Latest News! 19th November, 2020

Written by  Trygve Roberts

Pondoland Bridge over the Umzimvubu River

Pondoland Bridge over the Umzimvubu River- Photo: Trygve Roberts

The week that was

* Wild Coast Tour 

* Swartberg Tour report back – Day 3

* Great South Africans (Series) – Johnny Clegg

* South African cities (Series) – Port Elizabeth

* Pass of the week

* Words of wisdom

Wild Coast Tour

As you read this newsletter, we will be at Kob Inn on the Wild Coast, experiencing another great South African adventure. On our return we will provide you with a blow by blow account. A brief summary of our routing is as follows:

Thursday 12th – Meet at the Resthaven Guest House in Matatiele
Friday 13th – Local tour under the expert guidance of Phillip Rawlins (Mariazell Mission & Mountain Lake)
Saturday 14th – Matatiele, Cedarville, Nungi Pass, Colonanek, Tabankulu, Mzintlava Pass, Lusikisiki, Mbotyi River Lodge.
Sunday 15th – Day excursion to Waterfall Bluff and Cathedral Rock.
Monday 16th – Magwa Falls, Magwa Tea Plantation, Umzimvubu Pass, Port St Johns Airport Road, Mngazi Mouth, PSJ River Lodge
Tuesday 17th – Mlengana Pass, Execution Rock, Coffee Bay.
Wednesday 18th – Hole in the Wall 4×4 route & Mapuzi Caves.
Thursday 19th – Coffee Bay to Kob Inn via Three Jumps Falls
Friday 20th – Day excursion to the Collywobbles vulture colony.
Saturday 21st – Kob Inn to Trennerys. Seafood extravaganza and prize-giving.
Sunday 22nd – Trennerys via the vehicle pont over the Kei River to Morgans Bay.

Swartberg Tour (Day 3) Bosluiskloof to Prince Albert

We were blessed with fabulous weather although a bit too warm for most of us by the time we reached Prince Albert, where the temperature was still 35C at 10 pm that night.Even though Bosluiskloof is just 49 km from Prince Albert as the crow flies, our routing followed a languid and pleasant path covering 240 km.

After a sumptuous breakfast, we bade farewell to our excellent hosts at Bosch Luys Kloof, and rumbled up the Bosluiskloof Pass with the sun behind us. It always fascinates me how different a pass can look in the opposite direction of travel, as well as at a different time of day. Seweweekspoort was much more impressive driving it from north to south with the soft morning light making for good photographic opportunities.

Next up was the Huisrivier Pass. This pass took ten years to design and was managed by the late Dr. Graham Ross. The 13,4 km long Huisrivier pass lies on the R62 between two valleys in the Little Karoo between the towns of Ladismith in the west and Calitzdorp in the east. It has 39 bends, corners and curves packed into that distance, which requires vigilant driving. Not only is this a fairly long pass, but it has many sharp corners, steep gradients and exceptionally attractive scenery. Many lovely rest areas have been provided by the road builders. 

This pass is unique in that its geology is unusually unstable and several pioneering engineering techniques had to be applied to successfully build a safe all-weather pass. The pass, which includes three river crossings, is not particularly steep, where the engineers have managed to limit the steepest gradients to a fairly comfortable 1:12. The pass is suitable for all vehicles with the only natural dangers being rock-falls, but the substantial catch walls appear to be taking care of that as well.

[Read more…]

We took a short break in Calitzdorp to allow the Hemsteds in their little red Suzuki Jimny 130 to get a tyre changed, which had been damaged during the previous day’s excursion on the 4×4 route. The day was starting to get warm as we left the tarred R62 and cut inland on one of the most enjoyable and scenic gravel roads in the Cape. The route included the lovely Kruisrivierpoort, where time has stood still and old cottages and farmsteads occupy the well-watered and surprisingly lush valley for many kilometres. 

The route continued heading east, following the foothills of the mighty Swartberg range over a pass called Huis se Hoogte, then over the decidedly steep Doringkloof Pass, before joining the tarred R328 near the foot of the Swartberg Pass. We took a right and drove halfway through Schoemanspoort and again, left the tar in favour of gravel. The P1713 is another delightful feast of visual treats, which included the Raubenheimer Dam and our lunch time stop at the Rust en Vrede Waterfall, which was unfortunately locked – probably thanks to Covid 19. We had to settle for a lunch stop under the shade of a long row of tall blue-gums. The temperature at that stage was well over 30C.

The route cuts through various farms, each one seemingly more picturesque than the one before. Finally we traversed the Ou Muragie farm which is one of the largest olive farms in South Africa. We were keeping good time on our schedule with a competent group of drivers.

