* SA Unmasked
* Noma 5
* Wild Coast Tour V4 - Day 6
* Pass of the week
For the tourism and hospitality industry the abolishment of having to wear masks is a significant milestone on the long and bumpy road back to normality. We look forward to seeing people smiling again; to hear voices that aren't muffled; to be able to connect with fellow human beings without all that induced fear. This is a momentous moment and we welcome it with open arms and warm smiles. No more will we see people driving alone in their cars masked up (well, I suppose there will be some die-hards). Let's just leave it there, before I write an essay!
Bain's Kloof Pass opened for traffic on the 21st June and our scout on the ground, Kuba Miszewski, reports that the upgrades are excellent. We will be taking our guests over this pass as part of our Seven Sisters Tour in October
Cogmanskloof Pass is also now complete and the whole route from Ashton to Montagu is now open to traffic without any stop-go's. It's been a long wait, but worthwhile. The contractors, Haw & Inglis, who took over this contract from the insolvent original contractors have done a fantastic job - not only of this historically important pass but the engineering marvel of the arch bridge and its transverse placement, is worthy of high praise. We will be refilming both of these passes within the next week or two.
The Xhosa lady known as Noma 5 has been trending via our Facebook page. Last week we mentioned 350,000 views. Believe it or not, that photo has now reached an audience of 1,891,087. It is by far our most successful social media post to date. So how exactly did that happen?
How does one know when you post something that will capture the imagination of a nation? The truth is you don't. It's all hit and miss and posts like this one give us an insight into what the public really enjoy seeing. Once we reached 100,000 followers on Facebook, our page got all sorts of new recognition and benefits from Facebook as well as some privileges we had not enjoyed before. The way the algorithms work is that authentic, original material seems to be king. It's been a long journey getting there, but we've made it. And we most certainly don't stop progressing either. Stemming from that post we have also reached an all time 28 day post reach of 3.6 million. Our next goal is 200,000 followers.
On this tour we had built in rest days for guests to recover from the more physical aspects of the tour. With that in mind we had decided to explore the possibility of visiting the construction site of the new Msikaba Bridge on the new N2 toll road. The idea was that I would probably go on my own as a recce trip, but the moment I mentioned this in the pre-trip communications, there was suddenly a lot of interest.
* Notalubani but her friends call her Noma5.
* Trips & Tours
* Wild Coast Tour V4 - Day 3
* Podcast - Tulbagh
* Pass of the week
The first real cold snap of the winter has arrived with widespread reports of snow from the high lying areas. As always we advise snow deprived South Africans not to go snow-hunting without adequate preparation. Imagine a worst case scenario and pack accordingly. Last year several snow hunters had to be rescued from their vehicles from the Swartberg Pass. Don't be that driver.
During our Wild Coast V5 Tour, whilst passing slowly through one of the villages on a very muddy road, we spotted Notabulani standing by the roadside, immaculately dressed, regal and proud. We asked if we could take a photo. The result is what you see on the cover of this newsletter. When we got back, I set to the task of sorting and batching the trip photos. This pic caught my eye and I visualised it as a way of bridging the divide between rural and city and to present the face of the very essence of the Wild Coast.
Her photo has had over 351,000 views (at the time of writing) in the space of 4 days and will undoubtedly continue to increase over the next few weeks. Even locals have responded saying they know her well. She apparently has a wicked sense of humour and is a great story teller. Our readership has increased dramatically and for the first time in our 12 year history we have exceeded 2 million post views in a 28 day cycle. We are learning some serious lessons about social media and the power within. We'll make a point of tracking her down on our next Wild Coast Tour and present her with a hamper.
JULY - The upcoming Swartberg Tour in July promises to be a freezing affair. The tour is fully booked.
SEPTEMBER 2022 - Garden Route Tour (5 days) - 5 places left.
OCTOBER 2022 - Seven Sisters Tour (2 days) - To be launched next week.
