* The KZN Aftermath
* Klein Karoo (Series - Part 3)
* Ashton Bridge
* Pass of the week
Exactly as we forecast in last week's newsletter, the cleaning up, restoration of calm, law and order is swiftly falling into place and by this Sunday, it is feasible that lockdown restrictions will be eased nationally and especially for Gauteng. It's been an extraordinary time in South Africa and one that I hope we will never see again.
Focus on Wellington
The picturesque town of Wellington is a scenic 45-minute drive from Cape Town and 15-minutes’ from neighbouring Paarl. Wellington’s agricultural economy is centred on its award-winning wines, table grapes, deciduous fruit and it is also home to South Africa’s sole whisky producer.
The region is renowned for beautiful Cape Dutch homesteads, picturesque environment, gardens and wineries. The historic Bain’s Kloof Pass, with unsurpassed vistas, indigenous flora and fauna and crystal-clear streams and rivers, is the perfect spot for hikers and fly-fishermen. The pass, built by the famous Scot, Andrew Geddes Bain, was the sole gateway to the north, before Du Toitskloof Pass was built.
Closer to town, guided wine-walks and horse-trails through rich farmland and flowering fynbos offer the opportunity to see and experience Mother Nature at her finest. The Berg River flows along the western border with two smaller streams, the Spruit and Kromme and the towering Hawequa Mountains stand guard on the eastern side. Wellington is surrounded by fruit orchards, wine estates, buchu plantations and olive groves. In addition, its vine-cutting nurseries produce approximately 85% of the country’s vine root stock for the wine industry.
More French Huguenots settled here than anywhere else in the Cape and the valley was formerly known as Val du Charron. Visit the Wellington Museum with its diverse cultural exhibits, and learn more about the region’s history. The town was renowned as an important academic centre for theological studies and the Seminary gave rise to present-day Huguenot High School and the Huguenot Teachers Training College. Other educational institutions include Boland College and the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. Situated to the north of Wellington, the villages of Saron (originally a mission station), Gouda and Hermon are spread out amid rich farmlands, in the shadow of the Elandskloof and Winterhoek Mountains.
There are three passes that traverse the Gouritz River. From south to north these are the Gouritz River Pass on the N2 national road, the Jan Muller Pass (Gravel) which bridges the river some 32 km further north (as the crow flies) and lastly the Uitspan Pass, which crosses the Gouritz River another 16 km northwards.
The Gouritz River is an interesting river which has caused farmers and road and rail builders many problems over the years. Its gorge is deep and wide, yet for most of the year it is dry and dormant, but when the rains come, this river can be savagely lethal. Both the Jan Muller and Uitspan passes cross the Gouritz by means of low level causeways. In times of flood, these crossings are extremely dangerous. If there's a strong current running, it's better to retreat and use an alternative route. The crossings are wide and one wrong move and your vehicle could be washed off the causeway with disastrous consequences.
The Uitspan Pass is both a pass (at its western side) and a beautiful poort on its eastern side. It's 7.2 km long and contains 53 bends, corners and curves, many of which are extremely sharp, including 3 full hairpin bends. Although the average gradient is a mild 1:100, there are a few sections that get as steep as 1:6.
The pass can be driven in any high clearance vehicle in fair weather.
This fairly steep gravel pass is one of four passes on the DR1649 road between Vanwyksdorp and Armoed. It has a high-low profile and offers wide views as the descent drops down into a narrow valley where the Perdebont farm is located. The pass is named after the farm and translates into English as "Pie-bald horse"
This is a safe pass provided speed is moderate. It can be driven in any vehicle with reasonable ground clearance in fair weather.
The Klein Karoo offers untold surprises of succulent plant-life coupled with dazzling mountain views. The best time to travel here is in winter or early spring for the best flowers and of course, the aloes bloom in winter, making for an attractive vista. If you're one of those that doesn;t mind hot weather, then go here in midsummer where daily maximums often reach above 35C
The Kleinfontein Poort is in very close proximity to the Kleinfontein Pass - separated be just 500m. Despite its relatively short length the little poort has a lot to offer in terms of some very tight corners, but the real attraction here is the magnificent succulent plant life that flourishes in the poort.
