* Wild Coast recce trip - Chapter 4
* Kouga-Baviaans Explorer - Chapter 1
* Pass of the week
* Words of wisdom.
The pandemic is affecting each and every one of us in various ways. At MPSA we are strongly focused on remaining positive, as there are more than enough news outlets and websites that focus on the problem.
After my visit to the Magwa Falls I still had to film those 4 back to back passes between Lusikisiki and Port St Johns and this time the light was good and the filming went smoothly. A second night at the Port St Johns River Lodge started with a long swim in the pool, a cold beer and a light dinner with just a handful of other guests there on a mid-week day.
Another four back to back passes awaited me on the R61 road to Mthatha of which the most impressive was the last one - the Tutor Ndamase Pass. He was a powerful political leader in the area and was widely respected. The new tarred pass is beautifully engineered and has impressive statistics with plenty of sharp bends counterpointed with magnificent scenery to make it a thoroughly enjoyable drive. [More lower down...]
* Leisure Wheels Magazine
* Tours update
* Part 3 of the Transkei recce
* Pass of the week
* Words of wisdom
This well-known magazine have invited us to become a regular monthly contributor. We have just finished the first instalment which will appear in their next issue. Grab yourselves a copy and enjoy the passes in print.
Kouga-Baviaans Explorer Tour (13th to 16th March)
By the time you read this newsletter out guests will be gathering in Joubertina on the R62 (Langkloof) on the eve of our departure on yet another adventure. We are heading into a wilderness area where there is no mobile reception whatsoever, but we will take photos and videos and relay them back to our HQ for publishing on Facebook and Instagram where you will be able to follow our progress and enjoy some of the highlights.
Ben 10 Eco Challenge V3 Tour (9th to 13th April)
We have had a cancellation which means we have 1 ticket open for anyone owning a 4x4 with low range who wants to add their name to the Hall of Fame. We'll take you there and get you back safely. You need a minimum of two years offroad driving experience to do this tour. Read more about the Ben 10 Eco Challenge V3 Tour.
Wild Coast Tour (14th to 23rd May)
This tour remains fully booked and appears to be an outright winner and one we will repeat again fairly soon based on the speed at which bookings came in and general demand. One of the innovations we have included in this tour is the inclusion of local specialist guides. One in the Matatiele area, another in the Mbotyi area, another at Hole in the Wall and a fourth at Mveso and the vulture colonies at Collywobbles.
Wild Coast Recce Trip (Part 3) Part 3
The mosquitoes at Port St Johns are large and hungry (or is it thirsty). Note to self - take Tabard with on the next trip. They don't whine like normal mosquitoes. They sound more like a drone. They land and bite in one smooth motion being quite happy to die on the job, as their next of kin arrive en masse to take up on the banquet. But if you set your aircon down to 16C they seem to keep away.
It was a beautiful morning with not a cloud in the sky and that particular tone of blue one only gets on the Wild Coast. Johan Thiart of HHO engineers (who works a lot in this area) offered to guide me up to the old airport on top of the mountain. I filmed the entire pass with one or two sections of the sinuous road being directly into the morning sun. The runway of about 1.5 km is not in bad condition and by Eastern Cape standards has more cow-pats than potholes, so a good pilot could still easily land a small aircraft there - although an approach from the north over the Mzimvubu gorge must be quite hair raising!
(More lower down...)
* Tours update
* Wild Coast recce trip - Chapter 2
* Featured pass of the week
* Words of wisdom
Wild Coast Tour - Fully booked
Kouga-Baviaans Explorer Tour - 2 places left. Bookings close on Friday 6th March.
Ben 10 Eco Challenge V3 Tour - We've had a cancellation, so there is 1 place available.
Use the hyperlinks above for more information and online bookings.
There were lots of emails to answer the next morning and downloading film clips from the GoPro took much longer than anticipated, leaving me with a 09.15 departure time. I refuelled the Jimny (that has to be the most rewarding part of driving it) and headed east to the bustling metropolis of Cedarville. This is one of those "if you blink you'll miss it" villages with it's own unique character.
