The week that was
* Euphoric rugby mad South Africa
* How to snap a U bolt on the Ben Mac Dhui Pass
* South African History - The Border War
* Pass of the Week - Blouputs Pass
* Words of Wisdom
Rugby euphoria - The Springboks have done more for nation building than all the politicians and media put together, but the manne are looking very tired. Their schedule on their return to South Africa has been brutally punishing with some disappointed fans voicing their dismay that the Boks weren't coming to their town or village. It just goes to show that you cannot please everyone all of the time. From Mountain Passes South Africa our message is: "Thank you for bringing the cup home; thank you for being embassadors; thank you for restoring our pride; thank you for all that positivity which will go a long way towards nation building. Go Bokke!!!"
As this newsletter is published there are just 2 days left to book if you want to join our final tour of 2019. It promises to be something really special. More info and bookings here: BEDROGFONTEIN TOUR
Ben 10 Eco Challenge V2 Tour
Our final day had started on time in good weather as we passed through the hamlet of Rhodes and on towards Naudes Nek Pass. A brief stop at the Naude family memorial site is always interesting and from there we tackled the climb up to the summit. This is a major pass but the road is usually surprisingly good and can still be driven in any vehicle. Never become too complacent on these big passes as things can and do, go badly wrong.
We were almost up near the summit, negotiating the last few sharp bends, when a bakkie descending in the Rhodes direction, suddenly appeared in the middle of the road on a blind corner and travelling much too fast. The driver slammed on brakes, but the vehicle just kept coming straight at us with its wheels locked up in a cloud of dust and gravel. All I could do was move as far left as possible and wait for the impact. It was desperately close - our side mirrors almost touching. It was a local - a young manager from a nearby hotel (as we later learned). And so we keep on learning to drive defensively.
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Rugby World Cup 2019 - It's a wrap!
It's impossible to not be swept up in the ebullient mood after the emphatic Springbok victory in Japan. Whilst we are keen rugby supporters at MPSA we don't profess to be rugby experts. So what have we learned from the event?
For starters the Japanese public and government totally embraced the RWC 2019 and did a magnificent job of it. There were hundreds of examples. The Japanese children that walked out with the relevant captain of the day, knew that country's national anthem off by heart; the respect that the Japanese people showed to foreigners; the way the public embraced the event was a thing of beauty. The next host country has a tough act to follow.
The stands were full at every match and when Japan were beaten in the quarter finals, the enthusiasm for the game of rugby intensified with Japanese fans painting their faces in the colours of whichever team they fancied. We rate it as the best world cup ever by a country mile.
Everything has been said about the Springboks. It's a like a fairy tale and no doubt there will be a blockbuster Invictus 2 on the big screen soon. Our congratulations to the Springboks - the whole lot of them - even the physios. We are incredibly proud of their achievement.
The petulant and dismissive behaviour of the English squad however does need a mention. The medal removal and sour faces put a blight on the sport, and must have been a huge embarrassment to the entire English nation; not to mention a slap in the face of the host nation. It was in extremely poor taste and at least Prince Harry was able to do some damage control.
The other negative was the decision by TotalSports to stop supporting Eben Etzebeth so close to the final. No-one seems to understand the rationale behind the move and in the process the brand and its parent company - the Foschini Group have no doubt shot themselves in the foot.
It is just wonderful to see South Africans from all walks of life dancing in the streets, laughing and singing. We are a great nation. Let's now build on all that positivity.
Bedrogfontein - Zuurberg Tour
With just 2 weeks to go before this tour, we will be closing bookings next week. If you want to be part of this wonderful tour, please get your mouse clicking or fingers tapping. Full information and online bookings here:
The Ben 10 Eco Challenge Tour - The final chapter
By the end of the third day things had gone rather well on this tour, with the only serious issue being Mark Heaton's Jeep Cherokee injector problem. It was in high spirits that we rose on Heritage Day to nail down the final three passes - Naude's Nek, the TTT and the Ben Mac Dhui Pass. All three passes are close to each other in distance, but time wise, it's another matter altogether.
