A review on the Southern Cederberg Tour – our most ambitious tour to date, and hugely successful.
Listen to the interview:
* FLOODS IN THE SOUTHERN CAPE
* SHACKLETON 1718
* STETTYNSKLOOF TOUR
* CAPE TOWN OFFICE RELOCATION
* NEW - PUBLIC SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS
* PASS OF THE WEEK
This week is once again jam-packed with news. Let's start with a summary of what's on offer this week.
We bring you a report back on our most successfull tour ever - the Southern Cederberg Tour. [More lower down]
Stettynskloof Tour: We unravel the remarkable, but tragic story which occurred on a stormy August day in 1963 when an SAAF Shackleton crashed in the Stettynskloof mountains near Worcester whilst on a training exercise killing all 13 crew on board. Our upcoming Stettynskloof Tour will take us close to the crash site, where the full story will be told to our guests. This tour is also full of surprises (some of which we may not reveal yet) but all we can say is - "Get your booking done as soon as possible".
The tour will include a half circumnavigation of the Brandvlei Dam as well as a visit to some of Worcester's historical buildings. We can take any vehicle along on this tour. The date is Saturday, 16th February and its a one day tour. Here is the link: STETTYNSKLOOF TOUR
Floods: Last week we mentioned floods up north on the Reef and this week we have seen very heavy rainfall in the south-eastern parts of South Africa, with Meiringspoort once again bearing the brunt of the damage. Thomas Bain famously disliked building roads through poorts for this very reason. He had wisdom far beyond his years and it was this very reason that resulted in the construction of the Swartberg Pass, which went over the mountain, rather than through it, like Meiringspoort.
In the Western Cape, February is usually the hottest, driest month of the year, yet last Saturday a large area of the Western Cape received good rainfall with some roads being damaged. In the Citrusdal area where our Southern Cederberg Tour started, over 15mm of rain fell the previous night. The spin-off for our tour was nicely dampened roads with almost no dust and pleasant, mild temperatures in the low twenties.
Relocating: It's a frenetically busy time for the MPSA Cape Town office, as we are moving our main admin office this week. It's a case of lots of to-ing and fro-ing as we move files, desks, computers and cabinets. This might result in a minor slow-down in pass production for a week or two, but it's all part of the process of elevating the website from a part-time to full time operation. These moves are always much bigger than what one anticipates. We will do our level best to maintain our daily social media presence in between all the chaos!
The Old Postal Route is a basic gravel track of 53,2 km that connects the Biedouw Valley in the Cederberg with the Eilandsvlei farm near the R355 in the Tankwa Karoo. This was once a route used to deliver post between these two remote communities.
The route consists of two mountain passes separated by a long high altitude plateau and includes a bridgeless crossing of the Doring River at the eastern end. It is not suitable for normal cars. Four wheel drive with high clearance is essential and low range is an additional benefit to have at your disposal.
Most of the route is Grade 1 and fairly straight-forward to drive, but here and there a few tricky sections raise the bar to Grade 3, depending on weather conditions. The two most likely places drivers will have problems, is the crossing of the Doring River and offroad navigation, as there are multiple unsigned intersections, so your navigation needs to be precise. Unless you have a GPS loaded with Tracks4Africa where you can see the route clearly, you will more than likely get lost. We don't recommend driving this route between June and October, when water levels in the Doring River will probably be too high. In summer, the river crossing is usually bone dry.
The route will take between 4 to 6 hours to complete, depending on a number of factors. There are cottages and camping available at Mertenshof near the western start and good camping can be enjoyed at Die Mond off the R355 at the opposite end of the route.
The route is best driven in a group in case of a breakdown. Take full recovery gear with as well as a puncture repair kit that you know how to use. If you enjoy remote gravel road driving, with huge vistas and a unique stillness you will find in few other places in South Africa, then this route is for you.