I left the tar to film a small pass called Wepenersnek, then doubled back to the R56 tar road and took the next gravel road south. This is a magnificent drive on a surprisingly good gravel road. Next up was the Nungi Pass which was a visual feast of rolling grassy hills set to a backdrop of big mountains, dotted here and there with a few rondavels. This pass is a photographers delight.
Next up was the Colananek Pass which was troublesome in the extreme - not in terms of road condition, but there were techno gremlins about. Poor bluetooth connectivity between phone and GoPro, meant I had to traverse the pass up and down six times, until I eventually had the footage I wanted. The two Xhosa ladies sitting at the apex of one of the hairpin bends waiting for a taxi must have thought I was daft!
The scenery throughout this long gravel section between the two major tarred roads (R56 & N2) is mesmerising in its scope and tranquility. Sooner or later I needed to find a point to cross the Umzimvubu River in order to avoid having to drive through Mount Frere. The single width low level bridge seemed in good shape and other than a small herd of sheep which decided to cross the bridge at the same time, all went smoothly. The river was flowing strongly and as always it is a typical silt laden Transkei river moving millions of tons of fertile topspoil to the Indian Ocean at Port St Johns.
A short stint on the N2 was followed by a pleasant drive on a secondary tarred road to another small (and chaotic) town called Tabankulu. A black pot bellied pig (sow) with 8 tiny piglets dodged their way between the shebeens and spaza shops with even the taxi drivers allowing them safe passage. (More lower down)
* Recce Tour - the journey continues
* Kouga-Baviaans Tour latest
* Ben 10 V3 fully booked
* Wild Coast Tour sold out
* Featured pass of the week
* Words of wisdom
2020 has certainly started with plenty of action and there always seems to be so much to report on, yet so little time to get everything done. The admin office is extremely busy at this time of year processing Ben 10 entries, results, tours, bookings, registrations, validations, radio interviews, social media, magazine writing and not enough time to travel. Phew!
Trips and Tours Update
Recce: We take you with us for our second leg of our Transkei recce trip this week (see lower down).
Kouga-Baviaans Explorer Tour: Our first tour of 2020 comes up mid March where we will be doing the unusual traverse of the Baviaanskloof by starting in Joubertina, where we will spending a full day exploring the Kouga Wilderness. We then head east to Kareedouw and tackle some lovely gravel passes (Suuranysberg, Kouga and Meidenek) after which we will pop in for some light refreshment at the remote Baviaans Lodge run by our long standing friend Rob le Roux. The route then becomes a two spoor track as we wind our way over the protea clad Kouga Mountains past a honey-bush tea farm, that will bring us out at the Doringkloof farm in the central Baviaanskloof. Day 3 involves a traverse of the eastern bio-reserve over the best passes and water crossings of the Baviaanskloof with an overnight stop at the tranquil Bruintjieskraal. The final day we head even further north towards the Cockscomb Mountains and head west along the T3 route via the Antoniesberg Pass and finish up for a festive evening at the Royal Hotel in Steytlerville. We have 3 places still open on this tour. Bookings close next week Friday. MORE INFO & ONLINE BOOKINGS HERE.
Ben 10 V3 Tour: (Easter Weekend) Sorry this tour is now fully booked.
Wild Coast Adventure Tour: This tour is selling fast. There are only 3 places open at time of writing. We are proud to announce our first ever Wild Coast Tour where participants will enjoy 9 days/10 nights savouring the very best the region has to offer. Join us and enjoy driving to places few people have been before – all in the safety of a group of like-minded travellers.
