* Weather, storms, rain and snow
* Trips & Tours Update
* True stories from the Karoo
* Podcast - Bloukrans Pass Part 2
* Pass of the week
* Positive motivational message
As I'm compiling this week's newsletter, the north-wester is gusting well over 30 knots with heavy rain squalls causing localised flooding in Cape Town. Snow has begun falling in the high mountains from Matroosberg to Sutherland and more snow is forecast for the Swartberg. It is after all winter and the rains are most welcome. Particularly the Eastern Cape is seriously in need of rain and reports coming in show the Vaal Dam has dropped to below the 50% level with the dry winter season still looming. The hectic weather makes a pleasant change of topic to all the conspiracy theories that continue to dominate the social media platforms.
Trips & Tours
We are anticipating that Level 3 will end towards the end of June and Level 1 should arrive towards the end of July. Our Wild Coast Tour arrangements are in full swing with packing lists and route maps having gone out today. We had a flurry of cancellations (mostly Covid 19 fears) and quickly resold two of the places, but we still have two tickets going begging. If you want to join us for 10 glorious days of Wild Coast exploration, there's still time to get on board.
This tour will include some amazing highlights, like a visit to the Mariazell Mission with its own hydro-electric plant; a traverse of the 39 km long Mzintlava Pass; two days at Mbotyi River Lodge; Magwa Falls; Waterfall Bluff; Eagles Nest at Port St Johns; Execution Rock; Hole in the Wall; Dwesa Nature Reserve; Kob Inn; Shipwrecks; The Collywobbles; Vulture viewing; Nonqwowase's Pools; a seafood fest at Trennerys; ferry over the Great Kei. Book online here WILD COAST TOUR
Our Ben 10 Eco Challenge V3 Tour has been rescheduled for mid September and we also have 2 tickets available. The Ben 10 Tour is more than just driving challenging mountain passes. We visit some of the most beautiful and rugged places imaginable in the highlands that will leave an indelible mark on your memory. Places where ice cold rivers tumble through rugged gorges and vertical waterfalls - where trout make their home to spawn. Villages like Rhodes and Barkly East. Old bridges dating back to the 1800's. Tall conifers standing guard over dramatic mountain slopes. Ask anyone who has done the Ben 10 and you will get an immediate thumbs up. Book online here: BEN 10 V3 TOUR
True Stories from the Karoo
1955 - Longdrop Legends.
We had a toilet like this in Cookhouse. It occupied the furthest corner of the yard. To take this time travel, readers need to fully understand the mechanics of the system. A pit is dug approximately 2m deep and 1,5m square. A shelter is erected over this pit. In our case it was made from corrugated iron. This was secured to the ground with “bloudraad” onto metal pegs - the purpose being that the wind could not blow it over.
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* Covid Rules and Regulations = Confusion
* Tour tickets availability
* Leisure Wheels Magazine - SA's Big Mama
* Podcast - Cookhouse 1953 / Bloukrans Pass
* Pass of the week
* Words of wisdom
LEVEL 3 OR LEVEL 0?
Each week that passes during lockdown unleashes plenty of drama and this week the North Gauteng High Court decision against the government's application of rules is the main talking point. So will we be skipping Level 2 at the end of June and going to Level 1 or will the machinations of government roll along in stall mode as is the norm? We await these developments with interest.
Planning for our two postponed tours is going full steam ahead and whilst there has been some hesitation and nervousness from some of those that have booked, the majority are very keen to get out there and start enjoying their lives again. Whilst we are taking every possible precaution with our tours, both from a compliancy and safety point of view, the reality is that on a self-drive tour you are already in self isolation for most of the day. The risk of catching the virus is far greater at your local shop or pharmacy.
BEN 10 ECO CHALLENGE V3 TOUR - We have two tickets available. Book online here.
Lockdown has allowed me the luxury of writing a book. These short anecdotal chapters have been released on my personal Facebook page and drawn so many favourable comments, that I have decided to reproduce them in this newsletter. It's a type of autobiography but generally written in a light hearted vein. The first chapter is featured below.
Cookhouse is a small village in the Eastern Cape. My father was transferred there by the government in about 1950 to run the PRD (Provincial Roads Department).
