One section where a 4x4 route drops down to the Kouga River (and which we had intended driving) has already been sold, so that route is no longer accessible. At the top of the route we drove - known as the Abseil 4x4 Route - the Suzuki Grand Vitara was the first casualty with a major sidewall cut. Changing the tyre was awkward on the steep terrain but rocks to chock the wheels were in plentiful supply. Our Formula 1 tyre changing team of Ivan and Riana were always quick off the mark to change wheels for others.
We arrived back in Joubertina at 16.55 (5 minutes before closing time) and pulled in at the Toyota dealership, where we were met by friendly and efficient staff. They had the spare off and a new tyre on in 10 minutes flat. The cost R75! Now that's good service at a good price and with a good attitude - as they closed at 5 pm.!
Day 2 was a big day. Joubertina, Kareedouw, Suuranysberg Pass, Kouga River Pass, Meidenek, Baviaans Lodge (for a tea and loo break) then the big climb up the Kouga Mountains into the protea/cycad zone. The weather was amazing, if not a little hot and all the gate closing takes some time on this section. We had no problems with any of the vehicles and our rookie drivers did very well.
Day 3 was a killer. The mercury rose to 46C and it felt like 51C according to the weather app. This was also the day where East London recorded their hottest day in recorded history. Water levels in the Baviaanskloof were very low - certainly the lowest I've ever seen them and finding a shady lunch spot for 13 vehicles was close to impossible. Some of our guests were quick to don cozzies and cool off in the rock pools. There are certain spots where game is always visible - especially kudu, but with the fierce heat, sightings were limited to baboons, monkeys and tortoises. Even the bird-life was scarce. Thunder showers mercifully broke the heatwave in Patensie, where we stayed at the Ripple Hill Hotel - with which we were pleasantly surprised and can highly recommend.
Day 4 was much cooler (27C). We first paid a visit to the Kouga dam to marvel at the excellent engineering that dates back to the 1960's but the dam only has 6% water in it at present. Farmers are trucking in water for their citrus orchards. Things are serious there in terms of water. Later we ascended the big climb up the Geelhoutboom Pass and from there onto a two spoor track all along a spine of the mountain offering the most beautiful scenery imaginable.
The rain clouds were still hanging around and drizzling from time to time, but the relatively warm temperature made getting a bit wet a pleasure. The 1300 Jimny picked up a sidewall cut in the LF tyre, but it was still holding, so they continued to the end, but then got a normal puncture 30 km later in the LR tyre. By the time the driver realised something was wrong, the tyre was toast. They travelled through to George (slowly) the next day without a spare and a dodgy front tyre. Our final night was spent at the Royal Hotel in Steytlerville where the town was washed cool and clean by overnight rain.
We had a good system going in terms of sticker removals from signs, without it impeding our guests. Our sweep vehicle, driven by that character and good guy of note, Philip Wantling, stopped at the signs and cleaned them up whilst the convoy continued driving. Philip would then catch up again. It worked really well and we got all but one sign de-stickered. The one we missed was completely covered in about 3 layers of stickers from end to end and bottom to top. The worst part is that it is a warning sign for a dangerous bend.
We had a wonderful group of people who all got into the spirit of off-road travelling. Another excellent tour done and dusted and certainly a tour which we will repeat next year with one or two modifications. We have two weeks to reboot and get everything ready for the Ben 10 V4 Tour which starts on the 31st March. The cancellation has been taken and the tour is once again fully booked.
On the drive back to Cape Town, we noted that the R60 will be closed on the 19th and 21st March at Ashton. Initial thoughts were that the new bridge was going to be moved into place, but when we passed through Ashton, that looked like a highly unlikely scenario, so it must be something else to do with the roadworks/construction. The townsfolk of Ashton must be up to their eyeballs in frustration at this stage.
Gamkaskloof to Die Hel
We have received a set of photos from the owners of Fonteinplaas in Die Hel, showing large scale damage to the road between the 29th and the 33rd km (summit point of Elands Pass) which took place in the storms that swept through the area in the last 4 days. If you have plans to visit there soon, please note that the road is closed but the authorities are already working on getting the repairs done in time for the Easter weekend. It would be best to check with whomever you have booked accommodation with before setting off on your holiday.
There is a strong possibility of us offering the Bedrogfontein Tour in June, but with some modifications to the program and possibly a day longer than the original format. Watch this space.
The 1969 Tulbagh Earthquake
The 1969 Tulbagh earthquake occurred at 20:03:33 UTC on 29 September. It had a magnitude of 6.3 Mw and a maximum felt intensity of VIII (Severe) on the Modified Mercalli intensity scale. It caused widespread damage in the towns of Ceres, Tulbagh and Wolseley and led to 12 deaths. The earthquake was a result of strike-slip faulting along a NW-SE trending near vertical fault plane, as shown by the focal mechanism and the distribution of aftershocks.
The Western Cape lies on the Cape Fold Belt, which is characterised by many thrust faults. Some of these thrust faults were reactivated during Cretaceous rifting as extensional faults, such as the Worcester Fault, which comes to the surface close to the epicentral area, but does not appear to be active.
The earthquake was estimated to have a magnitude of 6.3 ML. The ISC-GEM catalogue records it as 6.3 Mw. The focal mechanism shows that the earthquake was a result of strike-slip faulting, either sinistral movement on a NW-SE trending fault or dextral movement on a NE-SW trending fault. As the zone of aftershocks was elongated in a NW-SE direction, the NW-SE plane is regarded as the fault responsible. There is no evidence of a surface fault trace and it has not been possible to tie the earthquake to movement on a known fault structure. However, faults of similar orientation are known from nearby areas.
The main-shock was followed by a long series of aftershocks. The largest aftershock occurred nearly six months later on April 14th, 1970 and had a magnitude of 5.7 Mw .
Damage was particularly severe in the towns of Ceres, Tulbagh, Wolseley and Prince Alfred Hamlet. There was also significant damage in Porterville and Worcester and the villages of Gouda, Saron and Hermon.
The earthquake severely affected Church Street in Tulbagh, which was renowned for its 18th to 20th-century buildings in Cape Dutch, Victorian and Edwardian styles. The buildings in Church Street were restored, initially by the National Committee for the Restoration of Historic Buildings in Tulbagh and its Environment, and later by the Tulbagh Valley Heritage Foundation.
Pass of the Week
The article on the earthquake dovetails perfectly with our pass of the week feature. Michell's Pass on the southern side of Ceres was destroyed by the earthquake and had to be completely rebuilt. The roads engineers did a marvellous job and the excellent road we travel on today is testimony to their skills.
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Tailpiece: The amount of noise anyone can bear undisturbed stands in inverse proportion to his mental capacity ~ Arthur Schopenhauer