Cape Passes & Poorts

Normal people may find this post boring.

As Jess and I whizzed southwestward in search of clear skies to dry out the tent on my lorry after the floods in the Kruger Park at the beginning of the year and the soaking rains in Mpumalanga, Free State and KZN which kept my canvas damp. It got so bad I started thinking there wasn’t a sky in the cloud. On the tar roads we passed numerous signs saying some or other pass. You notice the lovely scenery, but the passes pass with no effort, so we seldom stopped for photos. Thanks to the amazing website run by the geeks, nerds and – worse – engineers of anyone can go on a virtual drive over these passes. I used them gratis for a bit, then subscribed. Well worth R465 a year in my view, even if you’re only doing one trip with one pass – you’ll get so much more out of the trip once you’ve read the amount of info these guys post about each pass. A narrated video of the route, angles, altitudes, distances, directions, gain, gradient, history, can you take a Fiat Uno or do you need a Unimog, ens. Fascinating.

I had some well-known and challenging passes on my to-do list for this trip, and on those I did take pics which I’ll post.

Wapadberg Pass – On the tarred R61 between Cradock and Graaff Reinet; 17km long; On YouTube here.

Carlton Heights Pass – On the tarred N9 between Noupoort and Middelburg; 7km long; On YouTube here. It was here I remarked to Jess, ‘Look, not a cloud in the sky!’ We had found our dry blue skies to dry out my tent! We stopped for a pic and saw there was one wee cloud to the south, no bigger than a man’s hand, just like in the Bible.

Now four passes on the tarred N9 north of Graaff Reinet. Heading South, as we did, they are: Naudesberg Pass; Paardekloof Pass; Goliathskraal se Hoogte Pass; Perrieshoogte Pass; All tar, all beautiful, but none caused us to stop and take pics. Also near – almost in – Graaff Reinet are van Ryneveld’s Pass and Munniks Poort. Some of these passes were Andrew Geddes Bain passes, the famous road- and passbuilder whose reputation I accuse my ancestors of appropriating when they got to Natal!

In Camdeboo National Park we found the first pass, mountain and valley I had long wanted to see: Camdeboo Pass leading to the Valley of Desolation! Back in 1972, fresh from a wonderful Veld & Vlei adventure, I’d been invited on a Boy Scouts patrol leader camp to the “Valley of Desolation near Graaff Reinet.” The camp was cancelled, but my imagination had been fired up and I always dreamed of seeing this mythical place one day. Now, a mere fifty one years later, I was driving up the pass. – – (virtual drive it on YouTube here and here)

— Jess halfway up the pass; and the tent on my lorry nice and dry —

Next we headed to the Karoo national park outside Beaufort West, my old mate Louis’ stamping ground. Inside the park there’s the Klipspringer Pass built with great effort and care. Being in a declared nature reserve, rocks were sourced from outside the park, ruins of old houses and kraals eg. and local labourers dry-packed them by hand to minimise the damage to the area. Jess chose to loaf back at camp while I drove it. She missed out.

After Beaufort we headed for Oudtshoorn to visit Louis and Gail – and what a welcome we received! Good friends indeed. Louis told of us of Meiringspoort, saying It’s Beautiful! and he was right. We crossed Droekloof Pass on the way, then took our time in the poort, stopping at every picnic spot and walking up to the waterfall. — (the feature pic at the top shows the mighty Ford Ranger on the Meiringspoort road).

Reluctantly leaving Louis n Gail’s hospitality we headed north towards a must-do pass – the famed Swartberg Pass, After passing through Schoemanspoort near the Cango Caves we started up the pass, stopping at Kobus se Gat to get Jess her 100th hot chocolate (!). Ahead lay 24km of Thomas Bain’s finest road engineering. The boffins at rate it so special they have made eight videos to cover it! See a shorter video here, showing north to south, opposite of our direction.


Thanks to;; and for pictures

I Thought the Book . .

. . was about her husband and his friends.

Turns out it wasn’t about us at all. Not nearly as interesting. But besides that, a lovely book and a fine achievement, Terry! Proud of ya!

