Latest News! 11th July, 2019

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Rock climbing in the Baviaasnkloof Rock climbing in the Baviaasnkloof - Photo: Google Images

What's inside?

* New winter tours

* Report back on the Thomas Bain Heritage Tour (including an update on Angie's)

* South African History ~ Chapter 10

* Podcast of the week

* Pass of the week

* New passes added

* Words of wisdom by Sir Richard Burton


We have just opened bookings for two brand new tours during the month of August. Want to shrug off those winter city blues? There's is no finer way than getting out into nature.

August 17th & 18th - Back of Beyond Limpopo Tour. This two day weekend tour covers some beautiful mountain passes and a whole brace of nature reserves. Overnight in style and comfort without a care in the world. R1995 per vehicle. Bring friends and family and save as we charge per vehicle and not per person. Your guide will be Mike Leicester. Max 6 vehicles. 4x4 / high clearance mandatory. For more details take the link:  Back of Beyond Limpopo Tour.

August 23rd to 25th - Cederberg Classic Tour. A three day exploration of the 175000 ha. Cederberg Wilderness area, taking in all the best points of interests. Wildflowers, waterfalls, old churches, historical grave sites, remote mountain villages, Rooibos plantations, several major gravel passes, river crossings, wine tasting, craft beer breweries, superb country food and four star accommodation. R4495 per vehicle. Guided by Trygve Roberts. Max 10 vehicles. Open to any high clearance vehicle (4x4 or 4x2). For full details on online bookings take this link: Cederberg Classic Tour.

September 21st to 24th - Ben 10 Eco Challenge V2 Tour. This legendary tour packed with jaw dropping scenery and some of the trickiest gravel road driving in South Africa will be the experience of a lifetime. Ten challenge passes will be driven over 4 days, whilst evenings will be spent at our base for this tour - the 3 star Mountain Shadows Hotel. Open only to 4x4 vehicles, with low range and adequate ground clearance. Drivers must have two years off-road driving experience. Max 10 vehicles. R6750 per vehicle. (Only 4 places open). There will be two guides on this trip to ensure your safety and successful completion of the challenge. For more information and online bookings go here: Ben 10 Eco Challenge V2 Tour.

September 27th to 24th - Lesotho-Sani Tour. If you want to experience Lesotho's high altitude passes and mind blowing scenery coupled with a drive down the Sani Pass, whilst it's still gravel, then this tour is for you. This tour can be done in any 4x4 (a requirement for Sani Pass) and there's a good chance we might experience snow on this tour. This tour is suitable for novice and intermediate drivers. Experience the engineering marvels of the Katse Dam and overnight in quality lodges. There will be two guides on this trip to ensure your safety and peace of mind. R5965 per vehicle. There is 1 place open. For more information and online bookings go here: Lesotho-Sani Tour.

Report back: Thomas Bain Heritage Tour - Day 1 (Part 2)

After a hearty lunch at Totties Country Kitchen at Rheenendal we left the tar briefly to descend down Thomas Bain's first pass of the 7 Passes Road - the Phantom Pass, so named after the Phantom moth that proliferates there, smothering the Knysna River valley in a beautiful display of gray and blue once a year. [More lower down...]

Thomas Bain was a true son of Knysna, having spent many years of his life in the seaside town. He was born in Graaff Reinet and passed away in Cape Town at the age of 63. Wrenching ourselves back to reality, we intersected with the N2 and enjoyed a brief drive along the shores of the Knysna Lagoon and as luck would have it, it was high tide, when the lagoon looks its best. It's hard to believe this town was devastated by fire just a few years ago.

Next up was a short drive up the route of the Jaguar Simola Hill Climb, where evidence of car body parts and skid marks could still be seen several weeks after the event. Once past the entrance gates to the Simola Golf Estate, it was back off the tar as we plunged down into the Gouna basin with its stunning indigenous forest. This short but very steep pass took us past the Gouna State Forest and then east along Kom se Pad - one of the longest roads one can still drive completely immersed in indigenous forests. Tree ferns and burbling streams accompany shafts of sunlight as those with their windows rolled down were treated to the birdsong from within the forest. Such a beautiful drive - and no wonder author Daleen Matthee was so inspired by the atmosphere to write her magical novel "Kringe in die Bos"

We connected with Prince Alfred's Pass at Diepwalle Forestry Station and turned north to drive SA's longest pass. After Buffelsnek, we took the group up to the Spitskop view site, which for many was the highlight of the day. Although it was blustery at the peak, it did not detract from the magnificent 360 views on show. Even the ocean was visible from this point, some 50 km away. A vast network of forestry roads disappear into the forests, begging to be explored.

Another interesting stop was at the interactive sculpture "Calling the Herd" at the intersection of the R340 from Plettenberg Bay. Those with bugle or trumpet playing experience could produce the trumpeting sounds through the extended cones where it is meant to symbolise calling the long lost elephant herds back to the region. The unusual sculpture was produced by celebrated South African sculptor Strijdom van der Merwe.

A bakkie pulled up whilst we were calling elephants with none other than Harold and Angie Beaumont the occupants. The beleaguered owners of Angie's G-Spot who have fought for a decade for their rights to run their little business at De Vlugt in the face of opposition from a wealthy neighbour, where things finally reached the point where the sheriff of the court arrived with a court order to dismantle their buildings. They have continued to fight and are back in business with a great deal of help from sympathisers from 4x4 clubs and motorcycle groups. Their new timber chalet is just about ready for commissioning and whilst they are not out of the woods yet, it looks promising that Angies is here to stay. We did a short video interview with them:


[Next week we will take you through the final section of Day 1]

South African History - Part 10

Establishment of the Boer Republics


After the demise of the short-lived Republic of Natalia and the British annexation of Natal, many of the Boer families living in the region trekked back over the Drakensberg Mountains to join up with the Voortrekker communities that had established themselves in the central and northern parts of the country.

The scattered Trekker groups had started to form what they called “Republics”, but in essence these usually consisted of an established town (e.g. Winburg, Potchefstroom, Lydenburg and Utrecht) and its surrounding area. At least 10 of these republics were established in the period from 1836 to 1854. As alliances evolved and boundaries changed due to ongoing wars or treaties with the indigenous peoples, these communities started to band together, eventually ending up with two main groups; those to the north of the Vaal River as well as the eastern part of the highveld plateau, and the group located between the Orange and Vaal Rivers in the central region of the country.

The British, at this stage, had no interest whatsoever in these developments. As far as they were concerned, they controlled the Cape, Natal, and virtually the entire coastline of the country, and the Boers were welcome to the hot, dry and apparently worthless interior. Besides, they had enough problems with the Xhosa on their eastern frontier and the Zulus in Natal. They agreed to recognise Boer independence, and the South African Republic (Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek, usually known as the ZAR) was officially established on 17 January 1852 with the signing of the Sand River Convention. The Republic of the Orange Free State (Oranje-Vrijstaat) followed two years later, on 23 February 1854.

PODCAST: We chat about Day 2 of our recent Thomas Bain Heritage Tour. Click to listen.

Pass of the Week: This week we introduce you to a lovely and relatively unknown tarred pass near Heidelberg in the Western Cape, with some fascinating  local history dating back to the mid 1800's.


* * * * *   D A N E E L S H O O G T E   * * * * *


New passes added this week:

Kranspoort (S508) - A beautiful and unknown poort near Fouriesburg in the Free State

Trygve Roberts

Thought for the day: "The gladdest moment in human life is a departure into unknown lands" ~ Sir Richard Burton.  

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Mountain Passes South Africa is a website dedicated to the research, documentation, photographing and filming of the mountain passes of South Africa.

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