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Mountain Passes News

WHAT'S INSIDE?

* Spring flowers look promising
* Baviaanskloof - The story continues
* South African history - the 1st Anglo-Boer War.
* Podcast - how to prepare for your next gravel travel adventure
* Pass of the week 
* Words of wisdom


It's been an excellent winter for the Western Cape with drenching rain falling for many weeks. The wheat and canola fields are a blaze of green and yellow; the dams are full and the rivers are flowing strongly. The region's biggest dam, Theewaterskloof, is currently at 71% and water continues to flow strongly in the catchment area. The big question is, should water restrictions be relaxed or remain?

Springtime is arguably the best season to travel and destinations like the Namaqualand National Park beckon. Our fully booked spring tour into the Cederberg area will include a visit to the Biedouw Valley - a well-known area to see the wild-flowers. We will bring a full report on the tour towards the end of August. [More lower down]

What's inside:


* Tours update

* Bain Tour story - Chapter 6

* South African History - Anglo Zulu War

* Podcast - Social media impact and a chat about Jagersfontein

* Pass of the week

* Words of wisdom


Tours Update
August 17/18th - Back of Beyond Limpopo Tour - 1 place open. Bookings close on Friday 9th.
August 23 - 25th - Cederberg Classic Tour - Fully booked.

September 21st to 24th - Ben 10 Eco Challenge V2 Tour - 4 places open.
September 27th to 29th - Lesotho Sani Tour - Fully booked.

 

Baviaanskloof - Smitskraal to Rooihoek

The water crossing at Smitskraal has seen the undoing of many a driver and rider. It is long and the underwater surface consists of thousands of loose fist sized stones. Most of the time the current is not swift, but bikers in great numbers have taken an unscheduled swim at this spot. One of our guests, Zena Becker, has a fear of deep water and built up a certain level of angst about this crossing. We have a habit of giving our guests nick-names and as soon as her fear of deep water became apparent, we dubbed her Zenaphobia. Once through that crossing she was all smiles and brimming with confidence!

The entire convoy waltzed through Smitskraal and no one had a bigger smile than Zena. This low altitude part of the Baviaanskloof offers fascinating geology and flora. A short while after Smitskraal, the next campsite (called Rooihoek) makes an appearance. There are toilet facilities and lovely campsites, but booking is essential. We stopped here for an early lunch break, before moving onto the next pass which is the Langkop Pass. [More lower down]

 

Inside:
* Tours update
* Bain Tour story - Chapter 5
* South African History - Discovery of gold
* Podcast - Golden Gate Part 2
* Pass of the week
* Words of wisdom


Tours Update

Back of Beyond Limpopo Tour (17/18 Aug) - 2 places left

Cederberg Classic Tour - (23/24/25 Aug) - Sold out. Bookings closed

Ben 10 Eco Challenge V2 Tour (21/22/23/24 Sep) - 4 places left.

Lesotho - Sani Tour (27/28/29 Sep) - 1 place left


Thomas Bain Heritage Tour (Zandvlakte to Rooihoek)

After a particularly humorous drivers meeting on the lawns at Zandvlakte, we got going by 09h30 and bade farewell to our hosts Piet and Magriet Kruger. If you want to enjoy old-school farm style hospitality, then book in at Zandvlakte. Their food was superb and a great evening was enjoyed by the group the previous night. It had rained steadily throughout the night and some of the more conservative ladies were already asking questions about water levels in the kloof - the level of concern being commensurate with the voice pitch.

The distance from the farm to the western entrance control gate of the bioreserve is just a few kilometres. The poor Parks Board official manning the gate really had his hands full. He was a relief person and it was his first day. The 'kerkbasaar' traffic heading back to Patensie arrived behind our convoy, causing a traffic tailback of about 25 vehicles. The one driver who reached the gate ahead of our convoy was already into the 12th minute of trying to get his payment done and his permit issued, when I figured those at the back of the convoy would be there for at least an hour.