The poort is just 2.1 long and contains 11 bends, corners and curves, including four very sharp and tightly radiused bends in excess of 90 degrees each.
The poort (like it's twin - the Kleinfontein Pass) falls within the boundaries of the Kleinfontein farm, itself located in the very heart of the Klein Karoo about midway between Vanwyksdorp and the R328 near Oudtshoorn. This is a very quiet and remote road but it is doable in any vehicle with decent ground clearance (in fair weather).
* A bad week for our country
* Klein Karoo Road Trip (Part 2)
* Namaqualand Series (Part 3 - Final)
* Pass of the week
* New passes added this week
At MPSA one of our daily goals is to remain resolutely positive, avoiding politics like the plague, but the avalanche of bad news that has swamped social media platforms this week has been unprecedented. A time when level headed people are looking at the chaos and destruction with utter dismay. Besides the current lockdown which affects our ability to run tours, we now have a bigger monster to deal with - FEAR.
There is widespread fear. People making big ticket item purchases are cancelling orders. Many want to run, but the reality is that in a week or two, all this will calm down. Businesses will begin cleaning up and rebuilding. There have been several interesting scenarios that have come to light. Businessmen, residents, neighbourhood watches, private security companies and (lo and behold) taxi organisations have banded together to help the police and SANDF. There seems to be a new level of bonding that is emerging from the ashes. People who are very determined to keep South Africa alive. We are watching with keen interest. Perhaps this is what was needed as a catalyst for us all to learn hold hands regardless of race, creed or colour.
Rooiberg Lodge served us breakfast in bed! What a treat. By 0830 we had the Jimny packed and ready to hit the gravel. The nice thing about taking the Jimny (instead of the Land Cruiser) is that luggage must by necessity limited to what can be packed inside the little beast. It takes roughly one and a half minutes to pack the vehicle or unpack it. Less is more!
It was Monday 5th July with a blue sky day and cold crisp air making for great photography and videography. We left Rooiberg Lodge and went back over the Assegaaibosch Pass, heading east towards the Rooiberg Pass. A few kilometres east of the Assegaaibosch Pass there is a small fork in the road. We turned right here on this long gravel road (the DR1649) which meanders through some of the most beautiful Klein Karoo landscapes and terminates near Armoed, not far from the R328 close to Oudtshoorn.
Winter is best
Our goal was to take a short-cut to the Robinson Pass which needed our attention to refurbish the summit sign. Instead of a short cut, we uncovered four hidden passes along this road, some of which we have already published. The weather was great and the Klein Karoo was smiling on us. Here's a tip for all you adventure travellers: Drive these routes in winter or early spring. The flowers and especially the aloes are a sight to behold. You have the additional benefit of not being too hot in your vehicle as most of the winter days are clear and sunny. Driving here in summer is another story altogether where 35C temperatures are a regular thing.
The first of the passes for filming was the Uitspan Pass which drops down to cross the Gouritz River over a low level concrete causeway and ascends up the other side of the valley. The name is appropriate enough as it traverses the Uitspan farm. Shortly after completing this pass, the next one makes an appearance - namely the Kleinfontein Pass. What is interesting about this pass is that is actually both a pass and a poort. We filmed it as two separate routes, having to drive the passes first, then turn around to face west, as the sun had already gone past noon causing poor light. Fortunately both are fairly short. Having to drive a pass three times to get good video is quite normal.
Kleinfontein Pass & Poort
Shortly after the Kleinfontein Pass comes the Kleinfontein Poort which is short, winding and magnificent. The entire poort was smothered in bright red aloes and many other flowering succulents.
