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

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)

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.


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.



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!).


Ancient Okes

Met old school chum Fluff in Bloemfontein for coffee. We were in pre-school together at Kathy Putterill’s home, went on to the Kleinspan school, then the Volkskool down the road, all the way to matric up in the high school on the hill below Platberg.

Great chat over coffee, followed by an ussie taken by Fluff (see above) – he remembers to actually take pictures. I too often remember afterwards!

Driving south-west out of Bloem towards the Groot Gariep river a beep on the phone and there was the image, sent by Fluffy.

I showed it to Jess and asked, “Can you believe we’re the same age?”

NO WAY! says my darling daughter, wide-eyed.

So how much younger do you think he is than me, Jess?

“Dad, I thought he was like, in his early fifties.”

No supper for you tonight! I laughed.


Pointedly explained to her that he is actually 68 and 13 days, whereas I am a mere 67. He is actually a full SIX WEEKS older than me, Jess!

NO WAY Dad! she dug her hole deeper.

Hey, Rasta! . .

. . What did you catch?

The manne were curious at least, won’t say envious. Tom had caught five fish before the other ten or so anglers on the beach caught their first. Hey, Rasta! What bait are you using? Then they started catching too. And then the fish went off the bite. Tom only caught anther two. All small stone bream, he called them.

Maybe Tom had an advantage though? He had, after all, fished here before, in 2005:

This time he was his own gillie. No smelly fish bait for me.


Mfolosi Martial Arts

Three days in Mfolosi’s Mpila camp with two demure young ladies.

We saw a few confrontations: Two male impala, two male lions, four rhino, with one male threatening the others. Nothing much came of these feints and threats, despite the loud shouts which came from the back seat, where the two demure young ladies were seated: FIGHT! Fuck him up!

Shocked, I was.

I’m a Grandfather! and . .

. . also a Godfather! (as is Tommy!)

Here’s how it works: Thirty-some years ago I was invited to a wonderful gathering with great friends Dave & Goldie who’d just had twins to add to their Tatum. There was good food thanks to Goldie and lots of beer which Dave may have had something to do with. Also there was something in a church, I dunno why, but hey! Did I mention the food and beer?

Turns out childless, clueless me had said something in church that was actually a lifelong commitment! I had joined the Mafia become a Godfather! I immediately set about neglecting my duties, but when the twins started performing terrifically in the famous Dusi Canoe Marathon I mumbled Them’s My Godsons and got told to shurrup.

But now! NOW! Googs has just run the famous Comrades Marathon in the insanely quick time of 7hrs 14mins – over 15mins inside silver medal time! So once again I step forward out of the shadows. Although claiming some influence on his good performance, I did mention that I hadn’t won my Comrades when I ‘did it’ back when we wore heavy hobnailed boots and hand-knitted vests.

Being the gentleman he is, Googs sms’d me back: Chuffed you are back to claim godfathership! Glad I could lure you back from retirement.

Less than a week later I became a Granpa for the first time. Ziggy had a baby boy on Saturday!

– still no-name Ngcobo – maybe he’ll be named after me?! –

Tom is claiming godfathership! Knowing Zig she probly did confer the honour on him! He’s super-chuffed. Will prolly walk around with his chest out and do nothing, just like his father before him. **Some people!**


Small World

Mopani camp was full. How about Letaba? I asked. Sorry, its also full. So Jessie found Tingala Lodge on – What a happy diversion it turned out to be.

About 15km north of Phalaborwa gate into Kruger Park, Tingala Lodge is terrific. While we chilled on the big patio overlooking a waterhole, a lady arrived in a double-cab bakkie and I noticed a couple of cases of Painted Wolf wine being carried into her room. When she joined us on the patio I said, ‘Lovely Wine, that Painted Wolf. My sister sells it in Durban.’

Oh, she said, It’s my wine. My husband is the winemaker. Your sister must be Sheila! I’m visiting lodges promoting it, asking them to include it on their wine lists.

‘Yep, Sheila’s my sister. I love the labels,’ I said, ‘Who does your artwork?’

Originally an artist who worked on a game lodge in Botswana.

‘Which lodge?’

Lloyds Camp on the Savute channel.

‘I knew an artist at Lloyds Camp,’ I said, ‘Jenny Song, she was there when we visited way back when.’

It was Jenny! She did our original artwork!

‘What a lovely person, we got on so well with her. My wife Trish bought something she painted. We had such a special time there,’ I said. ‘When we flew in from the Delta, back in the day, we were picked up at the landing strip by Emma, a young pink-cheeked Pom who said she was the chef, and she was on guest-fetching duty that day. She loaded us into the open Landrover and drove us right up an elephant’s bum at the waterhole on the way to camp. When we got to camp she had prepared a delicious lunch for us overlooking the camp waterhole in the channel, and we ate and drank ice-cold beers looking down on eles heads as they drank freshly-pumped water.’

I’m that Emma! she said. I worked with Lionel and Jenny Song in Lloyds Camp in 1993! I loved driving new arrivals to Pump Pan to watch the eles!

In 2022 we had bumped into Emma the pink-cheeked Pom from our 1993 trip to Lloyds Camp! You sadly just have to behave wherever you go – someone, somewhere will know you – even 29 years later!

