You can now book your place on the Tankwa Tour online on the MPSA Shop page.
*The MPSA Shop has a separate login system to that of the main MPSA website. It does not require creating a user account in advance. (It does not require logging in, during your first purchase)
During a first purchase, your account will be auto-created, using the email you supply at checkout.
Exploring the old Transkei
And speaking of trips and travels, we are heading off to the Eastern Cape, where we have a big filming trip planned for mid October, with over 40 passes in our sights including some exciting new ones in the old Transkei. We will be filming mostly between the coast and the zone approximately 150 km inland with our turnaround point point being the KZN border. Exploring these passes on Google Earth reveals vast canyons with stunning scenery and complex navigation over muddy and potholed roads. This promises to be our most ambitious filming expedition to date. More news will follow closer to the time. We are also going to try and coordinate a live radio interview whilst we pass through East London on October 14th. Watch this space.
For the next 3 weeks we publish a collection of pass stories by Tom Cowell. Here is Chapter 1.
My original intention was to comment on the Witkop Pass my wife and I did recently in the Lephalele (Ellisras) district. Whilst this is a gem of a pass I thought for now rather to set the scene and give, what I think, some interesting background on how we came to be there.
Ever since I was tall enough to stand on the back seat of my Dad’s Studebaker and gaze out the back window I’ve been what my wife calls a 'mountain pass junkie'.
As a child our annual holidays were spent in Plettenberg Bay where Granny and Grandpa had a farm where they grew salad ingredients for the Beacon Isle hotel. Travelling from the Reef our route to and from the area included either, Meirings Poort, Outeniqua, Montagu or Prince Alfred’s passes. In those days Meirings Poort was still a dirt track and Outeniqua had not yet been upgraded. Travelling down Montague pass we often had to stop to allow the brakes to cool.
Back at school for the start of the new year term, it was usual for teacher to get us to share with the class what we did over the Christmas holidays. I was always convinced my teachers had never driven, walked or ridden a mountain pass before and those that perhaps had found it difficult sharing my unusual enthusiasm for that stuff.
Whilst doing my extended military service in the navy at Simonstown, and if not at sea, I was usually bumming a lift to the mountain passes in the area. The Cape has some of the most interesting and beautiful passes on the planet but most sailors not owning motor cars are severely disadvantaged in appreciating anything much further from the dock yards. My wife and I married soon after me leaving the navy and at every opportunity have lugged our camp gear all over South Africa and beyond our borders to Swaziland, Lesotho, Namibia & Botswana soaking in any pass on the way.
[Be sure to read the next instalment of this story where the author meets up with Chris Barnard on a mountain pass. Ed.]
The Owl Route promises to be a hoot
Nieu Bethesda has some interesting and peculiar geographical features. Unlike most South African villages, this one does not provide a through road to the next town, but is rather a final terminus that three different roads lead to. It's the end of the road - the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. A lovely, timeless and slightly abstract village with wide streets, beautiful trees - all cocooned into a small, but fertile valley surrounded by rugged mountains.
It also has a perpetual freshwater spring that provides enough water for the village via a system of leiwater canals, but it's not just the geograhical features that make this town unique, it is also the residents who have made the village so unique, not least of which is artist Helen Martin's legacy - the Owl House Museum.
There are other famous writers, poets, playwrights and artists that live here too where the quiet shady streets ooze country charm and serenity. It really is a place worth visiting and there are no ATM machines, garages or internet cafes to distract you from just being. Sound good? Then take the big gravel pass off the N9 north of Graaff Reinet and work your way around the Kompasberg in an anti-clockwise direction over steep necks and narrow valleys and approach Nieu Bethesda via the road less travelled.
For those who don't like gravel travel, you can make use of the tarred Rubidgekloof Pass and for the real back road enthusiasts, there's another approach from the north-west via Michielshoogte (but watch out for kudus on this road at any time of day!). Each approach is different and has it's own allure, but it is the Witnek Pass which is our favourite. Take the cyber drive with us as we filmed this pass on a cold, wet late autumn day. The page also features a village tour of Nieu Bethesda.
* * * * * W I T N E K P A S S * * * * *
Upgraded videos added this week:
Bothmaskloof Pass - an easy, but attractive pass on the R46 with history dating back to 1661.
Thought for the day: "The period of greatest gain in knowledge and experience is the most difficult period in one's life." ~ Dalai Lama