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Trygve Roberts

Trygve Roberts

Swartberg Classic Tour – Day 3 (Prince Albert to Die Hel)

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Day 3 of the Swartberg Classic Tour (Die Hel to the southern end of the Swartberg Pass)

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Wednesday, 03 November 2021 16:47

Latest News! 25th November, 2021

The journey continues

In this newsletter we continue with our story on the Swartberg Classic Tour. This chapter deals with the drive from the  Meiringspoort to Prince Albert.


What a champ!

Meet the heroine of our tour - Liesel Fowler. Always bright and happy, Liesel was one of the guests who took the walk up to the waterfall in Meiringspoort. She slipped and fell awkwardly, breaking her arm. This happened at 3.30 in the afternoon. Her husband David, whisked her off to Oudtshoorn where she received excellent medical treatment. By 7.30 pm the Fowlers were back at our overnight venue to rejoin the tour.

(Read more...)

Wednesday, 03 November 2021 16:24

Latest News! 18th November, 2021

The journey continues

In this newsletter we continue with our story on the Swartberg Classic Tour. This chapter deals with the drive from the  Koos Raubenheimer Dam to Meiringspoort via De Rust.


Rust en Vrede

Rust-en-Vrede Waterfall is hidden among the bracken-clad heights; therefore a walk over little bridges is required along the mountain trail. You are inspired by the beautiful wild flowers that bloom in great profusion alongside the path while far below amidst ferns and undergrowth, a powerful river ripples over rocky edges.

This scenic and peaceful trail ends in great reward. Collected at your feet is the sparkling pool that originated from a spring high up in the mountains. Rust-en-Vrede is a safe sanctuary for indigenous plant and animal life; definitely a precious asset of the Klein Karoo and Cango Valley.

A good swimming spot at the foot of the waterfall, however swimming is forbidden as this is drinking water / Photo: Cango Resort

On previous tours we always found this facility gated and locked, but on this tour it was open, so we decided it would be a good place to have our lunch break under the shade of the tall trees. Elation quickly turned to disappointment when the gate guard asked for R100 per vehicle.

"We will only be here for half an hour" I explained in suiwer Afrikaans, and my offer to negotiate a fairer price was met with a resolute shaking of the head. So if Oudtshoorn Municipality can take note: Perhaps your fee is fine for anyone wanting to spend the day there, but a one price fits all policy is costing your facility in lost revenue. Have three rates: Full day, half day or one hour, priced at say R100; R50 and R10 per vehicle.

Instead, we parked our convoy near the entrance gates and enjoyed our lunch in the balmy sunshine of 36C.

A peaceful pass

Immediately after the Rust en Vrede Waterfall and picnic area, the start of the pass of the same name begins.

South Africa and especially the Klein Karoo (Little Karoo) has some of the finest gravel roads for the purpose of eco-tourism. With the popularity of the GPS, these minor roads are just waiting to be discovered.

(Read more...)

Wednesday, 03 November 2021 14:33

Latest News! 11th November, 2021

The journey continues

In this newsletter we continue with our story on the Swartberg Classic Tour. This chapter deals with the drive from the  Nelsrivier Dam to the De Rust.


Kruisrivier Valley

After passing the Calitzdorp (Nelsrivier) Dam, the road turns more towards the east and follows a long, narrow and convoluted valley. Along this old road there are fine examples of old Karoo style architecture and many farm stays and B&B's on offer. This valley is well watered and surprisingly lush, considering it's in the heart of the Klein Karoo.

There are many low level stream crossings and dense bush, requiring diligent driving and always remember to keep well left on the blind corners, as some of the locals drive a little too fast and occupy more than half of the road!

The valley has its own micro-climate which supports plenty of small scale farming. It seems to have attracted artistic types as there are several art galleries along the route. It's the sort of road where you want to stop often and linger a while. A road for the less hurried traveler.

The P1706 route offers far superior scenery to the well known R62 tourist route - especially the straight and often boring section between Calitzdorp and Oudtshoorn. This back road offers multiple options and several small passes, each distinctly different to the other. The Kruisrivierpoort is the first of these passes when driving from west to east.

(Read more...)

