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Mountain Passes News

The week that was...

* Klein Karoo road trip

* Namaqualand - Part 2

* Messelpad Pass

* Springbok

* Goegap Nature Reserve

* Pass of the week


Klein Karoo (Road Trip Part 1)

With Covid lockdown restrictions putting a spoke in the proverbial wheel of our Bedrogfontein tour scheduled for last weekend, we decided to make use of the booked out time and do a quick road trip to refurbish some outlying MPSA summit signs and scout a few new passes to add to our database.

The weather played ball as we had three perfect days with clear, sunny weather making the sign repair work less like hot work and the crisp winter air allowed for excellent video and photographic results. We routed from Cape Town via Worcester (and some beautiful waterfalls tumbling down the mountains in the Du Toitskloof Pass) to Robertson, where we took the back road to Bonnievale crossing a swollen Breede River at Rooibrug (Red Bridge) and on to the Stormsvlei Pass, where the deluge of two months ago has caused lots of damage to the road. There are six sections where deep washaways have collapsed the tar. Temporary self-policed stop-go's allow single lane traffic to pass through each section; each of which is only about 50m in length. It's going to be a while before all the repairs are completed.

After a short section along the N2 to Riversdale, we headed north over Garcia's Pass to film a short gravel pass on the Barrydale-Riversdale road called Kliphoogte. From there we headed north to Ladismith and filmed the Naaukloof on the R62 which ends just before the western approach into Ladismith. 

Next up was the Huisrivier Pass MPSA sign board, which needed quite a lot of work. Some careless souls used the sign to put a target on with double sided tape (the remnants which required lots of elbow grease to remove), but the sign has been peppered with BB gun damage to the tune of about 40 dents, rendering this sign to the sin-bin and the shooter's big brother unholstered what looks like six shots from a 9mm which have penetrated the sheet metal and left permanent holes. The best we can do is put an oversized patch of 3M brown vinyl over them, which should last upwards of 5 years. We are getting used to this level of wanton vandalism and it no longer is an emotional issue. We just get on with the job and do the best we can with the budget, tools and equipment at hand.

From the Huisrivier Pass we drove to nearby Calitzdorp to refuel the Jimny and then headed over the Rooiberg Pass to refurbish the sign there, finally arriving at our overnight stop (the fabulous gem of the Little Karoo) - the Rooiberg Lodge, where we had our first class dinner served in our thatched chalet in order to comply with Covid regulations. As the sun sets the temperature plummets, but thanks to a decent stack of dry firewood and an indoor fireplace, we could spend the evening at peace with the world (no mobile reception, no sirens, no loud exhausts, no loud music - just the steady chirp of a few goggas).

We will continue with this trip report next week.


Namaqualand Series (Part 2)

We continue with our exploration of Namaqualand as we head into the northern parts. This series is to enlighten prospective visitors to the area. Springtime is without question the best time to visit. We complete our visit to the Namaqua National Park by exiting the area via two really impressive and historically important passes, namely the Wildeperdehoek and Messelpad passes. These two passes are historically bound like twins and were constructed under the supervision of Patrick Fletcher - a very capable roads engineer who seldom gets much recognition.

Wildeperdehoek Pass

The rough gravel surfaced Wildeperdehoek Pass forms part of the Caracal Eco Route in the Namaqua National Park, with the the grassy flats of Namaqualand lying to the west and glimpses of the coast beyond. The 4,8 km pass is around 120 years old and has reasonable average gradients of 1:20

('Wildeperdehoek' roughly translates as 'wild horses corner'.) This pass is not suitable for vehicles lacking ground clearance. The pass was originally named Wildepaardehoek in the old Dutch style, but is today more commonly referred to in the Afrikaans version. This pass should be viewed in tandem with the Messelpad Pass . Some locals also refer to this pass as the Bandietpas, which translates into Convict's Pass which points to the labour used in the pass's construction.

