Latest News! 17th December, 2020.

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One of our guests, Abie Spies, looking down over the Mzintlava River valley One of our guests, Abie Spies, looking down over the Mzintlava River valley - Photo: MPSA WCT Tour group

What's inside?

* Tours update

* Wild Coast Tour - Day 2

* Great South Africans

* South African Cities

* Podcast

* Pass of the Week

* Words of wisdom

Tours Update:

March 11th to 14th - Kouga-Baviaans Tour (4 days) 

April 1st to 5th - Ben 10 V4 Tour (5 days incl Easter Weekend) 

May 13th to 22nd - Wild Coast Tour (10 days)  

Wild Coast Tour - The story continues.....

After a short stint on tar, we arrived at Tabankulu. These small rural towns are something of an education and it's best to have a positive mind-set before you get there. It was a Saturday morning, so the village was bustling with energy. Barbeques on open fires next to the franchise shops in the main street; skinny dogs criss-crossing the road looking for a morsel of food; a few bemused looking goats; a small selection of fine Nguni cattle; Toyota Minibus taxis everywhere and then there are the people - all seemingly happy with the chaos around them. It's a real Transkei experience to be savoured and remembered. No-one in the rural Eastern Cape drives with their lights on, so the locals, after seeing this long convoy of vehicles with lights on, no doubt thought we were off to a funeral and due courtesy was given to us.

Just west of the village, there is a fork. The right hand option leads to a marvellous pass, called the Gwangxu Pass, which is currently a dead-end as the bridge at the bottom of the pass has been washed away. Our route took the left hand option to drive the highlight pass of the day - the Mzintlava Pass.

This major gravel pass will enthral and enchant even the most jaded pass hunter. It is long, steep, rough and peppered with 301 bends, corners and curves of which 7 are hairpins and another 29 exceed 90 degrees radius. It achieves top 10 status in two categories as the 5th longest pass and the 7th biggest altitude gaining pass in South Africa. It's named after the Mtzintlava River, which is one of the main tributaries of the Umzimvubu River with which it forms a confluence about 15 km to the south west of the pass. 

Initially the road follows the contour line of the mountain, dipping in and out of the ravines, with expansive views to the south over the green hills and valleys of the Wild Coast. It's not long and the road enters a magnificent indigenous forest. It was a hot day and since it was close to lunchtime, we pulled over inside the forest, fully occupying one half of the roadway, to enjoy our lunch break. The forest was alive with birdsong and the sounds of burbling streams. Local vehicles stopped as they passed by greeting us with smiles and waves. Forget about all those preconceived ideas you had about the region. The locals are genuinely friendly.

The road now climbs at a gradient of 1:14 for the next 1,5 km with magnificent views over the Tshumi River valley on the right whilst the dense forests of the Ntabankulu Forest Reserve smother the southern slope of the mountain ahead. A short and steep descent follows, as the road skirts the northern side of another valley and meanders eastwards whilst undulating and descending towards the 15 km mark and the village of Bomvini where there is a very sharp hairpin bend to the right of 160 degrees. At the apex of this hairpin a smaller road leads off into the north-east to the village of Ncetshane.

[Read more...]

Soon the majestic views open up as the road reaches the lip of the Mzintlava River valley. We stopped for a leg stretch and were joined by some locals who requested photographs of some members of our group. Objects of interest, as smartphones clicked away and everyone was smiling.

The views over the valley are indescribable in their grandeur and scope, with the chocolate brown river leading one's eye down the valley, some 350m lower down. The descent is amazing with the views changing constantly as the road changes direction in its long path down towards the bridge. The views now change with the KuCoto River valley on the right and a little further ahead on the right the bulk of the conical mountain known as KuManqokazi [808m] fills the view. In front of the mountain another small village, named Choto, spreads out over the valley floor.

Eventually the south-western end of this long ridge is reached at the 25,8 km mark adjacent to the village of Sikhulweni, where a wide U bend of 160 degrees takes the road completely in the opposite direction, heading north-east and still descending, albeit at an easier gradient. Once again there are perfect, but lower altitude views of the Mzintlava River on the right. 

In 1997, a mysterious creature made headlines around the world when it was blamed for the deaths of seven villagers along the Mzintlava River, Many bodies were recovered with their faces grotesquely devoured. Eyewitness accounts measure the beast at 6 to 7 feet long, with the head of a horse, the body of a fish, and skin like a crocodile. The creature was named Mamlambo after the Zulu goddess of rivers.

Witnesses and locals note that the Mamlambo's presence is often punctuated by thunderstorms, suggesting that the creature may be attracted to bad weather. So, watch the skies and when the clouds start gathering, head to the wildest parts of Mzintlava River. 

Once over the single width concrete bridge, the climb up the other side of the valley is steep and unrelenting, but in due course the villages start appearing in rapid succession as the outskirts of Lusikisiki are reached. Here we turned right onto the tarred R61 and headed south to the hustle and bustle of Lusikisiki, which was Tabankulu multiplied by a factor of 10. Some of the vehicles in our convoy required fuel, so a stop of 20 minutes was needed, whereafter we regrouped (a task which would have been nigh impossible without the two way radios) at the turn-off to Mbotyi.

The run down to Mbotyi was delightful as we took in the Magwa tea plantations, followed by the very steep Mbotyi Pass, which is mostly hidden inside the coastal forest canopy - and finally we arrived at the Mbotyi River Lodge with enough time to spare to have a swim in the lagoon or sip a cold beer in the pub with a glorious view over the estuary.