Wednesday, 03 November 2021 13:26

Latest News! 4th November, 2021

The journey continues

In this newsletter we continue with our story on the Swartberg Classic Tour. This chapter deals with the drive from Bosch Luys Kloof to the Nelsrivier Dam via Calitzdorp.


Totsiens Bosch Luys Kloof

Day 2 of the tour dawned warm and sunny, the temperature would later rise to 36C. With the customary radio checks done we bade farewell to the lovely Bosch Luys Kloof Lodge and ascended the Bosluiskloof Pass with the sun behind us, but the one thing there was no shortage of was dust! Throughout the tour dust caused the convoy to spread over a large distance. This requires regular stops by the lead vehicle to allow the convoy to regroup to ensure clear comms.

It's always interesting how different a pass feels driving it in the opposite direction. Bosluiskloof and Seweweekspoort were prime examples. The latter took some time as our guests were stopping to take photos - lots of them - in the perfect early morning light.

Hello Huisrivier

Once back at the R62 we hooked a left (east) to drive the tarred Huisrivier Pass. The 13,4 km long Huisrivier pass lies on the R62 between two valleys in the Little Karoo between the towns of Ladismith in the west and Calitzdorp in the east.

It has 39 bends, corners and curves packed into that distance, which requires vigilant driving. Not only is this a fairly long pass, but it has many sharp corners and exceptionally attractive scenery. Many lovely rest areas have been provided by the road builders.

This pass is unique in that its geology is unusually unstable (shale) and several pioneering engineering techniques had to be applied to successfully build a safe all-weather pass. The pass, which includes three river crossings, is not particularly steep, where the engineers have managed to limit the steepest gradients to a fairly comfortable 1:10.

(Read more...)

SWARTBERG CLASSIC TOUR 2021

Overview

This is no doubt our most successful tour ever. This morning we bade farewell to 22 new converts into the MPSA family with friendships bonded in dust and tears of elation and happiness.

There were a number of firsts on this tour:

The first Renault Duster

The first GWM bakkie

The first Subaru Forester

The first M/Benz ML

The first broken arm

The first pulled leg muscle

Day 0 - Meet & Greet - Sunday 10th October at the Rotterdam Boutique Hotel

Our rendezvous point was at the unique Rotterdam Boutique Hotel, just outside the village of Buffejagsrivier, itself about 8 km east of Swellendam. There is plenty of fascinating history in this area, which we will examine shortly.

The Rotterdam farm is a working dairy farm set in verdant fields, with the Langeberg Mountains standing sentinel to the north. The property is immaculate.

Entrance gate of the Rotterdam farm / Photo: MPSA

From the moment you turn in at the elegant gate, one gets the impression of laid back order. Four energetic Border Collies and two friendly Rotweillers greet one at reception, demanding some affection before the formalities of checking in are dealt with.

The homestead consists of the original and very old farm building (De Oudehuis) where the reception, kitchen, dining room and bar is located. The height of the doors is lower than normal as was typical of buildings from the 1700 and 1800's when the population was shorter.

The Fraser-Jones Suites / Photo: MPSA

A little to the east is the elegant Fraser-Jones Suites. It's a double storey building with olde-worlde charm oozing out of every nook and cranny. The rooms are enormous; bigger than the average small house in South Africa and appointed to 4 star quality.

Our visit coincided with load shedding. This caused some issues with flushing toilets and water pressure, but at least we were forewarned by Andy to be showered, abluted and in bed by 10 pm before the power went off.

A chat covering the first half of Day 2 of the Swartberg Classic Tour.

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Wednesday, 27 October 2021 12:58

Latest News! 28th October, 2021

The week that was...

This week we continue with our report back on the Swartberg Classic Tour.

Our journey continues from the summit of the Gysmanshoek Pass.

At the northern end of the Gysmanshoek Pass, we connected with a good gravel road and drove east to the tarred R323, where we visited the Muiskraal farm. Anyone who has ever driven the R323 will instantly recognize the entrance gates which are very distinctive. 

The pass to the south of the farm (Muiskraal Pass) leads up to the summit of the much more famous Garcia's Pass. It was getting hot so we made use of the shade inside the Muiskraal farm stall, where we made the farmer's day as our guests bought armfuls of olives, preserves, jams, juices and dried fruit. Ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching!