[Read more ...]

 

The week that was...

* Bedrogfontein Tour postponed

* Garies

* Hondeklipbaai

* Namaqua National Park

* Wild Coast Tour 2021 - Day 9 / Final

* RIP Ed Johnson

* Pass of the week

* New passes

 

Bedrogfontein Tour on hold

We had no choice but to postpone this tour to remain compliant with Covid regulations. We will make an announcement in 2 week's time after Mr. Ramaphosa advises whether restrictions will be eased, remain the same or increase. We have set aside two possible future dates for this tour as follows: July 24th to 27th or August 21st to 24th. At the time of publishing this newsletter there is still one place open. Book online here: BEDROGFONTEIN ONLINE BOOKINGS


SPECIAL FEATURE ON NAMAQUALAND

As drenching rains soak the Western and Northern Cape, it brings with it the promise of magnificent wild flowers in August and September. Now is the time to start planning your trip. Today we will be exploring Namaqualand and featuring some it’s best sites worth visiting.

The first town one reaches from the south is Garies. Current population is approximately 1500. The Letterklip provincial heritage site is situated just west of town. The unique rock formation was fortified by dry stone walling; it was occupied from 1901 to 1902 by British forces during the Anglo-Boer War. Various regimental badges and officers' names are engraved in the rockface. There is a hotel and guest house in the village offering clean and comfortable accommodation at reasonable prices.
 
Garies

Garies started as a religious centre when a Dutch Reformed Church was established on the farm Goedeverwagting in 1845. It was initially named after the farm. Just before the formation of the Union of South Africa, Prime Minister John X Merriman (1908–1910), approved the name change to its present name, Garies (or Th’aries), which is a Khoisan for the grass growing along dry river beds in the area. In the Khoekhoen language/gari-s means 'couch-grass'. 

[Read more...]

The week that was....

* Trips and Tours

* Delays on Bain's Kloof Pass

* Wild Coast Tour Day 8

* Collywobbles and Mbashe Bam

* Pass of the Week


Trips & Tours

The next tour coming up is the Bedrogfontein Tour from July 3rd to 6th. A three day expedition over some of the most spectacular and tricky gravel passes in the Addo area, including the Zuurberg Pass, Doringnek Pass, Paardepoort and the Bedrogfontein Pass and 4x4 route where Oom Jannie Smuts gave the British a good lesson in bush warfare during the Battle of Bedrogfontein. There is still one spot open. Bookings close this Friday.

The next Wild Coast Tour (Nov 10th to 20th) is fully booked.

We are holding back on tours scheduled for August until we know which way the Covid 3 land lies.


Bain's Kloof Pass

The contractor (Baseline) doing the upgrading work on the historical Bain's Kloof Pass, have hit a number of snags, which will result in the previous reopening date of November 2021, being rescheduled to March 2022. During the Christmas break, the pass will be opened to the general public from Dec 17th 2021 to Jan 5th 2022. So if you've been missing a drive over the old pass, head out that way over the Christmas holidays. In the meantime, you can always take a cyber drive of the pass here:
Bain's Kloof Pass.


Wild Coast May 2021 - the adventure continues....

Our second last day of the tour dawned calm and sunny making for perfect conditions for vulture spotting. A visit to the vulture colony at Cobbywobbles is always a very popular part of the itinerary, but it can be a long day, so we requested an earlier start and had the convoy on the road by 08h30.

Before long we were in Willowvale where some of the vehicles needed to refuel. Our routing followed the R349 down the Shixini River Valley. This has always been a typical Transkei minor road of little economic importance, but some major roadworks are currently underway rebuilding this road into what looks like, will be a major tarred road. But why - and where does it go to? Careful studies of the maps show no possible reason for such a major expense. However, it will most certainly make the journey from Willowvale to Collywobbles a lot faster than it currently is.

