multiple photos and detailed write up. More info lower down....
SOUTH AFRICA - Not passing out yet!
Just when we thought we had the end of the project in sight, we have just been sent a spreadsheet by one of our loyal supporters, Steyn Britz. This spreadsheet contains another 12 new passes. It would seem South Africa has an inexhaustible source of passes! Most of these new passes are in KZN with one each for the Free State and Mpumalanga respectively. These will be added to the database in due course.
The Gamkaskloof feature was hugely popular
Last week's special feature on the Gamkaskloof was a huge success and proved to be very popular with over 67,000 views on our Face Book page alone, which catapulted our following to over 13,700. We had some reservations that we might have put in too much detail, but judging by the even number of views spread over the 10 piece video set, it seems this is not the case at all. Thank you South Africa, for the vote of confidence in our work.
Good news on the Swartberg Pass
Whilst we are skulking around the Swartberg, we have been in touch with a reliable source in Prince Albert, who has provided up to date information on the Swartberg Pass. It appears to be true that motorcyclists can get through the roadworks, but vehicles cannot. There is some good news in that it is anticipated that the pass will be reopened to normal traffic by August 2017 with a stop/go system (one way traffic) in place over the damaged 2 km section near the Prince Albert side of the pass. The completed rebuild of that section is scheduled to be done by August/September 2018. Watch this space for new updates.
Another bucket list pass
Our featured pass of the week is a gravel pass that lives in the shadow of it's more famous sister (Naude's Nek Pass) and forms a wonderful and very scenic short-cut from Naude's Nek through to Mount Fletcher. This tricky and little known pass has two difficult and two easy sections, but the views over the Luzi River Poort are simply fabulous. Here is yet another 'road less travelled' to add to your bucket list.....
We've received some intel via a biker group that the Swartberg Pass is unofficially open to bikers. What this means in essence is that a mechanical digger has done some basic repairs to allow other construction vehicles access to the repair site. Bikers claim to have recently ridden the whole of the Swartberg Pass from north to south without having to dismount or push their bikes. Since the road is still officially closed, any person accessing the pass is doing so illegally and should anything happen to you, you would have no claim on any roads authority or on your insurance or medical aid. Be careful.
GAMKASKLOOF / DIE HEL
It took us four years to allocate the time to return to this famous valley to refilm a new video series. Our original video set covered only about 15% of what is on offer. We felt that this iconic (and often underrated) gravel road deserved a complete revisit with a more comprehensive video set. We dedicated three days (June 16th to 18th) for the task. More lower down....
BEN 10 ECO CHALLENGE
No-one has been courageous enough to tackle the Ben 10 in the heart of winter, so at this point there are still 15 finishers from 37 entries. We need five more finishers to draw the first of the weekend getaway prizes, so if you are one of those that have entered, but not yet tackled the challenge for one or the other reason, start making your plans and join the Top 20 to have mastered the big mountains of the Eastern Cape Highlands and an experience of a lifetime.
Fresh off the Griddle
In our drive to encourage more people to subscribe, we are offering a free 7 day trial, which will allow you to explore the full power of the website and all it has to offer. Please note that you may only make use of the offer once. To register for the trial, just follow the steps on any of the pass pages or click HERE. The lucky draw for the GoPro will take place at the end of August. Every paying subscriber stands a chance of winning this amazingly tough, waterproof camera.
Pass of the Week
We always try and offer variety with our featured passes and this week we take you into the heartland of the Eastern Cape, where we uncover a wonderful gravel pass with a most unusual name - not far from Grahamstown. More lower down....
Gamkaskloof / Die Hel progress
We have made good progress on the big task of getting the new video set produced and have completed the first 5 of the 8 part video set. The upgraded page containing the full video set, should be published this time next week. The new videos cover the 37 km in far more detail and should prove to be useful to first time drivers of this iconic gravel road. Just a reminder that the road to Die Hel is open and accessible from the southern side (Oudtshoorn) of the Swartberg Pass. Please support the Fonteinplaas Guest Farm, who have taken a beating with a lack of bookings since the Swartberg Pass was closed in April. More lower down....
