* History of Graaff- Reinet (Part 1)
* The Rebellion
* Stockenstrom - the game changer
* The Great Trek
* Pass of the week
Graaff-Reinet is the sixth oldest town in South Africa and had its origins as a far-flung frontier settlement at the very limits of the old Cape Colony. The first European inhabitants of the area were the trekboere, or nomadic farmers, who moved away from the restrictive rule of the Dutch East India Company at Cape Town in search of suitable grazing for their cattle and fat-tailed sheep. The first permits for establishing farms in the district were awarded in 1770, including the farms Uitkomst (Outcome), Vergenoegd (Far Enough) and Slegtgenoeg (Bad Enough).
These nomadic farmers first reached the plains of the Camdeboo and the Sneeuberge in the mid-eighteenth century and in answer to a dire need for a settlement to serve their needs Landdrost Mauritz Woeke was despatched to the area from Cape Town. He selected a beautiful site within the broad sweep of the Sundays River and the surrounding mountains in 1786, naming the new settlement Graaff-Reinet after the Dutch Governor Cornelis Jacob van de Graaff and his wife Reynet.
The trekboere had settled the surrounding countryside from the early 1770s and as was common in almost all parts of the Karoo they came into conflict with the indigenous San or Bushmen who had been resident in the area for countless centuries.
The hunter gatherer lifestyle of the San conflicted with the pastoral lifestyle of these early farmers and conflict was the inevitable result. As the San were increasingly deprived of their best hunting land they resorted to killing the farmer’s livestock in order to survive. A state of almost perpetual conflict between these early settlers and the San raged for almost 30-years with more than 3,000 San killed in the conflict. The few survivors from this unfortunate period either moved away into the vast northern spaces of the Great Karoo or were assimilated into the population of the Khoikhoi who worked for the new white settlers.
* Tulbagh - the 7th oldest town in South Africa
* Land van Waveren
* The Earthquake
* Michells Pass
This week in our series on the oldest towns in South Africa, we have a look at the town of Tulbagh. It's the 7th oldest town in SA est. 1795. The valley was discovered in 1658 by Pieter Potter, a surveyor who worked for Jan van Riebeeck. In 1699 14 farmers settled in the valley, and the town started developing around 1743. Tulbagh was the last stop for the Boers who took part in the Groot Trek before heading into the unknown interior of the country. The town was named after the former Dutch Governor, Ryk Tulbagh. In the 1860’s, the town grew exponentially and saw the extension of a railway and several roads were built.
Travel back in time over 300 years... Charming Church Street boasts the largest number of Cape Dutch, Edwardian and Victorian provincial heritage sites in one street in South Africa, all lovingly restored post the devastating earthquake of 1969.
Before road engineers conquered the forbidding mountains at Paarl and Wellington, Tulbagh was in fact the trekker's last stop en route from the Cape of Good Hope before entering the country's wild and untamed interior to the north.
In the heady days following the discovery of diamonds at Kimberley in the 1860s, Tulbagh enjoyed a flowering of prosperity. Yet after the construction of Michel's Pass, and the advent of the railway effectively bypassing the town, it subsided into a rural backwater – which paradoxically preserved its historic character. While causing much structural damage, the earthquake of 1969 resulted in a national fundraising effort and a very successful restoration project.
* Oldest towns of SA (Series)
* Arrival of the railway yards
* Quality Schools
* VW (you and me)
* Pass of the Week
Over the next few weeks these newsletters are coming to you pre-written whilst we are on tour along the Wild Coast, and as such do not follow our normal format.
This probably comes as something of a surprise to learn that the 8th oldest town in South Africa is Uitenhage. It's the second oldest town in the Eastern districts of the former Cape Colony. Founded in 1804 by Jacob Glen Cuyler, the town was named in honour of the Cape Commissioner-General Jacob Abraham Uitenhage de Mist. It was originally part of the Graaff Reinet district, and was known as the administrative border for the Cape Colony.
When the Cape Commissioner-General split the two districts in half, Uitenhage was named a prime location for timber farming. Its abundance of water and picturesque setting made it quite popular, and the climate was regarded as so healthy that Cape Town patients were recommended by their doctors to recuperate there.
Over the next few decades the town grew steadily as English-looking and Georgian white houses sprung up accompanied by beautiful little gardens and a number of important buildings like the post office. The town’s first Dutch Reformed Church was built in 1843, and the Zwartkops River became the epicentre of the area’s wool washing industry.
Uitenhage became a municipality in 1877. Soon after, the construction of a railway line and station began, connecting the town to other parts of the Eastern Cape and beyond.
