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Trygve Roberts

Trygve Roberts

Wednesday, 01 September 2021 16:32

Latest News! 2nd September, 2021

The week that was

* It's officially spring

* Self Drive or take a tour

* Weather synopsis

* Bedrogfontein Trip Report (Part 1)

* Pass of the week


Spring is in the air!

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.


Wild Weather

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.


Bedrogfontein Tour - Trip Report

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. 

[Read more...]

Friday, 27 August 2021 15:20

Lundy's Hill (R617)

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.

Tuesday, 17 August 2021 18:18

Latest News! 26th August, 2021

The week that was....

* Bedrogfontein Tour report back

* Focus on Montagu

* Ashton Arch bridge

* Pass of the week


Bedrogfontein Tour feedback

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.


Focus on Montagu

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.

[Read more...]

Tuesday, 17 August 2021 16:34

Latest News! 19th August, 2021

The week that was...

* 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.

[Read more ...]

Monday, 16 August 2021 16:49

Nzinga Pass (P27-2)

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. 

Friday, 13 August 2021 17:19

Mkomazi River Pass (R56)

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.

Wednesday, 11 August 2021 16:34

Latest News! 12th August, 2021

The week that was.....

* Tourism breathes again

* Back to driving school

* Focus on Ladybrand

* Pass of the Week

* Silly questions


Tourism is slowly resuscitating

In a nutshell, the Boks won the rugby series, the hysteria around the riots in KZN has mostly disappeared from the mainstream media, Covid continues to be the main (depressing) topic, the wild flower explosion is happening in Namaqualand, Cederberg and the West Coast; it's still unseasonably cold; most dams are full in the winter rainfall regions and tourism has breathed another gasp of fresh air as we slowly ease out of season 3 - the Delta variant.


Back to School

A few basic 4x4 tips for beginners and intermediates:

  • If you're unsure of an obstacle, exit your vehicle and read the terrain.
  • Choose the path of least resistance.
  • Drive as slowly as possible, and as fast as necessary.
  • Maintain momentum − resist the urge to make sudden throttle inputs.
  • Engage 4WD on loose gravel roads − it's safer, as you'll have more traction.

As SUV and bakkie ownership has increased, so has the amount of off-highway recreation. There is no special license required to drive off-road, even though there are many different techniques and practices involved. There does exist an often unspoken etiquette that is practised by old-school four-wheelers, which developed not just so that everyone can get along on the trail, but primarily for safety considerations.

With the availability of trail-ready 4x4’s, both in the traditional 4x4 mould and outside of it, the slow and steady progression of four-wheeling initiation through involvement and camaraderie has been bypassed. The honour-by-association process misses the chance to be taught by the enthusiastic guy who just bought his first real 4x4.

[Read more....]

Thursday, 05 August 2021 10:28

Latest News! 5th August, 2021

The week that was...


* Bedrogfontein Tour (last round!)

* Namaqualand is calling.

* Heidelberg, Gauteng.

* Pass of the week

* Silly questions


Bedrogfontein Tour (21 to 24 Aug, 2021) - Last chance to book

We are closing bookings this Friday (6th August), so why not grab the opportunity and join us on this fabulous tour which offers a smorgasbord of interesting experiences. We will be driving the historical and technically challenging Zuurberg Pass on the first day, where the views will blow your mind. An entire day is dedicated to touring around the Addo Elephant National Park, but this takes place in your own time and pace, but we remain in radio contact throughout to share the best game viewing opportunities. The highlight of this tour is the Bedrogfontein 4x4 route, which is all within the extensions of the Addo National Park. The history of this route is incredible and we will see old abandoned ox-wagons and other artefacts from the second Anglo Boer War.

The Bedrogfontein 4x4 trail between the Kabouga and Darlington areas of the Addo Elephant National Park provides breath-taking views and is rich in history. This route was the scene of fierce battles between the British and Boer troops during the Anglo-Boer war. We will visit the cottage where Jan Smuts and his soldiers stayed and where he was in a coma after eating cycad seeds. Rock art paintings are found scattered throughout the area.

The route traverses through a variety of vegetation types, from riverine thicket, to afromontane forest, to fynbos on the peaks and into the arid Nama-Karoo of the Darlington area. This is strictly a 4x4 route and requires a vehicle with good ground clearance and low range. Bedrogfontein translates into Fraud Fountain and refers to a stream that disappears underground only to reappear some kilometres later. The route may only be driven from east to west and takes between 5 and 6 hours excluding stops and any side diversions. It is rated Grade 1 through to 3 and is suitable for intermediate and experienced drivers. 

