Latest News! 18th February, 2021

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Gamkaskloof - The road to Die Hel Gamkaskloof - The road to Die Hel - Photo: Marius Krijt

The week that was

* Trips & Tours

* Road-sign vandalism

* Wild Coast Tour 2020 - Final chapter

* Great South Africans

* South African Cities

* Pass of the week

Trips and Tours

We've had a few Covid related cancellations for our tours but all the tickets have already been taken up by new clients.

For those waiting for our winter schedule, we are working on it and will soon be publishing the new tours.

Road-signs and vandalism

As we are steadily making progress revamping the 54 pass summit information boards that we inherited when we took over Cape Mountain Passes, the level of vandalism on some of them (especially along the more popular tourist routes) is appalling. There are levels of vandalism that we now categorize for the sign boards:

1. Wilful damage to the sign which include bullet holes, vehicles being rammed into the signs, and rocks thrown at the signs.

2. Names and messages that are scratched into the brown painted background with any available sharp object.

3. Spray-painted or hand painted graffiti

4. Stickers.

A good example of one of our information boards that has been vandalized / Photo: Trygve Roberts

We have been actively appealing to all the motorcycle groups to have a rethink about their sub-culture of leaving a mark on everything. (This started in the USA and is now universally entrenched in biker culture) The campaign is starting to bear fruit, but there are still bikers who feel it is their right to put stickers wherever they want. One such motorcycle group is Proudly Meerkat, where the founder/owner/chairman is actively encouraging his members to add new stickers to our signs as fast as we remove them. It is extraordinary to come across people with this level of mindset. 

Our appeal to all our members, is to remove as many stickers as you can, from any road-sign, regardless whether it is a state sign or one of ours. We are trying to create a culture of masikhane and to make South Africa a more beautiful place for all tourists (both local and foreign).

We have reached the halfway mark already and are currently working in the Garden Route, where we have refurbished the following signs: Montagu Pass, Outeniqua Pass, Kaaimans River Pass, Kaaimansgat Pass, Silver River Pass, Touw River Pass, Hoogekraal Pass, Karatara Pass and Homtini Pass. 

Wild Coast Tour – Day 9

Kob Inn to Trennerys

The drive out to Trennerys was via Willowvale, then south west over the Kobonqaba Pass and on to the village of Kentane. This village was the scene of a number of skirmishes between the British forces and the Xhosa. The De Villiers Bridge at the lowest point on the pass withstood an impressive flood level of over 10m during the 1970 flood, where its safety railings were bent horizontal by the raging floodwaters. It is still like that today.

The town of Kentani is often in the news around initiation schools and dubious medical standards with a number of initiates losing their lives each year.

[Read more...]

In 1829 the area was annexed to the Cape and in 1833 amendments were made to its border, sparking off the frontier war of 1834 and 1835. On 21 December 1834 the Xhosa attacked the eastern regions of the Cape, and swept, virtually unchecked across the districts of Victoria and Albany, reaching the Sunday's River, near Uitenhage and Port Elizabeth. The Xhosa were, however, not interested in the re-occupation of their former territories so much as in the return of captured cattle to their lands over the Keiskamma River. Consequently, in January 1835, they began to fall back with the British on their heels.

On 31 March 1835 the British invaded Xhosa territory east of the Keiskamma River and on 10 May Governor D'Urban extended the colonial boundaries to the Great Kei River. On 16 June this area was proclaimed the Province of Queen Adelaide. The two parties concluded peace treaties on 17 September 1835 whereby the amaNgqika, amaNdlambe and amaGqunukhwebe were allotted specific territories within the province. They still gave over the greater part of their lands to the Cape Colony for European occupation. This included a strip of Gcaleka land east of the Great Kei River around Kei Drift and Butterworth.

