* Ben 10 V5 Eco Challenge
* Trips & Tours
* Focus on the Du Toitskloof Pass
* Pass of the week
The Ben 10 V5 Eco Challenge was completed yesterday. By next week we will start producing the stories and action of how things went. As you read this newsletter we will be on the road travelling back from Rhodes for our overnight stop in Wilderness and then back to our HQ in Cape Town tomorrow.
If you fancy joining us for a tour, you can review what's available with full itineraries and pricing on our Shop & Tours page here:
Du Toitskloof Pass is located in the Western Cape Province of South Africa, on the regional route R101 between Paarl and Worcester. It was initially an animal track where a road was built around the time of World War II, including a 200m tunnel still in use today. Since the opening of the 3,9 km Huguenot Tunnel in 1988, the pass no longer forms part of the N1 national road and was renumbered as R101.
Originally 48 km long, the pass climbed to 820 metres. The Huguenot Tunnel, opened in 1988, is the largest curved structure in South Africa and shortens the road by 11 kilometres and is operated as a toll road. There is an impressive viaduct on the Paarl approach side, known as the Hugospoort Viaduct. It has gained some notoriety for being highly dangerous during periods of strong to gale force south easterly winds, which have the capacity to turn large trucks over. Similarly any high sided unladen delivery trucks as well as caravans have suffered this fate many times since it opened to traffic.
The surrounding peaks often sport a covering of snow and the Mountain Club of South Africa has huts in the area. Du Toits Peak is the highest mountain at 1,995 metres.
Prior to 1825, farmers used the pass to get to the interior beyond. Another pass became the better route and in 1845, the route over the Bainskloof Pass was constructed, named after engineer Andrew Geddes Bain.
* Goodbye Covid, hello Ukraine
* Trips & Tours
* The Ben 10 Story
* Pass of the week.
It's something of a relief that Covid-19, which has completely dominated and saturated most media platforms for the last two years, (to the point of irritating absurdity) is finally on the wane - and fast too. In many (civilized) countries around the world, Covid has been officially declared pandemic non-grata - no more masks; no more PCR tests, no more proof of vaccinations. Poof! Just like that. It makes one wonder?
However, the Russian story now dominating the world press is quite scary and suddenly South Africa seems to be one of the safest places in the world. The irony!
We are leaving this morning on our 5th Ben 10 Eco Challenge official tour. Looking at the weather forecast for the area, we are going to be doing some slipping & sliding. The Ben 10 never fails to attract adventurers and this year is no exception with the tour being fully booked. We have amended the routes and have taken advantage of the reopening of the Rhodes Hotel which allows us to spend two nights there, thereby shortening the distances considerably. We will provide a blow by blow account of all the action in the weeks to follow.
We still have two places available on the Wild Coast Tours in May as well as two places on the Swartberg Tour in July. Use the links below to review the itineraries and pricing:
WILD COAST TOUR V4 PONDOLAND (6th - 15th May)
WILD COAST TOUR V5 MBASHE (16th - 24th May)
SWARTBERG CLASSIC 2022 (10th - 15th July)
2016 - Whilst planning the filming of the big high altitude passes in the Eastern Cape Highlands in 2015, we were approached by one of the partners of Tiffindell, Lew Campbell. He wanted to attract more visitors to the ski resort and invited us to film the rugged two spoor track up to the summit. At that stage it had no name, but the summit peak bore the name of Ben MacDhui - originally named after a peak in the Scottish Highlands. The obvious choice of name had to be the Ben MacDhui Pass.
We formulated an agreement that if the pass was to be indexed into the MPSA database, that the public would be allowed free access to the pass, subject to each guest signing an indemnity form, but no access would be allowed during the prime snow season (June to August) as the track ran across the ski slope. Later Tiffindell bulldozed a separate track that allowed access to the pass without having to cross the ski slope.
* Trips & Tours
* Wild Coast Tour V3 - Final
* Pass of the week
We launched the Swartberg Classic Tour 2022 last Thursday and bookings were brisk over the first three days, proving how popular this timeless tour has become.
March 5th to 9th - Ben 10 Eco Challenge Official Tour (Fully booked/No cancellations)
May 6th to 15th - Wild Coast Tour V4 Pondoland (1 ticket available)
May 16th to 24th - Wild Coast Tour V5 Mbashe (1 ticket available)
July 10th to 15th - Swartberg Classic 2022 (2 tickets available)
Wavecrest to Chintsa
We had an easy drive out on the final day via the Kobonqaba Pass. At the bottom of the pass is a single lane concrete bridge that stands about 7m above the Kobonqaba River. In 1975 a savage flood ravaged the area, bringing the river down in a massive torrent of water that overtopped the bridge, bending the metal safety railings from vertical to horizontal. The railings have never been repaired.