The Addo Elephant National Park (AENP) was proclaimed in 1931 to protect the remaining 11 Addo elephant. The great herds of elephant and other animal species had been all but decimated by hunters over the 1700s and 1800s. In the late 1800s, farmers began to colonise the area around the park, also taking their toll on the elephant population due to competition for water and crops. This conflict reached a head in 1919 when farmers called on the government to exterminate the elephants. The government even appointed a Major Pretorius to shoot the remaining elephants - He killed 114 elephant between 1919 and 1920.

[Read more...]

Tuesday, 27 July 2021 18:53

Latest News! 29th July, 2021

The week that was

* KZN and Gauteng slowly return to normal

* Bedrogfontein Tour opportunity

* Drama aplenty on the Swartberg Pass

* Matroosberg Nature Reserve 4x4 route closed

* Focus on Vryburg

* Pass of the Week


Recovery, Rebuild, Trust.

As the nation slowly recovers from the shock of the riots and looting in KZN and Gauteng, we now move into a phase of rebuilding infrastructure, reopen businesses and more importantly learning to trust one another again and make our nation stronger. There are thousands of unanswered questions, but from our side we welcome the relaxation of the lockdown regulations as the embattled tourism and hospitality sector has to once more rise from the ashes.


Bedrogfontein Opportunity

We've had a cancellation on our Bedrogfontein Tour with the new dates being confirmed for August 21st to 24th. Anyone interested in enjoying this popular tour can get the full itinerary and pricing via the link below.

BEDROGFONTEIN TOUR ONLINE BOOKINGS

This tour includes a trio of passes on the first day which includes Olifantsnek, Zuurberg and Doringnek with a refreshment stop at the beautiful Zuurberg Mountain Inn. We then spend a full day in the Addo Elephant National Park enjoying some great game viewing and the final day is kept for the best part of the tour as we drive the historical Bedrogfontein Pass. We can only accept 4x4 vehicles, with good ground clearance and low range capabilities. The route varies between Grade 1 and 3.


Swartberg Pass temporarily closed

With the coldest weather in decades having swept over South Africa at least 19 new records in minimum lows and highs have been recorded, this system covered the Swartberg Pass in deep snow and more importantly on the southern side of the mountain where the sun has little effect during winter. The snow soon compacted in a thick layer of ice, creating very dangerous driving conditions.

Snow starved South Africans (and inexperienced to boot) always rush off to see and play in the snow when the snow arrives. This year saw a lot of traffic heading to the pass, but when they got to the pass, the road had been closed by traffic authorities. No problem to our risk-takers, who decided to ignore the road signs and drive the pass regardless. This led to 9 vehicles losing traction on the pass and getting stuck, including a BMW sedan. 

All of the drivers and passengers had to be rescued and taken to safety, with their vehicles only being able to be recovered one or two days later. This blatant disregard for rules and regulations is part of how many people think and behave these days. One of the vehicles was occupied by a young couple with a two month old baby. Comments can be viewed on our Facebook page.

We are not at all surprised.


Matroosberg 4x4 Route closed

Cape Nature have issued the owners of the Matroosberg Nature Reserve a notice to close the route down beyond the Bokkerievieren fork at the 1280m contour level. As usual this has created an emotional response for those in favour and against the ruling. The farm owners are contesting the decision via the courts. We will have to wait and see what the final result will be and hopefully there will be a compromise where everyone is a winner. We'll keep an eye on things and post when we get news.


Towns of South Africa

It's not often we venture into North-West province simply because there are so few passes there, but in this series we are unpacking the history of some of South Africa's lesser known, but nonetheless fascinating dorpies.

Today we visit North West Province and more specifically, the town of Vryburg. It is situated halfway between Kimberley and Mafikeng, in the Bophirima region of the North West. Often referred to as “South Africa’s Texas”, Vryburg is responsible for the largest beef production in the country. Vryburg is the perfect holiday stopover when road tripping along the N14 or travelling on the railway line that runs from Cape Town to Botswana. Established in 1882, Vryburg is an agricultural and industrial centre that was once used as a concentration camp by the British during the Boer War.

The 2,062 hectare Leon Talijaard Nature Reserve’s gate house is a former Boer War prison, built to house Afrikaner prisoners captured by the British forces. There is a small museum and a plaque that commemorates the prisoners executed here.

[Read more...]

Tuesday, 27 July 2021 11:14

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