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Latest News! 18th June, 2020

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Hex River Valley in winter clothing Hex River Valley in winter clothing - Photo: Trygve Roberts

The week that was

* Wicked winter weather

* MPSA is growing

* Snow drive

* Tours update

* NEW! Swartberg Tour 2020

* Another story from 1958

* Podcast

* Pass of the week

* Words of Wisdom


Wicked Winter Weather

The frontal system that was our opening paragraph in last week's newsletter, deserved more than that. It delivered tons of snow. All the high mountains were draped in thick snow from the Cederberg to the Drakensberg. Temperatures plummeted with Johannesburg logging sub-zero temperatures. We used a gap between the two frontal systems to take a drive out to Ceres to capture some photos and videos of the action. 

MPSA expanding

We have taken over the website and assets of Cape Mountain Passes. All those brown tourist boards displaying the vital statistics of 54 passes in the Western Cape will now be managed by MPSA, which includes the urls capemountainpasses.co.za, capemountainroutes.co.za and tablemountainroutes.co.za. The owner, Rod Douglas, of this long standing project has retired and gifted the project to us to ensure the hard work that went into the project will continue to be utilised by the public. We will start by cleaning up all the signs at the pass summit points - getting rid of the graffiti and patching the bullet holes and adding the MPSA signage. We will incorporate the CMP signage into our logo. There is also an entire geocaching section that goes with the project.

New logo and headers

Our new logo and page headers are now live on the website. We think they are a nice improvement. Thanks to Lisa for the creative artwork and Jacques for the technical stuff.

Ceres Snow Drive

Our routing did not disappoint. We drove over the old Du Toitskloof Pass where we saw some beautiful waterfalls, all flowing strongly. Along the stretch on the Worcester side of the tunnel the peaks were all dusted in snow, making for majestic photography. 

Perhaps the best scenery was to be enjoyed just north of the Hex River Poort where the quilt-work of winter draped vineyards formed a perfect setting against a backdrop of snow capped mountains under a cobalt blue sky. We ran a short video over the scene, which has enjoyed an impressive view tally of 51000 views (at the time of writing). 

There was surprisingly little snow on the Hex River Pass, but the Matroosberg mountains were under a thick layer of snow. We drove on to the junction of the N1 and the R46, where the road was closed and a traffic officer sat in his vehicle just behind the cones. Fully expecting to be turned away, we approached to ask permission to drive through to Ceres only to find the driver snuggled up and asleep. So we drove around the cones and along the R46 enjoying the ice cold Karooscapes topped off with white peaks in every direction.

At the junction of the R46 and the R355 we came across a second road block, but decided to rather take the short cut along the gravel road through the Matjiesrivier farm (a public road) and from there up the Bo Swaarmoed Pass where we arrived at the real snow fields. It was such a pretty sight.

The farm at the summit of the Bo Swaarmoed Pass is appropriately called Laastedrif. The plateau between this farm and the Klondike cherry farm is mostly above the 1200m contour line and there was more snow than what we've seen in any winter over the last decade. A few families had taken the time to play in the snow with toboggans and snowmen were being built at various points along the road.

We decided to retrace our route back to the Matjiesrivier farm and turn left to re-join the R46 at the foot of the Hottentots Kloof Pass, where the signboard incorrectly reads 'Theronsberg Pass'. There was surprisingly little snow along the road-side, but the mountains looked stunning. We got some great pics near the summit - one of which generated 58,000 views. The coldest temperature we measured was at the Erfdeel farm where the reading was 4C.

[More lower down]

The return leg to Ceres was uneventful allowing us a final stop at the summit of Michells Pass for some photography and videography. All the rivers were flowing strongly and no doubt add significantly to the Western Cape's water storage. After so many weeks of lockdown it was great to be out and about once again.

Statistics 

Every now and again we have a look at the analytics of our website. The figures for May showed our dominant readership to be South African at 79.22%. Other countries in volume order were USA, UK, Germany, Australia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Canada, France, India and Lesotho. We are growing!

Lockdown was singularly bad for new subscriptions, mainly because we decided to open the site free everyone for 60 days whilst in level 1 lockdown. During that phase we had hardly any new subscribers, but the moment we put the subscriber restrictions back in place, we have had a huge surge in subscriptions. We have put this down to the fact that many new viewers were able to see what we have on offer and wanted to continue to enjoy access. As you give so shall you receive (it would seem)

Lockdown had a bizarre effect on our FaceBook page. The growth has been nothing short of phenomenal. Before lockdown started we had 24,000 followers. We now have 30,000! Our current rate of increase is around 1000 new followers per week. Trying to analyse those figures is difficult, but we believe that lockdown had many more people glued to their phones and computers searching for positive, uplifting material, which we supply as a matter of normal course. We chose to stay true to our course and it paid off handsomely.

In conclusion, MPSA has enjoyed many benefits from lockdown and not everything is bad news.

Theronsberg Pass, north of Ceres / Photo: Trygve Roberts


Trips and Tours

The next tour coming up is the Wild Coast Tour starting on the 5th August. We had had 5 cancellations (mostly Covid fear driven) but we have been able to resell all of the places, so that tour is once again fully booked. We are very busy adding all the finishing touches to our routes. Next year we will repeat this tour as there was a lot of interest. 