The reality is that Cookhouse was nothing more than the combined prefab houses of the railway workers and the PRD employees; each group being separated by the main railway line. A sort of class separation if you like, with each group believing they were superior to the other. And we didn't mix either. On the outskirts was the township inhabited by the Xhosa locals. All townships in those days were called locations. I still haven’t figured out why. It's even become a part of black language vocabulary and is spelled as "lokshin"
My dad had a Xhosa man who worked in his office, named Frank. He cleaned the office and yard, made the tea and ran errands for the admin office. I still remember him in vivid detail. Frank was one of the kindest humans I have ever met. He was tall and lean with a gentle smile that gave away the wisdom that belied the mundane nature of his employment.
I was 4 years old and Frank used to collect me (the little blonde haired white boy) from our home and put me on the cross bar of his size 28 bicycle and off we would go to his khaya in the 'lokshin' for his lunch break. Frank would gather his family to break bread. I was included in the entire process. Mostly the meals would be ‘pap’ or uhngqusho - a mix of samp and beans. I loved the daily adventure of experiencing an adventure out of town and being accepted without reservation by his family. It seemed like such a long ride and my backside always got sore sitting on the crossbar.
It didn’t take long and I wanted to learn to ride Frank’s bike. I was far too small to ride the bike, so I tried riding it under the cross bar. Needless to say I fell many times arriving home with grazed hands and knees. Frank was incredibly proud of his bicycle and cleaned it daily. When I think back now how he must have winced as each fall I took from that bike, which added scratches at a rapid rate to the shiny black paintwork, I now can understand the intelligent and dignified man that took the time to help raise me (albeit for only two years).
I finally mastered that big bicycle thanks to Frank’s infinite patience.
"Frank - I never got to thank you. Hamba Gahle madala - 65 years later, but never too late."
1954 - The Great Lucky Packet Heist
I had started school that year. As was the way parenting dovetailed with tough economic times, school uniforms were purchased a few sizes too big, so that we could “grow into them”
My father gave me a 10 shilling note which I was to hand in to my school teacher on the first day of the school year, which amount was school fees for the year. [Read more lower down]
* Wild Weather
* Going down....Level 3
* Tapping into the lockdown positives
* A personal short story
* Pass of the Week
* Words of wisdom
WINTER HAS ARRIVED
The first big winter storm has arrived, brnging with it gale force winds, 9m waves along the coast and heavy rain in many parts of the country. Good snowfalls have been recorded right across all the high lying areas with Afriski in Lesotho embracing the snow with open arms, which is an excellent precursor to the lowering of travel bans in time for the main snow season.
EXITING LOCKDOWN ETIQUETTE
Undoubtedly the biggest news this week is the reduction of lockdown rules to Level 3. On Monday 1st June, a great deal of normality will begin the turning point and the exit from this long and surreal period in all of our lives. Our planning with respect to our postponed tours has proven to be sensible, as by the time August arrives the nation should be on Level 1 or zero.
The incessant bombardment of information surrounding the pandemic has brought a number of funny and some more serious moments. This post on Facebook this week, caught our eye:
"Businesses are now starting to open in the first phase as per the government's plan. If you go to commercial premises and see a few mistakes, don't start recording video or taking photos to later upload onto social media.
Please speak to the owner. Be kind. We all have to help each other.
This is new for everyone and business owners will be trying their best to make things safe and get their business up and running again.
Let's help each other through this transition"
Or it could be simplified into a few impactful short words : "Don't be a snitch!"
Just a reminder of one of our new services on offer:
NEW TOURS FOR GAUTENG, LIMPOPO, NORTH WEST AND MPUMALANGA
We are busy negoatiating with a new joint venture tour operator to run our unique MPSA tours in the northern sector of South Africa. All things being equal and if negotiations are successful, the first of the new northern tours should be ready towards September. Most of these tours will be for non 4WD vehicles, so we look forward to catering for that sector of the market.
ARE YOU READY TO ESCAPE?
One ticket has become available for our Ben 10 Tour in September. BOOK HERE.
We also have 1 ticket that has become available for the Wild Coast Tour. BOOK HERE
Perhaps the best thing about lockdown is the reconnecting of old friends. Somehow lockdown made us all realIse that money is not the most important thing in life. There has been a universal reaching out amongst people of all walks of life. I personally had many such calls from as far afield as America and New Zealand. One of the friends I had last spoken to almost 50 years ago. It's a thing of beauty to reconnect like that. [Read more]
* Pass of the week
* Words of wisdom
UNLOCKING OUR LIVES
The time has come to start living a normal life again. Around the world and in South Africa, the tedious process of unlocking has commenced. Now the question is, when will we reach Level 1? From our point of view, it is time to start planning the rest of our collective lives. It is unwise to live life too prophylactically and this can lead to mental illness (Joking, of course!) The message is PLAN A TRIP - with or without us.
