fbpx

Latest News! 30th December, 2021

Written by 
Read 470 times
Latest News! 30th December, 2021

The week (and the year) that was....

* 2021 in review
* Tours news
* Swartberg Classic Day 4
* Wild Coast V3 - Day 3
* Pass of the week


2021 in review

For most South Africans 2021 was a difficult one both financially, physically and emotionally. Lockdown regulations decimated the hospitality and tourism industries in particular. Many borderline businesses went under and with it their employees lost jobs and income. Families with plans to see relatives overseas have been put on hold or cancelled. The knock-on effects have been severe. Conspiracy theories have abounded leaving many people sceptical. Covid changed everyone's lives. The secret now is learning to work around it and continue to make a success of whatever you do. At MPSA we studied the graphs where the virus spiked and calculated when not to run our tours.  During an initial spike phase, most people are reluctant to book a tour, but as soon as the initial knee jerk reaction has passed (usually about 4 to 6 weeks) people start planning again and our booking system gets busy. 

We have also been fortunate that many of our clients that would normally have travelled overseas, decided to go local and in a bizarre twist of fate, worked out favourably for us. We are grateful.

Plans for 2022 are forging ahead with a very positive outlook. Already the first three tours are close to being fully booked. Two additional tours will be added over the next two weeks. 

We wish all of you a prosperous, healthy New Year filled with travel, love and happiness.


Tours Availability

To see the full itinerary, pricing and online bookings click on a link below:

March 4th to 9th 2022 - Ben 10 Eco Challenge V5 (4 tickets left)

May 6th to 15th 2022 - Wild Coast V4 Pondoland Tour (1 ticket left)

May 16th to 25th 2022 - Wild Coast V5 Mbashe Tour (1 ticket left)


Swartberg Classic Tour - Day 4

Day 4 - Thursday 14th October, 2021

After a hearty breakfast at the Patat Restaurant at the Swartberg Country Manor, it was time to prep the convoy for the last day and the easiest in terms of technical driving and distance.

We chose a different route this year, due to the fact that we had several 4x2 vehicles in our group. After leaving Swartberg Country Manor, we headed west, back over a section we had driven two days before via the Doringkloof and Huis se Hoogte passes.

At The Kruisrivier Valley, we turned left - destination Coetzeespoort.

[Read more...]

This little known poort lies just north-east of Calitzdorp and provides a superb, but slower gravel alternative to the R62. It connects Calitzdorp with the farming communities that lie to the north of the R62 and south of the Swartberg Mountains. The poort offers beautiful and dramatic scenery of the unusual red sandstone mountains.

Coetzeespoort / Photo: MPSA

It's a fairly long poort at just under 11 km and displays a surprisingly big altitude variance of 159m. The road falls under the route number P363.

Back at the lodge the driver of the Mercedes 350ML, Bernie King, expressed some concern about the amount of fuel he had left, so he went off on his own to Oudtshoorn to refuel and met up with us again at the point where the P363 connects with the R62.

From that point we had a short leg on tar, before turning off to the right to drive the 'ostrich route' along the southern side of the R62


The curious case of the missing smartphone. (With apologies to Benjamin Button).

It's a goner!

On arrival at Bosch Luys Kloof on the second night of the tour, one of our guests, Ken Vorster, (who is a distant relative to BJ himself) could not find his phone. An hour was spent completely unpacking his vehicle and all his luggage. No phone!

The next day as we were approaching the R62 (and mobile reception) we received a message from Rotterdam Hotel in Swellendam that they had found Mr. Vorster's phone in the bathroom.

I immediately relayed the good news to Ken over the radio. To say he was delighted was an understatement. What they didn't specify was that the phone was actually found in the toilet bowl!

After the tour was over, Ken detoured to Swellendam to collect his phone. Imagine the disappointment to discover it had been lying in water overnight!

The story is that he was wearing a jacket with shallow pockets.

You have been warned!

 ____________________________________________________________________________________________________

This leg of the tour we have called the Ostrich Route as there are many ostrich farms in the area. The leg included a brief section on the R62, followed by another short section on the old cement road (the first cement road built in SA) and finally back onto gravel as we turned south at the Volmoed Ostrich farm.

