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Latest News! 2nd June, 2022

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Thirsty Kirsty gracing the lawns at White Clay Thirsty Kirsty gracing the lawns at White Clay - Photo: Michael Salzwedel

The week that was...

* Trips & Tours

* Wild Coast Overview

* How will the fuel price affect our tours?

* Wild Coast Tour 2023

* Wild Coast Tour V4 Days 1 & 2

* Podcast

* Pass of the week

* New passes added


Trips & Tours

Our next tour is the Swartberg Classic in July and we have had one cancellation. Online Bookings can be done via the link.

The Garden Route Tour is happening in spring from the 10th to 16th September. This is a new tour and offers fabulous scenery, history dating back to the 1700's, stories of hardship and triumph and some of Thomas Bain's best passes and very comfortable overnight stops in lovely lodges and hotels.

We are still finalising dates for the Seven Sisters Tour (another new tour of 2 days with some unforgettable experiences included) as well as the next Baviaanskloof and Bedrogfontein tours. Watch this space. The new Wild Coast 2023 V6 Tour will open for bookings next week.


Wild Coast Overview

Spending over 3 weeks along the Wild Coast during May puts one into a mental time lag. Where on earth do we start relating this epic adventure? It was an overwhelmingly successful tour with wonderful guests, exceptionally good weather (with only 3 days rain), no punctures, no mechanical breakdowns, a handful of fun recoveries and the welcoming locals of the Wild Coast ensured we were well taken care of.

We included a number of new points of interest on these two tours, which included a visit to the new Msikaba bridge construction site, the Msikaba vulture colony, Majola Tea Estates, kayaking on the Mpako River, Banyana Falls, and a new route to the Collywobbles.


Fuel price

Our journey from Cape Town and back covered about 3500 km and that brings me to the next point. The current fuel price hike of roughly R2.25 per litre inevitably results in a knee jerk reaction with people cancelling trips to faraway places, but let's put this into perspective.

Based on an average SUV consumption of 10 km per litre, about 350 litres of fuel will be used on this trip. That means an additional cost of R787 onto your fuel bill. If taken as a percentage of the overall cost of a Wild Coast Tour it works out at just 2.4%. That is the equivalent of 2 bottles of good wine (or 4 bottles of plonk) or one meal for 2 at an average restaurant. Relax your knees please! 

I recall back in 1979 the fuel price increased by a whopping 42%. You should have seen that knee jerk reaction! We all survived it. We still went on holidays. We still travelled. This too shall pass. The Rand is currently undervalued. There are also other positive indicators that this will not be a fuel armageddon. Travel remains the best investment.


New Wild Coast Tour for 2023

With each tour we complete, we sit down and review every aspect and determine what can be improved on. So even if you did a Wild Coast Tour a year ago, you will find the new tour quite different (and hopefully much better). We ask our tour guests for feedback and we pay attention to their suggestions and comments. That way we get valuable input from people who really know what they're talking about.

Our 2023 Wild Coast Tour will take place during May 2023. The reason we choose this month is that there is little rain; the scenery is still green from the summer rains; mild to warm days (24C to 27C) with little wind; it's out of season so accommodation is more freely available and prices are better. We will be setting the dates and loading the tour onto our shop page during the next week. Here is the provisional itinerary:

Day 0 - Meet & Greet at Resthaven in Matatiele

Day 1 - Matatiele to Mbotyi via Nungi, Colonanek, Tabankulu, Mzintlava and Lusikisiki.

Day 2 - Walk to Waterfall Bluff & Cathedral Rock. (Chill day at the lodge for the not so fit)

Day 3 - Drive to the new Msikaba Gorge Suspension Bridge and later to the Msikaba vulture viewing site.

Day 4 - Angel, Fraser and Magwa Falls, Mount Thesiger for some fun drag racing, overnight at Umngazi River Bungalows

Day 5 - Umngazi to Coffee Bay (a day of big gravel passes and amazing scenery

Day 6 - Mapuzi Caves, Little Hole in the Wall, Hole in Wall, White Clay Restaurant (legendary)

Day 7 - Coffee Bay to The Haven - another day of scintillating scenery and some challenging gravel passes

Day 8 - Cwebe Nature Reserve, Banyana Falls and Forest Walk, drive to Kob Inn via some more major passes.

Day 9 - Collywobbles vulture viewing via some secret back roads that will beguile and enchant (heart of the Wild Coast)

Day 10 - Kob Inn via Cats Pass to Centane and we cross the Kei River via the vehicle ferry to Morgan Bay where the tour ends.

That is 11 nights & 10 days of Wild Coast magic that will guarantee to leave you a renewed and more relaxed person.
Bookings open next week.

(Read more...)

Social Media on the boil

Our posts during our Wild Coast tours obviously caught the imagination of the public. When we left on May 4th we had 96,000 Facebook followers. When we got back three weeks later we had just over 100,000. One specific post of a Toyota Fortuner bouncing and swinging its way up a muddy hill enjoyed an astonishing reach of 1,161,590 in 10 days. It is by far the largest number of views of a single post on our page in our 11 year FB history. (Our previous record was 371,000). It goes to show that the public are tired of reading the same old regurgated memes and copy/paste items. They want authentic, original material with a well told story. All that resulted in a whopping 263% increase in our reach. MPSA moves up to the next level.


Wild Coast V4 Tour

A spate of cancellations just two weeks prior to the V4 & V5 tours meant some hasty communications with all the venues trying to get last minute changes sorted and fresh invoices generated. The reasons behind the cancellations ranged from medical to personal reasons. We gave each client 100% credit to book on a new tour.

