A discussion on the arched suspension bridge at Ashton and the history of Cogmanskloof.
Listen to the interview:
* The new normal
* Road Signs
* Trips & Tours Updates
* Gawie se Water (Part 2)
* Podcast (History of Cogmanskloof)
* Pass of the week
* Words of wisdom/
So what is normal? This wildly bizarre year has been a very unusual and tough year both financially (unless you nailed a PPE supplies tender!) and emotionally and yet, as the dust begins to settle there are so many questions unanswered and so many predictions by the best experts in the world that were completely wrong.
What the pandemic has done is brought many of us back to earth with a bang with the realization of just how fragile life is. It gave us time to be introspective.
One of the most difficult things at our HQ in Cape Town was striving to remain positive, amidst the overwhelming fear mongering news in the mainstream media, but somehow that persistence seemed to pay off with MPSA having come out of the lockdown much stronger than before. We expanded our social media following in a most dynamic way with an expected 50,000 followers to be reached by the end of September.
23rd - 28th September - Ben 10 Eco Challenge V3 Tour (Fully booked)
19th - 25th October - Swartberg 2020 Tour (Fully booked)
26th - 30th October - Mpumalanga Panorama Tour (4 tickets left)
12th - 21st November - Wild Coast Tour (Fully booked)
23rd - 25th November - Mpumalanga Highveld Tour (6 tickets left)
This year has produced some of the finest wildflower displays in decades. From Posberg all the way up to Springbok and all over Namaqualand the displays have been phenomenal, but thanks to lockdown only a few have been able to enjoy the spectacle
With the acquisition of Cape Mountain Passes came the distinctive and instantly recognizable logo (and approved by the Western Cape Government). Over the next few weeks the adoption of this logo will become evident across all communication levels, including our vehicle branding, signage and written communications.
Steady progress is being made on the refurbishment of 160 road signs that came with the takeover of the Cape Mountain Passes project. We have effectively used our wide social media reach to get the message across that the only place that's OK to put a sticker, is on your own property. On our sign fixing trip last Friday we published before and after photos of the Middelberg Pass summit sign, as well as detailed photos of every sticker on the signboard. Each of those will be systematically contacted with a request to desist and encourage others from the bad habit (which many people seem to think is the norm these days) We appreciate the overwhelming support of our subscribers and followers. Some of even offered to do the job for us or accompany us. That is a beautiful thing!
The short but interesting pass offers gorgeous scenery, twisting and steep curves on a brand new road, but it also has several cautionaries which include two sets of fearsome speed bumps, several schools, slow intersection traffic and livestock on the road,
The pass has a typical inverted vertical profile expected of a pass that descends into a river valley and climbs out the other side. The modern engineering on this brand new road is interesting and almost unexpected considering the humble rural surroundings.
It's only 5 km long and drops 248m to the river crossing with steep gradients of 1:7. The winding R61 is peppered with small passes, some of them unnamed, so it's best to pre-mark the GPS coordinates on your unit, so that you know when it's coming up on your journey to the coast.
This attractive pass lies on the N2 national road between Colchester and Grahamstown. It can be quite confusing as the Komgha River is in fact nowhere near the town of the same name, much further north east by almost 200 km as the crow flies. It should be noted that the spelling of Komgha River includes an 'h" whereas the town is spelled without the 'h'.
The pass offers some nice twists and turns, impressive cuttings and sweeping views over the river valley. It's 6.3 km in length and displays an altitude variance of 194m with a classic inverted vertical profile. The gradients are fairly comfortable with the steepest parts near the river never exceeding 1:11. The road is so well engineered that a speed limit of 120 kph is valid for most of the pass, but in the sections with the sharper corners, the speed limit is reduced to 100 kph.
Cautionaries: Thick mountain mists, livestock on the roadway.
A chat about the history of the Penhoek Pass between Queenstown and Jamestown – one of the coldest places in South Africa.
Listen to the interview:
* Severe weather
* Tiffindell Ski Resort
* Trips & Tours Update
* Gawie se water
* Witterivier Tragedy
* Podcast (Penhoek Pass)
* Pass of the week
* Words of wisdom
No one can deny that 2020 has been a very different year. It has shaped eveyones life in some form or the other. Some have suffered badly, whilst others have survived and even improved their businesses. The winter weather has broken all sorts of records with several towns in KZN having set new minimum temperature records. The drought which gripped the Western Cape for over 3 years has finally been broken. Dams are overflowing and rivers are running strong and clean from all the snowmelt.
We have today received news of the temporary closure of the Tiffindell Ski Resort. Decisions will be made towards the end of September as to new opening dates. This affects anyone wanting to do the Ben 10 Eco Challenge as the boom across the road giving access to the Ben MacDhui Pass is closed and locked.
We are investigating all our options in terms of the rules for the Ben 10 Eco Challenge. In the current state it is not possible to complete the challenge without access to the pass. Anyone who has planned to do the challenge in the next 60 days should make contact with us, with respect to getting keys to unlock the boom.
We will be there in person running our Ben 10 V3 Tour from the 23rd to 28th September and will be able to report back more accurately after that time.
Wolvenberg 4x4 Training & Tour 13th September (1 ticket left)
Ben 10 V3 Tour - 23 - 28 September - Fully booked
Swartberg Tour - 19 - 25 October - Fully booked
Mpumalanga Panorama Tour 26 - 30 October (4 tickets left)
Wild Coast Tour - 12 - 21 November - Fully booked
Mpumalanga Highveld Tour 23 - 25 November (7 tickets left)
Our focus last week on the imminent refurbishment of Bain's Kloof Pass near Wellington, had me digging around in our archives for a story sent in by Graham Katzenellenbogen (who insists that one bastion of the Castle of Good Hope was not named after him!)
When driving up the pass from the Wellington side about 2 km before the summit, a small clear stream of perennial water drops down the mountain and under the road. It's a popular spot set amongst shady trees where cyclists stop to fill their water bottles with the clean pure water. A small signboard announces the stream as "Gawie se water"
The owner of the old Grand Hotel in Ceres in the 1940s through to 1960s was Jock Levin. The legend goes that Jock and the whisky-loving fraternity instructed those in their district visiting Scotland, not to return home without a unique privately stilled bottle of whisky from the Scottish highlands and unobtainable here.
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.
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.