The going was slow negotiating all the stop-go's and detours around the new roadworks as we saw some impressive new bridges under construction. Our route headed NNE as we dropped down into the beautiful Nqabara River Valley, before climbing up some very steep hills with incredible views, as we steadily made progress towards Collywobbles.

 [Read more]

The week that was

* Load shedding affects everyone

* Upcoming Tours

* Road sign refurbishment project

* Wild Coast Stories

* Pass of the Week


Load Shedding

It affects all of us and some more than others. Getting newsletters out on time is a frustrating business as they are mailed out in batches of 300 separated by a 10 minute gap. This is to avoid the newsletters being marked as spam by some servers. Often the power will unexpectedly go out smack bang in the middle of a release, causing havoc with our systems. So if you find your newsletter arriving in your inbox at odd times, that's the reason. Thank you Eskom.


Upcoming Tours

At the time of writing this newsletter, there are still some places open. There is just 1 ticket available for the Wild Coast Tour and 2 tickets for the Bedrogfontein Tour. Bookings for the Bedrogfontein Tour close this Sunday. If you want to book, the full itineraries, costs, etc are available via the hyperlinks below:


Other tours in the planning:

  • Garden Route Tour - 4 days/5 nights - October 2021 (open to 4x2 vehicles)
  • Tankwa Tour - 3 days/4 nights - August 2021 (open to 4x2 vehicles)
  • Namaqualand Tour - 4 days/5 nights - September 2021 (open to 4x2 vehicles)

Sign Refurbishment Project

We started this project more than a year ago and fit in signage repairs whenever we get a gap between pass filming, video production, admin and tours. We have now covered about 70% of the task at hand. Between cleaning up the 54 MPSA pass summit signs, we also clean up state owned signs as they are on our routes anyway. It's one of our ways of working towards better tourism for the future.

Initially there was a fair amount of resistance to our "Don't put stickers on road signs" campaign, but it seems as if the social media publicity campaign is starting to bear fruit, with many motorcyclists and adventure travellers offering to help us. We now have an army of people working towards the successful conclusion of the project. We could never have done it by ourselves. This is a perfect example of social media working in the right way.

From the 13th to the 16th June we will be temporarily based in Swellendam, which gives us quick access to this month's signage effort. The following signs are on our schedule for cleaning up:

  • Tradouw Pass
  • Garcias Pass
  • Seweweekspoort
  • Huisrivier Pass
  • Rooiberg Pass
  • Swartberg Pass
  • Meiringspoort
  • Robinson Pass
  • Cloete's Pass

[Ed note: Time and weather were uncooperative on this trip as we were only able to refurbish the signs at Tradouw, Garcia, and Seweweekspoort (2). We did however manage to film two new passes - Voetpadkloof on the R323, and the Brandrivier Pass, a tough gravel pass near the southern end of the Voetpadkloof Pass. We were also able to refilm the Jan Muller Pass as well as Cloete's Pass]

It does open the door of opportunity to run another trip to the Oudtshoorn area to complete that batch of signs.


Wild Coast Tour (May 2021)

Our journey along the Wild Coast continues....

Day 7 - Coffee Bay to Kob Inn.

The amazing weather continued as our convoy regrouped for another day of Wild Coast delights. We drove back towards Hole in the Wall, then routed inland following what appeared to be a water pipeline two spoor track through an indigenous forest. This diversion was something of a recce and so began an exceptionally beautiful experience as the track led us in many different directions, all the while remaining within the forest canopy. Shafts of bright sunlight filtered down through the trees creating a surreal atmosphere. The track was however, very rocky and muddy and it was here that Nic Treurnicht's Range Rover copped the first puncture - a sidewall cut. Low profile tyres are not a good idea on these 4x4 routes, but having said that Stephanie Fischer's Land Rover Discovery completed the entire tour without any issues (also on low profiles).

[Read more...]

The week that was...

