* Lock Down Stressors - the way forward
* Kouga-Baviaans Explorer Tour - Chapter 4
* Pass of the week
* New passes published
* Motivational Message
Lockdown - the realities set in.
There are so many things we have lived through - each one being touted as the new mega pandemic. And yet this Covid-19 is on a different scale that none of us have ever witnessed before. There are most certainly a few positives to be taken out of it. In a social media bulletin I noted that SA's death rate had actually improved, being the only country in the world to do so, but not because of the virus, but the lack of murders due to lock down. True or false, it did at least raise a wry smile - only in South Africa!
The nation is now facing a dilemma. Which is worse - the pandemic or financial disaster? I suppose sanity will prevail somewhere along the line and it will become necesary to get the economy going again. From our perspective, we are not cancelling any tours, but rather postponing them. The Ben 10 Tour will more than likely be moved to September (we ran a very successful Ben 10 tour in September last year). As soon as we have clarity from government about lockdown ending, we will finalise new dates and publish them here.
We ask those who have booked on tours to not panic. Work with us as we endeavour to meet everyone's needs and requirements. Life will return to normal.
Kouga Baviaans Tour - Chapter 4
Breakfast at Zandvlakte matched the previous night’s dinner. What wonderful hospitality and excellent food. The owner, Piet Kruger, towers above all other humans and has a handshake that crushes city hands effortlessly. Not that he’s trying to do that. He’s a farmer and brute strength is simply part of the genetic makeup.
Our drivers briefing took place on the lawns in from of the Winkeliershuis and Piet, as always, attends the briefings, chipping in here and there with a joke, advice or some or the other anecdote, warming his way into everyone's hearts as only he knows how. We said our farewells and promptly at 09h00, rolled the convoy back onto the gravel road, heading east past Zandvlakte’s lavender fields. This group was very good about being punctual and each day, we departed very close to the scheduled time.
Our sweep, Philip Wantling, was unsuccessful in trying to repair his brakes. I suggested that he leave his Navara at the farm and drive with me in the lead vehicle and I would bring him back to the farm after the tour had ended, armed with the necessary parts which we could obtain at Patensie or Willowmore, but Philip politely refused, stating he was confident he could drive all the passes with only a handbrake. It turned out he was right, although he did later confess to one or two "knyp" moments.
Our destination for the day was Bruintjieskraal in the Cambria Valley and although the distance is relatively short, it is the terrain which makes this an all-day drive. There was much anticipation (and some angst) amongst our novice offroad drivers about the deep water crossing at Smitskraal – something we had been speaking about regularly pre-trip – and today was their big day.
It had rained steadily the whole night, leaving the roads nicely damped down (and dust free) as well as a few puddles for us to splash through. From Zandvlakte to the reserve gates is only about 6 km. The solitary official was very good at his job and had us all signed up and legal in short order. The toilet facilities were spotless. By the way, your Wild Card is persona non grata here. Gate fees were R43 per person and no separate fee for the vehicle.
It was at this stop, whilst waiting for all the paperwork to be completed, that Jenny Lenahan spotted a sidewall cut in their Land Cruiser’s rear tyre. I was summonsed to have a look and we took the decision to rather change the wheel right where we were, where the road was wide and level, rather than being forced to do it later in the day on one of the steep passes. Most of the guys lent a hand and in 15 minutes the job was done.
Every traverse of the Baviaanskloof is unique. Things change year in and year out, where rainfall is the master of the kloof – dictating life in all its forms, including for humans. This trip we were truly blessed with lots of game sightings. Every few minutes someone would chirp on the radio “Just seen a bushbuck” or “Two kudu 3 ‘O Clock at 60 metres” or "Rhino marks!"
What a week that was!
* New beginings - Amazing what lockdown has generated.
* Wild Coast Recce Trip - Getting in and out of trouble.
* Kouga Baviaans Explorer Tour - Chapter 3
* Pass of the week.
* Words of wisdom
In the MPSA editorial office we have had time to adjust and take a major reality check, despite the fact there is still so much uncertainty. We are not even a week into lock-down and still no one knows when they will be going back to work or reopening their businesses. It is a time to be calm and patient. A time to be positive.
