Latest News! 22nd October, 2020

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View from the Witteberge near Lady Grey View from the Witteberge near Lady Grey - Photo: Lady Grey Tourism

The week that was

* Trips & Tours

* Ben 10 V3 Tour Day 4 (Series)

* Great South Africans (#5 Series)

* South African Cities (#6 Series)

* Pass of the Week

* Words of Wisdom

Trips & Tours

Swartberg 2020 Tour: As you read this newsletter our tour group will be winding our way through the beautiful Swartberg range. Our Swartberg tours are always popular, so if you missed out on this one, we will be repeating it again in 2021.

Mpumalanga Panorama Tour: Bookings closed

Wild Coast Tour: Fully Booked

Mpumalanga Highveld Tour: 5 places open

Atlantis Sand Training Day: 4 places left.

Book your tour online

Ben 10 V3 Tour Report Back (Day 4)

All or previous Ben 10 Tours were run over 4 days. For the 2020 version we decided to build a spare (contingency) day into the programme in case of bad weather or vehicle breakdowns. We had a loose Plan B plan for this day, in case everything was running smoothly. As things turned out, for most of our guests, the spare day delivered a fantastic adventure.

Geudeon van Zyl is the father of the Ria Reabow, owner of the Mountain Shadows Hotel, which we use as our base for these tours. Geudeon, who is a cattle farmer both locally and in the Free State, happened to be visiting during the time of our tour, and offered to "show us around"- and what a day it turned out to be. 

Some of our guests opted out for the day and took a drive through to Rhodes to check out the local cemetery (a historical hobby of theirs), whilst others revisited their old family farms in the Elliot area. We were minus 3 vehicles for our little excursion. We departed promptly at 08.30 heading for a tall peak visible from the hotel called Dawid se Kop, which stands a respectable 2515m tall and is frequently snow capped in winter. 

Looking at the peak from the southern perspective, it seemed impossible to get up those vertical krantzes, but Geudeon guided us around to the northern side of the peak, all the while regaling us over the radios with fascinating snippets about water arteries in the mountains and the finer points of sheep and cattle farming. We crossed two private farms, which our guide for the day had gone to some trouble to collect keys and permission to cross private land.

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Many farm gates had to be opened and closed and our hard working sweep, Philip Wantling, cheerfully did the honours. We arrived at the foot of the concrete road. It stretched up a long valley ahead of us, steadily increasing in pitch, as altitude was gained. We were all requested to switch to low range as the gradient reached almost 1:3 near the summit. Before the final leg to the actual summit and radio masts, we reached a small level section, where we split the convoy into two halves as the space at the summit is small.

That final haul up to the top is very steep, to the point where the road disappears from view and only blue sky is visible. The summit views are mind-blowing. The peak allows a 360 degree clear panorama which surpasses everything else on the Ben 10 Route. The weather was crisp and clear, allowing for great photography. Dawid se Kop plays host to the second highest radio mast in South Africa, with the highest one at the summit of Bastervoetpad being clearly visible from where we were.

A snowy traverse of Volunteershoek Pass (Oct 2012)

We were back down on the R393 in short order, headed northwards towards Mosheses Ford and the back road to Barkly East. Soon we left the gravel road and entered the Rocklands farm, where we enjoyed a lunch break, supplemented with a tour of the lambing pens for the sheep and a farming lesson on husbandry.

More farm gates eventually got us to a gnarly and rough two spoor pass which climbed at an alarming rate until we reached a ridge which offered stupendous views in every direction. This tour truly went to places well off the beaten track. Once we reached Barkly East, it was an easy run back to Mountain Shadows on the R58, but the best was left till last, as we drove up the mountains on a vague two spoor track and open meadows to reach the viewing site of the vulture colony at a spot called The Castle (spelled on the rockface as 'The Castel').

There was no question that we would see the big birds as many sightings were spotted as we clawed our way up the mountain. The wind was icy cold at the view-site, but it also made for good soaring conditions for the vultures. It was one of the most fascinating experiences to watch. We remained on the ridge, taking photos and videos for almost an hour and finally it was time to head back to the warmth of the fire at the hotel and another hearty country meal.

It was a happy and contended bunch of guests that slept well that night.

Next week: The final day - Naudes Nek, TTT, & Ben MacDhui and Chappies Awards

Great South Africans

Mary Malahlela-Xakana (2 May 1916 – 8 May 1981) was the first black woman to register as a medical doctor in South Africa (in 1947). She was also a founding member of the Young Women’s Christian Association.

Mary Susan Makobatjatji Malahlela was born in Pietersburg. Her father was Thadius Chweu Malahlela, a Christian convert. Her father had been driven from his home for refusing to put his twin children to death, since twins were considered a curse. As a girl she was a student at the Methodist Primary School in Juliwe, near Johannesburg. She attended the University of Fort Hare as an undergraduate, and in 1941 received support from the Native Trust Fund to study medicine at the University of Witwatersrand. In 2015 the University of Witwatersrand erected a plaque on its grounds as a memorial to Dr Malahlela and as a way to redress the historical diminution of native black alumni.

Mary Malahlela

In 1947, Malahlela graduated from medical school and registered as a medical doctor, the first black woman in South Africa to do so. She opened a private medical practice in Kliptown, and a second in Mofolo South. After the Group Areas Act, she worked at the clinic in Dobsonville.