The Klein Karoo town of De Rust was not a scheduled stop, so we took the drive through Meiringspoort. The poort bears a tough history of floods and landslides amongst incredible hardships, yet our engineers and road builders mastered the art of building a magnificent road through this awe-inspiring poort. 

The pass is in superb condition and offers typically gentle poort gradients, but the 63 bends, corners and curves do require a high level of concentration. It’s easy to become mesmerised by the mind boggling scenery, so drivers need to remain focused and understand that the lack of safety shoulders and large volume of heavy trucks means a certain level of danger is always present.

Meiringspoort main rest area and waterfall access / Photo: Trygve RobertsBy the time we stopped at the main rest stop, the mercury was heading towards the upper thirties, but this didn’t deter most of our guests from taking the hike up to the waterfall, which had a good flow of water. Near the northern end of Meiringspoort, we turned off the tar and drove three lovely gravel pass – Bloupuntrivier, Kleinvlei and Aapsrivierpoort – which brought us onto the R407 near Klaarstroom and an easy run (with airconditioners working overtime) headed for Prince Albert, where the temperature was well over 40C.  

[Next week: Gamkaskloof and Die Hel)

Great South Africans

Johnny Clegg

Jonathan Paul Clegg, (7 June 1953 – 16 July 2019) was a South African musician, singer-songwriter, dancer, anthropologist and anti-apartheid activist, some of whose work was in musicology focused on the music of indigenous South African peoples. His band Juluka began as a duo with Sipho Mchunu, and was the first group in the South African apartheid-era with a white man and a black man. The pair performed and recorded, later with an expanded line-up.

In 1986 Clegg founded the band Savuka, and also recorded as a solo act, occasionally reuniting with his earlier band partners. Sometimes called Le Zoulou Blanc (French: [lə zulu blɑ̃], for “The White Zulu”), he was an important figure in South African popular music and one of the most prominent white figures in the resistance to apartheid, becoming for a period the subject of investigation by the Security Branch of the South African Police. His songs mixed English with Zulu lyrics, and also combined idioms of traditional African music with those of modern Western styles.

Clegg was born on 7 June 1953 in Bacup, Lancashire, to an English father of Scottish descent, Dennis Clegg, and a Rhodesian mother, Muriel (Braudo). Clegg’s mother’s family were Jewish immigrants from Lithuania, and Clegg had a secular Jewish upbringing, learning about the Ten Commandments but refusing to have a bar mitzvah or even associate with other Jewish children at school. His parents divorced when he was still an infant, and he moved with his mother to Rhodesia and then, at the age of six, to South Africa, also spending part of a year in Israel during his childhood.

As an adolescent in Johannesburg’s northern suburbs, he encountered the demi-monde of the city’s Zulu migrant workers’ music and dance. Under the tutelage of Charlie Mzila, a flat cleaner by day and musician by night, Clegg mastered both the Zulu language and the maskandi guitar and the isishameni dance styles of the migrants. Clegg’s involvement with black musicians often led to arrests for trespassing on government property and for contravening the Group Areas Act. He was first arrested at the age of 15 for violating apartheid-era laws in South Africa banning people of different races from congregating together after curfew hours.

At the age of 17, he met Sipho Mchunu, a Zulu migrant worker with whom he began performing music. The partnership, which they named Juluka, began in 1969, and was profiled in the 1970s television documentary Beats of the Heart: Rhythm of Resistance.

After graduating with a BA(Hons) in Social Anthropology from the University of Witwatersrand, Clegg pursued an academic career for four years where he lectured and wrote several seminal scholarly papers on Zulu music and dance. In the early stages of his musical career, Clegg combined his music with the study of anthropology at Wits, where he was influenced, among others, by the work of David Webster, a social anthropologist who was later assassinated in 1989.

He preceded each song with snippets of Zulu culture, information, commentary, humor and personal anecdotes relevant and unique to that song, occasionally also incorporating aspects of his Jewish roots in songs such as “Jericho”, “Jarusalema” and “Warsaw 1943”.

Clegg’s song “Scatterlings of Africa” gave him his only entries in the UK Singles Chart to date, reaching No. 44 in February 1983 with Juluka and No. 75 in May 1987 as Johnny Clegg and Savuka. The following year the song was featured on the soundtrack to the 1988 Oscar-winning film Rain Man.

His song “Life is a Magic Thing” was featured in FernGully: The Last Rainforest.

Savuka’s song “Dela” was featured on the soundtrack of the 1997 film George of the Jungle and its 2003 sequel, while “Great Heart” was the title song for the 1986 film Jock of the Bushveld. “Cruel, Crazy, Beautiful World” was featured in the 1990 film Opportunity Knocks and 1991 film Career Opportunities.

