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Trygve Roberts

Trygve Roberts

A detailed description of days 2 & 3 of the Ben 10 Eco Challenge V4 Tour.

Listen to the interview:

Wednesday, 28 April 2021 19:55

The Prince Alfred journey continues

In our previous edition, Trygve Roberts from Mountain Passes South Africa explored the first part of South Africa's longest pass and marvelled at Thomas Bain's engineering prowess. This month he explores further, travelling from De Vlugt southwards to Knysna.

As the Langkloof opens up into the Keurbooms River valley, you will pass several points of interest before crossing the Keurbooms River over a low level concrete causeway.

pdfRead the full article: The Prince Alfred journey continues

- Adventure Afrika Apr/May 2021 edition 

Wednesday, 28 April 2021 14:01

Latest News! 6th May, 2021

The week that was

* Adam Kok's epic journey

* Klaarwater

* Philippolis

* Ongeluksnek

* Podcast

* Pass of the week

 

This is a story about a family’s incredible journey. It’s also about a moving frontier of love, deception and violence.

A hint of its inner boundary is given in the Historical Atlas of South Africa by EA Walker, published in 1922. From Hondeklip Bay to Burgersdorp is a shaded area: “The Colony’s Northern Frontier, 1798-1824.” In this area during the 18th century lived Boer farmers, /Xam hunters, Khoekhoen pastoralists, slaves, runaways and fugitives from colonial justice – all cooperating, squabbling, cohabiting and, from time to time, killing each other.

As settlers with greater firepower claimed more and more land, the shaded area was pushed ever northwards. Within it was a polyglot of pastoral people who came to be known simply as ‘Bastaards’. They would be led by the Kok family and theirs was to be a journey that would make the Great Trek look like a brief adventure. 

Around 1710 a son was born to a female slave and an unidentified Dutchman and named Adam Kok. While still in his 20s he gathered around him a band of men displaced from their lands by Boer inroads or were evading conscription into the colonial commandos. Adam married his beloved Donna Gogosathe, the Goringhaiqua daughter of a Khoi chief (from where the name Griqua would later be derived) and began farming beyond the colonial frontier just north of what is now Piketberg.

Having links to both the colony and Khoi tribes to the north, he and his fellow Bastaards formed a convenient buffer, which the Cape authorities recognised by awarding him a staff of office and the title of Kaptyn. This didn’t stop Boers moving up the west coast, forcing Kok and his people to trek across the Cederberg and Kamiesberg into the vastness of the Central Karoo, then northwards to the banks of the Orange River.

Griqua encampment at Klaarwater

Adam’s son, Cornelius, met John Phillip of the London Missionary Society and was baptised in about 1800. It wasn’t long before Christianity had spread to the entire Bastaard nation.

The society had established a mission beside some springs and named it Klaarwater (clear water). Calling people bastards didn’t sit well with the missionaries. Following their urgings, the Bastaards approved the name Griqua and the mission village was renamed Griquatown. 

Life in mid-19th century Griquatown was not easy. There were cattle raids and skirmishes by Ndebele, Koranna, Bergenaars and San bands, and demands by the Colony for commando duty. In addition, internal power struggles resulted in a rebellion and a shift by the Kok clan to Campbell.

[Read more...]

We discuss day 1 of the Ben 10 Eco Challenge V4 Tour.

Listen to the interview:

Tuesday, 20 April 2021 12:49

Latest News! 29th April, 2021

The week that was

* Ben 10 Eco Challenge  - Report back (Day 5)

* Bottelnek Valley & Pass

* Bastervoetpad - A challenging drive

* Technical driving over tricky obstacles

* Valetta farm

* Podcast

* Passes of the Week


Day 5 - Saving the best for last

Monday 5th April dawned crisp and clear with the convoy ready to roll at 0800 sharp. There was an air of anticipation as this was the final day of the challenge and the infamous Bastervoetpad Pass lay in wait for us. We did our standard 10 km tyre arm-up drill, then turned right off the R58 about halfway to Barkly East, onto a minor gravel road labelled Bottelnek (P2895). This road routes first into the east for a long drive up the Bottelnek Valley, then ascends steeply to the summit of the Bottelnek Pass, which is followed by a moderate descent into the west, where the road later intersects with the R393.

The 5,1 km long pass has an altitude variance of 193 metres to summit at 2204m ASL producing an average gradient of 1:26 with the steepest sections being at 1:5. In wet weather non 4WD vehicles will have traction issues. It snows regularly on this pass during winter and the usual snow-driving cautionaries apply. Although this pass can be driven in a normal sedan, we would rather recommend a high clearance vehicle and definitely a 4x4 in rainy or muddy conditions. Currently this is the pass that replaces the Ben MacDhui Pass until such time that particular situation has resolved itself.