Ostrich Palace

Besides the ubiquitous ostriches, there are some amazing homes to be seen, as shown in the pics. During the ostrich feather boom, a lot of money flowed into the area and so-called Ostrich Barons built these magnificent, quality homes - many of which still stand proudly today serving as upmarket guest houses.

The original route we had planned for this tour was over Lawsons Pass, but due to the strict 4x4 requirement by Cape Nature and the presence of a number of 4x2 vehicles in our convoy, we opted for this softer alternative, which was longer in distance, but much quicker in time.

After the Volmoed farm, we turned south, crossing the Olifants River, then followed the eastern extremity of the Gamkasberg to locate the Paardebont Pass. The route took us past a massive quarry, where mercifully we managed to miss all the big trucks. When we filmed this pass earlier in 2021 the dust was so thick from the big trucks heading to and from the quarry, that we had to wait for a while for the dust levels to subside.

Near the Perdebont Pass taking a leg stretch / Photo: MPSA Tour group

The weather continued to remain enjoyable even through the temperature had dropped to the mid twenties. We called a leg-stretch stop (when the photo was taken) as we savoured the perfect quiet of the Little Karoo.

This fairly steep gravel pass is one of four passes on the DR1649 road between Vanwyksdorp and Armoed. It has a high-low profile and offers wide views as the descent drops down into a narrow valley where the Perdebont farm is located. The pass is named after the farm and translates into English as "Pie-bald horse"

This is a safe pass provided speed is moderate. It can be driven in any vehicle with reasonable ground clearance in fair weather.

The Klein Karoo offers untold surprises of succulent plant-life coupled with dazzling mountain views. The best time to travel here is in winter or early spring for the best flowers and of course, the aloes bloom in winter, making for an attractive vista. If you're one of those that doesn't mind hot weather, then go here in midsummer where daily maximums often reach above 35C.

Succulent Karoo vegetation in the Kleinfonteinpoort / Photo: MPSA

Our route took us westwards on the DR1649, with the looming bulk of the Gamkaberg constantly on our right. Soon we arrived at the start of the farm gates. There are a number of them between Paardebont and Vanwyksdorp. It forces the pace to be slower, for more time to be spent looking at tiny plants and generally appreciating nature and of course, every farm gate has its own unique locking system. Some of them have graphic descriptions like "Bekslaner"

The twin passes of Kleinfontein Poort & Pass are a lovely surprise offering wonderful scenery of succulents and interesting rock formations in the poort section, then as the ascent begins towards the pass section, the views open up to reveal another beautiful valley to the west.

The Kleinfontein Poort is in very close proximity to the Kleinfontein Pass - separated by just 500m. Despite its relatively short length the little poort has a lot to offer in terms of some very tight corners, but the real attraction here is the magnificent succulent plant life that flourishes in the poort.

The poort (like it's twin - the Kleinfontein Pass) falls within the boundaries of the Kleinfontein farm, itself located in the very heart of the Klein Karoo about midway between Vanwyksdorp and the R328 near Oudtshoorn. This is a very quiet and remote road but it is doable in any vehicle with decent ground clearance (in fair weather).

(Next week - the final leg)


Wild Coast V3 Tour

Day 3 - We met our local guide Armstrong at 08.30 and got the convoy going back up the Mbotyi Pass. This pass is a real gem as for most of the distance one is immersed within the indigenous forest canopy. The pass has been concreted along its steepest sections, which have gradients in the 1:5 range. There are many stories of tourists being marooned at Mbotyi as getting up the pass in wet weather was impossible in normal cars before it was concreted. The engineering and concrete work and especially the storm water dispersement systems are really well built.

Once up on the plateau and into the sunlight, we turned right at the Magwa Tea Estate and stopped to see Angel Falls. It's not visible from the road (a mere 50m away) and unless you know where to look, you will unlikely find the falls. The falls are not particularly high (around 8m) but they are very attractive.