The Truitjieskraal Road forms part of an escape route via the Kromrivier farm and Kromrivier Pass, when the Matjiesrivier is in flood. It's a fairly rough gravel road, which only allows a speed of around 20 kph. The route is 8,5 km long and climbs 108 vertical metres over that distance, most of it over the first two kilometres, with some stiff gradients of 1:8.
After that the road meanders between beautiful weathered Cederberg sandstone formations over a wide mountain plateau amongst pristine fynbos and proteas and terminates at the bridge crossing at the well known Kromrivier farm. The route is doable in a normal sedan car, providing speed is kept low. This road gives access to the Truitjieskraal rock formations, as well as the rock-climbing routes and hiking trails.
A steep and winding gravel pass over the Kraaiberg mountain which forms the southern barrier to the Biedouw Valley. The road connects the Biedouw Valley with the higher altitude farms to the south and east. Some of the gradients are steep and there are three hairpin bends to contend with. We would not recommend driving this pass in a normal car, but a high clearance 'bakkie' will manage, except in very wet weather. There are long sections on this pass which are very stony, which will present problems for low clearance cars.
This pass also marks the western end or start of the Old Postal Route, which is covered fully as a separate entry on this website. Anyone wanting to drive the Old Postal Route should take the hyperlink to get all the information necessary to safely complete the route.
This is an easy gravel road drive with small gains/losses in altitude. Technically it does not resemble a mountain pass at all and is merely a pretty drive along the northern bank of the Biedouw River and involves some sharp turns and a minor change in altitude. What it lacks in statistics, it certainly makes up for in scenic beauty as the Biedouw River Valley is one of those tranquil, off the beaten track places that ends in a dead end at the head of the valley for most of the year, as the river crossing towards the end is too deep to cross. It's a place of steep mountains, crystal clear streams, stunning displays of spring flowers and old farm dwellings.
Its claim to fame is that it is the final pass after the Nardouwskloof Pass that delivers motorists to the Cederberg's beautitul Bushmans Cave Amphitheatre. It's named after a nearby peak Kraaibosberg (Crow Bush Mountain) [633,7m] which can be seen to your right at the start of the pass. At 3,6 km this pass is fairly short and it descends a substantial 250m producing an average gradient of 1:14 which places it fairly high up on the national rankings in terms of steepness.
The Piekenierskloof Pass has a long and interesting history dating back to the mid 1800's when Thomas Bain built the first pass through the neck in the Olifantsrivier Mountains, which separate the Swartland of the Cape from the mineral rich lands to the North. Bain named the pass after Sir George Grey, (hence Grey's Pass) but when the pass was rebuilt to a more comfortable gradient in 1958, the new pass reverted to it's original name - Piquenierskloof which was simplified to Piekenierskloof.
This short, gravel pass is located just north of the Biedouw Valley/Wupperthal turn-off on the R 364. Despite it's relatively low altitude, the views from the summit are well worth stopping for, as the plains of the Karoo stretch out in a seemingly endless horizon dotted with koppies and serried ranks of mountain ridges. In springtime, this is one of the best flower spotting routes. The pass is one of three that lie on the R364 between Clanwilliam (WC) and Nieuwoudtville / Calvinia (NC) - the other two being the Pakhuis Pass to the west and the Botterkloof Pass further to the east. Both are featured on this website.
The Blinkberg Pass (translated as 'Glittering or Shining Mountain') is a fairly long pass, found on the much revered gravel road (the P1482) through the southern Cederberg. The Grootrivierhoogte Pass and Blinkberg Pass run concurrently for a distance of almost 20km through magnificent and rugged scenery.
The pass has an unusual vertical profile in that it has two false summits located approximately at the 1/3 and 2/3 points. Each of these is marked by a short tarred section to cope with the very steep gradients. At 11,8 km this a long pass and is peppered with corners, but most of these are fairly easy. There are however, some really nasty ones, which can catch unsuspecting drivers by surprise.
The road traverses spectacular Cederberg mountain scenery and follows a narrow kloof for most of its length. Earmark this one if you've never driven it, as it's one of the nicest gravel roads in 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.
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.