Olifantspoort is located on the N6, the national road between Bloemfontein and East London, about 20 km north-west of Queenstown. The road is in an excellent condition and can be traversed in any vehicle and in all weather conditions, with the possible exception of when snow falls, which does happen here from time to time. The poort is undoubtedly named after the herds of elephants which once frequented this area; unfortunately, this is no longer the case, and these giant pachyderms are today restricted to some of the larger game reserves, like the Addo Elephant National Park near Port Elizabeth.
Janspoort is a very minor tar pass located on the R58 between Burgersdorp and Venterstad near the northern border of the Eastern Cape. It is virtually the only structure to break the monotony of this otherwise featureless road. The surface is in a good condition, probably because there is very little traffic, and can be driven in any vehicle without problems. We have been unable to establish the identity of the “Jan” that this pass was named after, or why he was important enough for this pass to bear his name, but we can be fairly certain that he was a farmer in the area, or an important personage from one of the Anglo-Boer wars.
Things that go BUMP in the night
With the holiday season looming, we thought it would be appropriate to feature some of the more dangerous passes and especially those on the main routes that many of our subscribers will be taking. Our featured pass today lies on the N10 main route between Cookhouse and Paterson in the Eastern Cape and presents a number of hazards, including complacency, wild animals, sharp and blind corners, steep gradients, exceptionally strong winds, heavy rainfall, mountain mists and lots of heavy trucks. Read more lower down.....
Morning Glory and a crash course in cloud shapes
Clouds are fascinating and for pilots it's important to know and understand what to expect when flying aircraft through or over the various cloud formations. Over the next few weeks we will have a closer look at some of the world's unusual clouds. The ability to observe and understand clouds, allows one to understand what is happening at higher altitudes and do some on the spot amateur weather forecasting.
The Morning Glory cloud is a rare meteorological phenomenon consisting of a low-level atmospheric solitary wave and associated cloud, occasionally observed in different locations around the world. The wave often occurs as an amplitude-ordered series of waves forming bands of roll clouds.
The southern part of the Gulf of Carpentaria in Northern Australia is the only known location where it can be predicted and observed on a more or less regular basis due to the configuration of land and sea in the area.The clouds have been observed over Germany, Central US, the English Channel and Eastern Russia, but are not normally seen in South Africa. More lower down.....
Fincham’s Neck is a minor gravel road pass located just to the south of Queenstown in the Eastern Cape. Getting to the pass from the northern side is relatively easy, but the approach from the south involves a number of twists and turns on corrugated gravel roads. The pass is named after George Thornton Zacharias Charles Fincham, who was born in Roydon, Norfolk in 1814. George emigrated to South Africa and acquired a farm in the Queenstown district in 1858, which he named after his birthplace. The farm is located on the eastern side of the pass. George died in 1889 at the age of 74, and is buried in a private cemetery on the farm itself.
Cross Provincial passes
There are several places in South Africa, where passes straddle provincial borders. This often leads to confusion as in which province to index these passes. As a general rule we will allocate a pass to the province in which the majority of the pass falls. A good example is Vanryn's Pass between Vanrynsdorp and Nieuwoudtville, where the pass lies both in the Western and Northern Cape, but the bulk of it falls in the Western Cape.
Another good example is the Bloukrans Pass which straddles the border of the Western and Eastern Cape. That one is more difficult as the border is approximately in the middle of the pass. In such a case we opt for what the majority of available resources opine. Our featured pass today is another good example of a cross-border pass which lies in both the Free State and KZN. It has great historical value, which we explore in some depth and bring you some of the facts of the decisive battle that was fought on this pass and just to make things more interesting, our video was filmed from a motorcycle, which gives motorists an opportunity to experience the sensation of riding a motorcycle down a bend peppered pass. See more lower down.....
GoPro HERO 6 Black Review
In our efforts to constantly bring you the very best quality video footage, we constantly upgrade our equipment. Our Cape Town filming team recently purchased the latest GoPro 6 Black action camera. Our previous unit was a GoPro HERO 3 Black, which proved to be a tough and reliable camera with which we filmed about 300 passes. The biggest problems we experience are camera shake, caused by rough roads, corrugations (our version of Prime Evil), and strong wind. See more lower down.....
Thirty two thousand people have visited our Extreme Passes page. Here you can access the passes sorted into different categories - Steepest, Highest, Longest, Biggest altitude gain and Most popular. In each of these categories we have sorted the Top 100 passes into the correct order. These pages are fascinating to explore and opens up new opportunities for those seeking out the best passes to drive. The Top 10 in each category are hyperlinked to facilitate an easy click through. More lower down.....