In mid-September we will be running our Ben 10 Eco Challenge V3 Tour. We still have one place left. You can get full details, costs, etc on this link, where you can also book online: BEN 10 V3 TOUR

 

NEW SWARTBERG TOUR

We have started planning our last multiple day tour of 2020 which will be the SWARTBERG 2020 TOUR. This tour will start in Swellendam and include 8 passes on the first day, which will include Gysmanshoek, Seweweekspoort and Bosluiskloof. We will be overnighting for 2 nights at the secluded Boschluys Kloof Lodge. On Day 2 there will be time for hiking, birding or a 4x4 trail or simply basking in the sun next to the pool or on the deck of your chalet.

Day 3 - The route will then double back over Bosluiskloof and Seweweekspoort and head to Calitzdorp, after which we take gravel roads all the way to De Rust for lunch. The afternoon will cover the mesmerising rock formations and waterfalls of Meiringspoort and then on to Prince Albert (again via some gravel roads wherever possible) for an overnight stay in a tranquil lodge with some fine Karoo cooking.

Day 4 we will drive the Swartberg Pass which will include a drive along the Gamkaskloof and down Elands Pass to Die Hel for a lunch at Plaasfontein with the family of Annatjie Joubert. We will drive back out the same afternoon and descend the southern side of the Swartberg Pass to overnight at the Calitzdorp Spa. We have made this change as many of the cottages in Die Hel suffered fire damage earlier this year and will not be ready for occupation by the time we run our tour.

Day 5 - The final day we will drive the Rooiberg and Assegaaibosch passes and complete the tour with a stay at the beautiful Rooiberg Lodge and enjoy some game viewing.

The extra number of days will allow for a leisurely pace with plenty of time to stop and enjoy the sights and sounds and capture all the best views on camera. The new tour should be loaded by this time next week. We expect this one to be sold out in short order based on the 2019 bookings.

 

Stories from the Karoo

The King of Pain.

In earlier stories (those who have been following) I’ve explained my brother Carlo’s ability to shrug pain off, which is legendary. In fact I think he secretly enjoys it. A masochist of sorts.

Today’s story took place in approximately 1954. The whole family were off on an outing in the '36 Chevy. Mom and dad up front and Carlo, Lola and I had the back seat to ourselves. As always our father had a cigarette in his mouth. He was an adept smoker being able to perform any task (including speaking) without removing the fag from his lips. 60 to 100 cigarettes per day - 7 days a week.

My father always drove fast - and he was a very good driver, having spent many years as a Senior Roads Inspector, criss crossing the gravel roads of the Eastern Cape.

The family car - a 1936 Chev / Photo Roberts Archives

Carlo, aged about 6, using hand signs to communicate with his siblings, swore Lola and I to secrecy. He quietly opened the rear door - bearing in mind the car was travelling at about 60 kph - and bailed out like a skydiver holding firmly onto his cross-breed fox terrier.

Lola and I thought it was a really cool trick as we sniggered quietly to ourselves, not thinking for a moment that our brother might be critically injured or dead. We dutifully kept to our brother’s wishes and said nothing to our parents.

The question younger people might be asking is - how could the parents not have heard the car door opening?

Because Winston smoked, the car windows were always open creating a lot of wind noise. Add to that a noisy old car of 1936 vintage and the loud crunching of the tyres on the gravel road and you might understand how easily this little event took place.

Parents have a 6th sense and one of them must have wondered why the noise levels in the rear seat had diminished somewhat.

Then came that familiar roar from my father:

“ WHERE IS CARLO!!!???”

The Chevy skidded to a shuddering halt as my father leapt out and checked to see if there was any possibility that Carlo was hiding somewhere in the back. He even checked in the boot, as it was possible to access the boot from behind the back seat.

It was about that time that he noticed that the back door where Carlo had been sitting, was not fully closed.

One can only begin to imagine the emotions of a parent discovering their 6 year old child was missing from the car. I’m sure he assumed Carlo had been collected by higher spirits. Questions were barked at Lola and I, who were both too scared to say a word. We just sat there looking contrite.

The Chevy made a U turn and so began the search for my brother. Unlike the story of the longdrop, this time Carlo was well and truly in the dwang. Winston found Carlo, bloodied and covered in gravel in a ditch a few miles further back.

All he said was “My God Carlo! What have you done this time!?”

I don’t recall whether he was taken to hospital, a local doctor or straight home for the hot water, cotton wool and Dettol treatment, but he survived. There were no broken bones. He also managed to evade getting a hiding.

That’s my brother. The king of pain. It took me a while to figure out why he chose dentistry as a career, but I’ve got it now.


PODCAST


Pass of the Week

With all the focus on the fruit farming town of Ceres this week, we have decided to feature the superb Michell's Pass and to revisit it's rugged history, where oxwagons once had to be dismantled to get up the steepest sections and many years later in 1969 when the entire pass was destroyed by the Tulbagh earthquake.

 

* * * * *   M I C H E L L S   P A S S   * * * * *

 


Trygve Roberts
Editor

 

Words of wisdom: "Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible" ~ Dalai Lama 

 

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