We recently moved into the Instagram realm, where we post daily photos of our wonderful passes and poorts. If you're on Instagram, please follow us at #mountainpassesza
Knysna - the aftermath
Our Cape Town based film crew headed to the Southern Cape over the long weekend includng the 15th of June to refilm certain passes and to deliver goods to the Knysna fire victims. It was a sobering and emotional journey that served as a grim reminder how quickly a bad turn in nature can change our lives forever. More on that later........
Meet the Klowers
On Youth Day, we headed off to Die Hel in the Gamkaskloof, where we met Annatjie Joubert - the last private land owner and original 'klower' who runs the guest farm 'Fonteinplaas'. We spent a sunny afternoon doing a video interview with her and unpacking some of the myths of Die Hel. Aged 73, this lady is still a bundle of energy with a razor sharp brain. More on the guest farm further down this page....
The tighest hairpins in the land
Ballot's Bay is located on the southern outskirts of George and consists of some very steep and thickly wooded hills which tumble down to the rocky shores just east of Victoria Bay where the Meulrivier meets the thundering surf of the Indian Ocean. Much of the privately owned estate comprises a nature reserve. We were invited to refilm the entire Ballots Bay Pass, which has some of the tightest corners we have found on any pass in South Africa and for our trouble, we had the privilege of spending the weekend admiring the sensational views from a perfectly sited timber chalet. Keep a look-out for the new video which should go live within the next two weeks or so.
The Garden Route fires....
The fires in the Garden Route are under control, but new fires have erupted in the Port Elizabeth area. The devastation in Knysna has to be seen to be believed. The human suffering and pain is beyond description. Mountain Passes South Africa have for some time had a filming trip planned into the Garden Route scheduled for 15th to 18th June. We are busy setting up a relief collection point, so we can help deliver as much relief stores as we can carry to the relevant authority in this official disaster zone, where more than 100 homes have been completely destroyed. The spirit of compassion and community has united the residents. We will try to obtain first hand information of the situation and report our findings next week on this page.
Meanwhile in the Cape Town area the super-storm that caused all the destruction, has dropped a fair amount of rain and snow as it swept over the Western Cape. Reports indicate that the Theewaterskloof Dam river feeder system is flowing strongly and the dam level has risen by one metre. It's a start in breaking the grip of the drought and this week there is rain forecast for 5 consecutive days. According to the authorities it will take three years of average winter rainfall to recover the dam levels to normal. Effectively this means Capetonians will remain under water restrictions for a long time to come.
Information filtering through indicate that repair work has commenced on the Swartberg Pass, which is good news for the town of Prince Albert, but the completion date remains at August 2018.
On Friday, 16th June, we are planning on re-filming the entire Gamkaskloof as well as the dizzying Elands Pass. We will be doing a one on one video interview with Annatjie Joubert, the last remaining original 'klower' at Die Hel, so the entire page will be revamped with multiple new videos on offer. Lots to look forward to!
Pass of the Week
Our featured pass this week lies on a quiet gravel road on the northern side of the Seweweekspoort and forms part of the border of the Towerkop Nature Reserve. This lovely gravel pass offers two waterfalls (in the winter season) and some stunning mountain views as it descends into the valley preceding the Witnekke Pass which lead to Laingsburg.
Mother Nature is on the rampage with fire, wind and water in the armory. The big storm has brought deep snow to the high mountains clean across South Africa. As at 9th June the Wapadsberg and Lootsberg passes near Graaff Reinet have been closed and the latest is that the fires around the Knysna area are under control, but still burning. Knysna is still completely closed with more than a hundred buildings having been destroyed. We have just heard from Tiffindell that there is lots of snow at the ski resport. Still time to make that call with a long weekend coming up on the 16th!
