Latest News! 25th March, 2021

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Bain's Kloof Pass roadworks Bain's Kloof Pass roadworks - Photo: Fanie Visser

The week that was

* Roadworks on Bain's Kloof Pass

* Andrew Geddes Bain

* Easter mini lockdown looms

* Ben 10 Eco Challenge

* The mystery of social media

* Road sign project

* Pass of the week

Bain's Kloof Pass

Our contact person at Baseline (the appointed contractors for the refurbishment of the pass) Fanie Visser, is keeping us in the loop in terms of progress. We get many emails each week from followers wanting to know when the pass will reopen. The project is currently on schedule and is expected to reach completion towards August, 2021. This will of course depend on how much the winter rainfall causes delays. 

For those campers, swimmers and hikers that enjoy going to Tweede Tol, you can still gain access by approaching via Worcester, Tulbagh or Ceres. It's not possible to approach from Wellington.

Andrew Geddes Bain

The pass is a marvellous testament to old school road engineering and an appropriate time to pay our respects to Thomas Bain's father - Andrew Geddes Bain, who was the driving force and master mind behind this amazing mountain pass. He was a South African geologist, road engineer, palaeontologist and explorer. 

The only child of Alexander Bain and Jean Geddes, both of whom died when Bain was still a young boy, Bain was baptised 11 June 1797 in Thurso, Scotland. He was raised by an aunt who lived near Edinburgh. Here he received a classical education, but no vocational training. In 1816 he emigrated to Cape Town accompanied by his uncle Lieutenant Colonel William Geddes of the 83rd Regiment, who was stationed in the Cape. He married Maria Elizabeth von Backstrom on 16 November 1818 and had 3 sons and 7 daughters.

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Andrew Geddes BainIn 1822 he bought property in Graaff Reinet and carried on for some years the business of a saddler. In 1825 he accompanied John Burner Biddulph on a trading expedition to Kuruman, the mission outpost on the edge of the Kalahari and home of  Dr. Robert Moffat (father-in-law of David Livingstone). They explored further north and reached Dithubaruba in Bechuanaland, becoming the first recorded Europeans to return safely from so far north. In 1829 they trekked to the vicinity of present-day Kokstad. They were forced to return by hordes of Bantu fleeing Dingaan.

During these journeys he discovered his talent for drawing and writing and became a regular correspondent for John Fairbairn's South African Commercial Advertiser. Outspoken, he was sued for libel a number of times by Gerrit Maritz, one of the eventual Voortrekker leaders. He was awarded a special medal in 1832 for 'gratuitously superintending the construction of Van Ryneveld's Pass, Graaff-Reinet'. (This pass is mostly under the waters of the Nqweba Dam now, but remnants of the old pass can still be seen on the western side close to the dam wall on the high side of the road.)

In 1834 he made another trip to Bechuanaland where he lost his wagons and collection of zoological specimens during an attack by the Matabele, caused by his Griqua guides' stealing some of the King's cattle. During the Cape Frontier Wars in 1833–1834 he served as captain of the Beaufort Levies raised for the defence of the frontier.

He tried his hand at farming in the newly annexed Queen Adelaide Province, but lost the farm when the land was returned to the Xhosa in 1836. Later he was engaged to construct a military road through the Ecca Pass, and displayed engineering talents which gave rise to permanent employment as surveyor of military roads under the Corps of Royal Engineers in 1836.

During this period he had a part in building the Fish River Bridge, then the largest bridge in the country. He constructed the Queen's Road from Grahamstown to Fort Beaufort. Appointed Engineering Inspector by the Cape Roads Board in 1845 he began construction at Michell's Pass near Ceres in 1848, subsequently followed on completion by Bain's Kloof Pass near Wellington in 1853. He was the first man to attempt to build a road across the Limiet Mountains into the interior for which feat he was presented with table silver and a candelabrum by grateful colonists.

Returning to the Eastern Cape in 1854, he built numerous roads and passes including the Katberg Pass near Fort Beaufort. This occupation created an interest in geology, inspired in 1837 by a copy of Lyell's Elements of Geology. He was friendly with William Guybon Atherstone, who was also a keen geologist and fossil collector and who happened to be present at the discovery of Paranthodon africanus Broom at the farm Dassieklip on the Bushmans River, being about half-way between Grahamstown and Port Elizabeth.

Bain discovered many fossil remains, including the herbivorous mammal-like reptile dicynodon Oudenodon bainii Owen, which was excavated from the Karoo Beds on the farm Mildenhall south of Fort Beaufort and described in the literature by Sir Richard Owen. Among the specimens sent to Owen was the so-called Blinkwater monster, Pareiasaurus serridens as well as a variety of mammal-like reptiles.

Bain's Kloof Pass - One of the most dramatic passes in the Western Cape

He was awarded £200 by the British government in 1845 for his researches. Devoting his spare time to geological studies, Bain prepared in 1852 the first comprehensive geological map of South Africa, a work of great merit, which was published by the Geological Society of London in 1856.

