* Tourism breathes again
* Back to driving school
* Focus on Ladybrand
* Pass of the Week
* Silly questions
In a nutshell, the Boks won the rugby series, the hysteria around the riots in KZN has mostly disappeared from the mainstream media, Covid continues to be the main (depressing) topic, the wild flower explosion is happening in Namaqualand, Cederberg and the West Coast; it's still unseasonably cold; most dams are full in the winter rainfall regions and tourism has breathed another gasp of fresh air as we slowly ease out of season 3 - the Delta variant.
A few basic 4x4 tips for beginners and intermediates:
As SUV and bakkie ownership has increased, so has the amount of off-highway recreation. There is no special license required to drive off-road, even though there are many different techniques and practices involved. There does exist an often unspoken etiquette that is practised by old-school four-wheelers, which developed not just so that everyone can get along on the trail, but primarily for safety considerations.
With the availability of trail-ready 4x4’s, both in the traditional 4x4 mould and outside of it, the slow and steady progression of four-wheeling initiation through involvement and camaraderie has been bypassed. The honour-by-association process misses the chance to be taught by the enthusiastic guy who just bought his first real 4x4.
* Bedrogfontein Tour (last round!)
* Namaqualand is calling.
* Heidelberg, Gauteng.
* Pass of the week
* Silly questions
We are closing bookings this Friday (6th August), so why not grab the opportunity and join us on this fabulous tour which offers a smorgasbord of interesting experiences. We will be driving the historical and technically challenging Zuurberg Pass on the first day, where the views will blow your mind. An entire day is dedicated to touring around the Addo Elephant National Park, but this takes place in your own time and pace, but we remain in radio contact throughout to share the best game viewing opportunities. The highlight of this tour is the Bedrogfontein 4x4 route, which is all within the extensions of the Addo National Park. The history of this route is incredible and we will see old abandoned ox-wagons and other artefacts from the second Anglo Boer War.
The Bedrogfontein 4x4 trail between the Kabouga and Darlington areas of the Addo Elephant National Park provides breath-taking views and is rich in history. This route was the scene of fierce battles between the British and Boer troops during the Anglo-Boer war. We will visit the cottage where Jan Smuts and his soldiers stayed and where he was in a coma after eating cycad seeds. Rock art paintings are found scattered throughout the area.
The route traverses through a variety of vegetation types, from riverine thicket, to afromontane forest, to fynbos on the peaks and into the arid Nama-Karoo of the Darlington area. This is strictly a 4x4 route and requires a vehicle with good ground clearance and low range. Bedrogfontein translates into Fraud Fountain and refers to a stream that disappears underground only to reappear some kilometres later. The route may only be driven from east to west and takes between 5 and 6 hours excluding stops and any side diversions. It is rated Grade 1 through to 3 and is suitable for intermediate and experienced drivers.
The Addo Elephant National Park (AENP) was proclaimed in 1931 to protect the remaining 11 Addo elephant. The great herds of elephant and other animal species had been all but decimated by hunters over the 1700s and 1800s. In the late 1800s, farmers began to colonise the area around the park, also taking their toll on the elephant population due to competition for water and crops. This conflict reached a head in 1919 when farmers called on the government to exterminate the elephants. The government even appointed a Major Pretorius to shoot the remaining elephants - He killed 114 elephant between 1919 and 1920.
* KZN and Gauteng slowly return to normal
* Bedrogfontein Tour opportunity
* Drama aplenty on the Swartberg Pass
* Matroosberg Nature Reserve 4x4 route closed
* Focus on Vryburg
* Pass of the Week
As the nation slowly recovers from the shock of the riots and looting in KZN and Gauteng, we now move into a phase of rebuilding infrastructure, reopen businesses and more importantly learning to trust one another again and make our nation stronger. There are thousands of unanswered questions, but from our side we welcome the relaxation of the lockdown regulations as the embattled tourism and hospitality sector has to once more rise from the ashes.
We've had a cancellation on our Bedrogfontein Tour with the new dates being confirmed for August 21st to 24th. Anyone interested in enjoying this popular tour can get the full itinerary and pricing via the link below.
