* KZN and Gauteng slowly return to normal
* Bedrogfontein Tour opportunity
* Drama aplenty on the Swartberg Pass
* Matroosberg Nature Reserve 4x4 route closed
* Focus on Vryburg
* Pass of the Week
As the nation slowly recovers from the shock of the riots and looting in KZN and Gauteng, we now move into a phase of rebuilding infrastructure, reopen businesses and more importantly learning to trust one another again and make our nation stronger. There are thousands of unanswered questions, but from our side we welcome the relaxation of the lockdown regulations as the embattled tourism and hospitality sector has to once more rise from the ashes.
We've had a cancellation on our Bedrogfontein Tour with the new dates being confirmed for August 21st to 24th. Anyone interested in enjoying this popular tour can get the full itinerary and pricing via the link below.
BEDROGFONTEIN TOUR ONLINE BOOKINGS
This tour includes a trio of passes on the first day which includes Olifantsnek, Zuurberg and Doringnek with a refreshment stop at the beautiful Zuurberg Mountain Inn. We then spend a full day in the Addo Elephant National Park enjoying some great game viewing and the final day is kept for the best part of the tour as we drive the historical Bedrogfontein Pass. We can only accept 4x4 vehicles, with good ground clearance and low range capabilities. The route varies between Grade 1 and 3.
With the coldest weather in decades having swept over South Africa at least 19 new records in minimum lows and highs have been recorded, this system covered the Swartberg Pass in deep snow and more importantly on the southern side of the mountain where the sun has little effect during winter. The snow soon compacted in a thick layer of ice, creating very dangerous driving conditions.
Snow starved South Africans (and inexperienced to boot) always rush off to see and play in the snow when the snow arrives. This year saw a lot of traffic heading to the pass, but when they got to the pass, the road had been closed by traffic authorities. No problem to our risk-takers, who decided to ignore the road signs and drive the pass regardless. This led to 9 vehicles losing traction on the pass and getting stuck, including a BMW sedan.
All of the drivers and passengers had to be rescued and taken to safety, with their vehicles only being able to be recovered one or two days later. This blatant disregard for rules and regulations is part of how many people think and behave these days. One of the vehicles was occupied by a young couple with a two month old baby. Comments can be viewed on our Facebook page.
We are not at all surprised.
Cape Nature have issued the owners of the Matroosberg Nature Reserve a notice to close the route down beyond the Bokkerievieren fork at the 1280m contour level. As usual this has created an emotional response for those in favour and against the ruling. The farm owners are contesting the decision via the courts. We will have to wait and see what the final result will be and hopefully there will be a compromise where everyone is a winner. We'll keep an eye on things and post when we get news.
It's not often we venture into North-West province simply because there are so few passes there, but in this series we are unpacking the history of some of South Africa's lesser known, but nonetheless fascinating dorpies.
Today we visit North West Province and more specifically, the town of Vryburg. It is situated halfway between Kimberley and Mafikeng, in the Bophirima region of the North West. Often referred to as “South Africa’s Texas”, Vryburg is responsible for the largest beef production in the country. Vryburg is the perfect holiday stopover when road tripping along the N14 or travelling on the railway line that runs from Cape Town to Botswana. Established in 1882, Vryburg is an agricultural and industrial centre that was once used as a concentration camp by the British during the Boer War.
The 2,062 hectare Leon Talijaard Nature Reserve’s gate house is a former Boer War prison, built to house Afrikaner prisoners captured by the British forces. There is a small museum and a plaque that commemorates the prisoners executed here.
* The KZN Aftermath
* Klein Karoo (Series - Part 3)
* Ashton Bridge
* Pass of the week
Exactly as we forecast in last week's newsletter, the cleaning up, restoration of calm, law and order is swiftly falling into place and by this Sunday, it is feasible that lockdown restrictions will be eased nationally and especially for Gauteng. It's been an extraordinary time in South Africa and one that I hope we will never see again.
Focus on Wellington
The picturesque town of Wellington is a scenic 45-minute drive from Cape Town and 15-minutes’ from neighbouring Paarl. Wellington’s agricultural economy is centred on its award-winning wines, table grapes, deciduous fruit and it is also home to South Africa’s sole whisky producer.
The region is renowned for beautiful Cape Dutch homesteads, picturesque environment, gardens and wineries. The historic Bain’s Kloof Pass, with unsurpassed vistas, indigenous flora and fauna and crystal-clear streams and rivers, is the perfect spot for hikers and fly-fishermen. The pass, built by the famous Scot, Andrew Geddes Bain, was the sole gateway to the north, before Du Toitskloof Pass was built.
Closer to town, guided wine-walks and horse-trails through rich farmland and flowering fynbos offer the opportunity to see and experience Mother Nature at her finest. The Berg River flows along the western border with two smaller streams, the Spruit and Kromme and the towering Hawequa Mountains stand guard on the eastern side. Wellington is surrounded by fruit orchards, wine estates, buchu plantations and olive groves. In addition, its vine-cutting nurseries produce approximately 85% of the country’s vine root stock for the wine industry.