A proper town hall was erected in 1882, as well as a library and new school building. A number of new religious buildings also sprang up in the 1890s, including St Katherines Anglican Church, St Joseph's Roman Catholic Church, the Congregational Church and the Wesleyan Jubilee Chapel.
By 1910 Uitenhage was a thriving town with a healthy economy built on agriculture and railway industries.
Uitenhage is known for the large industries situated there. The largest of these industries are the Volkswagen of South Africa and Goodyear factories. An automotive supplier park, Alexander Park Industrial, has also been created directly next to the Volkswagen factory, thus allowing automotive component manufacturers to construct their manufacturing plants close by.
(Read more) ....
* Wild Coast here we come
* Garden Route Classic Tour
* Seven Sisters Tour
* Pass of the week
As you read this newsletter we will be on our way to Cradock for our first overnight stop en-route to Matatiele where we will be meeting our first group of guests for the long awaited Wild Coast V4 Pondoland Tour. The two back to back tours cover a period of 21 days away from HQ and that equates into a trunk full of careful planning; writing newsletters in advance and ensuring the social media treadmill gets fed its daily rations.
As always we will be returning with fresh photos and videos and as a bonus, now that we are more intimately familiar with the Wild Coast, we plan on filming 19 new passes along the route, which we will process over the period June to December. We will divulge all our best passes to our subscribers.
We have just launched the Garden Route Classic Tour. Please note that we have deviated from our usual "per vehicle" pricing system to a "per person" system. Over the last few years we have monitored the number of passengers per vehicle. The vast majority book for 2 people, then there are the single drivers and by far the minority are those with more than two people in a vehicle. So we did some head scratching and came to the conclusion that it would please most of our guests better (especially the solo drivers) if we charged per person. We will be keeping an eye on bookings and monitor the feedback from guests. For two people the rates will be much the same as they were before, but for people with 3 or 4 in a vehicle it will be more expensive.
Go here for online bookings: GARDEN ROUTE CLASSIC
In 10th place is Caledon in the Overberg which was established in 1811. This one catches many people by surprise.
Caledon is situated on the N2 national road in the Overberg region in the Western Cape province of South Africa, located about 113 kilometres east of Cape Town next to mineral-rich hot springs. As of 2011 it had a population of 13,020. It is located in, and is the seat of, the Theewaterskloof Local Municipality.
The town has a Mediterranean climate of warm, dry summers and cool, wet winters. Temperatures are modified by its close proximity to the South Atlantic Ocean, just over the Klein River Mountains to the south. The place was originally known in Dutch as “Bad agter de Berg” (Bath Behind the Mountain). A bath house was built in 1797 and a village called Swartberg sprang up, which was later renamed Caledon in honour of the Irish peer Du Pre Alexander.
Caledon is famous for its hot springs, discovered by the early Khoi-Khoi people before the Europeans attributed healing properties to the iron-rich waters and opened a sick house and later a sanatorium, which was destroyed by fire. The seven springs, one of which is cold and the other six thermal, are warmed by contact with rocks heated by pressure deep under the ground to a steady temperature of 49.5° Celsius. Interestingly, the waters of Caledon are also free of any organic matter and when submitted, in 1893, to the Chicago World Fair, they were awarded first prize as the world’s top quality mineral waters. The Caledon district is primarily an agricultural region.
We visit two interesting towns – Darling and Greyton then head north to Mpumalanga to unpack the history of Casper’s Nek Pass.
Listen to the interview:
* Out and about
* Msikaba Gorge
* Oh Darling
* Seven Sisters Pass (New)
* Garden Route Gravel Travel Tour (New)
* Rivers of Joy and Sorrow
* Pass of the Week
It's been a busy week at the MPSA offices in preparation for our longest tour to date amounting to a total of 21 days. Bookings for the Wild Coast V4 Pondoland have closed (fully booked), but we still have a few places open on the Wild Coast V5 Mbashe Tour. Bookings close this Saturday at 18.00. Our next Wild Coast Tour will only be in 2023 so if you're keen, don't miss out on this opportunity.
Amongst the highlights of this tour are Mapuzi, Hole in the Wall, Coffee Bay, 4x4 tracks through beautiful forests, Mdumbi Beach, kayaking on the Mthatha River, lunch at White Clay, lots of unchartered passes, a 2 day stay at the The Haven, The Dwesa-Cwebe Nature Reserve, dolphin watching at Kob Inn, Collywobbles Vulture Colony, take the pont over the Kei River and finish at the awesome Morgan Bay Hotel. Enjoy the oysters, fresh fish and calamari. Savour the friendliness of the local Xhosa people. Chill on the beach. Read a book. Make new friends. Tour in the safety of a group under expert guidance. Have FUN!