Some 20 km further we filmed the fourth pass on this route - the Perdebont Pass, where after we emerged onto a tar road at Armoed. Near the end of this gravel section, we passed a massive quarry with many large trucks plying back and forth, causing dangerous dust levels and very poor visibility. All credit to the drivers, each and every one of them stopped their trucks to allow us to pass safely. I was impressed. Fortunately the distance from the quarry to the tar road was fairly short. We turned right and routed south for 9 km to connect with the R328, where we turned right once more, heading for the beautiful and historic Robinson Pass.
This delightful little pass offers a very scenic and pleasant drive amongst isolated farms, with thousands of aloes and amazing succulent plantlife. Even though the traverse is short at just 2.7 km, the pass offers some tight corners and inclines reaching 1:7.
There are a number of passes along this road which make this drive particularly enjoyable for those not in a hurry. The going is slow and there are numerous farm gates that need to be closed behind you.
The rule with farm gates is to leave the gate as you found it. The DR1469 is fairly long drive that takes about 2.5 hours to complete from Van Wyksdorp to Armoed (near the R328). The road is not suitable for normal sedan vehicles but a 4x4 is not mandatory.
Kliphoogte is a minor pass on the Barrydale-MR00322 road, but it should not be taken lightly as there are several dangers lurking on this road to catch unwary drivers. The pass is short at just 2.4 km and displays a classic middle summit profile with an altitude variance of 65m and a maximum gradient of 1:8
The pass falls within the main road between Barrydale and the tarred R323 to the north of Garcia's pass, providing travellers with a lovely, scenic route which is about 50/50 gravel and tar. The road also provides access to the Gysmanshoek Pass (northern end) and the Brandrivier Pass (southern end)
Regardless of which direction you are driving the pass the major bend towards the western side is where things become tricky. The road is poorly engineered on this bend, as not only does it reach its steepest gradient here, but there is reverse camber present as well. To add to this this, the bend is almost always badly corrugated and a loss of traction is highly likely to occur even in a 4WD vehicle. If tyres have not been deflated this corner is waiting for an accident to happen. Slow right down to about 30 kph and gear down.
* Klein Karoo road trip
* Namaqualand - Part 2
* Messelpad Pass
* Goegap Nature Reserve
* Pass of the week
With Covid lockdown restrictions putting a spoke in the proverbial wheel of our Bedrogfontein tour scheduled for last weekend, we decided to make use of the booked out time and do a quick road trip to refurbish some outlying MPSA summit signs and scout a few new passes to add to our database.
The weather played ball as we had three perfect days with clear, sunny weather making the sign repair work less like hot work and the crisp winter air allowed for excellent video and photographic results. We routed from Cape Town via Worcester (and some beautiful waterfalls tumbling down the mountains in the Du Toitskloof Pass) to Robertson, where we took the back road to Bonnievale crossing a swollen Breede River at Rooibrug (Red Bridge) and on to the Stormsvlei Pass, where the deluge of two months ago has caused lots of damage to the road. There are six sections where deep washaways have collapsed the tar. Temporary self-policed stop-go's allow single lane traffic to pass through each section; each of which is only about 50m in length. It's going to be a while before all the repairs are completed.
After a short section along the N2 to Riversdale, we headed north over Garcia's Pass to film a short gravel pass on the Barrydale-Riversdale road called Kliphoogte. From there we headed north to Ladismith and filmed the Naaukloof on the R62 which ends just before the western approach into Ladismith.
Next up was the Huisrivier Pass MPSA sign board, which needed quite a lot of work. Some careless souls used the sign to put a target on with double sided tape (the remnants which required lots of elbow grease to remove), but the sign has been peppered with BB gun damage to the tune of about 40 dents, rendering this sign to the sin-bin and the shooter's big brother unholstered what looks like six shots from a 9mm which have penetrated the sheet metal and left permanent holes. The best we can do is put an oversized patch of 3M brown vinyl over them, which should last upwards of 5 years. We are getting used to this level of wanton vandalism and it no longer is an emotional issue. We just get on with the job and do the best we can with the budget, tools and equipment at hand.