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The week that was....
* RWC 2019
* Bedrogfontein-Zuurberg Tour
* Ben 10 Ecio Challenge (Chapeter 4)
* SA History (Chapter 24)
* Podcast (Volunteershoek Pass)
* Pass of the week
* New passes added
* Words of wisdom
It's interesting to observe how much a sporting event can unify a nation (and on occasion devide). As South Africa has marched through to the final, it's a nation in a state of euphoria with elevated emotions. We've been following the TOTALSPORTS debacle on social media and are watching with interest to see what the outcome will be. This is the week to forget about petty things, don your Bok jersey and get behind the national team.
Ticket sales for our final year end tour are moving along briskly and we have just 3 places left at the time of publishing. If you own a 4x4 with low range and reasonable ground clearance, here is an opportunity for a great escape for a few days of glorious offroad driving, fascinating history, pampered overnight stops, gorgeous scenery and an abundance of wildlife that will delight. It will stand you in good stead for the onslaught of the silly season.
Online bookings here: BEDROGFONTEIN-ZUURBERG TOUR
Ben 10 Eco Challenge V2 Tour (Chapter 4)
From the Wartrail Sports Club we took a sharp left and drove the attractive approach road alongside the Funnystone River and soon the gates to the Funnystone farm made their appearance, but the track sweeps sharply away to the left and crosses the crystal clear stream via a causeway. Here a sign warns that the road ahead is only suitable for 4WD vehicles and that you drive it at your own risk. This is the start of the Volunteershoek Pass. This is the one pass that gets the bikers nervous and frequent falls are the order of the day. For less experienced riders, this is where nerves get rattled and mistakes are made.
A group of five bikers had passed us near the clubhouse, some 15 minutes earlier in a whirr of exhaust pipes and dust, but now they were stuck on the first part of the ascent. The weakest rider had taken a number of tumbles and the mountain had gotten the better of him. He had decided to throw in the towel and return back down the pass. His buddy, who had returned to help him, now had the daunting task of getting his bike turned around on the steep gradient with loose sand and stones and proceed back up the pass. We had a first class view of just how difficult it is trying to achieve this "simple" task on a 270kg motorcycle. [More lower down]
It's hard not to get caught up in the excitement of the Rugby World Cup. We wish the Springboks success for the remaining matches and hope to see them in the final.
2019 has flown by and been packed with challenges. Perhaps the biggest progress we have made is in the presentation of our tours. In the space of just over a year when we launched our first day tours, these have quickly evolved into multiple day tours, where we have tried to find a happy balance between driving passes, enjoying scenery, adding in points of interest and providing our guests with affordable but quality accommodation and food. Every tour has been fully booked so we must be doing something right.
Our final tour of the year is the Bedrogfontein-Zuurberg Tour (22nd to 24th November) - a three day tour through some of the most beautiful mountain scenery in South Africa, coupled with game viewing, wonderful accommodation and some technical driving to keep everyone on their toes. You will need to have a 4x4 vehicle with low range. We have 5 tickets left on this tour.
Final arrangements and accommodation bookings have been concluded. Here is a foretaste of what's on offer:
Thursday 21st November: Meet at 1800 at our guest lodge in the citrus farming town of Kirkwood for meet & greet, radio fitment, happy hour and drivers briefing followed by dinner.
Friday 22nd November: 08h30 Tour starts with a traverse over the Olifantskop Pass, then the gravel fun starts as we loop westwards to drive the challenging Zuurberg Pass from north to south with a lunch stop at the Zuurberg Mountain Inn. After lunch we tackle the Doringnek Pass and return to Kirkwood.
Saturday 23rd November: An easy day entirely within the Addo Elephant National Park with free driving included.