The Wavecrest Hotel is reached via the town of Kentane. / Google Images

The Colonial Office in London did not support these developments, and on 5 December 1836 the proclamation of the Province, as well as all treaties arising from it, were declared null and void, and the eastern frontier was returned to the Keiskamma River. Following the frontier war from 1846 to 1848, better known as the War of the Axe, the Ceded Territory was proclaimed the Division of Victoria on 23 December 1847, and on the same day the proclamation of British Kaffraria pushed the Cape-Xhosa boundary line to the Great Kei River, thereby returning it to its position in 1836.

This was extended in 1848 by the annexation of additional territory between the White Kei and Black Kei Rivers, later to become the Division of Queenstown. In December 1850 the amaNgqika rose in revolt. They were defeated in 1853 and a complex re-allocation of lands with "friendly" groups being allocated land in British Kaffraria while rebel clans were banished east of the Kei River, was initiated.

European settlement of this region was stepped up in 1857 with the arrival of German and British groups. In 1857 the so-called "cattle killing" led to the starvation, and ultimate death of some 70 000 Xhosa people. In a brief period of 6 months their numbers were reduced from 105 000 to 37 200 persons. This effectively brought their armed resistance to European colonialism in the eastern Cape to an end. Barring a brief revolt in 1877 and 1878, when the amaGcaleka turned upon their amaMfengu neighbours, the British annexation of lands east of the Kei River was able to proceed unimpeded.

An unnecessary tragedy that befell the Xhosa nation / Photo: Wikipedia

In 1866 British Kaffraria was annexed to the Cape Colony. In September 1879 this was followed by Idutywa Reserve and Mfenguland, and Gcalekaland in 1885. It is assumed that the restructuring of these territories into the divisions of Butterworth, Idutywa, Kentani, Nqamakwe, Tsomo and Willowvale dates from these times.

While the official annexation of territory was proceeding, the European population of lands north of the Great Kei River was growing rapidly. By the mid-1880's they numbered nearly 10 000 and in 1882 White farmers were beginning to settle illegally in Emigrant Thembuland, Thembuland Proper and parts of the Gatberg district of Griqualand East, later known as the Division of Maclear, which had become depopulated as the result of the frontier wars. European settlement was further assisted by the Thembu chief Ngangelizwe who opened up Maxongo's Hoek, in the Division of Slang River, to White farmers. In 1882 he also sold land in the district of Umtata for White use.

From Kentane it was a relatively easy drive (some of it on a good tarred road) arriving at Trennerys at 1500, with time to spare for a walk on the beach, a shower or a sundowner.  The weather was threatening with dark clouds looming, so I went solo to look for Nonqwawuse’s Falls and Pools, which according to my GPS was just a few kilometres from the hotel.

European settlement of this region was stepped up in 1857 with the arrival of German and British groups. In 1857 the so-called "cattle killing" led to the starvation, and ultimate death of some 70 000 Xhosa people. In a brief period of 6 months their numbers were reduced from 105 000 to 37 200 persons. This effectively brought their armed resistance to European colonialism in the eastern Cape to an end. Barring a brief revolt in 1877 and 1878, when the amaGcaleka turned upon their amaMfengu neighbours, the British annexation of lands east of the Kei River was able to proceed unimpeded.

All went well until I found myself in an old forest with several ruins. The track petered out and the drop down to the pools looked very steep – around 1:3! I got out of the Cruiser and peered down into the gorge, but with a rainstorm being imminent, I decided discretion was the better part of valour, and retraced my route back to Trennerys.  I will return on the next trip.

The final night on tour is always a grand affair. We had our traditional Chappies evening in the pub and it was clear that this group had bonded for life. A truly great group of people who had enjoyed every part of the adventure.

The dinner on Saturday nights at Trennerys is a seafood extravaganza. In short order the kitchen staff were dancing and singing in the dining hall. One of the ladies played a local version of the didgeridoo on a piece of PVC piping. Another beat a drum, whilst another clicked out a rhythm with a knife and fork.