The initial surge of Covid-10 laden subject matter saw our website page views dropping below 1000 for the week for the first time in 7 years. And then as if by magic, it (social media) lurched in the opposite direction which saw page views sky-rocketing as the public started reaching out for good news. In a random act of kindness, we opened the website to all for the duration of lock-down. That post (at the time of writing) has had a reach of 32,600 - and all of it is organic.
We broke another record last week in that our FaceBook page gained over a thousand new followers in less than 7 days.
Most people are still bewildered, afraid and unsure. That's to be expected and of course at MPSA we have been able to keep up the good work and have gone out on a limb doing our level best to promote sensible behaviour and our posts have focused on the beautiful side of life, carefully designed to provide a message of sanity where people feel safe and know what they're going to read will be wholesome.
As far as our tours are concerned, we had to postpone our Ben 10 V3 Tour as it fell right within the brackets of the lock-down dates. We will not make a decision on the new dates until we have certainty as to the end dates of the lock-down. We don't want to set new dates and then have to postpone a second time. The moment we have certainty, the new dates will be published here.
The Wild Coast Tour sheduled for mid May is still on track and will only be postponed if lock-down is extended.
* We are revamping some of the artwork, logos and imagery on some of the pages - with a major revamp of the Shop & Tours page.
* We introduced our first guest blogger (in the form of Trevor Hall) who has written an interesting series of short articles with photos which we have released on our Facebook page on a daily basis and in time sequence. If we have positive feedback, we will extend the concept to include new guest writers on a more regular basis.
* Our resident creative Lisa is taking you down memory lane as she revisits our early news releases from 2013, but with a fresh new touch. These will be hyperlinked via our Facebook page. In the meantime here is the first and second issue. We have created this new blog space on our Shop and Tours page.
I'm always looking for short cuts and ways to get off the tarred roads. A quick look at my GPS revealed a dotted track between Trennerys and Kei Mouth which promised to cut off about 40 km of tar road driving. These little excursions often lead to wonderful discoveries that I am able to include in subsequent tours. However not all of them are successful.
* Corona - you cannot ignore it
* Wild Coast recce Trip - Chapter 5
* Kouga Baviaans Tour - Chapter 2
* Pass of the week
* Words of wisdom
What a week! The Corona story happened whilst we were on tour in the Baviaanskloof being totally isolated from the outside world with no mobile signal or internet connection whatsoever. It was only on the Sunday evening as we arrived at Bruintjieskraal near Patensie, that the lodge owner informed us of the bad news. Two of our guests on the tour run an international travel business and had to reluctantly leave the group a day early and head directly back to Johannesburg to deal with the detritus of cancellations and postponements.
We arrved back in Cape Town on Tuesday evening and then the harsh reality of what was happening struck me like a sledge hammer. For the next four days, it was like coming out of boot camp. I had to read so much negative material to keep myself informed - and try and sift the fake news from the real news. It left me feeling flat. But the show must go on and it is so important to keep a positive mindset. Reboot. Reboot. Reboot.
On Monday night the lockdown announcement was made, which in turn resulted in us having to postpone our Ben 10 V3 Tour which would have fallen within those dates. This morning I read an interesting and uplifting article written by a British teacher in the Far East, who has just come out of isolation and their lives are returning to normal again. It is important for us to understand what we are dealing with and that in time, our lives will also return to normal.
In the meantime, set yourself up for success over the next 3 weeks:
1. Plan your days to be productive. Do all those repairs, chores you have been putting off. Clean the garage. Paint that room. Do a gardening project.
2. Get us much quality sleep as you can and some daily Vitamin D sunshine.
3. Stay off the alcohol.
4. Sort our all your photo files. Create new albums. Play games like Monopoly and Scrabble.
5. Spend time with your kids. Set aside daily hours for online education.
6. Stay away from the negativity of the news channels where possible - and especially fake news sources.
7. Cyber drive a few passes every day.
8. Follow our Facebook page where you can enjoy daily doses of positivity and quality images.
9. Keep yourself busy. Don't panic buy, or hoard. Don't worry all the time.
10. If you are worried about your financial commitments, get hold of the company concerned and make arrangements for 3 months deferred payments.
(More lower down)
* 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...)
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.