The Perfect Storm
The Eden area - Wilderness, Sedgefield, Knysna and Plettenberg Bay has experienced savage forest fires, fanned by gale force berg winds ahead of the Cape Town Storm. Most of the residents of Knysna have been evacuated and millions of Rands worth of property have been lost, but it is the loss of life which is always the most tragic. The storm has claimed 8 lives so far. Although the wind has died this morning, fires are still out of control. The N2 and Phantom Pass are closed. There are no phone land-lines operating at present. Please stay away from the area. News 24 have set up emergency numbers for you to check on the safety of family and friends.
In 1986 drought stricken Laingsburg suffered the worst flood in living memory, when the twin rivers that form a confluence just upstream of the town, both flooded at the same time, releasing a massive wave of tumbling brown water over the town. At the time the town's main water supply, the Floriskraal Dam was virtually empty, but within the space of just a few minutes, the wall of water that swept downstream, did a single U-turn at the dam wall and filled the dam to overflowing. Water, our exilir of life, is also one of nature's most powerful destructive forces.
Fast forward 31 years and Cape Town's dams are are below 15% capacity with the city's residents buckling under Level 4 water restrictions. A week ago weather forecasters started plotting a massive storm far out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and the warnings began arriving via various media sources. The Western Cape was about to be the recipient of the worst storm in 37 years. More lower down.........
The Field Guide
We have finally started working on the much anticipated book and as discussed in previous news releases, the book will be in the form of a Field Guide and be printed on A5 size, so as to be able to comfortably fit into the average cubby-hole. After carefully assessing the costs of printing, we have decided that each pass page will contain a large scale satellite image map, with a thumbnail inset top/left showing its position in South Africa. The rest of the page will contain all the information the adventure tourist will need - like directions, history, interesting anecdotes, tourism information, the fact file with GPS coordinates and the url of the webpage in case any back referencing is required. More lower down.....
Pass of the Week
Mike Leicester, our Jhb based associate has been hard at work uncovering and filming some fantastic passes. Today we feature another steep pass, based within a game reserve, which is bound to be popular with those that enjoy game watching. More lower down........
We have a jam-packed newsletter this week with lots of interesting information, but 'oudegewoonte' let's kick-off with our discovery of the week.....
Another marvellous gravel pass unveiled this week:
This week we feature yet another gem of a gravel pass in a remote and unsullied part of the Eastern Cape highlands about 24 km west of Barkly East (as the crow flies). There are some severe hairpins, deep washaways, and loose stones to keep drivers a little on the edge and then there are the incredible views. This one is for the purist. More lower down this page...
For Eastern Cape readers, you can tune in to Wild Coast Radio each Monday at 15h30 where we chat about a specific mountain pass for 10 minutes. We are hoping that the radio station will be sending us the podcasts soon, which we will upload onto the website, so that the whole nation can listen to these 10 minute 'live' talks on our passes and poorts.
Subscribe and win a GoPro
If you have not subscribed to the website yet, you still have time to do so and have your name automatically entered into the draw for a GoPro Hero4 Silver and we hope the lucky winner will film passes for us using this tough, high quality camera. More on that lower down....
Gamkaskloof and Die Hel revisited
We are planning on refilming this all time favourite on June 16th, so if you're in the area keep a look out for us and say hello. This will be the first gravel pass utilising a new motorised gimbal (imported from the USA) to smooth out corrugations for more enjoyable video watching. Our routing will include the towns of Worcester, Robertson, Montagu, Barrydale, Calitzdorp, Rooiberg Pass, VanWyk's Vlei, Cloetesville, Mossel Bay, George (Ballots Bay) - Oudtshoorn, Swartberg Pass, and Gamkaskloof. We will be spending some time with Annetjie Joubert, the last remaining 'klower' at Fonteinplaas in Die Hel and we will dig up some more history about this secluded and beautiful valley.
The Field Guide Book
We are being flooded with inquiries about the proposed book. More info 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.