The next morning after breakfast we all headed home to various parts of South Africa. New bonds of friendship had been formed. Those heading south west to East London, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town, took the vehicle pont over the Great Kei River as a final bit of adventure before tackling the long road home.

This was a brilliant tour. Our longest to date and by all accounts our most successful. Those booked on the May tour have much to look forward to.

Footnote: The VW Touareg was delivered by lowbed to the VW agents in East London. A new air cleaner was fitted and a diagnostic test was run, showing there was no damage to the engine. Jim and Zen were ecstatic with this turn of events and arranged for the vehicle to be delivered close to their home. However, several weeks later, the engine management light has come on and the hapless Touareg is back at the agents to find out exactly what the problem is.

Great South Africans

(John) Thomas Baines (27 November 1820 – 8 May 1875) was an English artist and explorer of British colonial southern Africa and Australia. Many people confuse him with Thomas Bain the road builder.

Born in King's Lynn, Norfolk, on 27 November 1820, Baines was apprenticed to a coach painter at an early age. When he was 22 he left England for South Africa aboard the "Olivia" (captained by a family friend William Roome) and worked for a while in Cape Town as a scenic and portrait artist, and as official war artist during the so-called Eighth Frontier War for the British Army.

Portrait of Thomas Baines / National Gallery

In 1855 Baines joined Augustus Gregory's 1855–1857 Royal Geographical Society sponsored expedition across northern Australia as official artist and storekeeper. The expedition's purpose was to explore the Victoria River district in the north-west and to evaluate the entire northern area of Australia in terms of its suitability for colonial settlement. His association with the North Australian Expedition was the highpoint of his career, and he was warmly commended for his contribution to it, to the extent that Mount Baines and the Baines River were named in his honour.

In 1858 Baines accompanied David Livingstone along the Zambezi, and was one of the first white men to view Victoria Falls. In 1869 Baines led one of the first gold prospecting expeditions to Mashonaland in what later became Rhodesia.

From 1861 to 1862 Baines and James Chapman undertook an expedition to South West Africa. Chapman's Travels in the Interior of South Africa (1868) and Baines' Explorations in South-West Africa (1864), provide a rare account of different perspectives on the same trip. This was the first expedition during which extensive use was made of both photography and painting, and in addition both men kept journals in which, amongst other things, they commented on their own and each other's practice.

Baines made some of the drawings for the engravings illustrating Alfred Russel Wallace's 1869 book The Malay Archipelago.

In 1870 Baines was granted a concession to explore for gold between the Gweru and Hunyani rivers by Lobengula, leader of the Matabele nation. Thomas Baines died in Durban on 8 May 1875 and is buried in West Street Cemetery. Baines is today best known for his detailed paintings and sketches which give a unique insight into colonial life in southern Africa and Australia. Many of his pictures are held by the National Library of Australia, National Archives of Zimbabwe, National Maritime Museum, Brenthurst Library and the Royal Geographical Society. There are also numerous paintings at the Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town. The Thomas Baines Nature Reserve in the Eastern Cape of South Africa was also named after him.

South African Cities

Knysna probably from a Khoisan word meaning "place of wood" or roughly "fern leaves") is a town with 85,708 inhabitants as of 2019 in the Western Cape Province of South Africa and is part of the Garden Route. It lies 34 degrees south of the equator, and is 55 kilometres east from the city of George on the N2 highway, and 33 kilometres west of the town of Plettenberg Bay on the same road. Knysna has a population of approximately 87000 inhabitants.

Little is known about the indigenous inhabitants of Knysna, the Khoikhoi. The area east of present-day George was separated by high mountains and deep gorges, making it virtually inaccessible to European travellers.

 Nevertheless, the first Europeans arrived in the area in 1760, and the farm Melkhoutkraal (literally translating from Afrikaans as 'milk wood kraal’) was established on the eastern shore of the Knysna Lagoon. Stephanus Terblans, the first European farmer to settle in the area, was given a loan permit to farm here in 1770.