South African Cities

Port Elizabeth or Nelson Mandela Bay, often known by its initials PE and colloquially as “The Friendly City” or “The Windy City“, is a major seaport city and most populous city in the Eastern Cape.  The city is among the top five cities in the world for pleasant weather, according to a 2014 scientific climate study of 600 global cities. Port Elizabeth is known for many blue-flag beaches along the city’s urban coastline; its popularity as an international and local holiday destination; and its rich and diverse cultural heritage. It is a tourism gateway city for the Eastern Cape and the only city with the closest proximity to malaria-free big five game reserves.

Port Elizabeth with the stadium taking centre stage

The economy of Port Elizabeth is primarily oriented towards automotive assembly, manufacturing and export industries, and the city is also a major South African and sub-Saharan African destination for investment. Foreign direct investments of $19,8 billion has been secured over the past decade. Several Fortune 500 companies have a presence or their African operations headquartered in Port Elizabeth. The city’s most prominent landmarks are Shark Rock pier, the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, and the Donkin Reserve.

Port Elizabeth is the second oldest city in South Africa. It was founded in 1820 by the government of the Cape Colony when 4,000 British colonists settled Algoa Bay to strengthen the border region between the Cape Colony and the Xhosa.

The first Europeans to visit the area sailed with the Portuguese explorers Bartholomeu Dias, who landed on St Croix Island in Algoa Bay in 1488, and Vasco da Gama, who noted the nearby Bird Island in 1497. For centuries, the area appeared on European navigation charts marked simply as “a landing place with fresh water”.

The Portuguese Crown had as one of its main goals in the Indian Ocean taking over the lucrative trade of Arab and Afro-Arabian merchants who plied routes between the East African coast and India. As they took over that trade in Africa, the Portuguese strengthened trading with Goa, their main trading point in India. The name Algoa means “to Goa”, just as the port further north in present-day Mozambique, Delagoa means “from Goa” in Portuguese.

The area became part of the Cape Colony. This area had a turbulent history between the settlement by the Dutch East India Company in 1652 and the formation of the Union of South Africa in 1910.

Fort Frederick

In 1799, at the time of the first British occupation of the Colony during the Napoleonic Wars, British troops built a stone fort named Fort Frederick after the Duke of York. This fort, aiming to deter a possible landing of French troops, was constructed to oversee the site of what later became Port Elizabeth. The fort is now preserved as a monument.

From 1814 to 1821 the Strandfontein farm was owned by Piet Retief. He later became a Voortrekker leader and was killed in 1837 by Zulu king Dingane during negotiations about land. An estimated 500 men, women and children of his party were massacred. Frederik Korsten owned the Strandfontein farm after Retief. The suburb of Korsten was named after Frederick in the 19th century. This area was later developed as the Summerstrand beach suburb of Port Elizabeth.

In 1820 a party of 4,000 British settlers arrived by sea, encouraged by the government of the Cape Colony to form a settlement to strengthen the border region between the Cape Colony and the Xhosa people. At this time the seaport town was founded by Sir Rufane Shaw Donkin, the Acting Governor of the Cape Colony (in office: 1820-1821). Diplomat Edmund Roberts visited Port Elizabeth in the early 1830s. Roberts noted that Port Elizabeth in the 1820s had “contained four houses, and now it has upward of one hundred houses, and its residents are rated at above twelve hundred persons”.

The Roman Catholic Church established the Apostolic Vicariate of Cape of Good Hope, Eastern District in the city in 1847. Port Elizabeth was granted the status of autonomous municipality in 1861.

Cape Colony Prime Minister John Molteno had formed the Cape Government Railways in 1872. Completion of the railway to Kimberley in 1873 was a major stimulus to trade and a rapid increase in population in the town. With the massive expansion of the Cape Colony’s railway network to the interior over the following years, the harbour of Port Elizabeth became the focus for serving import and export needs of a large area of the Cape’s hinterland. The rapid economic development around the port, which followed the railway construction, caused Port Elizabeth to be nicknamed “the Liverpool of South Africa”, after a major British port. The town expanded as a diverse community, comprising Xhosa as well as European, Cape Malay, and other immigrants.


Between Lusikisiki and Port St Johns, the R61 road winds its way towards the coast. Over that fairly short distance, there are three back to back passes. We are featuring the third one which covers the final 10 km descent to the Pondoland bridge. Locals tend to drive very fast, so if you’re headed that way, have your wits about you.

* * * * *   M L E N G A N A    P A S S   * * * * *

Trygve Roberts

Words of wisdom: “To see what is right, and not do it, is a lack of courage” ~ Confucious Tagged under

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