Mountain Lake is located 2020m ASL on the southern slopes of the mountain behind Matatiele

That left us with 9 vehicles for our V4 tour which started in Matatiele where Resthaven Guest House owners, Philip and Elrita Rawlins welcomed our group with their customary warmth and friendliness. Elrita's cooking is always a hit with everyone and Resthaven invariably scores top points in the cooking department. Amongst the fare is usually lamb shanks and other deliciously prepared comfort food. The fact that most of us returned home a few kilos heavier bears testimony to this!

The plus side of a smaller convoy is that everything happens faster and is more manageable. The following day Philip hopped into the Cruiser (MPSA 1 - Thirsty Kirsty) with me as we took the group up to Mountain Lake. The recent heavy rains over Easter caused plenty of damage to the road, but detours have been created around the worst parts, so it wasn't too bad.

We had two interesting vehicles that I was keeping an eye on. One was a Subaru Forester and the other was a VW T6 Transporter/Camper. Both of those are AWD vehicles. The Subaru has low range and the VW has two extra low gears. Both cruised up the mountain on Day 1 without any issues.

Later we headed over to Ongeluksnek for our visit to the Mariazell Mission in very good weather and even on those well used roads, there some bad sections that had not yet been repaired after the KZN floods. The mission lies in the foothills of the Drakensberg and receives plenty of rain. Even though the roads had dried out significantly there was still water and mud lying hidden in the reeds alongside the road.

First recovery of the tour: Subaru Forester towed out by a Toyota Prado.

Michael Salzwedel is a genuine Subaru fan. He owns two of them and as an ex editor of SA4x4 magazine knows his stuff when it comes to driving these vehicles properly. A momentary lapse of concentration on the Mariazell roads, saw the Subie coming to a halt with no traction in the cloying black mud. An obviously embarrassed Michael broadcast his predicament over the radio and the Prado ahead of him soon towed him out of trouble. So the first recovery had taken place. Michael made absolutely sure it never happened again on the tour and took his "Vassit Chappies" award in good humour that evening.

Rain, rain and more rain.

That night in Matatiele it started raining hard. It went on all night and was still raining the next morning, so we knew we were going to be in for a muddy day on our journey down to Mbotyi. At Cedarville we left the (potholed) tarred R56 and took to the gravel which distinctly resembled a river. At some points there was more water than gravel and the rest was mud. We had barely travelled 5 km, when the next radio call came through from Frik van der Merwe (a retired roads engineer). There was a peculiar loud mechanical sound coming from under his Prado. He tried changing from low range to high range and engaging and disengaging difflocks, but the noise remained.

Another guest in a 200VX Land Cruiser (Andries Brink) offered to drive with Frik to nearby Kokstad to visit the Toyota agent. So the two of them left the group and our convoy tally dropped to 8. Our 2 way radios have excellent range so we could still talk to the two Kokstad vehicles despite being many kilometres away. Then came the good news. The noise had stopped as suddenly as it had started. Between the two of them they declared the Prado fit for duty and agreed to meet us on the N2 turnoff to Tabankulu. Their decision proved to be sound as the Prado never gave another moment's trouble for the duration of the tour. We suspect a stone had somehow lodged into the drive train along a very wet and muddy section.

Summit view from Nungi Pass / Photo: MPSA

The rest of us drove the steep Nungi Pass, pausing at the summit for photos in very cold conditions, then moved further south via Colonanek to cross the Mzimvubu River via a low level single lane bridge. The river was flowing strongly - still moving water down to the coast in great volumes since Easter. It's interesting to note that the Umzimvubu (correctly spelled as Mzimvubu) is the only major river in South Africa without a dam.

We met up with our Kokstad group on schedule (they only waited 10 minutes) and proceeded along the tar road to Tabankulu with due warnings about the numerous deep potholes. One quickly becomes accustomed to seeing traffic weaving all over the road avoiding potholes and it's not really dangerous as everyone is driving fairly slowly.

Tabankulu is a frenetically busy town, serving a large rural community. There are the usual chain stores, as well as several large building supply hardware stores that are doing a roaring trade as many people are busy building new homes, improving old ones or extending them as finance permits. To us city slickers everything appears to be chaotic with hordes of pedestrians, roadside stalls, braais, dogs, pigs, goats, cattle, taxis, mud and noise. I've learned to sit back relax and enjoy the show. Roll down your window, blow your hooter, wave and shout "Molweni!" and marvel at the response you get. These are the experiences that we want to share with our guests. Getting to the heart and soul of the matter.

Next week: Mzintlava Pass, Lusikisiki and Mbotyi


Podcast

We visit two interesting towns – Darling and Greyton then head north to Mpumalanga to unpack the history of Casper’s Nek Pass.

Click here to listen.


PASS OF THE WEEK

The Nungi Pass is named after the mountain of the same name which forms the western portal of the Umzimvubu River valley. The pass traverses tribal trust land and connects Cedarville in the north with Mount Frere in the south. It's of above average length at 8,7 km and packs 39 sharp bends, corners and curves into it's length and displays an altitude variance of 335m with a classic high centre point profile.

 

* *   N U N G I   P A S S   * *

 

NEW PASSES ADDED

Ghanja Pass - This short mixed surface pass connects the village of Lambasi / Lupathana with the coast where the popular walk commences to Waterfall Bluff and Cathedral Rock on the Wild Coast. It is a dead-end road. Strictly 4x4 with low range only.


Trygve Roberts
Editor

Thought for the day: "Be kind and don't sweat the small stuff"

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