OCTOBER 2022 - Novice 4x4 training day (1 day) - To be launched soon
NOVEMBER 2022 - Kouga-Baviaanskloof ( 4 days) - To be launched soon
MAY 2023 - Wild Coast Tour (11 days) - 3 places left
* Changes to our pricing system
* Upcoming Tours
* Wild Coast V4Tour - Day 2 continued
* Pass of the week
Having a number of years tour administration under the belt, we have established that every tour produces a number of solo drivers. One of our strategies that set us apart from the tourism industry is that we originally charged per vehicle and not per person. The reality is that very few vehicles have more than two occupants. The ratio is perhaps one every second tour, whereas the incidence of solo drivers is usually at least 2 on every tour. In an effort to make things more equitable for solo drivers, we have created a single supplement rate, which is about 80% of the old rate. To still make it affordable for vehicles with more than two people, we have a rapidly declining cost curve for that bracket, which is still very affordable - plus we have added in a zero cost for children under the age of 18, which makes the tours more accessible for families. The new system is already in place, so when you book, you will find a drop down menu that looks like this:
1 VEHICLE / 1 PERSON
1 VEHICLE / 2 PERSONS
1 VEHICLE / 3 PERSONS
1 VEHICLE / 4 PERSONS
The system automatically calculates the price according to your category of choice.
We launched our Wild Coast V6 Tour (May 2023) yesterday and already 6 of the 12 places available have been taken. If you want join this incredible adventure, here is the itinerary, pricing and booking link:
The Garden Route Tour is a brand new tour which we are running in September and showcases the best of Thomas Bain's work (including Prince Alfreds Pass, Bloukrans Pass, Grootrivier Pass and Robinson Pass) plus of course all the major passes like Outeniqua and Montagu passes. We have also included the Old Voortrekker Pass from Louvain in the north to Bergplaas in the south to add a small dollop of offroad driving into the mix. The five day tour criss-crosses the mountains from west to east from Mossel Bay to Storms River with many points of interest added in; photographic hotspots, forest walks, animal sanctuaries, great food and first class accommodation. We have 8 places available. Detailed itinerary, pricing and online booking on the link below:
In the middle of July we will be tackling the Swartberg using our unique routing that offers the very best of the beautiful and challenging Swartberg mountain range. The tour starts near Swellendam and includes 39 passes over the 4 days including the big ones - Swartberg Pass, Gamkaskloof/Die Hel, Meiringspoort, Seweweekspoort, Gysmanshoek and Rooiberg passes. This mid-winter tour is going to be special with a good chance of doing some snow driving.
Update: The Swartberg tour is now fully booked.
We have had a number of requests for novice 4x4 training which will only be available for people living in the Western Cape. Details to be published soon.
* Trips & Tours
* Wild Coast Overview
* How will the fuel price affect our tours?
* Wild Coast Tour 2023
* Wild Coast Tour V4 Days 1 & 2
* Pass of the week
* New passes added
Our next tour is the Swartberg Classic in July and we have had one cancellation. Online Bookings can be done via the link.
The Garden Route Tour is happening in spring from the 10th to 16th September. This is a new tour and offers fabulous scenery, history dating back to the 1700's, stories of hardship and triumph and some of Thomas Bain's best passes and very comfortable overnight stops in lovely lodges and hotels.
We are still finalising dates for the Seven Sisters Tour (another new tour of 2 days with some unforgettable experiences included) as well as the next Baviaanskloof and Bedrogfontein tours. Watch this space. The new Wild Coast 2023 V6 Tour will open for bookings next week.
Spending over 3 weeks along the Wild Coast during May puts one into a mental time lag. Where on earth do we start relating this epic adventure? It was an overwhelmingly successful tour with wonderful guests, exceptionally good weather (with only 3 days rain), no punctures, no mechanical breakdowns, a handful of fun recoveries and the welcoming locals of the Wild Coast ensured we were well taken care of.
We included a number of new points of interest on these two tours, which included a visit to the new Msikaba bridge construction site, the Msikaba vulture colony, Majola Tea Estates, kayaking on the Mpako River, Banyana Falls, and a new route to the Collywobbles.
Our journey from Cape Town and back covered about 3500 km and that brings me to the next point. The current fuel price hike of roughly R2.25 per litre inevitably results in a knee jerk reaction with people cancelling trips to faraway places, but let's put this into perspective.
Based on an average SUV consumption of 10 km per litre, about 350 litres of fuel will be used on this trip. That means an additional cost of R787 onto your fuel bill. If taken as a percentage of the overall cost of a Wild Coast Tour it works out at just 2.4%. That is the equivalent of 2 bottles of good wine (or 4 bottles of plonk) or one meal for 2 at an average restaurant. Relax your knees please!