CLICK HERE TO BOOK: WILD COAST V5 TOUR BOOKINGS
This morning we have received news that we have been granted permission to take our guests to see the construction site of the Msikaba Gorge Bridge. This will form part of the many points of interest on the Wild Coast V4 Tour.
The cable-stayed bridge is being built by a joint venture of Concor Infrastructure and Mota Engil Construction. The bridge over the Msikaba Gorge near Lusikisiki in the Eastern Cape forms part of the N2 Wild Coast project being undertaken by the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral). It will have a main span of 580m supported from a pair of 127m-tall pylons.
The deck will be 194m metres above the valley floor, making it the third highest bridge in Africa, eclipsed only by the existing Bloukrans Bridge with a height of 216m and the Mtentu Bridge which, when completed, will be 223m high. Approach roads and the pylon foundations and anchor blocks for the Msikaba Bridge are under construction.
The week that was...
* Trips & Tours
* KZN Floods
* Affected areas along the Wild Coast
* Ben 10 Eco Challenge - Day 5
* Pass of the week
Bookings for the Wild Coast Tour V4 (Pondoland) close today.
Bookings for the Wild Coast Tour V5 (Mbashe) close on 30th April.
There is still one ticket left for the Swartberg Classic Tour in July.
Use the links above to review the itineraries and pricing.
A massive amount of damage and a tragic loss of life (mainly in the KZN coastal region) marks another dark period for the beleaguered province, but in the true South African spirit, communities are standing together and helping out with beach clean ups and other damage. Some areas are still without water and electricity. There has been criticism in the media and on social media as to how government have been slow/inept in responding to the disaster.
Further down the south coast, the damage was less, but the entire section down to East London, also received lots of rain with numerous reports of flood damage. With our Wild Coast Tours coming up in less than 2 weeks' time, we made a series of phone calls to the various venues we use to establish if roads, water, sanitation and electricity supply was intact.
Everyone is working flat out to ensure full services are in place. We might have to come up with some alternative routes to our usual ones, should there be significant flood damage to roads and/or bridges. It certainly adds some additional excitement to the tour! We will do our best to report on conditions via these newsletters (we will be in the Wild Coast for 24 days in total), as well as via our social media pages.
We asked the kitchen staff at the Rhodes Hotel to serve us breakfast a bit earlier as we had a really big day ahead of us. We had four major challenge passes waiting for us. It was going to be a long, tough day and towards the end of the day, I had to remind some of the older guests that things were going to be tough especially towards the end of the day.
* Floods in many parts of South Africa
* Easter - stay calm.
* Ben 10 Day 4
* Pass of the week
An incredible volume of rain drenched parts of South Africa from Gauteng all the way down to KZN and the Wild Coast. We don't have all the accurate figures yet, but the cut-off low generated huge damage to infrastructure, business and private property. Amongst the worst hit was Toyota's plant in Durban. The cost in lost revenue is incalculable. Mop up operations are underway at the time of this newsletter being written.
Our sympathies go out to all who have lost loved ones. As if KZN has not endured enough drama in the past 12 months!
Wishing all of our subscribers and followers (now totalling 98,500) a safe and relaxing Easter weekend.
Each year the carnage on the roads over the Easter weekend continues unabated with seemingly no real solutions at hand. We can only offer some sage advice:
1. Try and drive along secondary roads, which carry less traffic and a lower speed limit.
2. Rest if you feel tired
3. Stop every two hours for a leg stretch and some refreshment
4. Avoid driving at night.
5. Avoid rushing to your destination.
Bookings for the Wild Coast Tour (V4) Pondoland will be closing on the 20th April.
Booking for the Wild Coast Tour (V5) Mbashe will be closing on the 30th April.
Our Wild Coast Tours are legendary. Join us for 9 days of scenic overload, technical driving, fun, camaraderie and adventure as we take you safely through one of the most stunning parts of South Africa, where you will discover the true heart of the Xhosa people through stories, folklore and interaction.
The rain continued with the now familiar pattern of being partly cloudy in the morning, with the rain settling in around noon each day. Our route took us from the Mountain Shadows Hotel along the R56 to Barkly East and then a gravel road down to the Kraai River at Loch Bridge. The river was running strongly as we spent some time discussing the history of the Loch Bridge and the 7th and 8th rail reverses a little further up the Tierkrans Pass.
This beautiful pass is cut into the side of a mountain, and angles down from a high plateau in the New England area to terminate at the historic Loch Bridge over the Kraai River. This part of the world is famous for its wonderful scenery, and in this case the pass also offers up spectacular views of the reverses and the rail bridge belonging to the now-defunct railway that was built through this gorge.
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.