Men in dresses, men in hats. Being Terry, though, the sterling – often leading – efforts of women were mentioned too, in this story of her church and its centenary. It was her parents’ church and hers for all of her life – that’s well over . . . um, many years and some decades. Not the full hundred though.

I got a nice message from the author in my copy:

terry book
I got the author to autograph it!

Glad she acknowledges my underrated acting abilities!


Mom on the Titanic

Mom was watching the movie Titanic when the frailcare nurses came mid-movie and hauled her off to bed.

Ever co-operative, dear old Mom sighed and accepted. The next day she asked two fellow inmates who had stayed on: “What happened!? Did it sink all the way to the bottom, or did it land on an iceberg and drift to safety?”

“They gave me a blank look,” she tells me. “Looked at me as though I was mad.” “Oops,” she says, “They didn’t get my little joke.”

Undeterred, she tells me with a chuckle , “Next time I’ll ask them what happened with Cain and Abel. Did Cain kill Abel in the end?” I’ll ask them.


Star, Jess!

Breakfast at Kwalata Lodge was delish. I had a egg n bacon usual, Jess had an omelette with cheese, potato and onions and loved it, so the next day we had the same.

The third morning we ordered the same again. Our meal arrived with our waitress carrying mine and the chef carrying Jessie’s. That was different.

‘We have made a mistake,’ said our waitress. ‘I made the mistake,’ said the chef. ‘I read tomato instead of potato! My bad!’ He was looking at me. I looked at Jess and waited.

‘I’m sure that will be fine,’ said Jess. ‘Don’t worry, I’ll eat that.’ The two looked relieved and hurried away. Well done goggo said I. You’re a kind and lovely person. ‘Well, they were honest and decent about it and the chef came himself, he didn’t make the waitress do it,’ said my Jessie. Proud of ya love!


(I think the only pics I took at Kwalata was that lovely moth with the trompe-l’œil trailing edges to its wings that look folded backwards. Bright yellow thorax when it flew)

Abba Game Farm

Jess and I had a wonderful chill at Abba Game Lodge in the greater Waterberg, near Modimolle. No traveling to do, nowhere to go, we just chilled for four days. Jess enjoyed the attention and kindness shown her by the ladies who run the show, especially Chantel, who encouraged her to get out and about on the grounds, but couldn’t persuade her to swim in their heated pool. She did get some exercise wandering around searching for the wifi signal!

Took me a while to get used to the pitch black impala and pale, not quite pure white, blesbok roaming the grounds. Weird!

The road we took to get there from Bela Bela was rough; the road to Modimolle much easier, so we left that way, stopping for breakfast en route to Dinokeng, north of Pretoria.


Jess in a Palace

When Jess hit seven weeks off her opioid addiction – and seven weeks of enduring Dad – halfway to her goal of beating her last record, I said, ‘You Choose a Place To Stay Tonight Jess!’ like it was something new. She mostly did that for us anyway, using or apps. But her budget was usually Under R1000 and this time – it wasn’t.

I thought Here Comes a Luxury Game Lodge, but no. It was a suite in The Lost Palace at Sun City:

As we walked into our room she knew she’d made the right choice: Dad! Look at the size of the TV! she grinned.


St Francis

There are at least ten Saint Francisii. I’m sure most were skelms, so why a lovely place on South Africa’s shores is named St Francis I do not know. I bet Saartjie Baartman wouldn’t know either.

Lekker place to visit though. Cheap, too. We found a luxury fully-catered mansion where we were treated like royalty for FREE! We had our own bedrooms, me and Jess, three cordon bleu meals a day, guided tours of the harbour, walks along the beaches and a boat trip in the canals and on the Krom river, all included. And it was Easter, high season!

OK, confession: We were guests of generous good friends Mike & Yvonne who rescued us from the Easter crush. My usual procrastination meaning I hadn’t looked ahead and seen the long weekend looming. Hey! It’s not easy when every day is like a Sunday. Perpetual loafing can make your brain mushy. OK, mushier.


