The return leg to Ceres was uneventful allowing us a final stop at the summit of Michells Pass for some photography and videography. All the rivers were flowing strongly and no doubt add significantly to the Western Cape's water storage. After so many weeks of lockdown it was great to be out and about once again.
Every now and again we have a look at the analytics of our website. The figures for May showed our dominant readership to be South African at 79.22%. Other countries in volume order were USA, UK, Germany, Australia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Canada, France, India and Lesotho. We are growing!
Lockdown was singularly bad for new subscriptions, mainly because we decided to open the site free everyone for 60 days whilst in level 1 lockdown. During that phase we had hardly any new subscribers, but the moment we put the subscriber restrictions back in place, we have had a huge surge in subscriptions. We have put this down to the fact that many new viewers were able to see what we have on offer and wanted to continue to enjoy access. As you give so shall you receive (it would seem)
Lockdown had a bizarre effect on our FaceBook page. The growth has been nothing short of phenomenal. Before lockdown started we had 24,000 followers. We now have 30,000! Our current rate of increase is around 1000 new followers per week. Trying to analyse those figures is difficult, but we believe that lockdown had many more people glued to their phones and computers searching for positive, uplifting material, which we supply as a matter of normal course. We chose to stay true to our course and it paid off handsomely.
In conclusion, MPSA has enjoyed many benefits from lockdown and not everything is bad news.
Trips and Tours
The next tour coming up is the Wild Coast Tour starting on the 5th August. We had had 5 cancellations (mostly Covid fear driven) but we have been able to resell all of the places, so that tour is once again fully booked. We are very busy adding all the finishing touches to our routes. Next year we will repeat this tour as there was a lot of interest.
In mid-September we will be running our Ben 10 Eco Challenge V3 Tour. We still have one place left. You can get full details, costs, etc on this link, where you can also book online: BEN 10 V3 TOUR
NEW SWARTBERG TOUR
We have started planning our last multiple day tour of 2020 which will be the SWARTBERG 2020 TOUR. This tour will start in Swellendam and include 8 passes on the first day, which will include Gysmanshoek, Seweweekspoort and Bosluiskloof. We will be overnighting for 2 nights at the secluded Boschluys Kloof Lodge. On Day 2 there will be time for hiking, birding or a 4x4 trail or simply basking in the sun next to the pool or on the deck of your chalet.
Day 3 - The route will then double back over Bosluiskloof and Seweweekspoort and head to Calitzdorp, after which we take gravel roads all the way to De Rust for lunch. The afternoon will cover the mesmerising rock formations and waterfalls of Meiringspoort and then on to Prince Albert (again via some gravel roads wherever possible) for an overnight stay in a tranquil lodge with some fine Karoo cooking.
Day 4 we will drive the Swartberg Pass which will include a drive along the Gamkaskloof and down Elands Pass to Die Hel for a lunch at Plaasfontein with the family of Annatjie Joubert. We will drive back out the same afternoon and descend the southern side of the Swartberg Pass to overnight at the Calitzdorp Spa. We have made this change as many of the cottages in Die Hel suffered fire damage earlier this year and will not be ready for occupation by the time we run our tour.
Day 5 - The final day we will drive the Rooiberg and Assegaaibosch passes and complete the tour with a stay at the beautiful Rooiberg Lodge and enjoy some game viewing.
The extra number of days will allow for a leisurely pace with plenty of time to stop and enjoy the sights and sounds and capture all the best views on camera. The new tour should be loaded by this time next week. We expect this one to be sold out in short order based on the 2019 bookings.
Stories from the Karoo
The King of Pain.
In earlier stories (those who have been following) I’ve explained my brother Carlo’s ability to shrug pain off, which is legendary. In fact I think he secretly enjoys it. A masochist of sorts.
Today’s story took place in approximately 1954. The whole family were off on an outing in the '36 Chevy. Mom and dad up front and Carlo, Lola and I had the back seat to ourselves. As always our father had a cigarette in his mouth. He was an adept smoker being able to perform any task (including speaking) without removing the fag from his lips. 60 to 100 cigarettes per day - 7 days a week.
My father always drove fast - and he was a very good driver, having spent many years as a Senior Roads Inspector, criss crossing the gravel roads of the Eastern Cape.
Carlo, aged about 6, using hand signs to communicate with his siblings, swore Lola and I to secrecy. He quietly opened the rear door - bearing in mind the car was travelling at about 60 kph - and bailed out like a skydiver holding firmly onto his cross-breed fox terrier.
Lola and I thought it was a really cool trick as we sniggered quietly to ourselves, not thinking for a moment that our brother might be critically injured or dead. We dutifully kept to our brother’s wishes and said nothing to our parents.
The question younger people might be asking is - how could the parents not have heard the car door opening?
Because Winston smoked, the car windows were always open creating a lot of wind noise. Add to that a noisy old car of 1936 vintage and the loud crunching of the tyres on the gravel road and you might understand how easily this little event took place.
Parents have a 6th sense and one of them must have wondered why the noise levels in the rear seat had diminished somewhat.
Then came that familiar roar from my father:
“ WHERE IS CARLO!!!???”
The Chevy skidded to a shuddering halt as my father leapt out and checked to see if there was any possibility that Carlo was hiding somewhere in the back. He even checked in the boot, as it was possible to access the boot from behind the back seat.
It was about that time that he noticed that the back door where Carlo had been sitting, was not fully closed.
One can only begin to imagine the emotions of a parent discovering their 6 year old child was missing from the car. I’m sure he assumed Carlo had been collected by higher spirits. Questions were barked at Lola and I, who were both too scared to say a word. We just sat there looking contrite.
The Chevy made a U turn and so began the search for my brother. Unlike the story of the longdrop, this time Carlo was well and truly in the dwang. Winston found Carlo, bloodied and covered in gravel in a ditch a few miles further back.
All he said was “My God Carlo! What have you done this time!?”
I don’t recall whether he was taken to hospital, a local doctor or straight home for the hot water, cotton wool and Dettol treatment, but he survived. There were no broken bones. He also managed to evade getting a hiding.
That’s my brother. The king of pain. It took me a while to figure out why he chose dentistry as a career, but I’ve got it now.
- We discuss the history of Michells Pass south of Ceres and its importance in the development of the region
Pass of the Week
With all the focus on the fruit farming town of Ceres this week, we have decided to feature the superb Michell's Pass and to revisit it's rugged history, where oxwagons once had to be dismantled to get up the steepest sections and many years later in 1969 when the entire pass was destroyed by the Tulbagh earthquake.
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Words of wisdom: "Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible" ~ Dalai Lama