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Trygve Roberts

Trygve Roberts

Part 3 of the history of Bain’s Kloof Pass and a day in the army during 1969.

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Part 2 of a three part series on Bain’s Kloof Pass and a day or two at the dentist.

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Thursday, 23 July 2020 11:00

Latest News! 23rd July, 2020.

The week that was

* Western Cape drought broken

* Tours update

* Road signage and vandalism

* History of Du Toitskloof Pass

* Bloukrans Pass completely closed

* Podcast

* Pass of the Week

* Words of wisdom

 

Weather Watch:

At the time of writing this newsletter, average dam levels for the City of Cape Town were at 77.4% after three major cold fronts swept in, bringing heavy downpours, snow and gale force winds. Even Namibia and Namqualand were drenched, promising a good showing of wild-flowers during August and September (if our government allows us to travel!) It seems the drought in the Western Cape is now finally broken. The Eastern Cape did get some rain, but not nearly enough.


Tours Update:

August: All tours cancelled or postponed due to Covid travel restrictions.
September: Ben 10 V3 Tour - Fully booked
October: Swartberg 2020 Tour - 3 tickets left. Click here to book.
November: Wild Coast Tour - Fully booked


Signage refursbishment project

Progress is slow, as time and good weather windows permit. As always with new projects, the learning curve is steep. An extraordinary amount of interest has developed from our social media postings about road sign vandalism and particularly so amongst the biking fraternity. We are starting things off with an education programme. The best way to connect with a biker is to ask him how he would feel if we pasted an MPSA sticker on his bike without his permission. The response is predictable - Outrage!

"Then how come you think it's OK to put a sticker on our signboards?"

That brings the point home instantly. We are connecting with all the major biking clubs in South Africa to get the point across and a national biking magazine will be doing a feature on the issue as well. It's a start and hopefully within a few years we will have a better culture amongst adventure travellers to not deface road signs.

A number of interesting options have arisen as suggested by readers and followers - some of that well worth considering and one of the Rotary Clubs are interested in assisting as well.


Closure of the Bloukrans Pass on the R102

We posted a photo on our Facebook page of the new concrete blocks which now completely block access to the old Bloukrans Pass - one of Thomas Bain's early construction projects and clearly a much loved pass by the greater South African public. The post attracted 28,700 views and 204 comments. It would seem that the new measures are a combination of ensuring Covid 19 inter provincial travel is controlled and some of the comments suggest that smugglers are using the old pass to evade the road block on the N2. Others feel the Eastern Cape roads department is to blame, as the eastern half of the pass lies in that province, whilst the better maintained western half lies within the Western Cape. The Bloukrans River forms the actual provincial border.

It will remain to be seen if the concrete blocks are removed after Covid 19. Like so many things at the moment, conspiracy theories abound. One thing is for certain, the old pass is a much loved part of South African history. 

The pass can still be driven from the eastern side, but when you reach the western end, you will have to retrace your route back to the start. Please understand that if anything happens to you or your vehicle, you will have no insurance cover or claim against the relevant roads authority as the pass is officially closed.


History - Du Toitskloof Pass and the manganese mine. (Sent in by Kuba Miszewski)

This interesting article provides an insight into some of the history around Du Toitskoof Pass.
It was written by Peter E. Spargo from Rondebosch, Cape Town in 1999.

Although the Western Cape is not generally considered a mining area, over the centuries, there have in fact been a remarkable number of mining ventures in the area. Thus at one time or another gold, silver, tin, manganese and tungsten mines have all operated in the region – honestly or fraudulently! Amongst the most fascinating of these mines have been those devoted to the extraction of manganese – and none more than that in Du Toit’s Kloof.

Manganese has been known since at least the first century of the Christian era and for the last few centuries has been used on a small scale for operations such as decolourising glass, while its oxide was later used in the production of chlorine. As a result it has long been sought by prospectors and it is therefore somewhat surprising, that the metal, whose ores are so widely distributed throughout the Western Cape, should not have aroused more comment earlier in the Colony’s history. However, in the early-1870’s a substantial deposit of manganese ore was discovered in Du Toit’s Kloof above the point where the Molenaars River joins Du Toit’s Kloof Stream, i.e. near the old original road tunnel, up above to the right as you face Worcester direction. It is not clear who the original discoverer was of the deposit, but we know that by the mid-1870’s a substantial mining operation was underway on the site.

[More lower down]
 

A trip through the time machine from 1853 to 1957 – including Part 1 of Bain’s Kloof Pass.

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Thursday, 16 July 2020 05:45

Latest News! 16th July, 2020

The week that was

* A cold winter

* Trips & Tours

* Signs of the times

* Reflections of my life

* Pass of the Week

* Words of Wisdom


Winter Weather continues

2020 is proving to be what is likely to be the most significantly unusual year for every person on the planet. Our winter weather is also considerably wetter and colder than what we have seen in a very long time, with record wave heights, wind speeds, snow falls and rainfall patterns (in the Western Cape at least).

The frontal system that hit the Western part of South Africa on Sunday afternoon caused plenty of damage to infrastructure and especially radio masts and dishes.

But those damages are insignificant compared to what the Covid 19 pandemic has done to this country's economy.


Tours update

With the abrupt turnaround by government on leisure travel, it meant we had to postpone our Wild Coast Tour for the second time. We have now moved it to November, Our guests almost without exception have been supportive and understanding.