Elandsberg Pass is located on the N6 just to the south of the historic town of Aliwal North, which straddles the border between the Eastern Cape and Free State provinces. The road has been beautifully engineered, is in an excellent condition, and should not present problems for any vehicle in all weather conditions, provided that the speed limit is adhered to. The pass is named after the imposing mountain which dominates the skyline on the western side. It is one of at least nine passes which contain within their title a reference to the Eland, the largest of the southern African antelope and which was, and still is, commonly found throughout the country.
Our featured pass today is not only Thomas Bain's greatest work and the longest publicly accessible pass in South Africa at 68,5 km, but it has also turned out to be our Opus Magnum. We returned to the Garden Route in October to refilm this magnificent pass from end to end including the short, stiff climb up to Spitskop. It took almost 400 man hours to edit the video footage and package it into 14 bite sized videos of 5 mins each. We have just completed this massive project and our pleased to present this work to you today. More lower down.....
A Chistmas Gift
If you're looking for a gifting idea for Christmas (or any special occassion) that is different, unique and will give the recipient 12 months of pleasure, yet won't cost you much, we have introduced a gift voucher for a 1 year subscription to MPSA which you can buy for a deserving friend or family member. More lower down.....
Understanding the basics of GPS navigation
Many drivers struggle with the concept of GPS coordinates, so this week we are giving a GPS 101 course for the benefit of all who struggle with the mysteries of latitude and longitude. Navigation started with mariners in the 1400's and it has developed over hundreds of years. The globe was devided up into vertical lines (like the segments of an orange). These are called lines of longitude and determines where you are around the globe from east to west (or vice versa). Once you know where you are in that dimension, the other figure you need to know is on a north-south basis. These are symmetric lines as if you were lopping slices off the orange from top to bottom. These are called lines of latitude. More lower down.....
Each week we vary our focus throughout the provinces of South Africa. Seventy eight thousand readers have voted this classic pass into the No. 1 spot. Just before this hugely popular pass falls under that dark mantle of black tar, we urge anyone who has never driven the Sani Pass, to climb in whilst you still can. More lower down....
Western Cape Drought
A recent trip along the Western Cape roads from Cape Town to Mossel Bay, clearly showed the state of distress by the low dam levels on farms along the way. With average dam levels registering a dismal 28%, the City of Cape Town has announced the introduction of the first desalination plant which will be based at V&A Waterfront and is scheduled to be operational by February, 2018. Several more units are scheduled to become active at various preselected spots around the coast of the Cape. More lower down....
Gauteng in the spotlight
This week we visit Egoli and the richest province in terms of money, but the poorest in terms of passes with only 11 on the database. Today we unpack the biggest of those, which is 9,6 km long and displays an altitude variance of 297m with gradients that steepen to 1:10. The poort traverses the Witwatersberge and Magaliesberge and offers lovely scenery and some fascinating history.
Swartberg Pass update
Each week we try to focus on good news. One of the snippets of good news is that the Swartberg Pass has been reopened, albeit on a restricted basis. The opening times are from Friday mornings through to 8 am on Mondays. For those who had planned sporting events and holidays to include this pass, you can now safely amend your agendas to include this magnificent mountain pass and one of Thomas Bain's finest works. We would like to compliment the road building authorities on the swift progress they made with the repair work. They are a long way ahead of schedule and the weekend concession is wonderful news for adventure travellers as well as to the tourism industry in the area, but especially for busineses in Prince Albert.
This week our featured pass is another hidden gem, yet it's hugely popular with locals and especially mountain bikers. This 4 km long pass is gravel and has many corners to contend with, a low level bridge and a very steep and razor sharp hairpin. Steep sided gorges smothered under indigenous forests are bisected by streams with amber coloured water, whilst birdsong is the counterpoint to the burbling sound of the gentle rapids. So join us as we head down to the Garden Route to unpack this beautiful pass.
Whilst we were filming in the Knysna area, we drove along the Old Cape Road and were mortified to see the the devastation in the forests above the popular seaside town. We made a short video which you can watch lower down on this page. The residents that suffered severe losses are slowly trying to rebuild their humble homes. Many didn't have insurance and have resorted to caravans, tents and awnings as makeshift homes right next to the blackened ruins of their original homes. It's a sad and heartbreaking scene. As the fire relief and initial outpouring waned, people have been left struggling to cope with their shattered lives. 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.