Brown Silks

Thank goodness he has Elizanne for a spot of normality. See, young David Scratchmo suffers from some strange delusions. Like thinking he’s a goeie kykende ou, thinking his lop-eared puppy is beautiful, and thinking it matters which brown horse wins a horse race. I’ve tried to tell him it makes no difference and it’s pointless taking all the horses to one end of a field and putting small people on them to slap them to the other end, cos we know one of the brown horses always comes first. He came back with this strange statement: There Are No Brown Racehorses, Koos. Can you believe it? As a race-goer of some experience I have seen dozens of brown race horses at the track that time that I went to the Rothmans July!

I spose its cos of my kindly pointing this fact out to him that he didn’t have a brown racehorse in his lounge when Jess and I visited him and Elizanne in their lovely home in that unpronounceable city formerly know as Pee Ee. He had instead, an old semi-retired black race horse in his lounge.

Personally I think he knows a lot more about people races.


Lost in Translation

My Durban friend of Eastern Cape extraction tells me they speak four languages in this neck of the woods: English (of a sort), Afrikaans (of a sort), isiXhosa (of a sort), and Lower Albany. This turned out to be true, so I reached out to young Allister Gordon-Peter in desperation for translation services, but he was unreachable. So I struggled on alone among the boets and the swaers that inhabit this strange country.

Turns out he was doing the Pondo Plod from Port Edward to Mtentu, Mkambathi and beyond, shuffling southwards from shebeen to shebeen along the beach in the teeth of a howling Westerly, pretending he was having fun.

– Call this fun? –

The only part sounding like fun was that some shebeens now have Black Label beer in 1l (one THOUSAND millilitre!) ‘quart’ bottles, so that helped.
Him and his ilk (all older’n me, much older – months!) can only do the blerrie hike thanks to frequent copious ingestion of strong drugs. These fools have done this trudging many times, suffering as they do from perseveration. When they paddle a river or hike a mountain or shoot a rhebuck, they do it over and over, year after year.

They have even done some hikes unsupported, camping rough, though nowadays as they age and grow decrepit they more often engage in ‘slackpacking,’ aka ‘limping,’ using motorised transport to carry their swag, sleep in four-poster featherbeds en route, and get tucked into bed by kind Pondo mamas. I’ve heard.

Rumour has it their drugs of choice include, but may not be limited to, Black Label, anti-inflammatories and an occasional puff of boom.

Eventually Alli phoned me, apologising for being out of blue teeth and off the line for the last week, and advised me to backtrack to Hogsback for some beautiful scenery and beer.

Which advice I followed, only to find the pub here doesn’t have 1l Black Label bottles. It was fake news. I’m having to drink milk stout and Old Brown.

– Hogsback shebeen –

Footnote: I’m told the specific brand of boom they rook in the Eesin Kyp is called ‘Pondoland Cabbage’ and just one amateur-rolled spliff gets you speaking fluent Lower Albany; slowly in lo-ong sentences with many words repeated. Look, boet, this is what I’m told hey.



Anton used to tell me about the Baviaans with great excitement and enthusiasm. You gotta go there, Pete! Well I finally got there about thirty years later. After, when I got to Gqeberha I phoned my old colleague, now in Jo’burg, to tell him the valley was even better and more spectacular than he’d said!

The full Baviaanskloof route was a lot longer than I had thought; it was also far more rugged than I’d imagined; and it certainly was beautiful and spectacular, as Anton had shouted while also telling me how indestructible his old Toyota bakkie was. You know what Toyota groupies are like.

On the way we met Ian, farmboy from Ireland, put-putting through the kloof alone on his motorbike while slowly going round the world. Africa is his last continent and he’s doing it slowly and thoroughly with a puptent for a home. Made me feel overdressed, did Ian, what with my Ford Ranger and canopy tent!

We stayed at Zandvlakte farm in a lovely big cottage. Only after leaving there did I realise the friendly owner Magriet Kruger was the co-author of this magnificent newly published book! Aitch would have kicked me (and bought three copies!).


Riebeeck Kasteel

On our way to Riebeeck Kasteel I phoned ahead to ask Lang Dawid how we’d find him when we got there. ‘Just drive in, I’ll see you,’ he said. As I parked under a tree next to the Groot Kerk I got a call: ‘Look right,’ he said.

And there was a lang skraal athletic figure waving at us from outside his new cottage. Above is his view of the kerk from his stoep. From the steeple the dominee can see right into his bachelor bedroom. Complaints may follow.

