* Trips & Tours
* Swartberg Classic
* Towns of South Africa
* Pass of the week
COVID LEVEL 2
With the relaxation of lockdown levels nationally, the timing is perfect for booking on a tour and getting out of the cities.
SWARTBERG CLASSIC TOUR (10th to 14th October)
We have four spots available on this tour. Join us for four days and five nights of incredible scenery in and around the Swartberg range. We will take you over passes you've never seen before, through country landscapes that will beguile and captivate you. Escape all the Covid negativity in the fresh country air and celebrate the arrival of summer with us. For the full itinerary, pricing, online booking and other information, take the link: Swartberg Classic Tour 2021
WILD COAST TOUR (10th to 20th November)
The two cancellations which we had, were quickly resold, so this tour is fully booked again. For those who couldn't make it, we will be running another one in the first half of 2022. To ensure you get early notification of tours, it's best to subscribe to the tours notices on our home page.
TOWNS OF SOUTH AFRICA
This week we take a closer look at the town of Burgersfort.
Although it is officially situated in the scenic province of Mpumalanga, Burgersfort is located very close to the Limpopo border too. This part of South Africa is characterised by rolling vistas of unspoilt countryside, lush plantations, and verdant valleys. Picturesque backdrops abound, and make for beautiful holiday photographs and idyllic settings against which to celebrate major events.
Burgersfort is a small town in the Spekboom River Valley, taking maximum advantage of these pretty surrounds. As such, it is home to a plethora of plant species, as well as many birds and other animals. This makes it a delight for outdoor enthusiasts and lovers of all things natural.
In this chat we cover diverse subjects including weather systems, a new tour to the Swartberg area and the Zuurberg Pass.
Listen to the interview:
* Tours and trips
* Swartberg Classic Tour bookings open
* Wild Coast Tour (one place available)
* Cape Talk interview
* Bedrogfontein Tour (Part 2)
* Pass of the Week
* New videos uploaded
Our newest tour has just been launched - The Swartberg Classic (10th to 14th October). It's a four day journey covering 39 mountain passes (big and small) including all the famous ones, like Gysmanshoek, Seweweekspoort, Bosluiskloof, Huisrivier, Meiringspoort, Swartberg, Gamkaskloof, Elands Pass, and Die Hel. We have carefully selected excellent accommodation and meals (4 star) at the various overnight venues, to ensure guests have a first class experience both on and off the roads. (More details lower down...)
We have had a cancellation for this previously fully booked tour, so here's an opportunity to join us for a ten day adventure down the Wild Coast from Matatiele to Chintsa. All accommodation and two meals per day are arranged in first class accommodation venues with beautiful views, where you will be pampered. The tour includes walking excursions to Waterfall Bluff, Cathedral Rock, Magwa Falls, Hole in the Wall and much more.
(Late edit: Sorry, this ticket has just been sold)
We have been waiting for 10 years to get an interview on 567 Cape Talk and finally, through a twist of fate, things fell rapidly into place. One of the producers at Cape Talk contacted us via email requesting information on the (now famous) Ashton Bridge. They wanted to do an interview with one of the engineers. We helped them out with names, contacts and phone numbers. I gently dropped a hint about doing a live interview on passes for them. That seemed to work and a week later we had an official invitation to do a 15 minute slot. The interview proved to be very popular with the listeners and the show was extended from 15 minutes to an hour. Next step is to arrange a regular slot on the subject of once per fortnight or month. Watch this space!
(Link to the podcast is displayed lower down...)
The second day of the Bedrogfontein Tour was a "free" day where guests could go to the Addo Elephant National Park and enjoy the game viewing at their own pace. Those with fortitude and patience were rewarded with good game sightings. Your scribe had little luck and gave up after two hours and headed over to the entrance gate of the Kabouga section of the park, to pave the way for a smooth process for our convoy for the next morning.
That evening back at base, photos and war stories were swapped around the cosy fireplace at our lodge as the staff prepared a delicious traditional braai for our group. It gets cold at Kirkwood after the sun sets (in winter anyway) and soon the mercury hovered at the 5C mark, sending guests scuttling off for hot showers, warm beds and heaters.
The final day of the tour dawned calmly and with perfectly clear weather. It was as well that I had done the prep work at the Kabouga gate the day before, as the young lady on duty had used our convoy driving sheet to put the whole convoy onto one permit. The entire signing in process took less than 20 minutes and we were on our way, heading west down the first long valley.
(See more lower down...)