I recall back in 1979 the fuel price increased by a whopping 42%. You should have seen that knee jerk reaction! We all survived it. We still went on holidays. We still travelled. This too shall pass. The Rand is currently undervalued. There are also other positive indicators that this will not be a fuel armageddon. Travel remains the best investment.
With each tour we complete, we sit down and review every aspect and determine what can be improved on. So even if you did a Wild Coast Tour a year ago, you will find the new tour quite different (and hopefully much better). We ask our tour guests for feedback and we pay attention to their suggestions and comments. That way we get valuable input from people who really know what they're talking about.
Our 2023 Wild Coast Tour will take place during May 2023. The reason we choose this month is that there is little rain; the scenery is still green from the summer rains; mild to warm days (24C to 27C) with little wind; it's out of season so accommodation is more freely available and prices are better. We will be setting the dates and loading the tour onto our shop page during the next week. Here is the provisional itinerary:
Day 0 - Meet & Greet at Resthaven in Matatiele
Day 1 - Matatiele to Mbotyi via Nungi, Colonanek, Tabankulu, Mzintlava and Lusikisiki.
Day 2 - Walk to Waterfall Bluff & Cathedral Rock. (Chill day at the lodge for the not so fit)
Day 3 - Drive to the new Msikaba Gorge Suspension Bridge and later to the Msikaba vulture viewing site.
Day 4 - Angel, Fraser and Magwa Falls, Mount Thesiger for some fun drag racing, overnight at Umngazi River Bungalows
Day 5 - Umngazi to Coffee Bay (a day of big gravel passes and amazing scenery
Day 6 - Mapuzi Caves, Little Hole in the Wall, Hole in Wall, White Clay Restaurant (legendary)
Day 7 - Coffee Bay to The Haven - another day of scintillating scenery and some challenging gravel passes
Day 8 - Cwebe Nature Reserve, Banyana Falls and Forest Walk, drive to Kob Inn via some more major passes.
Day 9 - Collywobbles vulture viewing via some secret back roads that will beguile and enchant (heart of the Wild Coast)
Day 10 - Kob Inn via Cats Pass to Centane and we cross the Kei River via the vehicle ferry to Morgan Bay where the tour ends.
That is 11 nights & 10 days of Wild Coast magic that will guarantee to leave you a renewed and more relaxed person.
Bookings open next week.
* History of Graaff- Reinet (Part 1)
* The Rebellion
* Stockenstrom - the game changer
* The Great Trek
* Pass of the week
Graaff-Reinet is the sixth oldest town in South Africa and had its origins as a far-flung frontier settlement at the very limits of the old Cape Colony. The first European inhabitants of the area were the trekboere, or nomadic farmers, who moved away from the restrictive rule of the Dutch East India Company at Cape Town in search of suitable grazing for their cattle and fat-tailed sheep. The first permits for establishing farms in the district were awarded in 1770, including the farms Uitkomst (Outcome), Vergenoegd (Far Enough) and Slegtgenoeg (Bad Enough).
These nomadic farmers first reached the plains of the Camdeboo and the Sneeuberge in the mid-eighteenth century and in answer to a dire need for a settlement to serve their needs Landdrost Mauritz Woeke was despatched to the area from Cape Town. He selected a beautiful site within the broad sweep of the Sundays River and the surrounding mountains in 1786, naming the new settlement Graaff-Reinet after the Dutch Governor Cornelis Jacob van de Graaff and his wife Reynet.
The trekboere had settled the surrounding countryside from the early 1770s and as was common in almost all parts of the Karoo they came into conflict with the indigenous San or Bushmen who had been resident in the area for countless centuries.
The hunter gatherer lifestyle of the San conflicted with the pastoral lifestyle of these early farmers and conflict was the inevitable result. As the San were increasingly deprived of their best hunting land they resorted to killing the farmer’s livestock in order to survive. A state of almost perpetual conflict between these early settlers and the San raged for almost 30-years with more than 3,000 San killed in the conflict. The few survivors from this unfortunate period either moved away into the vast northern spaces of the Great Karoo or were assimilated into the population of the Khoikhoi who worked for the new white settlers.
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.