* Recce Tour - the journey continues
* Kouga-Baviaans Tour latest
* Ben 10 V3 fully booked
* Wild Coast Tour sold out
* Featured pass of the week
* Words of wisdom
2020 has certainly started with plenty of action and there always seems to be so much to report on, yet so little time to get everything done. The admin office is extremely busy at this time of year processing Ben 10 entries, results, tours, bookings, registrations, validations, radio interviews, social media, magazine writing and not enough time to travel. Phew!
Trips and Tours Update
Recce: We take you with us for our second leg of our Transkei recce trip this week (see lower down).
Kouga-Baviaans Explorer Tour: Our first tour of 2020 comes up mid March where we will be doing the unusual traverse of the Baviaanskloof by starting in Joubertina, where we will spending a full day exploring the Kouga Wilderness. We then head east to Kareedouw and tackle some lovely gravel passes (Suuranysberg, Kouga and Meidenek) after which we will pop in for some light refreshment at the remote Baviaans Lodge run by our long standing friend Rob le Roux. The route then becomes a two spoor track as we wind our way over the protea clad Kouga Mountains past a honey-bush tea farm, that will bring us out at the Doringkloof farm in the central Baviaanskloof. Day 3 involves a traverse of the eastern bio-reserve over the best passes and water crossings of the Baviaanskloof with an overnight stop at the tranquil Bruintjieskraal. The final day we head even further north towards the Cockscomb Mountains and head west along the T3 route via the Antoniesberg Pass and finish up for a festive evening at the Royal Hotel in Steytlerville. We have 3 places still open on this tour. Bookings close next week Friday. MORE INFO & ONLINE BOOKINGS HERE.
Ben 10 V3 Tour: (Easter Weekend) Sorry this tour is now fully booked.
Wild Coast Adventure Tour: This tour is selling fast. There are only 3 places open at time of writing. We are proud to announce our first ever Wild Coast Tour where participants will enjoy 9 days/10 nights savouring the very best the region has to offer. Join us and enjoy driving to places few people have been before – all in the safety of a group of like-minded travellers.
The tour will start in Matatiele and end in Morgans Bay taking in many of the best sights and sounds of the unspoilt and remote Wild Coast, which is still as timeless as it was 70 years ago. Here are some of the points of interest we will be visiting:
*Mariazell Mission Station *Ramalitso’s Pass *Nungi Pass *Colananek Pass *Mzintlava Pass *Mbotyi *Magwa Falls *Lambazi Mouth (Port Grosvenor) * Magwa Tea Plantation * Port St. Johns Airport Pass * Tutor Ndamase Pass *Mlengana Pass & Execution Rock *Coffee Bay *Hole in the Wall *Kob Inn *The Collywobbles *Mveso *Vulture colony *Shixini River Mouth *Nongqawuse’s Pools *Trennerys *Kei River Pont *Morgans Bay and a whole lot more. For more information and online bookings CLICK HERE. (STOP PRESS - The last 3 tickets were sold out between the time the newsletter was written and the publishing time - less than 5 hours)
Part 2 Transkei Recce Trip
I guess I was in a state of disappointed reverie and doing my best not to have an accident in the crazy traffic in Mthatha, where everyone seems hell bent on jamming into every intersection with the traffic lights changing over and over and the cars going nowhere. I eventually scooted down a few side roads (thanks to the nippy Jimny) and managed to extricate myself out onto the Port St Johns road, where my Garmin 276CX with the calm English lady speaking had directed me towards. She might be calm but sometimes she's not that smart, or maybe it's me? (More lower down)
* Report back on the first 2 days of the Wild Coast recce trip
* Baviaans-Kouga Tour coming up in March
* Ben 10 on 6 wheels (Part 2)
* Pass of the week
* Thought for the day
Apologies for no newsletter last week. I had very good intentions of writing the newsletter in the evenings during the recce trip, but a combination of events, which included getting lost twice, load shedding, no signal and driver fatigue put paid to those naive notions, so today you're getting a bumper version.
I have to admit that of all the road trips I have done in my life this one was easily the best. It threw everything at me and the challenges were often quite serious - and therein lies the enjoyment. Over the next three weeks we will relate the story for you to enjoy at home.
To prepare thoroughly for our Wild Coast Tour, I had to do a solo trip with minimal luggage and equipment so as to travel light and efficiently. Calculations prove that we saved R8000 on fuel by using the little 1300cc Suzuki Jimny in favour of the 4.5 Land Cruiser. I can now confidently say after 4000 km, I can evaluate the Jimny on and off-road competently. But let's start at the beginning.
I left Cape Town later than planned and routed to Kirkwood (in preference to PE as I have an aversion of big cities) via Worcester, Robertson, Ashton, Swellendam and from there on the N2 all the way to Uitenhage. We have recently acquired one of the new Jimnys, but decided to use the 2017 model for this trip in the interests of fuel economy.
