Trichardtspoort is located in the Wilge River Valley, a tiny enclave of the Gauteng Province situated on the north-eastern side of Bronkhorstspruit. The area is particularly beautiful, especially in summer, and although the access road is mostly gravel, it is well worth the trip to get there. The road is in a fairly good condition, but motorcyclists should take note that there are some soft and powdery sand sections. The poort is named after Louis Tregardt (his surname is often incorrectly spelled as “Trichardt”), as this valley was part of the route followed by the wagons of Tregardt and Andries Hendrik Potgieter on their way to the north of the country during the Great Trek. The ravine is also sometimes referred to as Wilgepoort or Kranspoort.
Sprinkaannek is a very minor gravel pass located near Thaba Nchu in the south-eastern Free State. It is difficult to locate, and is a major disappointment when seeing it for the first time, but it is an official pass and is marked as such on the 1:50000 topographical maps. The name translates as “Grasshopper Neck” or “Locust Neck”.
The road is nothing more than a farm track, but there is evidence that it is being maintained, most likely by the local farmers. This pass should not be attempted in anything less than a high clearance vehicle fitted with all terrain tyres, but a 4x4 is probably not required except in wet weather.
Telemachus Poort (also known as Modderpoort) is located near the tiny Eastern Cape town of Jamestown, about 60 km from Aliwal North. It is named after the Telemachusspruit which tracks the pass on the western side along its southern half. The poort is quite unusual in that it consists of two distinct sections; a “poort” section which follows the stream, and a “neck” section which climbs up a hill towards its summit on the northern side.
The road is in a good condition, and should present no problems for any vehicle in all weather conditions. There are only four corners on the pass, one of which is a big loop of 120 degrees, but this curve has a very wide radius and is easily negotiated.
A chat about Day 2 of the Ben 10 Eco Challenge V2 Tour.
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What's inside ?
* Doing the Ben 10 on foot
* Pass of the Week
* New passes added
* Words of Wisdom
Tours: Our Bedrogfontein-Zuurberg Tour is around the corner (22nd to 24th November). If you own a 4x4 with low range, this tour will tick all the boxes. We have 5 places open at time of writing. Bookings can be done here: Bedrogfontein-Zuurberg Tour.
Throwing down the gauntlet
A few weeks ago I met a remarkable young man from Pretoria at the Mountain Shadows Hotel in the heart of Ben 10 Country. He was there to attempt to be the first runner to complete the Ben 10. Coincidentally we were at the same hotel with our second MPSA group tour of the challenge. Jaco Pretorius (aged 45) is tall, lean and clearly very fit. He quietly approached me in the food queue to introduce himself. Today we bring you his story, the planning, the toughness, the elation and the prize. There will be more trail runners after him, but this man was the first. It's one heck of an achievement to complete the challenge in 4 days on foot.
Our newsletter this week is devoted entirely to Jaco's story, so sit back relax and read on. Next week, the newsletter will resume the format you are accustomed to. Here is Jaco's story:
"Our Challenge preparation started early in 2019, when a colleague, Dirk, and I started talking about doing the challenge. I’ve only been in the area once (April 2018) when I drove via Rhodes over Lundean’s and Naudes Nek on my way to Maclear. This was enough to wet my appetite for this beautiful part of South Africa.
Our early thoughts were to do the challenge over 6 days, as running those passes could be rather tough. Dirk and his son, Christo, would do it on the motorcycles, and I would attempt to run it. By May 2019, we had entered on the www.mountainpassessouthafrica.co.za website, and the real preparation had to start. We had targeted the long weekend in September as the best week to try to do it. This would then also be ideal preparation for my first Skyrun100 race happening mid-November in the same area.
A lot of “google mapping” and reading on the passes happened between May and July to work out the optimum route, and we agreed to commit by August, as we could not delay the booking of accommodation any further.
By early August, after a less than ideal winter for me, I abandoned the thought of running Ben10, as I felt that my fitness level was not where it should be. I told Dirk the news, and he and another colleague, Gerhard, proceeded with their arrangements to do it. Gerhard would be the backup driver in the Ford Ranger, and Dirk and his son would do it on motorcycles. Seeing that they did not have to cater for me, they decided to do the challenge in 3 days, as it required less leave from work.
