There goes the 2nd month of 2019 cascading into the history books. As always we look north and head forth (that phrase lifted from the more robust Afrikaans version of "Kyk noord en f*k voort"). Since we have relocated our offices and are running MPSA on a full time basis, it's as if someone has turned up the heat as everything seems to have suddenly escalated up onto a higher level. Inflows of emails have virtually doubled over the past 3 weeks as have the requests for public speaking engagements, tours and general information. Our days have turned into 13 hour shifts x 7 days per week!
This week our featured pass takes us up into the Eastern Cape Highlands, where we introduce you to one of the lesser known high altitude gravel passes that offers unsurpassed scenic beauty. It's awkward getting there and is without doubt one of those roads less travelled, but watch the video and you will agree that this one deserves to be added to your bucket list (or as someone once mentioned - a "bugget list" - it took me a few seconds to figure it out.)
We have updates on our next tour (coming up in March) and another 1 day tour scheduled for April as well as the hugely popular Great Swartberg Tour in May. [More lower down]
December to May is a very busy time at Mountain Passes South Africa. As usual we have lots of news to bring you and what better place to start than with our new Great Swartberg Tour. We only created this tour a few days ago and it instantly created a flood of inquiries to the point where the tour is virtually fully booked before we have even launched it. What is does show is that there is a need for multiple day tours where an element of adventure is included. (More lower down)
The move from our old premises to our new offices is close to being complete, with the last few boxes still waiting to be unpacked, but the main engine room is running at full steam ahead. The HQ is now based in Welgemoed, Cape Town, but our email addresses, and phone numbers remain unchanged.
Our featured pass this week is most unusual in that it is "Ver in die ou Kalahari" but notwithstanding its rugged and remote nature, the area carries with it a fascinating tale of heroes and villians. We unpack the remarkable story of Scotty Smith, who presided in that part of the world many years ago as a diamond smuggler, cattle rustler, conman, jail-breaker and fraudster, yet he had a soft spot for the poor. Our man up north, Mike Leicester, explored the region and researched some startling facts and folklore. (More lower down)
The passes around the town of Worcester, and a closer look at the history of the town and some of its famous citizens”
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It comes as somewhat of a surprise to find this substantial pass in the otherwise flat and mostly featureless expanse of the Kalahari. It is located inside the Tswalu Game Reserve near Hotazel, and traverses a break in a long ridge of mountains called the Korannaberge. The road condition ranges from good in some sections to terrible in others, so this pass should not be attempted without a 4-wheel-drive vehicle.
The scenery is magnificent, provided that you enjoy the wide open spaces of this semi-desert, and as a bonus you are guaranteed to spot a multitude of animals on either side of, and on, the pass itself. This is a public road and no entry fees are applicable, but you required to stay on the main route at all times. Be careful when getting out of your vehicle to open and close the gates – four of the “Big 5” animals (there are no elephant) are present within the reserve.
This official pass is so minor that unless you have inserted the waypoints in your GPS, chances are you would drive right over it and not be aware that you have just driven an official pass. It is one of 5 Withoogtes in South Africa, the other four all being in the Northern Cape. The pass has three easy bends and only gains 24m in altitude, producing a gentle average gradient of 1:58 with the steepest parts being at 1:14. It forms part of a long east-west gravel loop that connects the R318 near the summit of the Rooihoogte Pass with the summit of the Ouberg Pass north of Montagu and includes several very minor official passes including Moordenaarshoogte, Koppie se Nek and Tollie se Poort.
There are no serious dangers on this road, but as is the case with all gravel roads, the surface can change rapidly depending on weather conditions. In general terms this is a typical Karoo road in a low rainfall area, so the most common issues are loose gravel on the corners and the inevitable corrugations. Cattle grids occur frequently and it's best to lower your speed to 30 kph for these.
An in-depth chat about the last fatal flight of Shackleton 1718 in August 1963 – part of the upcoming Stettynskloof Tour
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If you didn't know this was an official pass, you would drive right over it and be none the wiser. Technically, it doesn't fit the description of a pass or a poort, but the government has decided it is a pass, so it's a pass! We have a number of these little minor passes on our database and we faithfully record each and every one for the sake of having a complete and accurate record of every listed pass.
It's short at 3,4 km and climbs only 38m producing an average gradient of 1:89 and never gets steeper than 1:16. What this little pass lacks in impact, it makes up for in the beautifully tranquil Karoo surroundings. A small flock of sheep; a creaking windmill; a solitary kestrel floating on the still air; a donkey cart carrying its occupants to the next farm. The Karoo has a magic all of its own.
This road is also the southern gateway to the wonderful Anysberg Nature Reserve.
We are good at arranging things, but it was a complete fluke that our news release this week co-incided with Valentine's Day. So what better theme to tackle in our news release, than a romantic note. That got us wondering how many romances were kindled (or children conceived) at the summit point of some or the other mountain pass around South Africa and if the nightly goings-on at the lookout point on Uys Krige Drive (overlooking Table Bay and the mountain) are anything to go by, then that tally is probably quite high!
We have moved!
The MPSA head office moved premises last weekend. The finishing touches still need some attention and a lot of boxes are scattered about the floorspace, but we have completed the move and this news letter will be the first to be published from the new premises. Our contact numbers and email details remain the same. If we were a little slow in responding to email requests, that is the reason, but we are back up to speed again now.
Pass of the week:
Our featured pass of the week is actually three back to back passes which cover a distance of 19 km through some of the most beautiful and rugged parts of the southern Cederberg and which we traversed during our Southern Cederberg Tour two weeks ago. [More lower down]
This relatively unknown pass runs along the east-west axis between Wakkerstroom in the west and the farming areas around Paulpietersburg in the east. With a summit height of 1925m it settles in as the 51st highest altitude pass in South Africa. Although the pass is technically fairly easy, the real reason to head out onto this big gravel traverse is to enjoy the exceptionally attractive scenery of rolling grasslands, dotted with green clad koppies, wide valleys, tumbling streams filled with trout and a general ambience of country tranquillity.
The pass contains 23 bends corners and curves within its 11,9 km length. Two of those exceed 90 degrees, but neither is particularly dangerous as this road is well engineered with none of the gradients exceeding 1:9.
Cautionaries for this pass include dense mountain mists, heavy rain, snow on occasion in winter and livestock on the road.
A review on the Southern Cederberg Tour – our most ambitious tour to date, and hugely successful.
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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.