I refuelled in Robertson and asked the attendant to inflate the Jimny's tyres to 1.6 bar (we normally run at 1.4). He must have thought I was crazy to ride on such soft tyres and took it upon himself to rather put in 2.6 bar but failed to tell me. By the time I reached Swellendam the harsh ride started getting to me, so I decided to check the pressures! Problem solved by deflation and driving became fun again. Later in the trip on the really bad Transkei roads, I lowered pressures down to 1 bar and had a reasonably good result in terms of ride comfort and traction.
At highway speeds the 1.3 Jimny tends to be a little slow (having a happy cruising speed of 100 kph), but on gravel it's simply dynamite. Activate the 4WD button and the Jimny becomes exceptionally agile. The key is getting the tyre pressures right. We found that 1.6 (with a light load) was too hard, but 1.3 all round was fine on good gravel roads and the rough stuff, drop them down to 1.1 or even 1.0 bar. The Jimny is so light, that you will barely notice any sidewall bulging. Having such a short wheel base, if you hit corrugations at speed, the Jimny tends to become a little skittish, but the 4 wheel drive always kicks in to straighten the vehicle out. At first this is a little disconcerting, but one soon gets the hang of it. There is no substitute for gravel road experience. We also found that with the absence of any mass on the roof, its cornering ability on tar and gravel was excellent; often outperforming much bigger and faster vehicles.
The trip went smoothly arriving in Kirkwood at 6.30 pm. Small problem though, as I couldn't find the B&B that I had booked and paid for. It became crystal clear after phoning them that I was in the wrong town. Their establishment was actually in Addo even though a search for "Accommodation - Kirkwood" brought their name up! Don't believe everything you read on the internet!
I reached "The Kraal" just after 7 pm and checked in for a cold beer and light supper, which had barely been finished, when load shedding began - a perfectly good reason to have an early night. At 3 am there were noises which turned out to be an intruder who had been caught inside the grounds by their security guard, resulting in the police arriving to arrest him.
Part of the recce trip was to film as many passes as possible. Only one pass fell within camera range on day one, which was a small gravel pass near Riversdale called Brakhoogte. [More lower down]
* Trips & Tours Updates
* Ben 10 V3 Tour fully booked
* King of the Mountains
* Can-do South Africans to aspire towards
* Pass of the Week
* Words of Wisdom
Our upcoming Ben 10 V3 Tour has sold out in record time. We will not be running another Ben 10 Tour this year, but will be scheduling the next one for 2021. Tickets for our Kouga Baviaans Explorer Tour in March are selling well with 6 places left at time of writing. We have included a 30 second teaser video lower down on this page to galvanise you into action. We are convinced that this tour is going to be pure magic and quite possibly the best tour we've ever put together.
Next week we will be heading off to the Wild Coast to do the detailed recce/planning for our longest tour to date: Wild Coast Adventure Tour, which will be held from the 12th to the 20th June, 2020. Keep an eye on our Shop & Tours page for when bookings open.
The Ben 10 Eco Challenge has an almost mystical allure to it. To date 257 people have entered the challenge but only 157 have managed to complete it. There have been some interesting entries. A father and daughter completed the challenge on single speed homemade bicycles on a budget of R20 per day; a motorcyclist rode all the passes in a single day; a man entered the challenge under the name of his dog (see Scruffy de Jager); and recently another dog actually ran all the passes with his owner - ironically the dog's name is Ben!
But there is one man who is a step or five ahead of the pack. He is Jaco Pretorius from Pretoria who ran the challenge last year thereby becoming the first runner to complete the event. Jaco was so enthused by his experience that he has decided to expand his challenge. A few weeks ago he tackled the Ben 10 on an MTB and a 4x4 - riding each of the passes first on his bike followed by the 4x4. And if that's not enough, he plans on completing a four way title by also doing the challenge on his adventure motorcycle. Today we feature the first chapter of Jaco's story of how things went. (More lower down...)
A discussion on our recent filming trip in the Garden Route and Kouga Mountains off the R62.
Listen to the interview:
* Kouga-Baviaans Explorer Tour
* Ben 10 V3 Tour
* Garden Route Filming
* South African achievers
* Pass of the week
* Words of wisdom.
As promised the first 2 tours for 2020 have been uploaded onto our shop page. The first 5 places on the Ben 10 V3 Tour were sold within a week. Get in early if you want to join either of these tours.
This brand new tour promises to be a huge hit. We have been able to creatively plan four sustained days of sublime eco travelling through some of the most isolated and remote sections of the Southern Cape. Our routing begins at Joubertina and heads up into the Kouga Mountains where we will visit the Kouga Wilderness trails as well as drive two scintillating gravel passes all in one day. The next day we drive the Baviaans-Kouga 4x4 route (It's rated Grade 1 to 2, so easy enough for the average driver) and overnight in the Baviaanskloof at Doringkloof & Zandvlakte. All meals and accommodation have been pre arranged.