[More lower down]
This short little pass winds up a small ridge and more or less follows the course of the Breede River on the outskirts of the dairy farming town of Bonnievale. There are just two easy bends along the 1.6 km length and the total height gain is 28m. Unless you are aware that it's a pass, you would drive over it not being any the wiser, but it is an official pass, duly recorded on the government 1:50,000 maps..
The pass lies on the tarred R317 route that connects Robertson and Bonnievale, the latter town being well known for the Parmalat dairy/cheese factory on the eastern side of town, a major employer in the valley, but Bonnievale also produces a lot of wine. There are a number of excellent wine estates along this route.
A recap of the first day of the Ben 10 Eco Challenge V2 Tour.
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The week that was:
* Bedrogfontein-Zuurberg bookings open
* Sani Pass update
* Ben 10 Eco-Challenge V2 Tour (Chapter 2)
* SA History (Chapter 22)
* Pass of the week
* Words of wisdom.
Sani Pass Update
On Sunday 29th September we descended the iconic Sani Pass and for the first time, managed to capture crystal clear footage of the entire descent. Over the next month we will be producing a brand new multiple video set and YOU will be the first to see them.
The condition of the road varies greatly, depending on recent weather systems. Much of the pass has been widened and only a few sections still exist where two vehicles cannot easily pass each other. The road is however very stony and bumpy and it is still necessary to ascend with a 4WD vehicle. Having said that we saw a gent driving up in a 4x2 Ford Ranger, but he had considerable difficulty going up the switchback section - amidst flying stones, dust and lots of wheel spinning. It's really not a clever thing to do.
There is lots of small scale construction happening along the section below the SAPS border control point. New bridges have been built and some are still under construction. Where the road has been widened, the cuttings have been stabilised with shotcrete (gunite) which is unattractive, but cost effective in the long term.
No tarring has taken place at all and at this stage the entire Sani Pass is still gravel. If you are one of those adventurers who wants to drive it whilst gravel, you probably have a two year window to do so.
[Read more lower down]
As you read this newsletter, the editorial team are still on the road, returning from two back to back tours. This newsletter will take on a slightly different format to our usual newsletter format. There will be no history chapter this week, but next week the history series will continue.
Most of this news letter will be consist of the two tours we have just completed - so let's get straight to the nitty gritty.
Our final tour for 2019 is the Bedrogfontein-Zuurberg Tour towards the end of November. Tickets are selling fast. We have six places left, so if you're keen to join this tour, get your bookings done. You can get full information, pricing etc by using this link: Bedrogfontein Tour Online Bookings.
The Ben 10 Eco Challenge V2 Tour involved a two day trip getting to base camp and an overnight stay in Graaff Reinet, where we enjoyed fabulous Karoo cooking at the Polka Restaurant. Make a note of it and be sure to book as it's nearly always fully booked (and we know why!)
Our group consisting of 11 vehicles met at the Mountain Shadows Hotel (another venue which found favour with all our guests), but by 5 pm we received a message from Mark Heaton, stating that his Jeep Cherokee CRDi had developed a diesel injector problem and he had made it as far as Lady Grey and would be unable to participate in the tour. Fortunately we had three vehicles in our convoy without passengers and we were able to offer Mark a ride with Barrie Barnardt (who we later dubbed Barrie die Bek) for his ability to speak rapidly and continuously (and very cleverly). Mark is quietly spoken, so we had a perfect team in the black Ford Ranger Wildtrack.
We then amended our route slightly and collected Mark in Lady Grey the next morning and so the Ben 10 Tour overcame its first curved ball. But there would be more to come. Day 1 included Joubert's Pass, followed by a magnificent scenic drive back to the R58 and then south to the Otto du Plessis Pass. Conditions were strangely warm (32C) but the area is still dry leaving us with a lot of dust which invariably sees the convoy spreading out over 7 km or longer. [More lower down]
A chat about the two upcoming tours – The Ben 10 Eco Challenge V2 Tour and the Lesotho Sani Tour as well as a discussion on the newest tour in November – the Bedrogfontein/Zuurberg Tour.
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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.
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.