We have made good use of the past 8 weeks and expanded our commercial offerings considerably and come up with at least one brilliant idea, which would probably not have happened without the time and space that lockdown provided. We are planning ahead with a positive attitude and our tours are back on track in the best possible way.
Speaking of tours, we had a cancellation for our Wild Coast Tour. We put that ticket on our Facebook page two days ago and it was snapped up within 20 minutes. That's a very healthy sign. We have similarly also had a cancellation for our Ben 10 Tour in September and will be advertising that spot after you have read this newsletter. In other words our subscribers can have first option on taking the available ticket.
If you're interested get all the details here:
INFLUENCERS - Dr Graham Ross
In today's newsletter we pay homage to the late Dr. Graham Ross, who has had a considerable influence on the style and content of the MPSA website and with particular attention paid to road engineering. In 2012 shortly after having launched the MPSA website, I received an email from Dr Ross. In keeping with an engineer's economy of words and astute mind, the introductory sentence was kind, but brief.
The second paragraph was what it was all about. He wrote:
"If you're going to complete a project of this magnitude, you need as much help as you can get. There are several inconsistencies in your use of engineering terms, which I would like to correct, if you would allow me"
He went on to explain that camber was different to side slope, and super elevation was the same as cross flow. And so on.
I chose to accept the criticisms in a welcoming manner and who better to have on my side than a seriously qualified roads engineer? A long series of emails followed, with me cross referencing much of my research with Graham. At that stage he insisted I dispense with titles. He would answer each email meticulously, quoting references, page numbers from his thesis and some very technical information which I didn't fully understand then - and still don't now.
It did give MPSA a whole lot of credibility in those early years and Graham's guidance and suggestions are evident in many parts of our website, which we continue to emulate to this day. I then decided to meet with him in person at his home in Somerset West. There I met the kindest, respectful and thoughtful person, where I was presented with a signed copy of his book 'Romance of Cape Mountain Passes'
I remember making reference to his book in one of our newsletters and soon received an email from him which read: "Thank you for mentioning my book in your news letter last week. I don't mean to be pedantic, nor ungrateful for the free advertisement, but the title is not 'Romance of the Cape Mountain Passes' . It is 'Romance of Cape Mountain Passes'
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* Quick catch up on latest media and social media trends
* New product successful in first week - MPSA VOX
* Another new services offering from MPSA - DIGITAL MARKETING
* A step closer to our first virtual tour app. - VOICE MAP
* Podcast - Burchell's Oxwagon Route
* Pass of the week
* Words of Wisdom
Happenings on the net
It's been another week of conspiracy theories and conflicting ideology with many people who I regard as being level headed, suddenly having become polarised into various groups wanting to burn their masks on the beaches and streets. There are clear signs that South Africans are fed-up and want their lives and liberties restored. The power of social media is such that government must be taking cognizance of the general mood.
Last night's announcement of Level 3 to kick in at the end of May has not been met with much enthusiasm. It would seem that the majority of South Africans want lockdown to end completely and immediately Today the car dealers have finally been given permission to reopen their doors for business. I'm afraid that many of them will not survive the lockdown financially due to cash-flow issues.
It's been a weird time for all of us, No science fiction movie could beat what we are currently living through. It's the material one would expect the likes of Stephen King to be writing.
On the home front
Our MPSA Vox service was born from this lockdown exercise. In the first week we received 26 videos for narration. Half of those are already done and back with their originators. We had no idea the concept would be so successful. Remember we can do any video or business presentation in English or Afrikaans. The English option is also available in a female voice. Go to our shop page on the link below (Professional Services) for more information:
We are full of ideas and are happy to introduce another online service - MPSA Digital Marketing.
We've been doing social media intensively for the past 7 years, having built up a very successful social media presence (27,000 followers) and are in a position to help you build a business brand, group or personal page.
The service includes brand building, Facebook business, Instagram, blogging, vlogging and other digital marketing techniques.
Lisa Roberts is a UCT graduate and experienced social media expert who will be heading up this arm of MPSA's professional services. Details of the service and how it all works will be added to our shop page in the next week. Watch this space.
VOICE MAP - We mentioned this new concept in last week's newsletter. We are busy adding the finishing touches to our first virtual tour guide, which will be on sale soon on our shop page and elsewhere. We have spent 80 man-hours (and that number will easily top 100 hours by the time we're finished) on this first effort to make sure it is the very best available.
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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.