More French Huguenots settled here than anywhere else in the Cape and the valley was formerly known as Val du Charron. Visit the Wellington Museum with its diverse cultural exhibits, and learn more about the region’s history. The town was renowned as an important academic centre for theological studies and the Seminary gave rise to present-day Huguenot High School and the Huguenot Teachers Training College. Other educational institutions include Boland College and the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. Situated to the north of Wellington, the villages of Saron (originally a mission station), Gouda and Hermon are spread out amid rich farmlands, in the shadow of the Elandskloof and Winterhoek Mountains.
* A bad week for our country
* Klein Karoo Road Trip (Part 2)
* Namaqualand Series (Part 3 - Final)
* Pass of the week
* New passes added this week
At MPSA one of our daily goals is to remain resolutely positive, avoiding politics like the plague, but the avalanche of bad news that has swamped social media platforms this week has been unprecedented. A time when level headed people are looking at the chaos and destruction with utter dismay. Besides the current lockdown which affects our ability to run tours, we now have a bigger monster to deal with - FEAR.
There is widespread fear. People making big ticket item purchases are cancelling orders. Many want to run, but the reality is that in a week or two, all this will calm down. Businesses will begin cleaning up and rebuilding. There have been several interesting scenarios that have come to light. Businessmen, residents, neighbourhood watches, private security companies and (lo and behold) taxi organisations have banded together to help the police and SANDF. There seems to be a new level of bonding that is emerging from the ashes. People who are very determined to keep South Africa alive. We are watching with keen interest. Perhaps this is what was needed as a catalyst for us all to learn hold hands regardless of race, creed or colour.
Rooiberg Lodge served us breakfast in bed! What a treat. By 0830 we had the Jimny packed and ready to hit the gravel. The nice thing about taking the Jimny (instead of the Land Cruiser) is that luggage must by necessity limited to what can be packed inside the little beast. It takes roughly one and a half minutes to pack the vehicle or unpack it. Less is more!
It was Monday 5th July with a blue sky day and cold crisp air making for great photography and videography. We left Rooiberg Lodge and went back over the Assegaaibosch Pass, heading east towards the Rooiberg Pass. A few kilometres east of the Assegaaibosch Pass there is a small fork in the road. We turned right here on this long gravel road (the DR1649) which meanders through some of the most beautiful Klein Karoo landscapes and terminates near Armoed, not far from the R328 close to Oudtshoorn.
Winter is best
Our goal was to take a short-cut to the Robinson Pass which needed our attention to refurbish the summit sign. Instead of a short cut, we uncovered four hidden passes along this road, some of which we have already published. The weather was great and the Klein Karoo was smiling on us. Here's a tip for all you adventure travellers: Drive these routes in winter or early spring. The flowers and especially the aloes are a sight to behold. You have the additional benefit of not being too hot in your vehicle as most of the winter days are clear and sunny. Driving here in summer is another story altogether where 35C temperatures are a regular thing.
The first of the passes for filming was the Uitspan Pass which drops down to cross the Gouritz River over a low level concrete causeway and ascends up the other side of the valley. The name is appropriate enough as it traverses the Uitspan farm. Shortly after completing this pass, the next one makes an appearance - namely the Kleinfontein Pass. What is interesting about this pass is that is actually both a pass and a poort. We filmed it as two separate routes, having to drive the passes first, then turn around to face west, as the sun had already gone past noon causing poor light. Fortunately both are fairly short. Having to drive a pass three times to get good video is quite normal.
Kleinfontein Pass & Poort
Shortly after the Kleinfontein Pass comes the Kleinfontein Poort which is short, winding and magnificent. The entire poort was smothered in bright red aloes and many other flowering succulents.
Some 20 km further we filmed the fourth pass on this route - the Perdebont Pass, where after we emerged onto a tar road at Armoed. Near the end of this gravel section, we passed a massive quarry with many large trucks plying back and forth, causing dangerous dust levels and very poor visibility. All credit to the drivers, each and every one of them stopped their trucks to allow us to pass safely. I was impressed. Fortunately the distance from the quarry to the tar road was fairly short. We turned right and routed south for 9 km to connect with the R328, where we turned right once more, heading for the beautiful and historic Robinson Pass.
* Klein Karoo road trip
* Namaqualand - Part 2
* Messelpad Pass
* Goegap Nature Reserve
* Pass of the week
With Covid lockdown restrictions putting a spoke in the proverbial wheel of our Bedrogfontein tour scheduled for last weekend, we decided to make use of the booked out time and do a quick road trip to refurbish some outlying MPSA summit signs and scout a few new passes to add to our database.