Once up the western side of the pass our route took us to the village of Kentani (as shown on most maps). The correct spelling in Xhosa is Centane. The bustling little village has some battlefields history.
Centane was the site of the battle of Centane on 7 February 1878 during the ninth Frontier War, when more than 300 Xhosa were killed for the loss of two British soldiers. The grave of the Xhosa king, Khawuta kaGcaleka (the father of Bhurhu kaKhawuta and Hintsa kaKhawuta) is in this town in the village of Njingini.
* Trips & Tours
* Wild Coast V3 Day 9
* Pass of the week
* New videos added
With Covid appearing to be on its way out of our collective lives, it seems the very real possibility of the end of the National State of Disaster is on the horizon - as is getting rid of the masks and the sanitiser. We have noticed a real upswing in inquiries for tour bookings, so our office is abuzz with activity.
6th to 9th March - the 5th (improved) version of the official Ben 10 Eco Challenge starts in two weeks' time. This tour has been fully booked for some time and remains one of our most popular offerings. This is the first time we are going to running this tour in March.
6th to 15th May - Wild Coast Tour V4 Pondoland - We have had a cancellation, so there is one ticket available.
16th to 24th May - Wild Coast V5 Mbashe Tour - This tour has one ticket available.
11th to 15th July - Swartberg Classic Tour - Bookings open today. We have scheduled this tour for mid-winter in the hopes of catching some snow. So if you fancy cold nights and crisp, clear sunny days, sign up for this popular tour.
CORRECTION on PLATTELAND TOURS LINK:
The link in last week’s e-Newsletter of Platteland Tours’ Road Trip to Namibia did not function correctly.
This is always the longest day of the Wild Coast Tour and no easy way to shorten it. With this in mind, our routing took the most direct way to Willowvale, where our entire convoy refuelled causing something of a traffic jam. Vehicle's bellies full we drove directly to Idutywa and a short stint on the N2 before turning off onto gravel at a tourism sign "Collywobbles"
This was arguably the worst road we had driven on the tour. It was a case of shake, rattle and roll regardless of how fancy your suspension was. WE soon noted that the taxis and most locals were driving on a track well off to one side of the "road" which resembled the bottom of a stone quarry. It was 15 kilometres of bone jarring driving, but like all things, it eventually came to an end as we took our group down a very steep pass (unnamed) to the banks of the Mbashe River for a lunch break and some group photos.
* Social media statistics
* Trips n Tours
* Platteland Tour Offering to Namibia
* Wild Coast V3 Tour - Day 8
* Pass of the Week
Our Facebook page continues forging ahead with the latest number of followers being just over 96,000. We are hoping to reach the magical 100,000 figure by the end of June. Instagram is also growing fast with 14,300 followers. Our international followers have shown the largest growth in the past 6 months. SA expats (Saffers) stay glued to the page as it feeds their homesick blues.
Moderating this page is a never ending task. Of interest is that a local clothing brand "Stellies" posted a photo on their Facebook page showing a young lady putting their sticker on a road sign. Our inbox was flooded with our followers sending us the link. The result was a huge public backlash to a company that had openly encouraged their clients to put the Stellies stickers where they like. We have removed many of them from MPSA signs over the years. Within 2 hours they removed their post but have not posted any public apology. They have tarnished their brand in the process. It's a warning to other brands not to go for cheap advertising on road signs. Of interest is that Instagram removed our post on Stellies as it "violated community guidelines"
It would seem that our anti-sticker campaign started two years ago has now spread far and wide and that we have achieved our goal of making the public aware that it is vandalism. The toughest nut to crack was the biker community, but we have broken through most of the barriers now.
The Ben 10 Eco Challenge V5 Tour (4th to 8th March) remains fully booked with no cancellations.
Wild Coast Tour V4 Pondoland (6th to 15th May) if also fully booked.
Wild Coast Tour V5 Mbashe (16th to 24th May) One place available.
July 2022 - Swartberg Tour (Bookings to be opened next week)
September - Bedrogfontein Tour. (Bookings to be opened next week)
November - Garden Route Tour (5 days) Open to 4x2 vehicles
Platteland Tours Offering (Advertisement)
One of our joint-venture partners, Platteland Tours (based in Gauteng) is putting on two Self-Drive Guided tours to Namibia during May & June 2022 to cater for the demand to visit our beautiful neighbouring country.
Have you ever dreamed of visiting Namibia? Traveling in your own vehicle (no 4x4 is needed) but not knowing where to go; where to find the best tourist spots; where to sleep; what else to do and what to experience en route? The trip will take you on good gravel back-roads, to places where tour groups normally do not go, as well as to popular destinations like the Fish River Canyon, Kolmanskop ghost town, Luderitz, the wild horses of Aus, Sossusvlei, Swakopmund, Dune 7, the Namib Desert, Goanikontes, Hentie’s Bay, the Petrified Forest, Etosha Pans and much more.
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.