Regardless of which direction you drive this pass, you are in for a visual treat at either end, as the access roads take the traveller through some beautiful Eastern Cape landscapes of swiftly flowing rivers, green grass covered hillsides, towering mountains with spectacular sandstone outcrops in weird and wonderful shapes, with tall poplar trees and evergreens lining the road side. It's as if time has stood still here. The access road can get very muddy during the rainy season so non 4WD vehicles are more likely to get stuck than on the pass itself.

The access road, which is about 9 km long, passes through several farms on its path eastwards, including Redbrook, Rosehill. Sonskyn and finally Singleton. There are some beautiful examples of old sandstone sheds, homes and outbuildings reflecting the austere, but practical Scottish settler influence. Horses, cattle, sheep and goats are frequently found on the roadway but the going is normally slower than 25 kph, which allows ample time to stop timeously. The Bottelnekspruit Valley road also offers some fabulous sandstone formations. 

The drive up the valley and the pass presented no problems for any of our group, as we stopped at the summit to enjoy the sunny weather and wide vistas. Challenge pass #9 had just been completed, but Bastervoetpad was waiting.

We gave all the drivers a thorough 4x4 pep talk over the radios as we continued on the gravel road section from the Bottelnek Pass to the start of Bastervoetpad. The approach road through some pleasant farmland almost lulls one into a false sense of security. Suddenly a fairly new concrete culvert style bridge signals the start of the drama. 


Bastervoetpad - A minefield for the unwary

Immediately after the bridge, the road takes a rapid turn for the worse, with large embedded rocks, loose stones and little streams of water creating mud. We had everyone change to low range before the western ascent began. Although the road was really rough, no-one had any issues to be overly concerned about and 25 minutes later we were all standing at the summit enjoying what is probably the best view in South Africa from a motorable mountain pass. We had close to perfect weather as guests gazed over the hills and ravines with the towering Drakensberg marching off towards the left in serried ranks of buttresses interspersed with deep green gullies and ravines.

Sunday, 18 April 2021 11:24

Latest News! 22nd April, 2021

The week that was

* Table Mountain blaze

* Report back Ben 10 Eco Challenge Day 4

* Rhodes Village

* Road sign refurbishment

* Naudes Nek Pass

* Tiffindell-Tenahead Traverse

* Pass of the week


Table Mountain Blaze

Last Sunday Cape Town endured a savage mountain fire. Not withstanding the best fire fighting equipment available, a strong south easterly wind played havoc with flare ups and in a similar way that Knysna burnt a few years ago, burning embers were carried to rooftops and buildings. The loss of art and history at UCT is massive and of course that much loved landmark, Mostert's Mill with its attractive thatched roof also burnt to the ground. 

On our social media pages we tend to stay away from negativity, but we did publish a photo of the burnt out mill with a short caption. If ever you wondered why bad news sells, then that post proved a point. The highly emotional topic drew comments from far and wide, many of them being ridiculous and blaming politicians for the blaze. It took a lot of moderating for the rest of the day trying to keep those emotional embers damped down.

So here we are just three days later - the wind has died down to a whisper; the fires are under control; a few arrests have been made. The city, Sanparks and other NGO's are going to have to put their heads together and find some solutions. It would seem that the big thorny issue appears to be homeless people. Their numbers have grown enormously since the first lockdown. No-one really wants to deal with it. Its a political hot potato. Shacks and tents are mushrooming up in streets all over the city and many vagrants seek the sanctity of the mountain as a place of safety. They make fires for cooking and warmth. And whoosh!


Ben 10 Eco Challenge Day 4

It always pays to make an early start when attempting the Ben 10 as the distances are fairly long and there are invariably unknown factors that quickly chew up time. Up till this point we had not a single mechanical failure, no punctures and no recoveries. Our team were all driving like pros.

We were on the road punctually at 0800 for our 4th and penultimate day of the tour where our routing would take us up the R393, over the Bokspruit Pass to Rhodes and from there up the Naude's Nek Pass, followed by the Tiffindell-Tenahead Traverse (TTT), then down the Carlisleshoekspruit Pass back to Rhodes and on to Mosheses Ford and Barkly East, returning to our base after roughly 300 km of gravel road driving.

The drive to Rhodes was uneventful and pleasant in the soft early morning light, but we passed two other convoys also doing the challenge passes, requiring a short wait from time to time as vehicles from the different groups became mixed. We stopped in Rhodes for almost an hour to allow our guests to explore the village at their own pace.


Rhodes Village

The village of Rhodes is the focal point of tourism in this remote and high altitude part of the Eastern Cape. Rhodes exudes a timeless charm and beauty. The Victorian era village dating back to 1880 was declared a national conservation area in 1997. It is surrounded by sparkling rivers and majestic mountains, making it an ideal getaway for adventure lovers and those seeking a break from the stresses of city life. It is the only complete village in SA that is a national monument from end to end.