* Upcoming Tours

* A brace of new passes on the tarred R61 between Mthatha and Port St Johns

* Execution Rock

* Guests getting lost

* Mtakatyi River Valley, Mdumbi Pass, Mnenu Pass, Mthatha River Pass

* Coffee Bay, Hole in the Wall

* Dealing with car guards

* Pass of the week


Upcoming Tours

Our next tour is the Bedrogfontein Tour (3rd to 6th July). This thoroughly enjoyable and relaxing tour is a good mix of relaxed game viewing, great points of interest, two long technical passes and of course the anchor of this tour is the Bedrogfontein 4x4 Route which traces the journey of Jan Smuts's commando as he evaded the British troops during the 2nd Anglo-Boer War, then ambushed them in a deep kloof on this very route. The historical aspect of this tour is significant.

Tickets are going fast. At time of publishing this newsletter there were 6 places open. Click on the link below for the full itinerary, pricing and terms.

BEDROGFONTEIN TOUR

All the final touches and improvements have been added to the next Wild Coast Tour, which is scheduled to take place between the 10th and 20th November, 2021. This tour will be loaded by Friday 11th June and details can be sourced via the same link above.

For our 3rd Wild Coast Tour, we have increased the tour from 9 to 10 days to allow for shorter travel distances and more leisure time for beach walks, swimming, photography, canoeing and more. We have also added in several new accomodation venues, which include Mngazi River Bungalows, The Haven and Wavecrest, but other favourites remain like Mbotyi River Lodge, Ocean View Hotel, Kob Inn and Crawfords Beach Cottages. This tour will more than likely be fully booked within a week, so if you were keen on attending, make sure to go online on Friday and secure your place.


We continue with our story along the Wild Coast.

Day 5 - Port St.Johns to Coffee Bay

The day dawned with the promise of another day of perfect weather. We had arranged this trip in what was probably the best weather window of the year (and unlikely to ever be repeated again), but all that clear dry weather plays host to lots of dust. We were hoping for a nice cross wind to help clear the dust away quickly, but no such luck. Very fine particles of dust like talcum powder hung in the air, causing our convoy to stretch up to 5 km from front to back. That in turn, impacts negatively on the clarity of radio comms. The secret is to find a happy balance.

We left Port St Johns River Lodge at 08.30 after a hearty breakfast with all vehicles having full tanks of fuel. The two Jimny drivers were a little nervous about their limited range, but we carried 20 litres of spare fuel for them in the Land Cruiser, should one of them not make the destination from a fuel point of view. As things turned out, the concerns were in vain.

We drove along the newly reconstructed R61 route towards Mthatha, via a string of passes, which included the Isinuka Poort, Butyabuse Pass, Mngazi River Pass and the Tutor Ndamase Pass, before leaving the tar for the Mlengana Pass, with its famous Execution Rock.

At the main viewpoint we had the great pleasure of watching a flock of African Harrier Hawks soaring below and above us. Execution Rock is an impressive slab of rock. It rises up out of the surrounding hills in 100m vertical cliff faces. It's a really impressive sight, but as impressive as it is, the real story is not nearly as dramatic as the name suggests. Some white colonial cartographer had heard a story about a Xhosa king who executed his enemies by throwing them off a rock. Scouting the area, when he saw this mountain, he (not unreasonably) assumed it was the place where the executions took place. The real place is much further down the Mngazi River Valley and is not nearly as impressive. That first map noting it as Execution Rock stuck and remains to this day having been copied and recopied by many more cartographers after the first 'myth-take'

We reconnected with the R61 near the foot of the Tutor Ndamase Pass and back-tracked to the village of Thombo, where we turned right, still on tar, heading for the Isilimela Mission. There were many rivers crossed, with the first being the Mngazana River. We left the tar near Mpande and took an  interesting detour towards the coast past the 18m high Big Jump Falls (which we never saw).

COVID-19 Corona Virus South African Resource Portal

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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.
 

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