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A chat about social media and a visit to the Free State dorpie of Jagersfontein and it’s astonishing claim to fame on the world map.

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This chat covers the second half of the tour through the Golden Gate Highlands National Park.

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A chat about the Golden Gate National Park and the Lichens Pass which bisects it.

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A chat about Day 3 – the final day of the Thomas Bain Heritage Tour over the four major passes in the Bioreserve.

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Newsletter In a nutshell

* Bain Tour continued
* SA History Part 12
* Podcast
* Feature on the Golden Gate Highlands National Park
* New passes added
* Words of wisdom


Very cold weather weather has continued over most of South Africa and in the Western Cape the last frontal storm has boosted dam levels to a four year high, with Theewaterskloof - the bigggest storage dam in the area - currently sporting a level of 60% with the City of Cape Town's average level of all the dams currently at 69.6%. This is wonderful news for the province which has laboured heavily under a long and devastating drought. It also augers well for a good wild-flower display this spring,

Thomas Bain Heritage Tour ~ The saga continues...

The weather on Saturday morning in Uniondale was rainy, cold and blustery, necessitating a Plan B for our drivers briefing, which was to get everyone into their vehicles and the briefing was done over the two way radios. This was the day the frontal system was supposed to clobber us, but as the day progressed it became increasingly pleasant, much to everyone's surprise.

We took a quick drive up the tarred Uniondale Heights Pass, then left the tar a few kilometres later as we cut across the Karoo highlands to intersect with the R332 near the summit of the Nuwekloof Pass. The rain that had fallen overnight gave us the benefit of a dust free drive as we made good progress into the east.

The Nuwekloof Pass was designed by Thomas Bain and it's an odd pass being a mixture between a pass and a poort, rather than a true mountain pass, but after a series of long sweeping bends, suddenly a hairpin bend makes an appearance and it is here that a sign proclaims the spot to be Raaskrans (Noisy Cliff). A towering near vertical cliff of some 80m in height forces the road (and the river) to the north-east and although awkward to stop, the spot is really a place where you need to get out of your vehicle and take in the spectacular geology. The hairpin is concreted and although the gradient is fairly gentle it soon becomes apparent that the concrete serves as the bed of the river for a distance of about 100m. It was bone dry during our traverse, but this must be a particularly nasty section in a flash-flood. The rest of the descent sees the road criss-crossing the river multiples of times as the road winds down the ravine and finally the poort opens up onto the upper plains of the western Baviaanskloof, which we had the good fortune of viewing under the arch of a massive rainbow.

Published in Mountain Passes News

A chat covering Day 2 of the Thomas Bain Heritage Tour.

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A chat about the first day of the Thomas Bain Heritage Tour.

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Thomas Bain Heritage Tour -  Overview:

Another absolute winner, but the week before the tour showed alarming weather forecasts. As always the show goes on regardless of the weather. With a major frontal storm scheduled to arrive over Cape Town on Friday and Saturday, with gale force winds and bitterly cold temperatures forecast of 1C for Willowmore, we sent out an urgent bulletin to our guests to come well prepared for bad weather. 

The reality was a beautiful, sunny and warm morning of around 22C on day 1 rising to 25C later in the day with the Saturday and Sunday being cooler, but very pleasant and certainly nowhere near the 1C predicted. Water levels in the Baviaanskloof were quite acceptable and all our vehicles (which included two Suzuki Jimnys) made it through the route without any problems or mishaps. Over the next few weeks we will bring you several instalments of the highlights of this tour. This is another tour which we will definitely repeat again.


Great Swartberg Tour - The final chapter

The final day of the Swartberg Tour involved a repeat of the Elands Pass and the Gamkaskloof but in the opposite direction. It's so interesting that a pass looks completely different when driving it in the opposite direction and at a different time of day. We were at the Teeberg viewsite by 10.30 and then tackled those magnificent switchbacks down Mullerskloof past Droewaterval and the Wall of Fire. Our weather was unseasonably good with the only damper being the dust (if you'll pardon the oxymoron).

A brief stop at Prince Albert for fuel and figs (in that order) saw us back on the road on the way to the magnificent geology waiting for us in Meiringspoort and a short stop at the famous waterfall with its 9m deep pool. After De Rust we cut west all along the foothills of the Swartberg mountains (mainly to avoid all the roadworks on the Oudtshoorn/De Rust road) along a delightful gravel road that included the Rust & Vrede Pass. It connected us with the main road to the Cango Caves and Schoemanspoort and then back towards Calitzdorp on the old cement road and on to tackle the Rooiberg Pass.
[More lower down...]

Published in Mountain Passes News

We chat about the fabulous descent down Elands Pass into Die Hel and explore the Kloof in more detail..

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The week that was:

* Winter has arrived
* Great Swartberg Tour
* SA History - Chapter 7
* Podcast of the week
* Featured pass of the week
* New passes added this week
* Thought for the day

Winter has arrived

Whilst massive amounts of arctic ice are breaking off the northern polar cap following unseasonably warm weather in Europe - causing some hectic weather systems, South Africa is experiencing very cold weather with many towns recording temperatures below freezing over the past 10 days, not least of which is Sutherland, dropping to minus 7C.

Snowfalls have been reported across large tracts of the Drakensberg, the Malutis, the Swartberg and the Hexrivier mountains (and Matroosberg) in the Western Cape. Before you venture off to drive in the snow, remember that without traction your vehicle is nothing more than a slippery sled. Don't drive alone; know your limitations.


Great Swartberg Tour

(the story continues...)

The Elands Pass looks interesting when you look at it on Google Earth and most of the photos are impressive, but when you see it with your own eyes for the first time, suddenly all the dimensions click in a like a giant jigsaw puzzle. There is depth at a level that a camera cannot capture. The sheer scale of the slopes down into the valley sharpens the senses as the road can be seen worming its way down the mountain in a series of switchbacks, but it is directly below your view-point that the road disappears out of your field of view - and that is where the mind starts playing tricks and the imagination kicks in.

We scan the road ahead and there are no vehicles ascending. Our 11 vehicle convoy starts the descent. Passing vehicles on this pass is not easy and the best places are on the hairpin bends at their widest points. Before we reach the first hairpin, someone in the convoy radios that there is a vehicle ascending. The rule of the road is that ascending vehicles have the right of way, but trying to move 11 vehicles out of the way is just impossible.

We reach the first hairpin and wait for the ascending vehicle, but it doesn't arrive. The driver had noticed our convoy coming down the pass and he decided to wait at a slight widening in the road but out of our field of view. After about 5 minutes it became apparent that there was a problem. We sent someone down on foot and asked the ascending driver to proceed up to where we were waiting, where we had left enough space for him to pull off the road. There is nothing to replace common courtesy and manners when dealing with situations like this. [More lower down...]

Published in Mountain Passes News
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Mountain Passes South Africa

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.
 

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