Sunday 24th November: We save the best for last as the Bedrogfontein 4x4 route will be driven. This is generally a Grade 1 to 2 drive (weather dependent) and will take the whole day to complete with a return leg to Kirkwood via the Darlington Dam and Paardepoort. Final night Chappies awards and celebrations.
Monday 25th November: Depart for home after breakfast.
Online bookings can be done here: BEDROGFONTEIN-ZUURBERG TOUR
If you want to review driving conditions for the two big gravel passes, here are the links to watch the videos:
Ben 10 Eco Challenge V2 Tour (Chapter 3)
We continue with the story where we left off 2 weeks ago at the summit of Lundean's Nek Pass. What was immediately noticeable as we started the ascent, was that the SAPS anti stock theft unit buildings had been abandoned. Either stock theft has ceased or SAPS have not found it financially viable to operate the unit any longer.
The northern descent of Lundean's Nek Pass is one of the best drives you will experience anywhere in South Africa. The condition of the road is generally reasonable, so there is time to enjoy the scenery. The road winds its way from the 2162m high summit towards the Telle River via a series of loops and switchbacks. Beautiful black streaked sandstone formations keep the road company as streams and waterfalls come into view with each new change of direction. Here you can see the influence of the Basotho lifestyle and similar to Lesotho, the herders wear a blanket with stick and gumboots being the standard attire. Their dogs all looks the same - a type of long haired Anatolian sheep-dog. Sheep and cattle appear often but the 20 kph speed makes avoiding them easy. [More lower down]
What's inside ?
* Doing the Ben 10 on foot
* Pass of the Week
* New passes added
* Words of Wisdom
Tours: Our Bedrogfontein-Zuurberg Tour is around the corner (22nd to 24th November). If you own a 4x4 with low range, this tour will tick all the boxes. We have 5 places open at time of writing. Bookings can be done here: Bedrogfontein-Zuurberg Tour.
Throwing down the gauntlet
A few weeks ago I met a remarkable young man from Pretoria at the Mountain Shadows Hotel in the heart of Ben 10 Country. He was there to attempt to be the first runner to complete the Ben 10. Coincidentally we were at the same hotel with our second MPSA group tour of the challenge. Jaco Pretorius (aged 45) is tall, lean and clearly very fit. He quietly approached me in the food queue to introduce himself. Today we bring you his story, the planning, the toughness, the elation and the prize. There will be more trail runners after him, but this man was the first. It's one heck of an achievement to complete the challenge in 4 days on foot.
Our newsletter this week is devoted entirely to Jaco's story, so sit back relax and read on. Next week, the newsletter will resume the format you are accustomed to. Here is Jaco's story:
"Our Challenge preparation started early in 2019, when a colleague, Dirk, and I started talking about doing the challenge. I’ve only been in the area once (April 2018) when I drove via Rhodes over Lundean’s and Naudes Nek on my way to Maclear. This was enough to wet my appetite for this beautiful part of South Africa.
Our early thoughts were to do the challenge over 6 days, as running those passes could be rather tough. Dirk and his son, Christo, would do it on the motorcycles, and I would attempt to run it. By May 2019, we had entered on the www.mountainpassessouthafrica.co.za website, and the real preparation had to start. We had targeted the long weekend in September as the best week to try to do it. This would then also be ideal preparation for my first Skyrun100 race happening mid-November in the same area.
A lot of “google mapping” and reading on the passes happened between May and July to work out the optimum route, and we agreed to commit by August, as we could not delay the booking of accommodation any further.
By early August, after a less than ideal winter for me, I abandoned the thought of running Ben10, as I felt that my fitness level was not where it should be. I told Dirk the news, and he and another colleague, Gerhard, proceeded with their arrangements to do it. Gerhard would be the backup driver in the Ford Ranger, and Dirk and his son would do it on motorcycles. Seeing that they did not have to cater for me, they decided to do the challenge in 3 days, as it required less leave from work.
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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.