But it's not just about mountain passes, as we have included a visit to the Gondwana Private Game Reserve, 8 Bells Inn, Map of Africa, Millwood historical gold mine, The Heads, Coney Glen, Plettenberg Bay, Kurland, Birds of Eden and a visit to the Paul Sauer Bridge at Storms River with a final night at the Tsitsikamma National Park. Five days and six nights of Garden Route magic.
PLANNING OUR NEXT TOUR
We are also about to launch our final tour of 2022 which will take place during November.
Our very popular Kouga-Baviaans Tour will start in Kareedouw and head over the Kouga Mountains on the first day to arrive at Zandvlakte. Our accommodation offerings have expanded and we will now offer two levels of accommodation - Classic and Luxury.
The next two days will be spent in the western part of the kloof, where we will explore all the best point of interest from Vero's Restaurant to the ancient fig-tree forest - from Makedaat caves to tree houses - and we'll offer a 4x4 route for those who want to hone their skills.
The fourth day will take us through the eastern bio-reserve via Grasnek, Langkop, Holgat and Combrink's passes to the Cambria Valley and an overnight stay at the lovely Ripple Hill Hotel in Patensie. Our final day will take us to the Cockscomb Mountains and west via the Antoniesberg Pass to Steytlerville, where we will end the tour at grand style at the outrageously stylish Karoo Art Hotel.
Wild Coast V5 Tour - Day 9
Our excursion to Collywobbles is one of the highlights of our Wild Coast Tours. No matter which routing we opt for, it's always a long day with our group arriving back at base in the dark. This year we arranged with the chef at Kob Inn to have breakfast ready at 07.00, which allowed us to get going by 08.00.
After a brief stop in Willowvale for fuel, we took the new road (R349) heading north-east towards Dwesa Nature Reserve. The Eastern Cape government are keen to develope this area as a tourist destination and the new road is an integral part of that plan. Once completed it will be a full width tar road with safety shoulders. Construction has been ongoing for a few years now and with each visit progress can be clearly measured. There are new bridges and the road has been realigned to better geometric lines.
The Shixini River Pass (which we didn't film due to all the construction work and stop-go's) offers exceptional scenery and more so on the northern side as the road winds up the far side of the valley. After a few kilometres, the new road terminates at a 3 way traffic circle, where we took the left hand option and tackled the next pass - the Nqabara River Pass. Here too the scenery is really enjoyable and having perfect weather certainly added to that enjoyment.
Once over the Nqabara River, the road heads due north following a long spine where the river can be seen below in the valley for some distance. Soon the next pass begins, climbing ever higher towards Collywobbles. The Gotiybeni Pass is rough and steep with sweeping views to the left (still over the Nqabara River Valley). Once at the summit, the route took us through many villages until we eventually reached our turnoff to our planned lunch time stop and steep descent to the Mbashe Valley.
Heavy rains in the area had caused some damage to infrastructure and after 5 km of descending, we found our path blocked by a severely damaged bridge. There was simply no way around it, so we had to carefully turn the entire convoy around and head back to the "main" road.
The Collywobbles day always seems to have a way of stealing our time, no matter how well we manage it. That little detour added at least 40 minutes onto our ETA. We finally arrived at Collywobbles and decided to head directly up to the ridge up one of the steepest roads in the entire Wild Coast. The road is partially paved which aids traction, so it's not as bad as it looks.
The vultures were soaring. Our guests always enjoy the spectacle as the big birds (2,6m wingspan) float quietly overhead, sometimes at head height. Videos and photos done, it was time to head back to base and I can assure you it's much easier writing it than doing it.
We dropped all the way down to the Mbashe River Dam and crossed the bridge deck, (which is very narrow) with only two vehicles on the deck at a time. The climb up the Mbashe Valley is long, winding and steep, but at that time of the afternoon the sun is from the front, detracting somewhat from the amazing scenery. We passed Mveso (Nelson Mandela Museum) which still looks like not much is happening there. Evidence of the fire which gutted one of the buildings is clearly evident. The whole site looks closed up and not open for business.
Part of the Mveso development included the construction of a multi million Rand paved road (6 km long) and a new bridge (Nelson Mandela Bridge) over the Mbashe River. The developement has been marred by mismanagement, tribal infighting, family fueding, fires and political influences. An incredible waste of money. There appears to be no maintenance taking place on the new road as weeds and grass have started growing between the pavers.
We enjoyed the smooth tar of the N2 as far as Idutywa, then took the bumpy roads back to Kob Inn, arriving in the dark at about 18.30. A really full day but worth every metre of it. The fresh oysters served at Kob Inn that evening were the best I have tasted (ever!). It was a lively dinner that night.
SWARTBERG CLASSIC TOUR (Day 1)
Freshly showered and fed, we were all ready to roll out of the Rotterdam farm by 08.30 on a fine, chilly winter's morning. The country air had that crispness about it - devoid of pollution, dust or heat haze. The persistent rain the previous day ensured we would have little dust - one of those necessary evils of off-road touring.
We stopped at the Sugar Bridge over the Buffeljagsrivier do some storytelling and take photos, then headed briefly along the N2, to turn off towards Suurbraak. This very old mission village has an interesting history and derives its name from the old Dutch word 'braak' which means place or zone. Hence Suurbraak translated means "place with the sour grass"
A small shop adorned with the ubiquitous Coca-Cola sign, proclaims !XAIRU which is the Khoi version. The village is remarkably neat and clean. I purposefully look for litter in these towns and here I found none. So well done to all the townsfolk of Suurbraak. It just shows what can be done when a community works together towards a common goal.
The gravel passes came thick and fast. Moodies, Boosmansbos, Doringkraal, Seekoeigat, Wadrift and Gysmanshoek. A delightful smorgasbord of Southern Cape scenery with deeply wooded valleys, amber coloured rivers tumbling over white stones, farms with sheep and horses, fields of flowering canola and of course with it being midwinter, we had bright red aloes throughout the tour.
The river crossing at Seekoeigat is always fun, but the drift is concreted which makes things safe. Even the little Renault Duster cruised happily through.
Gysmanshoek still bears the scars of last year's fire, but the fynbos is recovering well and by the winter of 2023 the proteas should be flowering once again.
We stopped for a lunch-break at Muiskraal, where copious quantities of olives, honey, jams and other goodies had the till ringing merrily as guests stocked up. The olive oil is excellent at this farm stall (processed in the large building next door) and the price is very much more affordable than in the shops. Recommended.
(Next week: Muiskraal to Bosluiskloof)
We chat about Day 1 of your recent Swartberg Classic Tour, which covers the leg from Buffeljagsrivier to Ladismith.
PASS OF THE WEEK
This substantial gravel pass can be found in the foothills of the Langeberg about 15 km north west of Heidelberg in the Western Cape. It provides exceptional views and interesting driving on a gravel road that can get very tricky when wet. In addition frequent flooding of the low level bridge at the Seekoeigat farm can be problematic after rain. The 11,3 km long pass has an altitude variance of 387m with some very stiff gradients of up to 1:5. Most of these occur on the first southern ascent. This pass also has the unusual feature of having a major and minor summit within its length.
* * S E E K O E I G A T P A S S * *
"Blessed is the man who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed."