fbpx

The week that was

* Trips & Tours

* Great South Africans

* Cities of South Africa

* Pass of the Week

* Words of wisdom

 

Trips & Tours

Swartberg Tour 2020 (19-25 October)
We have just had a cancellation come in for this tour. There is 1 place available. More information, pricing and online bookings on this link: SWARTBERG TOUR 

Wolvenberg 4x4 Training did not disappoint as we took the second half of the trainees up the mountain to learn module 1 of offroad driving skills. With a forecast of rain we went well prepared and slightly modified the format that we used the previous week. We had a full turnout of 10 vehicles which included Jimnys, Fortuners, Land Cruisers, Jeeps and Pajeros.

The weather was on the edge but the rain mercifully held off for most of the tour. Our guests, who were all a little tentative at the start ended the day with big smiles, having been liberated into the world of responsible offroading.

We are working on a sand driving course for beginners which will be held at Atlantis Dunes. We anticipate running this 1 day tour during December. Our driver training modules will be expanded to include rock, stone, sand and mud. When all four modules are completed, drivers should be competent.

 Mpumalanga Panorama Tour - Bookings for the tour are coming in with just 3 tickets left. Don't miss out on our inaugural joint venture tour with Johan Badenhorst. This tour (which is suitable for high clearance 4x2 vehicles as well as soft roaders) includes some well known passes plus some you've probably never driven before. Passes include Crossroads, Wilgekraal, Chom se Hoogte, De Beers Nek, Patata Nek, Schoemanskloof, Wonderkloof, Houtbosloop, Sudwalaskraal, Sudwala, Hendriksdal, Koffiehoogte, Mac Mac, Burgers, Bonnet, Robbers, Caspersnek, Blyderivier Poort, Kowyns, Graskop Concrete Road (optional), Klipkraal, Bergvliet, Kiepersol, Bakenkop, Long Tom, Masjiennek & Santa. Get full info and pricing as well as online booking here: MPUMALANGA PANORAMA TOUR

Mpumalanga Highveld Tour - A shorter 'closer to home' tour for all our mountain pass followers up on the reef offers three days of fascinating travel around the smaller villages and interesting towns of the Highveld and will include the following passes:  Jantjieshoek, Kastrolnek, Kempslus, Knights, Burgers, Hattingshoogte, Barrowfield, Mollshoogte, Ossewakop (optional), De Jagersnek, Laingsnek, Ingogo Heights, Brinkshoogte, Schuinshoogte (optional), Oom Louis se Hoogte, Kwaggasnek & Majubanek. This tour (which is suitable for high clearance 4x2 vehicles as well as soft roaders) lasts for 3 days and represents excellent value for money. Read more and online bookings here: MPUMALANGA HIGHVELD TOUR

 

Ben 10 V3 Tour

When you read this newsletter, we will be at the summit of the Barkly Pass near Elliot, starting our first day of the Ben 10 Eco Challenge V3. This will be our first cross-provincial border tour since lockdown started and we are all really excited about being up in the mountains again with a new group of people who will soon be earning their Ben 10 badges. We will report back on progress via our FaceBook page.

We took a call from one of the owners of Tiffindell this morning and absorbed the heartbreaking story of how Covid 19 killed their business by starving the cash flow. It came at the worst possible time, just before the winter season started. Lew Campbell has told us that they are working hard at reopening the ski resort in the near future. In the meantime, the Ben MacDhui Pass remains closed. Anyone who has entered the Ben 10 Eco Challenge will still receive their stripes.

Travelling up to Elliot via Graaff Reinet we were distressed to learn that our favourite restaurant in Graaff Reinet, called POLKA, has closed down. Yet another small business that just could not survive the lockdown. Covid 19 has well and truly given the South African hospitailty industry a severe beating. One must ask the question and say: "Was it really worth it?"


Great South Africans (New Series)

Thamsanqa Kambule (15 January 1921 – 7 August 2009) was a South African Mathematician and Educator. He was the first black professor at the University of the Witwatersrand, and was the first black person to be awarded honorary membership to the Actuarial Society of South Africa. He was awarded the Order of the Baobab in 2002 for his services to mathematics education.

Thamsanqa Kambule

Kambule was born in Aliwal North.His mother died when he was 18 months old, and his aunt was responsible for raising him. He did not attend school until he was 11 years old, when he joined Anglican St Peter's School in Johannesburg. He completed a Teachers Diploma at Adams College in 1946 and a Bachelor's degree at the University of South Africa in 1954.

Kambule taught in Zambia, Malawi as well as several schools in South Africa before being appointed Principal of Orlando High School in Soweto in 1958. He campaigned to ensure the children had the best education possible, despite the restrictions of the Bantu Education Act, 1953. Orlando High School had a library named after Robert Birley, a visiting professor at the University of the Witwatersrand. He led the Rand Bursary Fund, a support program that provided scholarships for pupils in need. The fund allowed more than 1,000 students to complete high school. His former pupils included Desmond Tutu and Jackie Selebi. 

In 1978 he joined the University of the Witwatersrand, where he became the first black professor. He published a series of maths textbooks for non-specialist teachers. He retired in 1976 and promptly became the Principal of O R T Step College of Technology. He was awarded an honorary doctorate in 1997 and a doctorate of education in 2006. In 2002 he was awarded the Order of the Baobab from Thabo Mbeki. He became known as The Rock for his transparent principles.

Kambule died on 7 August 2009.  [Source - Wikipedia]


South African cities - 2. Piermaritzburg

Pietermaritzburg  is the capital and second-largest city in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. It was founded in 1838. Its Zulu name is umGungundlovu is. Pietermaritzburg is popularly called Maritzburg in Afrikaans, English and Zulu alike, and often informally abbreviated to PMB. It is a regionally important industrial hub, producing aluminium, timber and dairy products. The public sector is a major employer in the city due to the local, district and provincial governments being located here.

Published in Mountain Passes News

 The week that was

* Bain's Kloof rock versus heavy duty truck

* Trips & Tours

* Wolvenberg 4x4 Training Tour report back

* Tiffindell Ski Resort and Ben MacDhui Pass closed

* Cities of South Africa (New!)

* Podcast (Cogmanskloof Part 2)

* Pass of the week

* New passes this week

* Words of wisdom


 Stuck between a rock and a hard place

There can only be one explanation (maybe 2) / Photo: NARI Media

The driver of large truck had some explaining to do to his employer when he took this huge vehicle along Bain's Kloof Pass, ignoring the height warning chains and multiple height restriction signs and firmly jammed his truck under the historic overhanging rock known as Dacre's Pulpit, which has a height restriction of just 3.8m.

He caused a traffic jam of note as the pass had to be closed at either end for a long time as traffic officials and recovery crews struggled to untangle the wreckage. The truck came off second best and fortunately the pulpit remains firmly in place.

It does beg the question to be answered: 'How does a person who is a qualified heavy duty truck driver, who is entrusted with a vehicle worth several million Rand, do something as utterly stupid as this'.

This incident comes just ahead of the pass being closed for 18 months for repairs and resurfacing.


Trips & Tours

20th September - Wolvenberg 4x4 Training Tour (4 tickets left)

24th to 28th September - Ben 10 Eco Challenge (Fully booked)

19th - 25th October - Swartberg 2020 Tour (Fully booked)

26th - 30th October - Mpumalanga Panorama Tour (4 tickets left)

12th - 21st November - Wild Coast Tour (Fully booked)

23rd - 25th November - Mpumalanga Highveld Tour (6 tickets left)


Tiffindell Ski Resort closed

Tiffindel Ski Resort is closed. This affects anyone wanting to do the Ben 10 Eco Challenge. We have had confirmation from the owner, Lew Campbell, that the property is out of bounds to the public. Effectively this means that the Ben MacDhui pass (3001m) - the highest motorable pass in South Africa, is closed to the public until further notice. We have posted an advisory on the Ben 10 Entries page as well as the relevant pass page.

Once the dust has settled and we have more accurate information regarding the ski resort's future, we will keep you informed. There are several options on the table of how we will deal with the Eco Challenge which has grown to become the most popular offroad challenge in South Africa and we will most definitely come up with an innovative plan to keep it going.

 

 Wolvenberg 4x4 Training Tour report back.

This fully booked tour was scheduled to take place on Sunday 13th September, but a severe weather warning forced us to rethink the logistics in favour of safety. We moved the date one day earlier, but only some of the guests could make it, so we offered the tour to be repeated on Sunday 20th September for those that couldn't make the earlier date. The result was that we had a small compact convoy of 6 vehicles and beautiful warm weather, which is always a game changer on the enjoyment meter.

In our group, we had two brand new Jimnys and two Fortuners, plus our sweep guide in a VW Amarok and myself in the Land Cruiser. The first problem we encountered was that both the Fortuners (automatics), despite having selected 4WD low range, were emitting warning beeps. It took a little while and a reference in the handbook to figure out what the problem was. It is necessary to come to a complete stop and put the vehicle into neutral before selecting 4WD LR. As soon as we figured that out both vehicles were fine. They simply stopped and repeated the procedure as per the handbook. Thanks to Andrew Hepburn for the heads up.

[Read more...]

Published in Mountain Passes News

The week that was

* The new normal

* Wildflowers

* Branding

* Road Signs

* Trips & Tours Updates

* Gawie se Water (Part 2)

* Podcast (History of Cogmanskloof)

* Pass of the week

* Words of wisdom/

 

Returning to normal

So what is normal? This wildly bizarre year has been a very unusual and tough year both financially (unless you nailed a PPE supplies tender!) and emotionally and yet, as the dust begins to settle there are so many questions unanswered and so many predictions by the best experts in the world that were completely wrong.

What the pandemic has done is brought many of us back to earth with a bang with the realization of just how fragile life is. It gave us time to be introspective.

One of the most difficult things at our HQ in Cape Town was striving to remain positive, amidst the overwhelming fear mongering news in the mainstream media, but somehow that persistence seemed to pay off with MPSA having come out of the lockdown much stronger than before. We expanded our social media following in a most dynamic way with an expected 50,000 followers to be reached by the end of September.

Trips & Tours Update

20th September - Wolvenberg 4x4 Training & Tour (4 places left) We have split this tour over two separate days Saturday 12th September & Sunday 20th September due to a bad weather warning for the original date (13th Sep). We therefore have 5 places available for this Saturday and 4 spaces for the 20th September. Anyone wanting to book for this Saturday should contact us directly on 083 658 8888 or on email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. as we will have to do a manual booking. Bookings for the 20th Sep can be done via our online system on the link above.

23rd - 28th September - Ben 10 Eco Challenge V3 Tour (Fully booked)

19th - 25th October - Swartberg 2020 Tour (Fully booked)

26th - 30th October - Mpumalanga Panorama Tour (4 tickets left)

12th - 21st November - Wild Coast Tour (Fully booked)

23rd - 25th November - Mpumalanga Highveld Tour (6 tickets left)

Wildflowers in profusion

This year has produced some of the finest wildflower displays in decades. From Posberg all the way up to Springbok and all over Namaqualand the displays have been phenomenal, but thanks to lockdown only a few have been able to enjoy the spectacle

Branding

With the acquisition of Cape Mountain Passes came the distinctive and instantly recognizable logo (and approved by the Western Cape Government). Over the next few weeks the adoption of this logo will become evident across all communication levels, including our vehicle branding, signage and written communications. 

The new logo which will be incorporated into our branding

Road Signs

Steady progress is being made on the refurbishment of 160 road signs that came with the takeover of the Cape Mountain Passes project. We have effectively used our wide social media reach to get the message across that the only place that's OK to put a sticker, is on your own property. On our sign fixing trip last Friday we published before and after photos of the Middelberg Pass summit sign, as well as detailed photos of every sticker on the signboard. Each of those will be systematically contacted with a request to desist and encourage others from the bad habit (which many people seem to think is the norm these days) We appreciate the overwhelming support of our subscribers and followers. Some of even offered to do the job for us or accompany us. That is a beautiful thing!

[Read more...]

Published in Mountain Passes News

The week that was:

* Severe weather

* Tiffindell Ski Resort 

* Trips & Tours Update

* Gawie se water

* Witterivier Tragedy

* Podcast (Penhoek Pass)

* Pass of the week

* Words of wisdom


 

Wild Weather

No one can deny that 2020 has been a very different year. It has shaped eveyones life in some form or the other. Some have suffered badly, whilst others have survived and even improved their businesses. The winter weather has broken all sorts of records with several towns in KZN having set new minimum temperature records. The drought which gripped the Western Cape for over 3 years has finally been broken. Dams are overflowing and rivers are running strong and clean from all the snowmelt. 

We have today received news of the temporary closure of the Tiffindell Ski Resort. Decisions will be made towards the end of September as to new opening dates. This affects anyone wanting to do the Ben 10 Eco Challenge as the boom across the road giving access to the Ben MacDhui Pass is closed and locked.

We are investigating all our options in terms of the rules for the Ben 10 Eco Challenge. In the current state it is not possible to complete the challenge without access to the pass. Anyone who has planned to do the challenge in the next 60 days should make contact with us, with respect to getting keys to unlock the boom. 

We will be there in person running our Ben 10 V3 Tour from the 23rd to 28th September and will be able to report back more accurately after that time.


Trips & Tours Update

Wolvenberg 4x4 Training & Tour 13th September (1 ticket left)

Ben 10 V3 Tour - 23 - 28 September - Fully booked

Swartberg Tour - 19 - 25 October - Fully booked

Mpumalanga Panorama Tour 26 - 30 October (4 tickets left) 

Wild Coast Tour -  12 - 21 November - Fully booked

Mpumalanga Highveld Tour 23 - 25 November (7 tickets left)

 

Gawie se water


Our focus last week on the imminent refurbishment of Bain's Kloof Pass near Wellington, had me digging around in our archives for a story sent in by Graham Katzenellenbogen (who insists that one bastion of the Castle of Good Hope was not named after him!)

When driving up the pass from the Wellington side about 2 km before the summit, a small clear stream of perennial water drops down the mountain and under the road. It's a popular spot set amongst shady trees where cyclists stop to fill their water bottles with the clean pure water. A small signboard announces the stream as "Gawie se water"

The owner of the old Grand Hotel in Ceres in the 1940s through to 1960s was Jock Levin.  The legend goes that Jock and the whisky-loving fraternity instructed those in their district visiting Scotland, not to return home without a unique privately stilled bottle of whisky from the Scottish highlands and unobtainable here.

[Read more...]

Published in Mountain Passes News

The week that was

* Spring

* Trips & Tours updates

* Upgrading of Bain's Kloof Pass

* Rietfontein history Part 3

* Podcast

* Pass of the week

* Words of wisdom


Spring ?

The blossoms have started. The wildflowers are amazing (best in a decade); lots of snow has fallen and a cold and wet winter is finally giving way to the joy of spring. This was also the most bizarre winter of all our lives, being mostly under lockdown.

There is a new energy about. One can almost feel it. Slowly but surely people are returning to normal and we predict that the next year will see a boom in local tourism. South African's are hungry to travel. Those that normally travel overseas are looking for local tours as an alternative. The tidal wave of pent up tourism has begun.

Trips & Tours Update

Johan BadenhorstWe are proud to announce our first formal joint venture tour operator. Johan Badenhorst of Platteland Tours will be operating under the MPSA brand. He is a highly experienced tour guide with over 19 years experience. He will be focusing on 4x2 tours in the Mpumalanga, Limpopo, Free State and Gauteng provinces. The tours will mirror the successful formula created by MPSA and offer excellent value for money with quality accommodation at fair prices.

The inaugural tour is a gem. It covers 26 passes over 5 days with many interesting side excursions to beguile and delight. It's aptly name the Mpumalanga Panorama Tour as it includes many passes in the vicinity of well known Panorama Route and of course, the Blyderivier Canyon and Graskop Gorge on the itinerary.

The joint venture will expand our tours into the northern sector of South Africa. This tour is being offered at a very special rate which will not be repeated again. To find out more and make an online booking take the link below:

MPUMALANGA PANORAMA TOUR

Another 2 tours will be added by next week.


Elgin 4x4 Training & Tour 

This fully booked event was a huge success. The tour was run on the Grabouw 4x4 venue, which offered fabulous scenery of forests, mountains, lakes and waterfalls as well as some challenging driving which kept all the novices on their toes. The successful event and demand has resulted in us offering a similar tour, but in a different area.

Wolvenberg 4x4 Training & Tour (Sunday, 13th September)

This is another first time venue for Mountain Passes South Africa. Guests will drive the Grade 1 to 3 route to the top of the mountains outside Rawsonville with sweeping views over the Worcester wine valley. In the process all the basics of offroad driving will be tutored. This will be followed by a bring & braai next to the river as well as a wine tasting session.
We only have one ticket available: BOOK HERE - WOLVENBERG 4X4 TRAINING & TOUR


BEN 10 V3 TOUR - (23 - 28 Sep) Fully booked

SWARTBERG TOUR - (19 - 25 Oct) Fully booked

WILD COAST TOUR - (12 - 21 Nov) Fully booked


Bain's Kloof Pass Upgrade

Important announcement by the Dept of Transport and Public Works of the Western Cape Government.

The Department intends to repair and rehabilitate Bain's Kloof Pass through the repair of existing road failed areas and the provision of a new asphalt surfacing. The Works also include the general improvement of the drainage in the pass. The project will also address the stabilisation of unstable slopes in the pass as well as the upgrading of certain of the existing rest areas. Improved safety of the road users will also be addressed by improving the riding quality of the road and the repair of the existing stone packed barriers.The construction contract will commence in August 2020 with an anticipated contract duration of 17 months.

The full article with more detailed information is available on our FaceBook page. You will need to scroll back a few posts to the 26th August: READ FULL ARTICLE.


History of Rietfontein (Part 3)

James McKay of 74th Highlanders in his book "Reminiscences of the Last Frontier War" records that after the landing of his regiment at Algoa Bay in May 1851, they marched to Grahamstown. They were engaged in patrolling the Waterkloof during July 1851. When on reaching Ayton's farm Rietfontein, they halted.

The following report in the "Grahamstown Journal" could possibly have referred to Rietfontein: 27/12/1853 - The 74th Regiment found 150 rebels at a deserted farmhouse and killed 4 of them. That evening the Regiment camped out at a spring where reeds grew.

[Read more]

Published in Mountain Passes News

Level 2 lockdown & Anti Cyclones

The news spotlight this week is shared between the announcement of Level 2, the return of load shedding and one of the coldest anti cyclones in many decades that has seen the mercury dropping well into double digit below freezing figures at several locations on the high ground all over South Africa. Major snowfalls have occured in the Eastern Cape over the last few days with snowy pictures streaming into our inbox of the Swartberg Pass, the Langkloof, Uniondale and Prince Alfred's Pass.

The bad weather will pass quickly, but at last the hospitality and tourism sector can breathe a sigh of relief. Those businesses that have survived the last 5 months, can start gearing up for what we predict will be a boom in local tourism. We base this opinion on the major increase in inquiries we've had for our tours and at least two clients who had planned overseas trips in the second half of 2020, have booked on our tours. In a bizarre way, Covid 19 might just have awoken the sleeping giant of local tourism.


Trips,Tours & Training

We have just 2 places open for our 4x4 training introductory tour on September 13th at Wolvenberg near Worcester. If you're new to off-roading this is the perfect day tour to sharpen up on basic off-road skills and gain confidence in your own abilities and know your veheicle's abilities and limitations.

Book here: Wolvenberg 4x4 Training & Tour

All our other tours remain fully booked. We do run a 'waiting list book' for cancellations. Just pop us an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

For 2021 we will be scheduling tours to Lesotho/Sani Pass, Namaqualand/Richtersveld, Baviaanskloof, Swartberg, Garden Route, Bedrogfontein and Wild Coast.

If you want to be the first to hear about new tours, subscribe to our Tours Newsletter.


Fortified farms of the Eastern Frontier - Part 2

Rietfontein is one of the almost perfectly preserved fortified farms left in the Eastern Cape. The farm lies almost as it was the day the building was completed. Additions have been made to the original "I" shape (please refer to drawing lower down). In 1944 the open "Inside Stone Quad" was covered to serve as a living room. Part of the stone walls enclosing the homestead are missing, but the foundations are still clearly visible.
[Read more]

Published in Mountain Passes News

The week that was

 

* Trips & Tours update

* Level 2 on the horizon

* Social media on fire

* Signage & Branding

* Fortified homes of the Eastern Frontier

* Podcast

* Pass of the Week

* Words of wisdom


Trips and Tours Update

A reliable piece of information has been "leaked" to News24 indicating that the lockdown level will be lifted to Level 2 by the end of August or earlier and that the ban on cigarette and alcohol sales will also be lifted as well. This is an enormously important development in the first stages of recovery of the tourism and hospitality sector, which has seen hundreds, if not thousands of financial casualties. It effectively means (once officially announced) that our Ben 10 V3 Tour scheduled for the end of September will go ahead as planned, as will the other tours beyond the September timeline. In a bizarre way, the lockdown has awakened an urge amongst our clients to travel. We have literally been swamped with inquiries and requests. It's kept us very busy!!! Many of our clients who were planning overseas trips, have now decided to rather travel locally.

  • August 23rd : Elgin 4x4 Tour & Training (Fully booked)
  • September 13th: Wolvenberg Mountain Tour & Training (NEW!)
  • September 23rd - 28th: Ben 10 V3 Tour (Fully Booked)
  • October 19th - 25th:  Swartberg 2020 Tour (Fully Booked)
  • November 12th - 21st: Wild Coast Tour (Fully Booked)


Social Media

Strange things have happened during lockdown. Out normally steady list of subscribers and followers have doubled since lockdown with our website going from 1200 page views per week to 2400. Our Facebook page has shown results that have amazed us. To name a few examples.

  • A photo of a fireman's bicycle had 93,000 views.
  • A photo of Meiringspoort generated 370,000 views.
  • A photo of The Mountain Man near Wellington topped everything we have done before with an amazing post count of 433,000.

A year ago our post views would average between 1500 and 3000. What on earth has happened? We think Covid 19 is the root cause of this explosion in post views. Providing positive and uplifting posts seems to have worked really well. Every post we do is organically cultivated. No boosting. No payments. Just quality content - and that is exactly what the public want. They can see right through all the fake commercial content.

The more social media we do, the more clear it becomes.


Signage and Branding

Our new Suzuki Jimny had been decorated in our new logo and artwork. Based on comments on our Facebook page it seems to have found favour with almost everyone. Our trusty Land Cruiser is also in for a makeover and will be branded to look the same as the Jimny. 

The refurbishing of the road signs project is coming along slowly. We have now grouped the signs into 8 regions throughout the Western Cape and will tackle the project area by area until completed. Our thanks go to all who have offered to assist with the project.

Last week we went to do the Franschhoek Pass and were baffled to find the entire sign-board missing - presumed blown down (as it is right in the neck near the summit) or stolen (less likely). As this is a major tourist attraction, we would really like to reinstate the sign. The supporting poles are still there and in good condition. It's just the sign-board itself which must be clamped on. We are looking for a sponsor like a local winery or restaurant to adopt this sign. The cost of a sign is R20,000. We may not legally attach any advertisements to the sign itself, but we can offer such a sponsor a hyperlinked advert on the Franschhoek Pass page on our website for a period of 5 years. The page has had 27,626 views - a perfect target market for an astute businessman. Our social media pages will also prominently feature that business. If you know of someone who fits the profile, put them in touch with us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 083 658 8888.
Moving forward with precision.


Fortified homes on the Eastern Frontier

Part of the joy of running the MPSA project is discovering all the wonderful stories about South Africa's untold history and allowing the MPSA website to become the depository of all the stories. We received an email from Danie Malan - who has been an MPSA supporter for many years. He writes:

[Read more...] 

Published in Mountain Passes News

The week that was

* Trips & Tours

* Mountain Man

* Forts of South Africa (Part 2)

* Podcast

* Pass of the week

* Words of Wisdom


Trips, Tours & Training

It would seem Covid 19 has unleashed an unprecedented need to travel amongst the population. All of our current tours are fully booked, which is a symptom of a need to travel. Our newest tour - a one day affair - is focused on driver training and basic 4x4 tuition. We had no idea there was such a big demand and of course, even though our August 23rd training day is fully booked, we will certainly be creating more of these days.

Some weeks ago we mentioned a joint venture with a Gauteng based company who will be running mountain pass tours, but much more on a 4x2 basis. We are busy fine tuning all the technical details and with a bit of luck MPSA will soon be offering tours in Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Limpopo under the capable leadership of Johan Badenhorst.


Social Media:

A good friend of mine, Kuba Miszewski, who lives in the Hawequas mountains near Wellington, sent me an interesting photo, which I decided to post on our social media platforms. The results were astounding. On Facebook at the time of this newsletter's publication, the post has had an astonishing 352,000 views in 48 hours. This is an outright record since we started our social media pages in 2012. Here is the photo and caption. You decide!

Did you know that “Hawequa” is actually Koisan for “The man in the Mountain”. On occasion at Equinox in the late afternoon, this man can be seen in the mountain behind Wellington, on the way to Bain's Kloof Pass. Hat Tip: Kuba Miszewski

 


Weather Watch:

The much anticipated anti-cyclone with its gale force winds turned into nothing but a weak cold front with a few rain squalls (in the Western Cape), but it did deliver a massive drop in temperatures. Some good rains have been reported in the drought stricken Eastern Cape. The system appears to have picked up speed as it heads up the KZN coast with forecasted speeds of 50 knots. (About 90 kph)


Forts of South Africa (Part 2)

The Martello Tower, Fort Beaufort.  In 1794 a round tower at Cape Mortella in Corsica was only captured with great difficulty by the British.  The sturdy design was subsequently used for the coastal defense of England when threatened by invasion during the Napoleonic Wars and over 70 ‘Martello’ Towers were erected.  The plans for the Martello Tower at Fort Beaufort, originally proposed for Grahamstown, were certified as correct in April 1857 at which time the tower was presumably completed.   

    Martello Tower, Fort Beaufort Emplacement for rotating canon at top of tower.   

POST RETIEF, 1836 – 1878

This Post is magnificently situated in the Winterberg on a plateau at the foot of the Didima Mountains where it guards the head of the pass that drops steeply down into the Blinkwater Valley, the last home of Piet Retief in the Cape.

Sir Benjamin Durban wrote: ‘when in 1836 I caused a military post to be established in the Winterberg, I named it Retief…This Gentleman, Mr. Retief, is the same whom in the latter end of 1835 I appointed Field Commandant, for this active and judicious conduct at a period of difficulty and anger.

The Post was heavily invested by a large force of rebel Hottentots in February 1851 when it was crowded with refugees, their animals and household possessions.  For four days it was cut off from all supplies of food and water, then it was relieved by a commando of 130 burghers and 140 Fingos under Capt. Ayliff, W.M. Bowker and Dods Pringle.

[Read more...]

Published in Mountain Passes News

 The week that was

* Tours Update

* Frontier Country (History of SA's forts)

* Podcast

* Pass of the Week

* Words of Wisdom


Tours Update: 

AUGUST 23rd (Sunday):
Elgin-Grabouw 4x4 Tour - To be launched early next week. This is a one day tour (allowed under current lockdown rules) offering lovely scenery of mountains and lakes amongst fynbos and pines. We can take 10 vehicles on this tour. The grading ranges from 1 to 5, but there are escape routes on most of the difficult obstacles. We will only drive up to Grade 3 level. This tour is suitable for novice and intermediate 4x4 drivers and will double as an introduction to offroad driving. You will need a 4x4 with low range. Bookings will open by Tuesday 4th August . Distance 27 km. 4 to 5 hours duration. Only open to residents in the Western Cape.

September: Ben 10 V3 Tour - Fully booked

October: Swartberg  2020 Tour - 1 place available. Click for full information and online bookings

November: Wild Coast Tour - 1 place available. Click for full information and online bookings


Last week's article on the manganese mine in Du Toitskloof sparked a lot of interest and the snippets of unusual history that we weren't privy to at school, are quite captivating. Today we start Part 1 of a series on the Forts of South Africa. The article was compiled  for the Grahamstown Historical Society by Eily Gledhill.  Photographs by Rex and Barbara Reynolds. Published by the 1820 Settlers National Monument Foundation. 

 

FRONTIER COUNTRY

THE FRONTIER FORTS,  POSTS AND SIGNAL STATIONS

The initial disasters of the war which commenced in March, 1847 were severe.  Elands Post was abandoned.  A strong punitive force under Col. Somerset which had pushed across the border of the Colony to Burn’s Hill near Fort Cox, had to retreat to Block Drift but at the Keiskamma River crossing another heavy attack resulted in the loss of half of the 125 ox wagons carrying military stores.  Peddie was invested.  In Lower Albany, Cuylerville, Bathurst and the fortified farmhouses were besieged.  Refugees flocked to Grahamstown where the streets were barricaded.

Eventually Fort Peddie was relieved via Committees Drift and Trompetter’s Drift and the Battle of the Gwanga ended in a resounding victory for the Colonial forces.

[Read more...]

Published in Mountain Passes News

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]
 

Published in Mountain Passes News

COVID-19 Corona Virus South African Resource Portal

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Sign up to receive our weekly newsletter with News and Updates from Mountain Passes South Africa
captcha 

Subscribe to our Site

Subscribe for only R395 a year (or R295 for 6 months), and get full access to our website including the videos, the full text of all mountain passes articles, fact-file, interactive map, directions and route files.

Register

 

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.
 

Master Orientation Map

Master Orientation Map 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.

View Master Orientation Map...