I persuaded the almost frantic guard to allow me to help him and I wrote out a single permit for our entire convoy and ensured that he received a handsome bonus for being sensible. The gratitude shone through his eyes! The kerkbasaar group behind us did a copy/paste and in short order all 20 vehicles were on their way. We pulled over and allowed the hungover and hasty young bulletjies to be on their way. [More lower down]

Newsletter In a nutshell

* Bain Tour continued
* SA History Part 12
* Podcast
* Feature on the Golden Gate Highlands National Park
* New passes added
* Words of wisdom


Very cold weather weather has continued over most of South Africa and in the Western Cape the last frontal storm has boosted dam levels to a four year high, with Theewaterskloof - the bigggest storage dam in the area - currently sporting a level of 60% with the City of Cape Town's average level of all the dams currently at 69.6%. This is wonderful news for the province which has laboured heavily under a long and devastating drought. It also augers well for a good wild-flower display this spring,

Thomas Bain Heritage Tour ~ The saga continues...

The weather on Saturday morning in Uniondale was rainy, cold and blustery, necessitating a Plan B for our drivers briefing, which was to get everyone into their vehicles and the briefing was done over the two way radios. This was the day the frontal system was supposed to clobber us, but as the day progressed it became increasingly pleasant, much to everyone's surprise.

We took a quick drive up the tarred Uniondale Heights Pass, then left the tar a few kilometres later as we cut across the Karoo highlands to intersect with the R332 near the summit of the Nuwekloof Pass. The rain that had fallen overnight gave us the benefit of a dust free drive as we made good progress into the east.

The Nuwekloof Pass was designed by Thomas Bain and it's an odd pass being a mixture between a pass and a poort, rather than a true mountain pass, but after a series of long sweeping bends, suddenly a hairpin bend makes an appearance and it is here that a sign proclaims the spot to be Raaskrans (Noisy Cliff). A towering near vertical cliff of some 80m in height forces the road (and the river) to the north-east and although awkward to stop, the spot is really a place where you need to get out of your vehicle and take in the spectacular geology. The hairpin is concreted and although the gradient is fairly gentle it soon becomes apparent that the concrete serves as the bed of the river for a distance of about 100m. It was bone dry during our traverse, but this must be a particularly nasty section in a flash-flood. The rest of the descent sees the road criss-crossing the river multiples of times as the road winds down the ravine and finally the poort opens up onto the upper plains of the western Baviaanskloof, which we had the good fortune of viewing under the arch of a massive rainbow.

What's inside???

* Upcoming trips & tours

* Thomas Bain Heritage Tour feedback.

* SA History - Nongqawuse: The Dead Will Arise

* Pass of the Week - The Road to Hell

* New passes added this week

* Words of wisdom


Trips & Tours (Click for more info and online bookings)

17, 18 August - Back of Beyond Limpopo Tour

23, 24, 25 August - Cederberg Classic Tour

21, 22, 23, 24 September - Ben 10 V2 Tour

27, 28, 29 September - Lesotho-Sani Tour


Report back: Thomas Bain Heritage Tour - Day 1

The Langkloof section of Prince Alfred's Pass is our favourite part, as it is here that the road narrows significantly and the engineering feats of Mr. Bain still stand proudly 140 years on. Waterfalls and narrow bridges, ferns and forests all passed by as our convoy laboured up the final stretch towards the summit, past the bend known as Tiekielief Draai. The story goes that the convicts who had served their time in the prison works programme, then received their "ticket of leave". The prisoners struggled with the English, and the phrase morphed into "Tiekielief". It was on that part of the construction of the pass, that several of the prisoners received their freedom.

Once over the summit of Prince Alfred's Pass, we drove past Avontuur and took the new direct road via the Uniondale Poort to arrive at our overnight venue in Uniondale. The town was once the centre of the wagon manufacturing industry, but with the advent of the motor car, the area turned to farming and tourism as a new source of income. Part of the tourism package is the famous Uniondale ghost. A story so vivid in the retelling that it continues to draw visitors to the town in a regular stream. According to the locals, Good Friday is the right night to lurk on the lonely moonless roads. [More lower down...]

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Mountain Passes South Africa

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.
 

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