Amongst the many attractions in Rhodes, one can visit the Rhodes Hotel or the Walkerbout Inn. One can also get accommodation at the Lovedale and Parkade farms, Kinmell Guest Farm, Welgemoed Trout Lodge, Rubicon Flats or the Rhodes Retreat. For those wanting to camp, the village has a well-shaded, but basic caravan park as well.

The town has a range of accommodation options. It is a wonderful place to visit for the adventure set (road running, hiking and mountain biking are big sports here) or just a sleepy, restful and friendly haven for stressed out city folk to rejuvenate their souls. The Walkerbouts Inn proprietor, Ian Walker, is a font of knowledge on the area. If you're a history buff, that's the place to go.

Whilst our sweep, Barrie Barnardt made sure the convoy regrouped timeously, we went ahead in the lead vehicle to resurrect the battered and abused sign board at the Naude's Nek view-site. A sort of pro-bono gift to the state.


Road sign refurbishment

Although weather conditions were good, it was a bit chilly and a cool wind was starting to build (mountain pass necks are always windy places). We first had to scrape off every last bit of glue, paint, UV tainted stickers as well as the original decals which were close to being illegible. It took a long time. We had planned on fixing this sign before we left Cape Town and were armed with two canisters of green base spray paint as well as new 3M reflective decals. This is not one of the MPSA sign boards, but based on the state of what it looked like, the Eastern Cape government don't appear to be too interested in refurbishing their signs, so we did it for them.

[Read more...]

Saturday, 17 April 2021 05:55

Paardepoort (P0413)

Paardepoort, which carries the road number P0413, is a long gravel road connecting three distinct poorts that cut through the east-west running ridges just north of the R75 main road between Kirkwood and Jansenville. It services a number of farms and provides a lovely gravel alternative from Kirkwood to the Darlington Dam and similarly an enjoyable return route after completing the Bedrogfontein 4x4 route.

It's a long poort at 16.4 km but the ever changing scenery between tall moungtains and craggy outcrops in the poorts to the open farmland between each of the poorts, provides a wonderful variety of scenery. Allow about 40 minutes to drive the poort, excluding stops. It's best to drive on deflated tyres (1.4 bar recommended) for improved traction, a softer ride and a reduced risk of punctures. But do not drive faster than 80 kph on soft tyres and reinflate as soon as you are back on tar.

There are a number of game farms and upmarket hunting lodges in the area, including Koffylaagte.

 

Tuesday, 16 March 2021 19:21

A unique journey with some history

The lovely winding road of the Prince Alfred’s Pass is surrounded by four biomes that are home to an abundance of indigenous fauna and flora, making for some breathtaking and captivating scenery. Trygve Roberts explores.

The Prince Alfred’s Pass on the R339 gravel road between Knysna and Uniondale is probably Thomas Bain’s most remarkable work. It is the second oldest unaltered pass still in use and is the longest (publicly accessible) mountain pass in South Africa at approximately 68.5km. This exceptionally long pass presented almost every possible technical obstacle to the pass-builders.

pdfRead the full article: A unique journey with some history

- Adventure Afrika Mar/Apr 2021 edition 

Friday, 29 January 2021 19:09

Fabulous Franschhoek Pass

The long, steep and dramatic Franschhoek Pass, renowned for the
picturesque scenery it provides, was South Africa's first properly
engineered pass and is a great weekend destination for those wishing to
escape the hustle and bustle of life in the city. Trygve Roberts explores.

The scenic Franschhoek Pass is also known as Lambrechts Road. More poetically, though, a hundred and fifty years ago it was known as Olifantshoek (Elephants Corner) after the now mythical herds of elephant which once roamed these valleys and mountains it traverses. This long, steep and dramatic pass with its variety of scenery was South Africa's first properly engineered pass. During weekends city folk stream to the pass on foot, bicycles, motorcycles, skateboards, cars and SUVs to enjoy it's sheer magnificence.

pdfRead the full article: Fabulous Franschhoek Pass

- Adventure Afrika Jan/Feb 2021 edition 

Tuesday, 29 December 2020 18:56

Long, longer... Long Tom

Undoubtedly Mpumalanga’s most famous pass, Tryvge Roberts from
Mountain Passes South Africa explores the Long Tom Pass in Sabie.

Winding through some of Mpumalanga's breathtaking scenery, the (in)famous Long Tom Pass is one of those "I love to hate you" passes in South Africa. It is 26.2 kilometres long (or even longer depending on where one starts measuring), plus it displays an altitude variance of 671 vertical meters through a complex network of curves as it ascends up the Drakensberg escarpment between Sabie in the east and Lydenburg in the west.

pdfRead the full article: Long, longer... Long Tom

- Adventure Afrika December 2020 edition 

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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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