Angel Falls / Photo: MPSA

We drove eastwards towards Luphathana on a very bad road, which later becomes a Grade 2 /3 4x4 route. We would not recommend this route in heavy rain. It has deteriorated considerably since our V2 Wild Coast Tour earlier in 2021 and now requires very careful driving, and especially so during the wet season. The drive is only 36 km and takes close to 2 hours to complete (assuming no-one gets stuck).

We arrived at the small cluster of beach cottages (collectively known as Luphathana) on the coast line where great plumes of spray were reaching skyward as the surf broke over the rocks, providing a proper sense of being in the Wild Coast. Armstrong took most of our guests on the hike to Waterfall Bluff and Cathedral Rock. The hike to the waterfall is fairly flat and remains close to the sea. The distance to the waterfall is about 4 km each way. The extra loop over to Cathedral Rock is another 3 km, making it a 7km hike (x2) for the full hike. We give our guests the option to return to Luphathana if they feel too tired to do the extra section (which some of them did).

There is something mystical about Waterfall Bluff and photos don't do it justice / MPSA

It's possible at low tide to enter a cave behind the falls. It's locally known as "The Tea Room" but be warned, one slip and you're history. 

Cathedral Rock is a dramatic stack rising out of the sea with an arch in the centre. It's easy to see how it got its name. There is no way to get to it other than to hike (or helicopter!). There are some fabulous rock pools along the way where the swimming is good. 

Cathedral Rock is magnificent / Photo: Best regards from far

Whilst our fitter guests were enjoying their hike, I took the rest of the group for a drive further up the coast to explore Port Grosvenor. History records relate a story about a shipwreck there (The Grosvenor) which sank with valuable treasure on board. Several attempts at salvaging the treasure have taken place over the years including a group that attempted digging a tunnel under the seabed to get to the wreck, but the tunnel soon collapsed. The tunnel entrance can still be seen today.

Port Grosvenor - a sleepy holiday hamlet on the Wild Coast / Photo: MPSA

I dispatched the Port Grosvenor group back to Mbotyi using a GPS backtrack, to spare them having to drive the 4x4 route again to Luphathana, whilst I went back solo to collect the hiking group. Our guests were tired and happy! As we ascended the 4x4 pass up to the plateau, a waterfall became visible on the right which one doesn't see on the way down. We stopped and took a few photos. Armstrong gave me the Xhosa name of the falls, which has slipped my mind, but for now let's refer to it as the Luphathana Waterfall. Interestingly, the road's name is Ghanja Road (Cannabis Road).

Luphathana Waterfall / Photo: MPSA

We arrived back at Mbotyi for showers, clean clothes and a very happy 'happy hour'. After dinner most guests were 'kaput' and hit the sack early in their state of contented fatigue.

(Next week: Fraser Falls, Magwa Falls and the world's worst speed bumps)


Pass of the week

Our featured pass this week is the Mbotyi Pass. This very steep pass takes one from the coastal plateau down to the beach at Mbotyi. The pass is immersed inside the dense forest canopy for most of its length which is almost a pity as the views would be tantalizingly beautiful if visible. The pass has some very sharp corners and steep gradients as one gets to the halfway point. There is one particularly nasty hairpin bend which needs to be treated with respect.

 

* *   M B O T Y I   P A S S   * *

 


Trygve Roberts
Editor

Quote from George Burns: "The secret of success is sincerity. If you can fake that, you've got it made"

COVID-19 Corona Virus South African Resource Portal

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Sign up to receive our weekly newsletter with News and Updates from Mountain Passes South Africa
captcha 

Subscribe to our Site

Subscribe for only R425 a year (or R325 for 6 months), and get full access to our website including the videos, the full text of all mountain passes articles, fact-file, interactive map, directions and route files.

Register

 

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.
 

Master Orientation Map

Master Orientation Map We are as passionate about maps as we are about mountain passes. A good map is a thing of beauty that can transport you into the mists of time or get your sense of adventure churning. It is a place to make discoveries about deserts and seas, mountains and lakes; of roads leading into places you have not been before; a place to pore over holiday destinations or weekend camping trips. A map is your window to the world.

View Master Orientation Map...