We are launching our new Swartberg 2020 Tour today and you are the first to see the details. This 5 day tour from the 19th to the 24th October, will start in Swellendam and head north to Bosluiskloof via Gysmanshoek and Seweweekspoort, where we will spend two days at Bosch Luys Kloof Lodge. From there we will be driving mainly on gravel to De Rust and north through Meiringspoort and on to Prince Albert. Day 4 we will drive the Swartberg Pass as well as the out and back trip to Die Hel via Elands Pass with an overnight stop at the Calitzdorp Spa. The final day we will tackle the Rooiberg and Assegaaibosch passes and finish at the beautiful Rooiberg Lodge. This tour is suitable for 4x2 vehicles with reasonable ground clearance as well as soft roaders. Book online here:

Swartberg 2020 Tour


Road signs

Our refurbishment of 54 road signs in the Western Cape has highlighted a number of issues. It's an expensive and time consuming exercise, exacerbated by vandalism, which includes graffitii, bullet holes, stone throwing, scratching, stickers, spray paint and more. One of the first tasks we have undertaken is to tackle and correct the subculture of defacing road signs, which is considered quite acceptable in many spheres of society.

Monday, 13 July 2020 16:26

Mbotyi Pass

This very steep pass takes one from the coastal plateau down to the beach at Mbotyi. The pass is immersed inside the dense forest canopy for most of its length which is almost a pity as the views would be tantalizingly beautiful if visible. The pass has some very sharp corners and steep gradients as one gets to the halfway point. There is one particularly nasty hairpin bend which needs to be treated with respect.

Any pass that has an average gradient lower than 1:16 is steep and this pass at 1:13 will have your passengers reaching for their imaginary brake pedal and especially so on the very steep sections in the middle of the pass where the gradients get steeper than 1:5. This pass would be very difficult to drive if it wasn't paved. Although we have mapped it as a gravel pass, the steepest parts have been concreted, which provides essential traction to normal vehicles in wet conditions. The road is a cul de sac so it will always be driven from NE-SE first (descending). Due to available light we had to film the pass in the opposite direction, in the ascending mode.

We discuss the massive Mzintlava Pass between Tabankulu and Lusikisiki and we pay a visit to Khosto’s palace in the year 1957

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Wednesday, 08 July 2020 15:38

Latest News! 9th July, 2020

The week that was

* Cape of Storms

* How to refurbish roadsigns 101

* Tales from the Karoo

* Podcast

* Featured pass of the week

* Words of wisdom


Cape of Storms

The third and most powerful of the major frontal systems this winter is scheduled to arrive in Cape Town today. Big snowfalls, gale force winds and heavy rain have been forecast. The system is forecast to reach as far north as Namibia. Expect snow on passes above 1000m altitude as well as road closures from Thursday till Monday.

If you're a storm-chaser, get your wellies and foul-weather gear and make sure your camera is waterproof. We'd love to see your pictures.


Road Signs - An education

We ran up the first set of decals to refurbish the first of the summit signs of 54 passes in the Western Cape. I thought this would be an easy and pleasant task, getting me out the office and into nature where I am happiest, but I was in for a big surprise. Those road signs that we all take for granted involve a lot more effort to maintain than what most people think. They are very much bigger when you're standing 1m away. They are also subjects of much abuse. Illegal stickers, graffiti, bullet holes, malicious damage, rocks thrown at them. In short, they do not look pristine for long and require regular maintenance. The signs have been up for about 10 years.

I made up a pack list of gear I thought I would need - decals, scissors, marking pens, masking tape, methylated spirits, spray on soap, rags, bucket, fresh water, utility knife, ladder, safety vest and a whole lot more. For the first experiment, I knew it would take me longer than I expected.

First the whole sign had to be washed down. Then all non-official stickers had to be removed. Some of them were very stubborn and required a gas gun to heat-soften them. Glue residue is removed with meths and elbow grease. The thought did occur to me to send all the businesses that pasted decals on the signs an invoice for removal and cleaning! The surface is a spray painted brown surface. Removing old decals with a blade damages the spraypaint. You have to work very, very carefully.

The weather has to be good as well. Any mist, fog or rain and the decals will not adhere properly.

Then came the repair of the bullet holes. There were 10 holes clean through the metal (Chromadek) and many other others that were not powerful enough to pierce the metal, but enough to make a big dent. My original idea of filling the holes and then covering the front side with the brown vinyl was hopelessly optimistic. That would have been far too time consuming, impractical and expensive, so the holes are simply covered with a slightly oversized square of vinyl. The results are actually quite satisfactory.

[Read more lower down...]

Sunday, 05 July 2020 19:20

KuLonyanga Pass

This short, but scenic gravel pass is located on the same road as the Qora River Pass, but a little further east. Its short at just 1,7 km and sports and average gradient of 1:14 with the steepest parts reaching 1:9. Despite its relatively small altitude gain of  118m, the pass offers very attractive views over the surrounding countryside of Wild Coast hills and pasturage. 

The pass is named after the village that it services near its summit and forms the eastern ascent over a long spine which eventually leads into the Qora River Pass. The two passes will always be driven in tandem. 

The usual Eastern Cape cautionaries apply of being aware of the high likelihood of finding livestock and pedestrians on the road.

This week we cover Part 3 of Michell's Pass near Ceres and its important role in the economic development of the region.

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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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