Dave very kindly hosted me and daughter Jess on our travels in his new cottage he has built on the grounds of his boet William and wife Mary’s lovely home which doubles as their photographic studio and professional printing business. Check out their portfolios on that website – stunning.

Some lekker eating joints in the dorpie. From this table we could see Dave’s cottage next to his boet’s home.

Dave is an accomplished birder and bird photographer. Not only has he exceeded my forty year count in far fewer years (not that I count, of course), but he has a photo of every one of his 650-odd birds recorded. With my 620-odd tally (not that I count, of course), you only have my word. We met other weird okes talking shutter speeds, ISO, length of your equipment, whimbrels and curlews. Or was it curlew sandpipers?

– spotted a spotted moth in Dave’s garden –


And wow! Here’s a picture Mary took of that same view of the kerk:

Three National Parks

Luckily Jess also enjoys driving around in natural areas. Our Karoo journey started off with these three:

Mountain Zebra National Park

Camdeboo National Park

I said to Jess Take A Selfie with the Valley of Desolation in the background. “OK” said the daughter.

Uh, here Jess, let me show you what I meant:

Karoo National Park

Karoo NP

Groot Marico

As I left Botswana’s Khama Rhino Sanctuary I spoke to a German couple who said they were going to exit Botswana at Gaberone “cos they want to drive longer in Bots – they like it here.” So I changed plan and did the same. Instead of heading east to Martin’s Drift / Groblersbrug border post, I meandered south to the Tlokweng / Kopfontein crossing.

As afternoon approached the old familiar Where To Stay dilemma started – not my favourite part of my meandering life. For a change I decided to ask someone, as Groot Marico turned out to be a surprisingly not-groot dorpie. The Wag n Biekie Pub looked enticing, set in a shady garden.

Three manne looked comfortable at the pub. One my age was nursing a brandy n coke; one who said he was the youngest oke left in the Groot Marico at 36, nursing a brandy n coke; and Brian, nut farmer. ‘No not macadamias, the climate is wrong. Pecans,’ nursing a brandy n coke.  Once Brian and his gabbas had sussed me out – What you doin’? Where you goin’? How old are you? Where do you hail from? – he hopped onto the phone to sort out a place for me to spend the night: Hello Liddy my darling. Listen, Wild Bill Hickok has come to town and is needing a bed, can you help him sweetheart?

Liddy could, so Brian drew what he assured me was a very accurate map to get to Evergreen farm  I couldn’t miss it. Luckily I listened carefully as he scribbled.

I bought a round then, as when they heard it was my first visit they winked at the barmaid and she brought me a glass of amarula liquer. ‘Watch out, don’t choke hey! There’s something in it,’ I was warned. I thought maybe a chilli but turned out to be a cherry, which I  slukked.

While the kind ladies in the pub kitchen made me a supper to take home we all had another dop, then I departed with thanks for the lekker hospitality.

Evergreen farm’s chalet was great and the monster burger I had for supper was delish.

The next day I discovered the Groot Marico river runs gin-clear as it’s source is an ‘oog’ – a large dolomitic hole in the ground, a spectacular scuba diving spot.

It flows northwards; for a stretch it is named Madikwene River, then reverts to the name Marico, bends northeastwards and forms the border between South Africa and Botswana. Further downstream the Crocodile River joins the Marico from the right and the name of the stream after the confluence becomes the famous Limpopo River.


dorpie – hamlet; village

not-groot – tiny; no metropolis

Wag n Biekie – linger a while

gabbas – mates; chinas

chinas – mates

slukked – swallowed; like swallowing a slug

Stuck in the Namib with Aitch

So we did *sometimes* go where the signs *sometimes* said Maybe You Shouldn’t.

We were rescued by friendly Damara ous in the Namib desert, by feisty ous in tight khaki shorts on Mocambican beaches, and by faithful Bahá’ís at their picnic on the Báb’s birthday on a Malawian beach. Bless em all.

You just gotta have faith ye shall be rescued.

*pic of kombi stuck on Moz beach*

Whenever I got stuck Aitch was out with the camera like a shot! – Zavora Bay