BEDROGFONTEIN TOUR ONLINE BOOKINGS
This tour includes a trio of passes on the first day which includes Olifantsnek, Zuurberg and Doringnek with a refreshment stop at the beautiful Zuurberg Mountain Inn. We then spend a full day in the Addo Elephant National Park enjoying some great game viewing and the final day is kept for the best part of the tour as we drive the historical Bedrogfontein Pass. We can only accept 4x4 vehicles, with good ground clearance and low range capabilities. The route varies between Grade 1 and 3.
With the coldest weather in decades having swept over South Africa at least 19 new records in minimum lows and highs have been recorded, this system covered the Swartberg Pass in deep snow and more importantly on the southern side of the mountain where the sun has little effect during winter. The snow soon compacted in a thick layer of ice, creating very dangerous driving conditions.
Snow starved South Africans (and inexperienced to boot) always rush off to see and play in the snow when the snow arrives. This year saw a lot of traffic heading to the pass, but when they got to the pass, the road had been closed by traffic authorities. No problem to our risk-takers, who decided to ignore the road signs and drive the pass regardless. This led to 9 vehicles losing traction on the pass and getting stuck, including a BMW sedan.
All of the drivers and passengers had to be rescued and taken to safety, with their vehicles only being able to be recovered one or two days later. This blatant disregard for rules and regulations is part of how many people think and behave these days. One of the vehicles was occupied by a young couple with a two month old baby. Comments can be viewed on our Facebook page.
We are not at all surprised.
Cape Nature have issued the owners of the Matroosberg Nature Reserve a notice to close the route down beyond the Bokkerievieren fork at the 1280m contour level. As usual this has created an emotional response for those in favour and against the ruling. The farm owners are contesting the decision via the courts. We will have to wait and see what the final result will be and hopefully there will be a compromise where everyone is a winner. We'll keep an eye on things and post when we get news.
It's not often we venture into North-West province simply because there are so few passes there, but in this series we are unpacking the history of some of South Africa's lesser known, but nonetheless fascinating dorpies.
Today we visit North West Province and more specifically, the town of Vryburg. It is situated halfway between Kimberley and Mafikeng, in the Bophirima region of the North West. Often referred to as “South Africa’s Texas”, Vryburg is responsible for the largest beef production in the country. Vryburg is the perfect holiday stopover when road tripping along the N14 or travelling on the railway line that runs from Cape Town to Botswana. Established in 1882, Vryburg is an agricultural and industrial centre that was once used as a concentration camp by the British during the Boer War.
The 2,062 hectare Leon Talijaard Nature Reserve’s gate house is a former Boer War prison, built to house Afrikaner prisoners captured by the British forces. There is a small museum and a plaque that commemorates the prisoners executed here.
* The KZN Aftermath
* Klein Karoo (Series - Part 3)
* Ashton Bridge
* Pass of the week
Exactly as we forecast in last week's newsletter, the cleaning up, restoration of calm, law and order is swiftly falling into place and by this Sunday, it is feasible that lockdown restrictions will be eased nationally and especially for Gauteng. It's been an extraordinary time in South Africa and one that I hope we will never see again.
Focus on Wellington
The picturesque town of Wellington is a scenic 45-minute drive from Cape Town and 15-minutes’ from neighbouring Paarl. Wellington’s agricultural economy is centred on its award-winning wines, table grapes, deciduous fruit and it is also home to South Africa’s sole whisky producer.
The region is renowned for beautiful Cape Dutch homesteads, picturesque environment, gardens and wineries. The historic Bain’s Kloof Pass, with unsurpassed vistas, indigenous flora and fauna and crystal-clear streams and rivers, is the perfect spot for hikers and fly-fishermen. The pass, built by the famous Scot, Andrew Geddes Bain, was the sole gateway to the north, before Du Toitskloof Pass was built.
Closer to town, guided wine-walks and horse-trails through rich farmland and flowering fynbos offer the opportunity to see and experience Mother Nature at her finest. The Berg River flows along the western border with two smaller streams, the Spruit and Kromme and the towering Hawequa Mountains stand guard on the eastern side. Wellington is surrounded by fruit orchards, wine estates, buchu plantations and olive groves. In addition, its vine-cutting nurseries produce approximately 85% of the country’s vine root stock for the wine industry.