Malahlele was a founding member of the YWCA in South Africa, and active in the peace and anti-apartheid movements. She was a member of the Women's Peace Movement, a member of the Fort Hare University Council, and a chairwoman of the Roodepoort School Board.

Mary Malahlela married and had two daughters. She died in 1981, aged 65, after a heart attack, while volunteering with Dr. Nthato Motlana at the rural Witkoppen Clinic in Sandton, Johannesburg.

A primary school in Dobsonville is named after Dr. Malahlela-Xakana. In 2015, Malahlela-Xakana was posthumously awarded the Order of the Baobab for her pioneering medical career.

 South African Cities - Durban

Durban is the third most populous city in South Africa after Johannesburg and Cape Town and the largest city in KwaZulu-Natal. Durban has a population of about 3.44 million, making the combined municipality one of the biggest cities on the Indian Ocean coast of the African continent.

Archaeological evidence from the Drakensberg mountains suggests that the Durban area has been inhabited by communities of hunter-gatherers since 100,000 BC. These people lived throughout the area of present-day KwaZulu-Natal until the expansion of Bantu farmers and pastoralists from the north saw their gradual displacement, incorporation or extermination. Little is known of the history of the first residents, as there is no written history of the area until it was sighted by Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama, who sailed parallel to the KwaZulu-Natal coast at Christmastide in 1497 while searching for a route from Europe to India. He named the area "Natal", or Christmas in Portuguese.

In 1686 a ship from the Dutch East India Company named 'Stavenisse' wrecked off the eastern coast of South Africa. Some of the survivors made their way to the Bay of Natal (Durban) where they were taken in by the Abambo tribe under leadership of Chief Langalibale. The crew became fluent in the language of the tribe and witnessed their customs. They told that the land where the Abambo people lived was called Embo by the natives and that the people were very hospitable. On the 28th of October 1689 the galiot 'Noord' traveled from Table Bay to the Bay of Natal for the purpose to fetch the survivors of the crew and to negotiate a deal to purchase the bay. The Noord arrived on the 9th of December 1689 where after the Dutch Cape Colony purchased the Bay of Natal from the Abambo people for £1650. A formal contract was drawn up by Laurens van Swaanswyk and signed by the Chief of the Abambo people, the crew of the Stavenisse acted as translators.

Modern day Durban

In 1822 Lieutenant James King, captain of the ship Salisbury, together with Lt. Francis George Farewell, both ex-Royal Navy officers from the Napoleonic Wars, were engaged in trade between the Cape and Delagoa Bay. On a return trip to the Cape in 1823, they were caught in a very bad storm and decided to risk the Bar and anchor in the Bay of Natal. The crossing went off well and they found safe anchor from the storm. Lt. King decided to map the Bay and named the "Salisbury and Farewell Islands". In 1824 Lt. Farewell, together with a trading company called J. R. Thompson & Co., decided to open trade relations with Shaka the Zulu King and establish a trading station at the Bay. Henry Francis Fynn, another trader at Delagoa Bay, was also involved in this venture. Fynn left Delagoa Bay and sailed for the Bay of Natal on the brig Julia, while Farewell followed six weeks later on the Antelope. Between them they had 26 possible settlers, but only 18 stayed. On a visit to King Shaka, Henry Francis Fynn was able to befriend the King by helping him recover from a stab wound suffered as a result of an assassination attempt by one of his half-brothers. As a token of Shaka's gratitude, he granted Fynn a “25-mile strip of coast a hundred miles in depth.” On 7 August 1824 they concluded negotiations with King Shaka for a cession of land, including the Bay of Natal and land extending ten miles south of the Bay, twenty-five miles north of the Bay and one hundred miles inland. Farewell took possession of this grant and raised the Union Jack with a Royal Salute, which consisted of 4 cannon shots and twenty musket shots. Of the original 18 would-be settlers, only 6 remained, and they can be regarded as the founding members of Port Natal as a British colony. These 6 were joined by Lt. James Saunders King and Nathaniel Isaacs in 1825.

The modern city of Durban thus dates from 1824 when the settlement was established on the northern shores of the bay near today's Farewell Square.

During a meeting of 35 European residents in Fynn's territory on 23 June 1835, it was decided to build a capital town and name it "D'Urban" after Sir Benjamin D'Urban, then governor of the Cape Colony.

Pass of the Week

As our story unfolds of our recent Ben 10 V3 Tour, this week's featured pass stays on the theme and we cyber drive the Volunteershoek Pass. This is a tough, high-altitude gravel pass that connects the Wartrail farming valley with the well-known Tiffindell Ski Resort, close to the RSA/Lesotho border. Relatively long at 9,6 km, it rises from 1916m ASL to 2567m. The first 4 km offers gradients of up to 1:5! This is strictly a 4x4 only route and high ground clearance, as well as low range, are mandatory. Allow at least 2 hours to complete the full leg from the Funnystone farm to Tiffindell.

* * * * *   V O L U N T E E R S H O E K   P A S S   * * * * *



Trygve Roberts

Words of wisdom: "What you lack in talent, can be made up with desire, hard work, determination and giving 100% all the time" - Don Zimmer 

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