The olive oil tanks are in the same building and if you enjoy cooking with olive oil, we recommend you stop here as the prices are very good and the quality excellent. We had decided to omit the slow drive over the Brandrivier Pass to make up time and continued on to Ladismith via the Voetpadkloof, Kruippoort and Naauwkloof passes, the latter which delivers perfect views of the cleft peak, known as Towerkop.

From Ladismith our routing took us to the settlements of Zoar and Amalienstein, where we stopped at the old church for a leg stretch and some photos. The mercury had crept up to 33C and the vehicle air conditioners were working hard. The second highlight of the day beckoned - the incredible Seweweekspoort.

Just as one enters the poort after the second bridge, a small two spoor track leads away into the bush. It heads up to the Tierkloof Dam. The spot is particularly attractive as the contorted and twisted Cape Fold mountains confine the narrow kloof and the river that flows along its little valley.

Tierkloof Dam

The road winds over the river three times over neatly constructed causeways smothered on either side by dense riverine vegetation, then levels off, revealing the dam wall, which towers over the road. If you're feeling energetic, you can climb the "stairs" all the way to the top to enjoy the views, but be warned it's very steep. The dam is narrow and deep (like well-designed dams should be) and provides fresh potable water to Zoar and Amalienstein.

(Read more...)

 

Wednesday, 20 October 2021 17:40

Latest News! 21st October, 2021

The week that was....

We are dedicating our newsletter to a full report back on the recent Swartberg Classic Tour. 

Overview: This is no doubt our most successful tour ever. This morning we bade farewell to 22 new converts into the MPSA family with friendships bonded in dust and tears of elation and happiness.


There were a number of firsts on this tour:

  • The first Renault Duster
  • The first GWM bakkie
  • The first Subaru Forester
  • The first M/Benz ML
  • The first broken arm
  • The first pulled leg muscle

Our rendezvous point was at the unique Rotterdam Boutique Hotel, just outside the village of Buffejagsrivier, itself about 8 km east of Swellendam. There is plenty of fascinating history in this area, which we will examine in a moment.

The Rotterdam farm is a working dairy farm set in verdant fields, with the Langeberg Mountains standing sentinel to the north. The property is immaculate. From the moment you turn in at the elegant gate, one gets the impression of laid back order. Four energetic Border Collies and two friendly Rotweillers greet one at reception, demanding some affection before the formalities of checking in are dealt with.

The homestead consists of the original and very old farm building (De Oudehuis) where the reception, kitchen, dining room and bar is located. The height of the doors is lower than normal as was typical of buildings from the 1700 and 1800's when the population was shorter.

A little to the east is the elegant Fraser-Jones Suites. It's a double storey building with olde-worlde charm oozing out of every nook and cranny. The rooms are enormous; bigger than the average small house in South Africa and appointed to 4 star quality. Fountains trimmed off with lavender and lush lawns make for a pleasing vista.

In the next building to the south is a small thatched building housing the museum. We will give you more info on that lower down. A little further is a slightly more modern thatched building, which is the owner's residence.

Our guests arrived on time and soon we had all the two way radios fitted and tyres deflated in preparation for the gravel roads. The driver's briefing took place on schedule at 1800 where the route for the next day was explained, personal folders, maps and name tags handed out.

After our driver's briefing, farm owner and host Andy Fraser-Jones gave us a fascinating talk and tour in the family "trophy room" and regaled us with stories of his parents, both who were excellent pilots and of course, much of the little museum is dedicated to the exploits of racing driver Ian Fraser-Jones. 

The museum at Rotterdam is a carefully curated collection of artefacts, memorabilia and prizes won by the late Mr. Ian John Fraser-Jones. He was one of the first and only South African racing drivers to take part in the Grand prix from 1950-1960. He led a full life and left a true legacy that is shared in this beautifully established private family museum.

Andy's wife, Anneke, toiled away in the kitchen to produce a fine meal for our group (24 people) which was enjoyed in the Oudehuis, after which it was a weary group who wound their way to their rooms under starry skies, before load-shedding arrived at 22h00. Most were asleep in short order to the sounds of rural silence.

[Read more...]

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