More French Huguenots settled here than anywhere else in the Cape and the valley was formerly known as Val du Charron. Visit the Wellington Museum with its diverse cultural exhibits, and learn more about the region’s history. The town was renowned as an important academic centre for theological studies and the Seminary gave rise to present-day Huguenot High School and the Huguenot Teachers Training College. Other educational institutions include Boland College and the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. Situated to the north of Wellington, the villages of Saron (originally a mission station), Gouda and Hermon are spread out amid rich farmlands, in the shadow of the Elandskloof and Winterhoek Mountains.
* A bad week for our country
* Klein Karoo Road Trip (Part 2)
* Namaqualand Series (Part 3 - Final)
* Pass of the week
* New passes added this week
At MPSA one of our daily goals is to remain resolutely positive, avoiding politics like the plague, but the avalanche of bad news that has swamped social media platforms this week has been unprecedented. A time when level headed people are looking at the chaos and destruction with utter dismay. Besides the current lockdown which affects our ability to run tours, we now have a bigger monster to deal with - FEAR.
There is widespread fear. People making big ticket item purchases are cancelling orders. Many want to run, but the reality is that in a week or two, all this will calm down. Businesses will begin cleaning up and rebuilding. There have been several interesting scenarios that have come to light. Businessmen, residents, neighbourhood watches, private security companies and (lo and behold) taxi organisations have banded together to help the police and SANDF. There seems to be a new level of bonding that is emerging from the ashes. People who are very determined to keep South Africa alive. We are watching with keen interest. Perhaps this is what was needed as a catalyst for us all to learn hold hands regardless of race, creed or colour.
Rooiberg Lodge served us breakfast in bed! What a treat. By 0830 we had the Jimny packed and ready to hit the gravel. The nice thing about taking the Jimny (instead of the Land Cruiser) is that luggage must by necessity limited to what can be packed inside the little beast. It takes roughly one and a half minutes to pack the vehicle or unpack it. Less is more!
It was Monday 5th July with a blue sky day and cold crisp air making for great photography and videography. We left Rooiberg Lodge and went back over the Assegaaibosch Pass, heading east towards the Rooiberg Pass. A few kilometres east of the Assegaaibosch Pass there is a small fork in the road. We turned right here on this long gravel road (the DR1649) which meanders through some of the most beautiful Klein Karoo landscapes and terminates near Armoed, not far from the R328 close to Oudtshoorn.
Winter is best
Our goal was to take a short-cut to the Robinson Pass which needed our attention to refurbish the summit sign. Instead of a short cut, we uncovered four hidden passes along this road, some of which we have already published. The weather was great and the Klein Karoo was smiling on us. Here's a tip for all you adventure travellers: Drive these routes in winter or early spring. The flowers and especially the aloes are a sight to behold. You have the additional benefit of not being too hot in your vehicle as most of the winter days are clear and sunny. Driving here in summer is another story altogether where 35C temperatures are a regular thing.
The first of the passes for filming was the Uitspan Pass which drops down to cross the Gouritz River over a low level concrete causeway and ascends up the other side of the valley. The name is appropriate enough as it traverses the Uitspan farm. Shortly after completing this pass, the next one makes an appearance - namely the Kleinfontein Pass. What is interesting about this pass is that is actually both a pass and a poort. We filmed it as two separate routes, having to drive the passes first, then turn around to face west, as the sun had already gone past noon causing poor light. Fortunately both are fairly short. Having to drive a pass three times to get good video is quite normal.
Kleinfontein Pass & Poort
Shortly after the Kleinfontein Pass comes the Kleinfontein Poort which is short, winding and magnificent. The entire poort was smothered in bright red aloes and many other flowering succulents.
Some 20 km further we filmed the fourth pass on this route - the Perdebont Pass, where after we emerged onto a tar road at Armoed. Near the end of this gravel section, we passed a massive quarry with many large trucks plying back and forth, causing dangerous dust levels and very poor visibility. All credit to the drivers, each and every one of them stopped their trucks to allow us to pass safely. I was impressed. Fortunately the distance from the quarry to the tar road was fairly short. We turned right and routed south for 9 km to connect with the R328, where we turned right once more, heading for the beautiful and historic Robinson Pass.
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.