I carried on reminiscing about our time in Savute: ‘Our fellow guests were cabin crew from SouthWest Airlines in Texas, the world’s biggest airline at the time.’

That would be Doug and Linda, said Emma, and you won’t believe it, I was in contact with Linda just yesterday. We have kept in touch ever since! She’ll be amazed when I tell her who I met today.


The next day we were due at Mopani Camp in Kruger, so we only stayed one night at Tingala Lodge. I’d love to go back. The birding was terrific, and on the way out we saw an African civet in broad daylight.


More Suffering (not)

Jess and I have loved our stay at Somkhanda Community Game Reserve in northern KwaZulu Natal.

Lovely accommodation, such friendly and helpful people. I decided to go full-on loafing and arrived expecting dinner, bed and breakfast. They had us as self-catering and the chef had taken leave. We said No Problem; They said No Problem; and between us we pooled what food we had. The delightful Nana who welcomed us and whose face fell when I asked what time dinner was, ended up cooking breakfast for us all three mornings. She was teased by the other staff in her new role and as I listened to them bantering in isiZulu, she ended off her reply with this American English: “There’s a new chef in the building!” to warm laughter. For our dinners she hauled venison out of the deep freeze and we cooked for ourselves as she goes home at 4pm. Today she said “I’ll make you a proper breakfast tomorrow, we have been shopping!” – the shops are about 27km away in Pongola.

Great birding for me, and Jess saw another special predator: A pack of seven African Painted Dogs.

At night a leopard (the resident female, said Adrian) could be heard ‘sawing logs’ while walking in or near the camp, while a lone lion oom oom’d at various distances all three nights.


Somkhanda website

Somkhanda at Wildlife Act

Tom’s New Room

Years ago, we discussed a revamp for TomTom’s bedroom. Life happened, it didn’t happen. His and Jessie’s bedrooms are just as when we bought sixteen years ago. And now the house is sold.

I came across his hand-written wishlist while clearing up.

Tom's new room
New desk
New cupboard
Three walls tiled snow white
One wall covered in cool graffitti
Floor tiled
Blinds, not curtains
New lights
New plugs
Code system (for access)

Oh well, TomTom. One day . .

Farewell Again

Hard work saying goodbye. I had to sweep the stoep again. Petrea and Louis had the small matter of bringing their Weber braai (my two non-Weber braais have gone off to Tom and Jess – I am braailess before I’m homeless), lots of steak, freshly home-made sourdough bread, peri-peri chicken liver in a large cast-iron pot, crockery and cutlery, bread board and knife, steak board and knife, ice, a large beaker of lime unt soda with fresh mint leaves from their garden and deck chairs; And Louis brought his hat; Jules brought delicious snacks; Sheila brought six bottles of white and three of champagne; Charles and Barbara brought beer and snacks and their delightful selves;

I had to do the rest.

Jolly good fun. Perhaps ‘Maritzburg’ will let us have another of these gatherings. After all, it has only been 120 days, waiting for ‘the paperwork’ since I sold my home.


Jessie’s Truckload Leaves

Tom’s truckload was the first to leave.

And there goes Jessie’s today! She and her family are looking forward to the fridge and the microwave.

Now they can feed themselves and I’m free to roam! Our household goods divided fairly for the kids to start their own new lives. Yay! Fingers crossed.


Life without a fridge – first time since forever – and a microwave should be interesting. First meal: Starter, a packet of peanuts & raisins; Main, a camping sachet of three bean salad, crisps and freshly fried home-made potato chips with salt and braai spice. Washed down with a wee bottle of Vergelegen Reserve Merlot 2015 – a gift from Coo Evans. Yum!

End-Days Elston Place

I forgot to get the camera out – or rather, aim my phone at people – so that’s the setting for my farewell meals without Petrea, Louis, Charles, Barbara, Jules, Gayle, Grant, Ziggy, Tom, Mbono, Geoff, Janet, Heather or Bruce. A people-free zone before they arrived.

And I didn’t suffer all of them at once, are you mad? I only have five chairs left, so that’s my max guest number. And I sub-contracted out all catering – to Petrea, Louis, Ziggy and Checkers.

Some of these soirees were evenings, some were lunches. The evening ones were interrupted by le frogs calling loudly. Guttural Toads loud BRAAAP! and the gentle creak (that’s creak, not croak) of the River Frog – all in my sparkling blue-green pool. Here’s a guttural toad who scored – managed to entice a svelte young lady. The noisy one is the little guy on her back. He’s quiet now cos he doesn’t want any interruptions while theyr’e makin’ whoopee – and long strings of black fertilised eggs.

We’d have to get up every now and then and shurrup the toads, but you know what its like when you’re horny – they would only shut up for less than a minute. You do know what its like when you’re horny, right? Here’s one of them belting out a number:

Oh, hang on!? Anyway, Fats sounds better.

Here’s the polite lil chap:

Here’s his cousin from Petrea and Louis’ place down the road with a much showier ventral stripe:

One morning I called in expert help to deal with the noisy toads. I don’t know if he manage to relocate any of them. Hope so. He looks like he needs the protein.

I’m told my end-of-days is now only at at the end of February, so more to come.