A chat about the construction of SA’s oldest unaltered pass – the Montagu Pass near George.
Listen to the interview:
* Trips & Tours updates
* Upgrading of Bain's Kloof Pass
* Rietfontein history Part 3
* Pass of the week
* Words of wisdom
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.
We 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
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.
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.
We discuss the Montagu Pass and its predecessor the Cradock Kloof Pass, near George.
The audio quality is poor due to the major anti-cyclone on the day of the interview.
Listen to the interview:
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.
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
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.
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.
* Trips & Tours update
* Level 2 on the horizon
* Social media on fire
* Signage & Branding
* Fortified homes of the Eastern Frontier
* Pass of the Week
* Words of wisdom
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.
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 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.
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.
Moving forward with precision.
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:
We take you through Part 1 of the history of the Gamkaskloof and Die Hel and relive a story of how not to tow a Hobie Cat.
Listen to the interview:
* Trips & Tours
* Mountain Man
* Forts of South Africa (Part 2)
* 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.
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!
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.
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.
* Tours Update
* Frontier Country (History of SA's forts)
* Pass of the Week
* Words of Wisdom
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.
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.
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.