Sir Roderick Murchison and Sir Henry de la Beche, prominent geologists of the time, both recommended Bain's appointment as Cape Geological Surveyor in 1852, but since no funds were available, nothing came of it. Bain went to Namaqualand in 1854 and reported to the Government on the copper mines there.

He was granted sick leave to visit England for a second time in 1864, where he was entertained by Sir Richard Owen of the British Museum and Sir Roderick Murchison of the Royal Geographical Society, and was made an honorary member of the Athenaeum Club. His health at this time deteriorated markedly and he returned to South Africa; he died in Cape Town following a heart attack on 20 October 1864. The Colonial Secretary, the Colonial Treasurer, Charles Davidson Bell, the Surveyor-General and Sir Thomas Maclear, her Majesty's astronomer at the Cape, were among the pallbearers.

Bain's journals were published by the Van Riebeeck Society in 1949. A memorial plaque was unveiled at the summit of Bain's Kloof Pass on 14 September 1953, and a memorial to him was erected at the top of the Ecca Pass on the Queen's Road on 7 September 1964. Bain built eight major mountain roads and passes during his career.

Sources: Wkipedia, Mountain Passes South Africa.

Easter Weekend Covid Restrictions

Various credible news agencies have reported that there will likely be stricter temporary lockdown restrictions over the Easter break. At the time of writing there has been no official announcement, but such restrictions are likely aimed at mass religious gatherings. We wait with bated breath.

Ben 10 Eco Challenge

There has been a sudden surge in entries for this open ended event, with the current total standing at 322 of which roughly 60% have been able to successfully complete the event. Most of the new entries emanate from adventure motorcyclists. For each entry received we add in a request to not apply stickers to road-signs. It's a perfect neutral way of connecting with biker groups to change the sticker habit.

MPSA are leaving our base on March 30th en-route to the Eastern Cape Highlands, to run our 4th official Ben 10 Tour. We have honed this tour over the years and listened to our guests by adding in an extra day to allow for some well-deserved relaxation or inclement weather. This year we will be visiting the vulture colony at The Castle (near the Mountain Shadows Hotel) as well as take a drive through private farms and ascend the 1:4 gradients of Dawid se Kop. In addition to the ten challenge passes we offer at least 8 other passes which are not part of the challenge. The tour is fully booked.

The mystery of social media

We mainly operate our social media via Facebook and to a lesser extent Instagram. The two platforms are vastly different to each other. The acid test is to post the same photo and text on both platforms. The results consistently show that Facebook delivers far more interaction than Instagram, the latter whose users mainly enjoy the photos and videos and seldom comment. For those that are doing brand building and advertising, it's really important to understand the difference between the two platforms.

We started our Facebook page in 2013. It requires consistently hard work to get to the point where it's no longer necessary to spend money on growing a page. We currently have 70,666 followers and our posts generate between 1.5 and 4 million post views every 28 days. Every post is an experiment. We never know when we are going to hit the golden buzzer. As an example one of the photos we published this week attracted a staggering 260,000 views over just 4 days. It engaged 18,808 comments. Here is that photo:

The road to Sesriem, Namibia / Photo: Theuns de Bruin

Road sign project

After a shaky start a year ago, where our project to stop defacing road-signs with graffiti and stickers was met with some fierce resistance from the sticker brigade, we slogged on with determination, using our social media power to influence and change the mind-set about stickers on road signs. It would seem that we have suddenly reached a threshold where a number of big biker groups have decided that we are right. These groups have now started actively removing stickers themselves and to encourage them, we offer a free one year subscription to our website for anyone removing 20 stickers from any road sign (including state signs). The sweeping change has begun. We have created a conscience.

Our goal is to ultimately have an army of adventurers from all off-road disciplines keeping SA's road signs sticker and graffiti free. Here is a photo of a group from BMW Motorrad removing stickers from the Naude's Nek sign board. This sign is so badly weathered, that we are planning (at our own cost) to respray the entire sign and reinstate the original lettering when we are there next week for the Ben 10 V4 Tour. The chap on the left is Wesley Dawson who stands 1.91m tall.

Herman Ebersohn, Wesley Dawson and spirited lady companion removing stickers for us / Photo: BMW Motorrad Tour group.
































Pass of the Week

Our featured pass this week just has to be Bain's Kloof Pass. Even though the pass is currently closed you can cyber drive it via the hyperlink below and enjoy the 6 videos on offer.

The Bain's Kloof Pass (R301) provided a more direct route from the town of Wellington to the more northern towns of Ceres and Worcester, in the Western Cape. It is 26,8 km in length from the bridge over the Breede River to the outskirts of Wellington. Built circa 1849 by Andrew Geddes Bain, this pass was a tough nut to crack, working with convicts and raw, rough materials and methods. As always seemed to be the case with Bain, he oversaw a marvellous job of the pass which, having stood the test of time, is now a national monument.

The more dramatic, northern section of the pass roughly follows the course of the Witte River, a raging torrent during the wet winter season.

* * * * *   B A I N S   K L O O F   P A S S   * * * * * 

Tail Piece: "I owe my great learning to the fact that I have always kept an open book on my desk, which I read whenever anyone on the phone says: 'One moment please' ~ Helen Daley

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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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