* Floods in many parts of South Africa
* Easter - stay calm.
* Ben 10 Day 4
* Pass of the week
An incredible volume of rain drenched parts of South Africa from Gauteng all the way down to KZN and the Wild Coast. We don't have all the accurate figures yet, but the cut-off low generated huge damage to infrastructure, business and private property. Amongst the worst hit was Toyota's plant in Durban. The cost in lost revenue is incalculable. Mop up operations are underway at the time of this newsletter being written.
Our sympathies go out to all who have lost loved ones. As if KZN has not endured enough drama in the past 12 months!
Wishing all of our subscribers and followers (now totalling 98,500) a safe and relaxing Easter weekend.
Each year the carnage on the roads over the Easter weekend continues unabated with seemingly no real solutions at hand. We can only offer some sage advice:
1. Try and drive along secondary roads, which carry less traffic and a lower speed limit.
2. Rest if you feel tired
3. Stop every two hours for a leg stretch and some refreshment
4. Avoid driving at night.
5. Avoid rushing to your destination.
Bookings for the Wild Coast Tour (V4) Pondoland will be closing on the 20th April.
Booking for the Wild Coast Tour (V5) Mbashe will be closing on the 30th April.
Our Wild Coast Tours are legendary. Join us for 9 days of scenic overload, technical driving, fun, camaraderie and adventure as we take you safely through one of the most stunning parts of South Africa, where you will discover the true heart of the Xhosa people through stories, folklore and interaction.
The rain continued with the now familiar pattern of being partly cloudy in the morning, with the rain settling in around noon each day. Our route took us from the Mountain Shadows Hotel along the R56 to Barkly East and then a gravel road down to the Kraai River at Loch Bridge. The river was running strongly as we spent some time discussing the history of the Loch Bridge and the 7th and 8th rail reverses a little further up the Tierkrans Pass.
This beautiful pass is cut into the side of a mountain, and angles down from a high plateau in the New England area to terminate at the historic Loch Bridge over the Kraai River. This part of the world is famous for its wonderful scenery, and in this case the pass also offers up spectacular views of the reverses and the rail bridge belonging to the now-defunct railway that was built through this gorge.
* Fuel price and its recent history
* Wild Coast on the horizon
* Ben 10 Day 3 revisited
* Pass of the week
In my lifetime I have seen many fuel price hikes. The most alarming one occurred in 1980 when the fuel price suddenly rose by 42%. I can remember the day very well. I was working for a General Motors dealership at the time. On the showroom floor (amongst other GM products) we had 12 beautiful Chev Constantias (V8) - the GM flagship product at the time. In the timespan of 30 days they all became worthless. The knee-jerk reaction from the private and business sector was extraordinary. Our major clients like Mobil (Engen) cancelled new car orders with an urgency that is hard to imagine. MD's of large companies handed in their BMW's and Mercs and ordered Mazda 323's and Citi Golfs by the thousands. It was the most alarming business cycle I had seen in my first 30 years on the planet.
But like all things - "This too shall pass"
No fuel price increase ever reached the levels of overreaction than that first one. Nowadays we have come to accept fuel price increases as a fact of life. The latest one (significantly softened by the R1.50 per litre rebate) means we can still go on holiday, go on tours and generally enjoy ourselves. Time will tell what happens regarding the Ukranian invasion, but the world economy will find alternate means of fuel supplies. It's how the bigger picture works. Don't panic. Don't over-react. Travel is still the best investment.
Our V4 and V5 Wild Coast Tours start on the 6th May and 16th May respectively. There is still space on the V5 Mbashe Tour so if you're in the mood for some adventure in an unspoilt part of South Africa, travelling in the safety of a group, you can book online here: WILD COAST V5 MBASHE TOUR. Bookings will be closing on April 15th.
Once we had turned off the R56 onto the R392, it was back onto gravel, or rather mud. The route south would become increasingly muddy as we headed in the direction of Dordrecht. The Kraai River lured us once more time down its steep sided gorge to cross via a fairly new concrete bridge.