The tour will start in Matatiele and end in Morgans Bay taking in many of the best sights and sounds of the unspoilt and remote Wild Coast, which is still as timeless as it was 70 years ago. Here are some of the points of interest we will be visiting:
*Mariazell Mission Station *Ramalitso’s Pass *Nungi Pass *Colananek Pass *Mzintlava Pass *Mbotyi *Magwa Falls *Lambazi Mouth (Port Grosvenor) * Magwa Tea Plantation * Port St. Johns Airport Pass * Tutor Ndamase Pass *Mlengana Pass & Execution Rock *Coffee Bay *Hole in the Wall *Kob Inn *The Collywobbles *Mveso *Vulture colony *Shixini River Mouth *Nongqawuse’s Pools *Trennerys *Kei River Pont *Morgans Bay and a whole lot more. For more information and online bookings CLICK HERE. (STOP PRESS - The last 3 tickets were sold out between the time the newsletter was written and the publishing time - less than 5 hours)
Part 2 Transkei Recce Trip
I guess I was in a state of disappointed reverie and doing my best not to have an accident in the crazy traffic in Mthatha, where everyone seems hell bent on jamming into every intersection with the traffic lights changing over and over and the cars going nowhere. I eventually scooted down a few side roads (thanks to the nippy Jimny) and managed to extricate myself out onto the Port St Johns road, where my Garmin 276CX with the calm English lady speaking had directed me towards. She might be calm but sometimes she's not that smart, or maybe it's me? (More lower down)
* Report back on the first 2 days of the Wild Coast recce trip
* Baviaans-Kouga Tour coming up in March
* Ben 10 on 6 wheels (Part 2)
* Pass of the week
* Thought for the day
Apologies for no newsletter last week. I had very good intentions of writing the newsletter in the evenings during the recce trip, but a combination of events, which included getting lost twice, load shedding, no signal and driver fatigue put paid to those naive notions, so today you're getting a bumper version.
I have to admit that of all the road trips I have done in my life this one was easily the best. It threw everything at me and the challenges were often quite serious - and therein lies the enjoyment. Over the next three weeks we will relate the story for you to enjoy at home.
To prepare thoroughly for our Wild Coast Tour, I had to do a solo trip with minimal luggage and equipment so as to travel light and efficiently. Calculations prove that we saved R8000 on fuel by using the little 1300cc Suzuki Jimny in favour of the 4.5 Land Cruiser. I can now confidently say after 4000 km, I can evaluate the Jimny on and off-road competently. But let's start at the beginning.
I left Cape Town later than planned and routed to Kirkwood (in preference to PE as I have an aversion of big cities) via Worcester, Robertson, Ashton, Swellendam and from there on the N2 all the way to Uitenhage. We have recently acquired one of the new Jimnys, but decided to use the 2017 model for this trip in the interests of fuel economy.
I refuelled in Robertson and asked the attendant to inflate the Jimny's tyres to 1.6 bar (we normally run at 1.4). He must have thought I was crazy to ride on such soft tyres and took it upon himself to rather put in 2.6 bar but failed to tell me. By the time I reached Swellendam the harsh ride started getting to me, so I decided to check the pressures! Problem solved by deflation and driving became fun again. Later in the trip on the really bad Transkei roads, I lowered pressures down to 1 bar and had a reasonably good result in terms of ride comfort and traction.
At highway speeds the 1.3 Jimny tends to be a little slow (having a happy cruising speed of 100 kph), but on gravel it's simply dynamite. Activate the 4WD button and the Jimny becomes exceptionally agile. The key is getting the tyre pressures right. We found that 1.6 (with a light load) was too hard, but 1.3 all round was fine on good gravel roads and the rough stuff, drop them down to 1.1 or even 1.0 bar. The Jimny is so light, that you will barely notice any sidewall bulging. Having such a short wheel base, if you hit corrugations at speed, the Jimny tends to become a little skittish, but the 4 wheel drive always kicks in to straighten the vehicle out. At first this is a little disconcerting, but one soon gets the hang of it. There is no substitute for gravel road experience. We also found that with the absence of any mass on the roof, its cornering ability on tar and gravel was excellent; often outperforming much bigger and faster vehicles.
The trip went smoothly arriving in Kirkwood at 6.30 pm. Small problem though, as I couldn't find the B&B that I had booked and paid for. It became crystal clear after phoning them that I was in the wrong town. Their establishment was actually in Addo even though a search for "Accommodation - Kirkwood" brought their name up! Don't believe everything you read on the internet!
I reached "The Kraal" just after 7 pm and checked in for a cold beer and light supper, which had barely been finished, when load shedding began - a perfectly good reason to have an early night. At 3 am there were noises which turned out to be an intruder who had been caught inside the grounds by their security guard, resulting in the police arriving to arrest him.
Part of the recce trip was to film as many passes as possible. Only one pass fell within camera range on day one, which was a small gravel pass near Riversdale called Brakhoogte. [More lower down]
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.