The most beautiful town on the Garden Route

Upon moving to Knysna George Rex, a British-born entrepreneur credited as being the founder of Knysna, acquired the loan rights to Melkhoutkraal in 1804 and later, in 1816, to the farm Welbedacht, which he renamed Eastford. He gave 80 acres of Eastford to the Colonial Government, on which the Royal Navy established the township of Melville. Rex’s properties were sold when he died in 1839.

In April 1817, the transport brig Emu, belonging to the Cape Town Dockyard, was the first European vessel to enter the Knysna heads. She struck a rock, now known as Emu Rock, and was holed. Her crew ran Emu ashore to prevent her sinking. In late April HMS Podargus arrived to render assistance. After surveying the area, Podargus sailed safely into the Knysna and retrieved Emu's cargo.

The next major settler in Knysna was Captain Thomas Henry Duthie, who married Caroline, George Rex’s daughter, and bought a portion of the Uitzigt farm from his father-in-law which Rex had named Belvidere. The construction of a small Norman-style church was commissioned by Duthie on his property, and was consecrated in 1855. The settlement’s population grew slowly, and Englishmen such as Henry Barrington and Lt. Col. John Sutherland, who established the settlement of Newhaven on a portion of purchased land, settled in the area. At the time, Knysna was a field cornetcy of Plettenberg Bay within the Magisterial Division of George. In 1858, Knysna became a separate Magisterial Division, new stores and accommodation facilities were opened, and Knysna became the new commercial centre of the region.

On their way to New Zealand, the Thesen family who were travelling from Norway fancied the little hamlet of Knysna so much that they decided to stay, bringing with them their knowledge of commerce and sailing. Soon, timber was being exported to the Cape from the vast areas of forest surrounding Knysna, and a steam sawmill and small shipyard were established. Later, these were relocated to Paarden Island, later known as Thesen's Island.

Aerial view of The Heads with the town in the background.

In 1878, an important discovery was made in the area. A gold nugget was found in the Karatara River, near Ruigtevlei. Soon fortune hunters from all over the world arrived at the Millwood Forest in search of gold, and Millwood grew into a bustling town. Millwood was declared a gold field, the first in South Africa. However, soon not enough gold was being recovered to sustain a growing town, and the mining industry in the area collapsed. Some miners relocated to Knysna, bringing their little homes with them. One of the houses, known as 'Millwood House', now functions as a museum.

By 1880 over 1000 people had settled in Knysna. In 1882, the settlements of Newhaven, Melville and the "wedge" of land between the two villages were amalgamated to form the municipality of 'The Knysna', named after the Knysna River.

Knysna's timber industry peaked when George Parkes arrived from Britain and saw the opportunity to use the hardwoods of the Knysna Forest for export to elsewhere in the country, and even overseas. He established the Knysna Forest Company, later renamed Geo. Parkes and Sons Ltd., which is still trading to this day.

On June 7, 2017, fueled by strong winds from a severe storm - the Cape Storm of 2017- coming in from the west, a fire swept through the town and surrounding areas. Killing 9 as a direct result of the fires and another 2 indirectly and displacing around 10,000 people from all walks of life. Initially reported as arson, the cause of the fire was later revealed to be lightning.

Pass of the Week

In keeping with our Knysna theme, we feature the longest pass in South Africa at 68 km. This is  one of the five passes permanently open for newcomers to see what MPSA is all about. Sit back, rfelax and enjoy the mega pass. Allow about 50 minutes to read the text and watch all the videos.

* * * * *   P R I N C E   A L F R E D S   P A S S   * * * * *



Trygve Roberts

Tailpiece: "Hold a point of steadiness and moderation. Find a point of equilibrium and peaceful coexistence in the midst of change"

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Mountain Passes South Africa

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

Passes are classified according to provinces and feature a text description, Fact File including GPS data, a fully interactive dual-view map and a narrated YouTube video.

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