A few kilometres later we reached the bustling metropolis of Clanville, which consists of one set of farm buildings, followed by two old ruins on the right. There is an intersection here where the left hand option traces a short cut through the mountains with some excellent scenery delivering one to the R396. This road was as muddy as a farm road can get. Things were going along nicely with no punctures for the day at that stage.
Once we connected with the R396, we turned left again to ascend the Perdenek Pass (not one of the challenge passes) to arrive at Clifford. Similar to Clanville, Clifford is essentially just a farm, where locals get together from time to time for social events like shooting, archery, melktert and moerkoffie.
* State of Disaster
* Tours updates
* Ben 10 Eco Challenge (Day 2 & 3)
* Dawid se Kop
* The Castle Vulture Colony
* Jouberts Pass
* Railway History
* Pass of the week
* New videos and passes added
There are some odd things going on in government circles where the decision is all but fait accompli to end the State of Disaster (an appropriate play on words) on April 15th, but they are also tampering with the National Health Act to change it so that the government will still retain the ability and powers of controlling the population with the same powers as per the state of disaster. So the change is merely smoke and mirrors. More importantly is that discrimination of unvaccinated people should also come to an end and for the economy to return to normality as soon as possible. Covid-19 has dealt a heavy blow to thousands of businesses and seriously affected the economy.
Tourism and hospitality were first in line victims of Covid and now that the pandemic is virtually over, the sector can now finally get back into gear and start rebuilding.
Tickets are still available for upcoming tours. Details available here:
We had a heavy rain forecast for the day, so we moved the rest day into place and allowed our guests to sleep in a little later. At breakfast time I noticed that the cloud cover was higher than the Sentech towers on Dawid se Kop (2500m) and thought it was worth the risk of driving up there, before the rain settled in for the day. Despite it being the rest day we had an almost full turnout for the excursion, with the notable absentee being Marco who had the very legitimate excuse of having a new set of tyres fitted at Supa Quick in Elliot. It's worth mentioning the owner of Supa Quick was ready, willing and able to open his shop for Marco on a Sunday. Give that man a Bells and please support his business.
We left Mountain Shadows Hotel at 09.30 and drove the little known Fetcani Pass on the R396 towards Mosheshes Ford. After about 8 km we arrived at the turn-off to Sarel Vorster's lovely farm. We signed the register at the farm (we had made prior arrangements for the visit) and soon got into the swing of opening and closing farm gates, making sure no livestock escaped into the adjacent fields.
Soon we arrived at the foot of one of the steepest roads in the area. It doesn't have a name other than the service road to the Sentech Towers at Dawid se Kop. The steepest parts are concreted or strip concreted where the gradients get extremely steep, to the point that 2nd gear low range is required to make it up the last bits where it gets as steep as 1:3. The traction is however very good, but even so, drivers have to keep their wits about them as the road is narrow.
* Out & About
* Trips & Tours
* Ben 10 V5 Tour - Day 1
* Pass of the week
Covid is on its way out. Travel restrictions have been lifted and this will create a surge in bookings - especially by international travellers. The travel and tourism sector of the economy is amongst those the most badly affected by the pandemic. For many the easing of restrictions has come too late and for those remaining, we hope there is now finally some light at the end of the tunnel. It has without doubt changed the way South Africans are thinking about travel as can be attested by the high levels of bookings on MPSA tours, which precluded PCR tests and other similar off-putting requirements. We are just waiting for Lesotho to come to the party to drop those requirements as well, when a new tour to Lesotho by MPSA will be on the cards.