The weather played ball as we had three perfect days with clear, sunny weather making the sign repair work less like hot work and the crisp winter air allowed for excellent video and photographic results. We routed from Cape Town via Worcester (and some beautiful waterfalls tumbling down the mountains in the Du Toitskloof Pass) to Robertson, where we took the back road to Bonnievale crossing a swollen Breede River at Rooibrug (Red Bridge) and on to the Stormsvlei Pass, where the deluge of two months ago has caused lots of damage to the road. There are six sections where deep washaways have collapsed the tar. Temporary self-policed stop-go's allow single lane traffic to pass through each section; each of which is only about 50m in length. It's going to be a while before all the repairs are completed.
After a short section along the N2 to Riversdale, we headed north over Garcia's Pass to film a short gravel pass on the Barrydale-Riversdale road called Kliphoogte. From there we headed north to Ladismith and filmed the Naaukloof on the R62 which ends just before the western approach into Ladismith.
Next up was the Huisrivier Pass MPSA sign board, which needed quite a lot of work. Some careless souls used the sign to put a target on with double sided tape (the remnants which required lots of elbow grease to remove), but the sign has been peppered with BB gun damage to the tune of about 40 dents, rendering this sign to the sin-bin and the shooter's big brother unholstered what looks like six shots from a 9mm which have penetrated the sheet metal and left permanent holes. The best we can do is put an oversized patch of 3M brown vinyl over them, which should last upwards of 5 years. We are getting used to this level of wanton vandalism and it no longer is an emotional issue. We just get on with the job and do the best we can with the budget, tools and equipment at hand.
From the Huisrivier Pass we drove to nearby Calitzdorp to refuel the Jimny and then headed over the Rooiberg Pass to refurbish the sign there, finally arriving at our overnight stop (the fabulous gem of the Little Karoo) - the Rooiberg Lodge, where we had our first class dinner served in our thatched chalet in order to comply with Covid regulations. As the sun sets the temperature plummets, but thanks to a decent stack of dry firewood and an indoor fireplace, we could spend the evening at peace with the world (no mobile reception, no sirens, no loud exhausts, no loud music - just the steady chirp of a few goggas).
We will continue with this trip report next week.
We continue with our exploration of Namaqualand as we head into the northern parts. This series is to enlighten prospective visitors to the area. Springtime is without question the best time to visit. We complete our visit to the Namaqua National Park by exiting the area via two really impressive and historically important passes, namely the Wildeperdehoek and Messelpad passes. These two passes are historically bound like twins and were constructed under the supervision of Patrick Fletcher - a very capable roads engineer who seldom gets much recognition.
The rough gravel surfaced Wildeperdehoek Pass forms part of the Caracal Eco Route in the Namaqua National Park, with the the grassy flats of Namaqualand lying to the west and glimpses of the coast beyond. The 4,8 km pass is around 120 years old and has reasonable average gradients of 1:20
('Wildeperdehoek' roughly translates as 'wild horses corner'.) This pass is not suitable for vehicles lacking ground clearance. The pass was originally named Wildepaardehoek in the old Dutch style, but is today more commonly referred to in the Afrikaans version. This pass should be viewed in tandem with the Messelpad Pass . Some locals also refer to this pass as the Bandietpas, which translates into Convict's Pass which points to the labour used in the pass's construction.
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* Bedrogfontein Tour postponed
* Namaqua National Park
* Wild Coast Tour 2021 - Day 9 / Final
* RIP Ed Johnson
* Pass of the week
* New passes
We had no choice but to postpone this tour to remain compliant with Covid regulations. We will make an announcement in 2 week's time after Mr. Ramaphosa advises whether restrictions will be eased, remain the same or increase. We have set aside two possible future dates for this tour as follows: July 24th to 27th or August 21st to 24th. At the time of publishing this newsletter there is still one place open. Book online here: BEDROGFONTEIN ONLINE BOOKINGS
As drenching rains soak the Western and Northern Cape, it brings with it the promise of magnificent wild flowers in August and September. Now is the time to start planning your trip. Today we will be exploring Namaqualand and featuring some it’s best sites worth visiting.
The first town one reaches from the south is Garies. Current population is approximately 1500. The Letterklip provincial heritage site is situated just west of town. The unique rock formation was fortified by dry stone walling; it was occupied from 1901 to 1902 by British forces during the Anglo-Boer War. Various regimental badges and officers' names are engraved in the rockface. There is a hotel and guest house in the village offering clean and comfortable accommodation at reasonable prices.
Garies started as a religious centre when a Dutch Reformed Church was established on the farm Goedeverwagting in 1845. It was initially named after the farm. Just before the formation of the Union of South Africa, Prime Minister John X Merriman (1908–1910), approved the name change to its present name, Garies (or Th’aries), which is a Khoisan for the grass growing along dry river beds in the area. In the Khoekhoen language/gari-s means 'couch-grass'.
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.