[Next week: Waterfall Bluff and Cathedral Rock]

Great South Africans

Dalene Matthee (13 October 1938 – 20 February 2005) was a South African author best known for her four Forest Novels, written in and around the Knysna Forest. Her books have been translated into fourteen languages, including English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Hebrew and Icelandic, and over a million copies have been sold worldwide.

She was born Dalena Scott in Riversdale in the then Cape Province in 1938. After matriculating from the local high school in 1957, she studied music at a conservatory in Oudtshoorn as well as at the Holy Cross Covent in Graaff-Reinet.

Her first book was a children's story, Die Twaalfuurstokkie (The Twelve-o'-clock Stick), published in 1970. In 1982 a collection of short stories called Die Judasbok (The Judas Goat) was also published. Before gaining fame and wide acclaim for her first "forest novel", she also wrote stories for magazines as well as two popular novels - ’n Huis vir Nadia (A House for Nadia) (1982) and Petronella van Aarde, Burgemeester (Petronella van Aarde, Mayor) (1983).

Dalene Matthee

Kringe in ’n Bos (Circles in a Forest) (1984) is a novel about the extermination of the Knysna elephants and the exploitation of the woodcutters of the Knysna Forest, and impacts on the forest elephants. It was an international success and was translated to several languages, with the author translating the book herself from Afrikaans to English. Two other highly successful "forest novels" followed: Fiela se Kind (Fiela's Child) in 1985 and Moerbeibos (The Mulberry Forest) in 1987. Brug van die Esels (Bridge of the Mules) was published in 1993, followed by Susters van Eva (Sisters of Eve) in 1995, Pieternella van die Kaap (Pieternella from the Cape) in 2000 and the fourth "forest novel" Toorbos (Dream Forest) in 2003.

She won numerous literary prizes for her famous works, and Fiela's Child and Circles in a Forest were made into films.

After a short sickbed caused by heart failure, she died in Mossel Bay, South Africa, survived by her three daughters. Her husband, Larius, died in 2003.

South African Cities

Stellenbosch is a town/city situated about 50 kilometres east of Cape Town, along the banks of the Eerste River at the foot of the Stellenbosch Mountain. It is the second oldest European settlement in the province, after Cape Town. The town became known as the City of Oaks or Eikestad in Afrikaans and Dutch due to the large number of oak trees that were planted by its founder, Simon van der Stel, to grace the streets and homesteads.

Stellenbosch from Papegaaiberg

The town was founded in 1679 by the Governor of the Cape Colony, Simon van der Stel, who named it after himself – Stellenbosch means "(van der) Stel's Bush". It is situated on the banks of the Eerste River ("First River"), so named as it was the first new river he reached and followed when he went on an expedition over the Cape Flats to explore the territory towards what is now known as Stellenbosch. The town grew so quickly that it became an independent local authority in 1682 and the seat of a magistrate with jurisdiction over 25,000 square kilometers in 1685.

The Dutch were skilled in hydraulic engineering and they devised a system of furrows to direct water from the Eerste River in the vicinity of Thibault Street through the town along van Riebeeck Street to Mill Street where a mill was erected. Early visitors commented on the oak trees and gardens.

During 1690 some Huguenot refugees settled in Stellenbosch. Grapes were planted in the fertile valleys around Stellenbosch and soon it became the centre of the South African wine industry.

In 1710 a fire destroyed most of the town, including the first church, all the Company property and twelve houses. Only two or three houses were left standing. When the church was rebuilt in 1723 it was located on what was then the outskirts of the town, to prevent any similar incident from destroying it again. This church was enlarged a number of times since 1723 and is currently known as the "Moederkerk" (Mother Church).

The first school had been opened in 1683, but education in the town began in earnest in 1859 with the opening of a seminary for the Dutch Reformed Church. Rhenish Girls' High School, established in 1860, is the oldest school for girls in South Africa. A gymnasium, known as het Stellenbossche Gymnasium, was established in 1866. In 1874 some higher classes became Victoria College and then in 1918 University of Stellenbosch. The first men's hostel to be established in Stellenbosch was Wilgenhof, in 1903.

In 1905 the first women's hostel to be established in Stellenbosch was Harmonie. Harmonie and Wilgenhof were part of the Victoria College. In 1909 an old boy of the school, Paul Roos, captain of the first national rugby team to be called the Springboks, was invited to become the sixth rector of the school. He remained rector until 1940. On his retirement the school's name was changed to Paul Roos Gymnasium.

In the early days of the Second Boer War (1899–1902) Stellenbosch was one of the British military bases, and was used as a "remount" camp; and in consequence of officers who had not distinguished themselves at the front being sent back to it, the expression "to be Stellenbosched" came into use; so much so, that in similar cases officers were spoken of as "Stellenbosched" even if they were sent to some other place.

Pass of the Week

We cyber drive the popular Helshoogte Pass this week that connects Stellenbosch with Franschhoek. It's a hot favourite with bikers and the weekly breakfast run.

* * * * *   H E L S H O O G T E   P A S S   * * * * *


New passes added this week

Kobonqaba Pass (R349) - An obscure pass near Kentani on the Wild Coast.

Trygve Roberts

Words of Wisdom: "Today's accomplishments were yesterday's impossibilities" ~ Robert.H.Schuller

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