* 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.
* Tourism breathes again
* Back to driving school
* Focus on Ladybrand
* Pass of the Week
* Silly questions
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.
A few basic 4x4 tips for beginners and intermediates:
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.
* Bedrogfontein Tour (last round!)
* Namaqualand is calling.
* Heidelberg, Gauteng.
* Pass of the week
* Silly questions
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.
* 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This short little pass is located close to the N2 national road and forms the eastern border of the Indalu Game Reserve between Herbertsdale in the north and Vleesbaai in the south. The pass has some steep gradients and a few very sharp corners, but perhaps the biggest reason for driving this pass is the lovely scenery and the likelihood of spotting some game. When we filmed the pass, we fortunate to come across a rhino family.
The road forms a short-cut between Herbertsdale and the N2 for travellers wanting to get from herbertsdale to Albertinia. The road is suitable for all vehicles in fair weather and is only 3.6 km in length and contains 7 bends, corners and curves with some long, straight stretches. The name more than likely refers to the prolific number of aloes that are found in the area and translates as Red Flower Heights.
The Doornkloof mini pass contains the deepest and longest water crossing, which has been the undoing of many non-4WD vehicles attempting this pass over the years. This section of the road traverses the farms Doornkloof and Waterkloof, and includes Botesnek, another small pass.
- Adventure Afrika July/August 2021 edition
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.