On Day 3 we drive the beautiful bioreserve section of the Baviaanskloof including all the big passes and the two water crossings with an overnight stop in the Cambria Valley where guests will enjoy a world class potjie specially made for MPSA. The final day we head through the Grootrivierpoort to Patensie, then up the mountain to take the T3 route west via the Antoniesberg Pass and finish in Steytlerville at the Royal Hotel for our final night festivities. Maximum 10 vehicles.
More detailed information and bookings can be done via this link: KOUGA-BAVIAANS EXPLORER TOUR
This year's Ben 10 Tour (and there will only be one in 2020) was planned to fall over the Easter weekend to minimise on having to take leave from work. We have made some more adjustments to the V2 Tour, which include timing it in autumn, where the temperatures should be pleasant, the rain should be over and the scenery should still be lush and green.
We have also built in an extra day into the tour to allow for contingencies, such as bad weather or mechanical breakdowns. It also gives us a spare day to include some non-pass driving activities like going to see the vulture colonies, visiting the rock art sites or going to see the historical Gatsberg. We have kept our prices very close to last year's price in an effort to make the tour as affordable as possible. More detailed information and bookings can be done via this link: BEN 10 V3 TOUR BOOKINGS
(More lower down...)
News of a bakkie that drove down a cliff off Naude's Nek Pass last week reached us quite quickly. We were contacted by Die Burger newspaper for our opinion on how dangerous the pass was, but we assured them that the pass was really not dangerous at all in fair weather. It appears that the 71 year old driver had plenty of experience and was driving carefully. The vehicle behind him, who was videoing the trip, stated that there were no brake lights or skid marks - the vehicle simply missed the turn and went straight over the cliff, falling some 100m and killing both occupants. It is our opinion that the driver more than likely had a heart attack or brain aneurism. Further information indicates that the incident did not occur on the pass itself, but on a side road leading to a farm. Our condolences to the family.
This newsletter was produced from our mobile office at Wilderness National Park - a place of natural beauty and tranquility. It is here that we find the inspiration to create new tours, fresh innovative concepts and recharge our 'mojo' batteries. It was at this very campsite back in 2012 that the first concept of Mountain Passes South Africa germinated - almost by accident.
The purchase of a GoPro video camera was where it all started. Idle minds are not necessarily a bad thing, as a thorough exploration of the User Guide prompted me to try out various ideas how I could maximise on the rather large sum of money laid out on the device.
Hiking, diving, climbing, and mountain bike videos were all quite disappointing, so onto the car it went and with surprisingly good results. I then wondered what I could film from the car and that's where the Eureka moment arrived. Nearby Whites Road was the first pass that I experimented with and here we are seven years later and the tally now stands at 888.
At the time I envisioned a compact website featuring just the Cape's best passes, but that idea was soon scrapped when people started asking about Sani Pass, Long Tom Pass and other major passes all over South Africa. The concept was amended and redesigned to cope with this bigger vision.
So the inevitable question is "What will we do when we have all 1100 passes filmed and documented"?
The reality is that early passes need to be refilmed and the work and progress never stops.
* 2020 has begun. The party's over.
* New tours in the making
* Refliming a classic in the Cederberg
* Featured pass of the week
* Words of Wisdom
By the time you read this newsletter it will be fait accompli being back to work/ back to school. Hope you are all ready and recharged to deal with the first month of the year and the first year of the new decade. Year end is always a rational time to step back a few paces and look at your life, make some alterations and more importantly implement them.
As mentioned in our previous newsletter, we have kept the renewal subscriptions down to an increase of just R10 in an effort to encourage our subscribers to enjoy our offerings for another year. We are convinced that if renewals were automated, that many more would be happy to renew. How this works is that our accounts system sends you an email advising that your subscription is due and will automatically be charged to your card. If you don't want to renew, you reply and say no. For many busy people the hassle of having to log on, go through the process of completing forms, completing card details is often just too much hassle. We believe that an auto-renewal process will be well received by most of our subscribers.
Dealing with EFT renewals will bring some new challenges, but we are investigating ways to resolve some of the issues. We will advise as and when the new process will be ready and it will be voluntary to switch to the new system.
You might notice that we have changed the look of our Home Page. The Latest News page which was always imbedded at the bottom of the home page has now been miniaturised and moved to the top of the page where the space is shared with the featured pass of the week. We think this is a more user friendly format. We hope you do too.
Our mobile office will be based in Wilderness for the next two weeks, where we will find the inspiration to dream up exciting new adventures for 2020. These will be displayed on our shop page as soon as possible. One of the routes we will be exploring next week is a 4x4 route over the Swartberg range, which starts off the Swartberg Pass and ends near Klaarstroom. If we are happy with the route, it could be included in a new tour. Watch this space.
[More 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.