Beautiful Western Cape autumn weather coupled with a long weekend presented a few opportunities to get out and explore. We decided to upgrade our video footage on the Du Toitskloof Pass (N1), so set aside Saturday 19th March for the task. Most people have no idea how tricky it is filming a major mountain pass. Du Toitskloof Pass is specifically difficult due to the fact that it runs along the east-west axis. Then there is the big lighting adaptation as the tunnel is entered and exited, coupled with heavy traffic. We have filmed this pass no less than six times, seldom achieving a stellar result. The current version is quite good, other than the remnants of a bug on the camera lens, which created a soft orange blur on the video. There is only a small time frame where the lighting is OK for the whole pass and that is from 11h45 to 12h15. Any time out of that slot, creates heavy shadows or over exposure.
There is a road leading away up the mountainside near the summit of the old Du Toitskloof Pass, barred by a sturdy locked gate. I have always wondered about that road. Since I was going to film the Du Toitskloof Pass, I decided to follow up on a long standing offer of a friend, Kuba Miszewski (yes he is Polish), to organise access for the day. I picked Kuba up mid morning from his cottage in the mountains on the slopes of the Hawequa Mountains in Wellington. Kuba does voluntary work for Mountain Rescue and is intimately familiar with the terrain. He took me up a dodgy jeep track through pine plantations, to join the R101 at the old pass' summit point. Various snippets of valuable information was pointed out by Kuba - like the old manganese mine and some of the original pylon bases for the aerial cableway - as we headed east to Rawsonville to our turnaround point to film the N1 Du Toitskloof Pass from east to west. We started filming exactly at 11h45.
After filming the pass (which went very well), we returned to the summit point via the R101 filming panoramics of the Hugospoort Viaduct as well as the tunnel entrance point. We turned off the R101 and accessed the narrow tarred road via the locked gates. Looking at the tamper-proof system on those gates, I reckon it will take a Houdini of sorts to work their way opening all those catches and locks, coupled with electronic access codes via Cape Nature.
* Trips & Tours
* Ben 10 Eco Challenge report back
* Pass of the week
It is with great sadness that we mourn the passing of one of our guests, who had a vehicle accident on the N1 on his way home after the Ben 10 V5 Tour. Peter Pienaar was a passenger with his friend, Bob Selman. For both of them the tour was an off-road adventure of note. They were both funny and full of beans throughout the tour and enjoyed themselves immensely. After the tour, their plan was to drive from Rhodes to Beaufort West for a sleepover, then arrive home in Cape Town the following day. On arrival in Beaufort West they were unable to find accommodation, so they decided to push straight through to Cape Town. Peter sent his wife an SMS to that effect.
They took turns driving and at 01.30 near Touws River, Peter fell asleep behind the wheel. The vehicle left the road and crashed into a donga. Bob (85) was badly injured with broken ribs, sternum and collar bone, internal injuries and injuries to his hands. Peter was shaken but OK. In the pitch darkness he scrambled up the embankment to wave down a passing truck for help. The driver didn't see him and Peter was killed instantly. We extend our condolences to Peter's wife, Joan, and his extended family and friends. May he rest in peace.
Bob was taken to the Medi Clinic in Worcester where he remains at the time of writing. We wish him a speedy recovery.
I invited Peter to drive up front with me in the Land Cruiser during the TTT as there were many gates to open. He gladly took up the offer and I spent a wonderful two and a half hours getting to know Peter. He knew his wife, Joan, for 54 years. Peter shared some funny and personal moments of his life with me. The hurt still lies deep to think that was the last I would ever see of him.
We've had two cancellations for each of the Wild Coast Tours. Bring a friend and come and enjoy a fabulous Wild Coast adventure.
Next Tour is in May (4th to 15th) - Wild Coast Pondoland Tour (2 places available)
16th to 24th May - Wild Coast Mbashe Tour (2 places available)
10th to 15th July - Swartberg Classic Tour (1 place available)
Our 5th Ben 10 Challenge was simply epic. If you wanted adventure, stunning scenery, technical driving and no dust, then this was the tour to be on. We had rain on every day of the tour, which kept the mud factor high and everyone on their toes. It also completely eliminated the dust factor. Six punctures, multiple recoveries, deep water crossings and lots of road building kept everyone busy in a good sort of way.
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.