Rietpoort is located directly to the south of the small town of Lephalale (formerly Ellisras) in the Limpopo province. It parallels the course of the Rietspruit river, which has carved its way through the low hills surrounding the area, on the tarred R510 road. The pass is a little longer than the national average and, unlike most other poorts, has a significant altitude gain of 145 metres. There are no apparent dangers other than some sharpish corners, and the poort can be driven in any vehicle, irrespective of the weather conditions.
This is a very minor official pass (as per the government maps) which is just over 2 km long and has a single S bend where the gradients get as steep as 1:10 for a brief period, but the whole pass has a very mild average of only 1:68. The pass is named after a local indigenous bush - the Harpuis [Euryops abrotanifolius]. The pass is located about 40 km north-east of Fraserburg.
This is one of several Northern Cape passes and poorts which have been officially listed, but when driving them, they hardly resemble a pass in any way. Finding this one is quite tricky and you need to be a more serious pass hunter with good GPS skills to locate it.
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.
This 3,6 km long official pass lies along the north-south axis, adjacent to the western side of a large, dark rocky outcrop about 70 km north-east of Fraserberg. This is a very minor pass and only has an average gradient of 1:72 and is much more of a simple farm road, than a mountain pass, but it's an official pass, so we filmed and documented it. There are no real dangers, like steep descents, drop-offs or sharp corners, but like all gravel roads, it can change its mood instantly after rain. Be wary of corrugations, ruts, washaways and as always livestock on the road.
What this little pass lacks in vital statistics, it more than compensates for in its isolated location and spectacularly open vistas, the likes of which can only be found in the Karoo. The name translates into Honey Nest Heights or Beehive Heights.
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.
This is another of those Northern Cape passes, which leaves one wondering how this ever became an official pass, as there is really not much to it all with an altitude variance of only 16m and an average gradient of 1:150, it's hardly going to get the adrenaline flowing. The countryside is however, well worth any distance you will have travelled getting there and offers space, tranquility and the most wonderful sense of timelessness that only the Karoo can offer. In addition this is the perfect area to test your navigation skills as many of the intersections are unmarked, so getting lost here is a piece of cake.
Stop next to a windmill under the shade of a thorn tree and allow the Rooihoogte to sink into your soul.
This fairly long pass of 7,3 km has an interesting profile and consists of two summits and a twisty section down into a narrow poort. Although the average gradient is a very mild 1:140, the short descent down into the river valley at the 4,3 km mark gets as steep as 1:12. This road offers a wide variety of scenery and is one of the more interesting of the isolated Northern Cape passes. The name must have an interesting origin, but we were unable to find a single trace of where the name originated. About 6 km south of this pass, there is quite a tricky river crossing, which could be the undoing of many a vehicle.
The government administrators of the Northern Cape were very good at the job of naming passes and poorts in an official capacity. This one, although an official 'poort' has absolutely no resemblance to the definition of a poort nor a pass. It is nothing more than a single gentle bend on an otherwise fairly flat, tarred road in the Northern Cape just north-east of Williston. The poort is 3,2 km long and displays an altitude variance of only 32m, which converts into an average gradient of 1:100.
Unless you are a serious pass chaser hell bent on ticking every pass and poort off your list, this one is completely unforgettable. What the Soutpanspoort lacks in scenery and excitement, the nearby town of Williston, more than compensates for.
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........
During our extensive filming trips through all nine provinces we have seem them all - the long and the short and the tall. (rhyme intended). We travelled a very long way to locate and film this one and it would be fair to say that any sense of expectation was dashed when we drove it. Whilst the pass is fairly short at 3,2 km it hardly fits the definition of a mountain pass and is essentially just a gravel road that contains one S-bend and rises only 28m up a tiny little ridge. Why the provincial authorities decided to officially name this road as a pass is something of a mystery, but we present it here for you to decide whether you want to seek this one out and add it to your list.
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.