The Lotheni Pass is the biggest of the four passes clustered around the Lotheni and Mkhomazi Nature Reserves. The other passes are the Bucklands Pass, the Nzinga Pass and the oddly named Ping Pong Cuttings. The Lower Lotheni Road offers wonderful scenery as it follows the foothills of the Drakensberg, offering tranquil scenery and a glimpse of rural life as several villages are traversed.
Being a gravel road, the surface condition is subject to weather conditions and maintenance schedules. Always expect rough sections with ruts, washaways and loose gravel. Other dangers include erratic local driver behaviour, livestock on the road, minibus taxis and pedestrians.
Stick to the speed limit and be particularly careful at blind rises and sharp corners, where some drivers tend to drift onto the wrong side of the road.
* It's officially spring
* Self Drive or take a tour
* Weather synopsis
* Bedrogfontein Trip Report (Part 1)
* Pass of the week
The never ending debate of when spring starts is once again upon us. It is September 1st, or September 21st or September 22nd? Whatever version suits you, make sure you get our into the fresh air and enjoy nature's bounty. With all the winter snows and good rains, you have a wide variety of options to choose from.
You can visit Namaqualand and watch the desert transform into a wild palette of colourful flowers, or tackle the Tankwa with its succulents and mountain scenery, or if you enjoy the cold, head up to Sutherland where you will still be guaranteed some icy nights and magnificent starry, starry nights (with deference to Don McClean). There's the Garden Route, the Wild Coast, the Panorama Route in Mpumalanga or a game reserve in Limpopo or North West Province, or maybe head for the warmer climes of Durban. As the Covid Delta wave starts receding, now is a good time to catch a breath of fresh South African air.
Let's start off with a look at the wild weather of the last month and more specifically the last week, when record quantities of snow fell over most of the high lying areas of South Africa, sending temperatures plummeting to new record lows. The Western Cape which laboured heavily under a serious drought just two years ago, now sports a regional dam level figure of 100%.
Other provinces are less fortunate, with the southern part of the Eastern Cape remaining in the grip of a long drought. This includes large sections of interior and the Karoo, Baviaanskloof, Sundays River Valley, Port Elizabeth and even as far as East London. The main storage dam for the citrus producing area of the Gamtoos Valley only has 5.2% water according to the DWAF.
The good snowfalls auger well for snow-melt run-off in Lesotho and into the Katse Dam and ultimately into the Vaal Dam. The weather systems will always remain unpredictable. Many people are suggesting that the current weather is merely a result of global warming and that we had better get used to it.
We seem to have an uncanny knack of planning our tours in good weather windows. There is absolutely no way that we can plan things that well, but it's good to know that we get it right most of the time. Our group of 9 vehicles congregated at the lovely Kronenhoff Manor guest lodge in Kirkwood. A little tip when visiting Addo - The accommodation is very much more affordable in Kirkwood than the town of Addo and its only 25 km further from the park.
The main building is charming inside and out and oozes comfort and style from a bygone era. The roof structure in particular is fascinating as it has a very steep pitch with triple the number of battens of a conventional slate roof. Our evenings were spent around a fire which added to the perpetually relaxed vibe. The rooms are spacious and tastefully decorated with air-conditioning and widescreen TV's in each room with free Wifi.
Lundy's Hill is a major pass located on the tarred R617 trunk route between Howick and Bulwer. It's 21 km long and contains 35 bends, corners and curves, most of which are easy. The altitude variance of 505m converts into an average gradient of 1:41 with the steepest parts measuring in at 1:9. This pass is unkindly referred to a "hill". During our research of this pass, we could not uncover any meaningful history on the naming of Lundy's Hill.
The pass has a classic inverted vertical profile, typical of a pass that descends down to a river and ascends up the other side. The river in question is the Umkomaas River (Mkomazi). The pass provides access to several rural villages, where the scenery is fabulous, especially during the summer months.
The pass lies along the footbhills of the Drakensberg at an elevation of roughly 1400m ASL and is subject to electrical thunderstorms in summer and possible snowfalls during winter. Watch out for slow moving and erratic local drivers, pedestrians and livestock plus dogs on the road - and of course the ubiquitous minibus taxis, who write their own rules.
* Bedrogfontein Tour report back
* Focus on Montagu
* Ashton Arch bridge
* Pass of the week
We returned back to base yesterday after an enormously successful tour. Everything went right starting with fabulous weather. Each day was perfect - blue skies, no wind and midday temperatures in the mid-twenties. The early mornings and evenings were cool with the mercury dropping to 3C, but nothing that a hot shower and an electric blanket couldn't overcome. Our accommodation was at the Kronenhoff Manor in Kirkwood. The service levels were excellent, the food was great and our group were very well looked after, down to the last detail. A highly recommended venue.