From the Huisrivier Pass we drove to nearby Calitzdorp to refuel the Jimny and then headed over the Rooiberg Pass to refurbish the sign there, finally arriving at our overnight stop (the fabulous gem of the Little Karoo) - the Rooiberg Lodge, where we had our first class dinner served in our thatched chalet in order to comply with Covid regulations. As the sun sets the temperature plummets, but thanks to a decent stack of dry firewood and an indoor fireplace, we could spend the evening at peace with the world (no mobile reception, no sirens, no loud exhausts, no loud music - just the steady chirp of a few goggas).
We will continue with this trip report next week.
We continue with our exploration of Namaqualand as we head into the northern parts. This series is to enlighten prospective visitors to the area. Springtime is without question the best time to visit. We complete our visit to the Namaqua National Park by exiting the area via two really impressive and historically important passes, namely the Wildeperdehoek and Messelpad passes. These two passes are historically bound like twins and were constructed under the supervision of Patrick Fletcher - a very capable roads engineer who seldom gets much recognition.
The rough gravel surfaced Wildeperdehoek Pass forms part of the Caracal Eco Route in the Namaqua National Park, with the the grassy flats of Namaqualand lying to the west and glimpses of the coast beyond. The 4,8 km pass is around 120 years old and has reasonable average gradients of 1:20
('Wildeperdehoek' roughly translates as 'wild horses corner'.) This pass is not suitable for vehicles lacking ground clearance. The pass was originally named Wildepaardehoek in the old Dutch style, but is today more commonly referred to in the Afrikaans version. This pass should be viewed in tandem with the Messelpad Pass . Some locals also refer to this pass as the Bandietpas, which translates into Convict's Pass which points to the labour used in the pass's construction.
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* Bedrogfontein Tour postponed
* Namaqua National Park
* Wild Coast Tour 2021 - Day 9 / Final
* RIP Ed Johnson
* Pass of the week
* New passes
We had no choice but to postpone this tour to remain compliant with Covid regulations. We will make an announcement in 2 week's time after Mr. Ramaphosa advises whether restrictions will be eased, remain the same or increase. We have set aside two possible future dates for this tour as follows: July 24th to 27th or August 21st to 24th. At the time of publishing this newsletter there is still one place open. Book online here: BEDROGFONTEIN ONLINE BOOKINGS
As drenching rains soak the Western and Northern Cape, it brings with it the promise of magnificent wild flowers in August and September. Now is the time to start planning your trip. Today we will be exploring Namaqualand and featuring some it’s best sites worth visiting.
The first town one reaches from the south is Garies. Current population is approximately 1500. The Letterklip provincial heritage site is situated just west of town. The unique rock formation was fortified by dry stone walling; it was occupied from 1901 to 1902 by British forces during the Anglo-Boer War. Various regimental badges and officers' names are engraved in the rockface. There is a hotel and guest house in the village offering clean and comfortable accommodation at reasonable prices.
Garies started as a religious centre when a Dutch Reformed Church was established on the farm Goedeverwagting in 1845. It was initially named after the farm. Just before the formation of the Union of South Africa, Prime Minister John X Merriman (1908–1910), approved the name change to its present name, Garies (or Th’aries), which is a Khoisan for the grass growing along dry river beds in the area. In the Khoekhoen language/gari-s means 'couch-grass'.
This long gravel route forms an interesting option for off-road explorers who want to drive Gysmanshoek Pass as well as this one. At 15.5 km it's a fairly long drive which takes almost an hour due to the state of the road and the 7 farm gates which must be closed behind you.
This is a road for less hurried traveller. You will be spoilt with fine scenery, technical driving and a feeling of isolation. If you're short of time, rather give this one a miss.
The route traverses four farms and sports 70 bends corners and curves, ranging from easy all the way through to extremely tight. There are at least two corners with arcs greater than 120 degrees.
We recommend driving the route with at least one other vehicle in case of an emergency or breakdown, as you are unlikely to see another vehicle on this route the entire day.
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.