Two vehicles experienced side-wall cuts, including the lead vehicle. It seems like Murphy's Law dictates that sidewall cuts only occur in new tyres! In both cases it was the left-rear tyre. Fortunately the damage was discovered at a level spot where changing the wheel wasn't too difficult. We will do a more detailed report over the next two weeks, as we download photos and videos and get all our ducks in a row to make up a good story.
Montagu was cut off from the main trek routes due to the seemingly impenetrable nature of Cogmans Kloof. It wasn't until Thomas Bain built the pass and the tunnel that trade began to develop in the area. In 1841 Montagu was laid out on the farm Uitvlucht and in 1852 John Montagu, the Colonial Secretary of the Cape, visited the infant town. In 1855 the first school was opened and two years later a contract was signed for the building of a church designed by George Burkett.
By 1873 the Montagu Hot Springs began charging a fee for the use of the baths. Their use obviously goes back to time immemorial, with traces of early man found in the nearby caves. The importance of the baths to the general public is reflected in the conditions written into the title deeds:
That the outspan place and thoroughfare as laid down on the diagram shall remain free that the grant now made the public shall not be excluded from the benefits derived from a Hot Springs situated within the Limits of this land, but on the contrary, have the right of using the said Springs as a Hot Bath and that it shall be optional with them, should the proprietor hereafter construct suitable accommodation on the spot, to avail themselves there or not, as they may think proper; that all roads leading to the bath shall remain free, that the said public frequenting said bath shall be allowed to Outspan on this land, but the cattle shall not, unless with the consent of the grantee or his successors, remain longer that twenty four hours on his land.
* Exploring Paternoster
* Bedrogfontein here we come
* Facebook hits 80,000 MPSA followers
* Coldest winter in SA in decades.
* Pass of the week.
Paternoster is one of the oldest fishing villages on the West Coast of South Africa. It is situated 15 km north-west of Vredenburg and 145 km north of Cape Town, at Cape Columbine between Saldanha Bay and St Helena Bay. The town covers an area of 194.8 hectare and has approximately 1883 inhabitants.
The origin of the name remains unknown. Many people believe that the name, which means ‘Our Father’ in Latin, refers to prayers said by Catholic Portuguese seamen when they became shipwrecked. It appears as St. Martins Paternoster on an old map of Pieter Mortier. Other people believe it refers to the beads that the Khoi tribe wore that were called Paternosters.
Paternoster is a sought after tourist destination and is known for lobster and the white-washed fishermen’s cottages. The remarkable coastline of jagged cliffs and white boulders makes this one of the most beautiful beaches on the West Coast of South Africa.
The area is a pillar in the South African commercial fishing industry. The town itself has a lobster factory and a newly erected Kabeljou farm, whilst the local people catch and sell herring, or draw mussels from the rocks. In the greater area are several more commercial activities, including deep sea fishing, snoek catching, abalone farming, oyster farming, canning of pilchards and mussel farming.
The oyster farm in the lagoon of the neighbouring town of Langebaan is currently the largest in South Africa. The West Coast rock lobster Jasus lalandii was enjoyed by the first Portuguese navigators. By 1902 a full-blown lobster industry was in operation, canning and exporting lobster to France in particular. The West Coast lobster industry generates millions each year and employs large numbers of the local people.
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The Nzinga Pass is a long gravel pass located roughly midway between Nottingham Road and Himeville on the Lotheni Road. The road is generally in a reasonable condition and is suitable for all vehicles. There are no shortages of bends on this pass - 43 of them in total. Ten of the corners are in excess of 90 degrees, but there are no true hairpins.
There is an altitude variance of 339m and an unusual feature is the double set of river crossings. Cautionaries include the two narrow single width bridges which are dangerous, even in good weather and best traveresed at 30 kph. Mountain mists can severaly reduce visibility and livestock and pedestrians are always a problem in this area.
The pass is obviously named after the Mkomazi River (Umkomaas) and displays a typical inverted vertical profile associated with a pass that drops down into a river valley and ascends up the other side. This is a fairly long pass at 11.8 km and has an altiude variance of 521m, which translates into an average gradient of 1:23.
There are 34 bends, corners and curves to contend with, most of which have gentle arcs, but there two sharp 90 degree corners on the northern side, which require careful driving. In earlier times the river was known as the Umkomaas, mainly to suit the Western tongue better, but today the spelling has reverted back to the original Zulu version.
The pass is part of the R56 and connects Ixopo in the south with Richmond in the north. The road is currently (2021) under refurbishment and is generally in a fair condition.
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.