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On the Road Again Tour - Montagu & Hermanus 2024

20 - 23 May 2024

by Allan Waterston

 

When Jill & Peter first advertised the On The Road Again Tour to Montagu and Hermanus there were a good few months until the actual tour. As usual focus was on everything else but before we knew it, it was time to kick the tyres and get on the road.


The tour group of 43 drew from members of the MG Car club as well as the Triumph club There had been numerous comments around ‘Stop and Go’ hold ups on the N2 heading to Swellendam resulting in our route being modified to avoid these, taking us via Hartenbos and over the Robinson Pass joining Route 62 just outside Oudtshoorn.


As a result of the route change our departure from Knysna had been made a little earlier, so an early rise to be ready to depart the Knysna Quays at 08:00. The chilly overcast morning did not dampen spirits and the Knysna crowd (including Bonner and Dianna from St Francis Bay) and cars, the majority with their hoods up, were soon all present and ready to leave at the appointed hour.


We set off with our first stop being the Copper & Salt just off the N2 in Hartenbos. Along the way fellow tour group members from Sedgefield and George joined the convoy. Being a Monday Copper & Salt were unfortunately closed so it was a gathering in the car park. The group together, Jill gave us a brief lowdown on the programme and handed out detailed personalized tour packs, (no excuse for not knowing or getting it wrong).



A short stop and we were on our way, the drive past Eight Bells and up the Robinson Pass, as always most enjoyable. The wind was howling at the top of the pass and temperatures dropped significantly, I thought that my gauge had stopped working.


Joining Route 62 just outside Oudtshoorn we turned left and headed for De Krans in Carlitzdorp our first official comfort stop. The cold weather and the lack of facilities at Copper & Salt meant that the odd unscheduled comfort stop was required. Driving in convoy one of the group (in Plastic) had been assigned the position of sweep vehicle. When you see a car on the side of the road as the sweep you naturally stop to find out what the problem is. As the sweep vehicle came to a stop behind the car on the side of the road the reason soon became evident with the driver appearing from behind, possibly the one and only tree within a 10 km radius, all well and greatly relieved. De Krans is always a great place to stop, no matter what the time-of-day tea, coffee and of course wine is available.




The group, relaxed and watered, set off for Barrydale and our lunch stop at Joubert Tradauw wine farm. Along the way we picked up the final member of the Group, Gordon Waring, who farms in the Ladismith district. Lunch consisted of pizza and cheese platters which were placed on tables; all tucked in leaving clean plates and boards all around.



James McGee was experiencing an alternator problem in his MGB GT but nothing serious. Montague and the Mimosa Lodge, a stones throw down the road made for a gentle early afternoon drive allowing plenty of time to check-in, wander around the town and look for an auto electrician. By the time we found the workshop, the electrician had knocked off for the day (clearly no pressure). At 18:00 we joined the Historic Adventures Group from Cape Town at the Montagu Country Hotel for pre-dinner drinks and a look at the cars that they are driving, one of which was a Low-Drag E-Type Jaguar apparently one of four built by Jaguar to compete in the Le-Mans 24 hour races in the 1960’s. Dinner at 22 on Church was a treat with delicious food being enjoyed by all.


The distance to Napier our lunch stop was just over 100 kms which meant that we didn’t have to rise and shine too early. James headed off to the auto electrician with a positive ‘the alternator is not working and the front plate mounting is broken’. Can it be fixed yes but not in Montagu; an extra battery was purchased as a backup. After a leisurely breakfast we were ready to tackle the road again. Armed with Jills treasure hunt questions we headed for Bonnievale and then to Napier. Lunch at Pascals of Napier was as always enjoyable in a relaxed and interesting restaurant.



On to Hermanus via Stanford and the Windsor Hotel. After checking in, James and myself set off for Kleinmond, having arranged with Clive Burton (Keith Burton’s son) the resident auto electrician, to have a look at James’s alternator. The alternator was stripped and a couple of wires resoldered into position and reassembled, all working but we would have to live with the broken mounting lug. Back to Hermanus in time for pre-dinner drinks at the Windsor. Dinner at Theo’s Taverna was most enjoyable, all that was missing was a few plates to break and Zorba.



Two local tours had been arranged one to the SANSA Space Science and the other to the Heart of Abalone.


Jill and Peter share their experiences:


Two local tours had been arranged one to the SANSA Space Science and the other to the Heart of Abalone. Jill and Peter share their experiences ‘It was with a little trepidation that we chose SANSA as a tour activity - how wrong we were! What a fascinating place it turned out to be, very high tech and a global player in space weather technology. We missed out seeing the Aurora Australis by a few days, a rare sight which SANSA knew would occur because of solar activity. The fact that they have a daily briefing with the UK Met Office speaks highly of the calibre of work and research being done in Hermanus. And why Hermanus? Well, it's a magnetically clean location.


SANSA also recalibrate compasses for airlines, Ministry of Defence etc, each recalibration taking up to 3 days.


Meeting Dan who is in charge of ensuring proficiently-working instrumentation, we could have spent much longer listening to his description of life on Marion Island where he has spent many months. 7 I'm sure I can't see people in T-shirts in minus 15 degrees, but he assures us you can get sunburnt at that temperature. What an unexpected treat and one that enhanced RSA in our opinion.


Heart of Abalone Farm


This is one of 10 commercial farms in South Africa which is the third main producer of these valuable molluscs, and this particular farm is the second largest employer in Hermanus. Over 95% of their production goes to the Far East.


After a very informative introduction outlining the history of fishing and the development of abalone farming in Hermanus, we donned white gumboots and saw this massive operation in action. It's highly manual and dependent on a constant flow of sea water to keep the developing abalone healthy. Eskom's outages haven't helped and a vast solar panel set-up plus 6 containers with lithium ion batteries has ensured that the pumps keeping working 24/7.



From abalone at 5-7 months through to some in excess of 5 years, it takes 5 years of feeding to bring the abalone to the point where they are commercially viable. There are around 16-17 million abalone growing at this farm at any one time. Again, a very informative tour and one that you can book privately - if you're in Hermanus, add this to your list of places to visit.’


The afternoon was at leisure followed by pre-dinner drinks again before heading in the opposite direction to Theo’s, to the Heritage. Yet another good meal with food full of wonderful flavours rounded off with a night cap in the pub at the Windsor. Up early on Thursday morning to bid farewell to a few of the group who were going off in different directions.




The weather was not the greatest, we opted for the coastal route via Gansbaai and then turning left to Bredasdorp, MGB windscreen wipers doing their best to cope with the rain, I must say fairly successfully. We stopped for a quick comfort break in Elim a beautiful little village with loads of charm and history, I have no doubt that a couple of hours would not be wasted wandering around this village.


Swellendam was the next stop, however when we took stock we found a Triumph missing, Dennis had been lost along the way. After waiting a reasonable time, I decided to head back towards Bredasdorp as we could not raise him on the phone. It was not long before we saw the red and white Triumph steaming along, Dennis had experienced a bit of a mechanical problem resulting in a hole in his radiator. A passing motorist had stopped to help and procured some Pratleys Putty in Bredasdorp which with water from a local stream put him back on the road. We take it for granted that mobile phones work anywhere, well there are few places where they don’t and this was the reason we could not raise Dennis, no signal. We made it back to Sedgefield and Knysna with a few stops to top up the radiator but no further issues.


A comment, driving an old sports car at night is no fun when you have to contend with rain and a 4 X 4 riding on your bumper with his LED lights burning the back of your head , the light reflecting off your windscreen like a giant mirror and not being able to see where you are going.


Another most enjoyable tour planned, organised and executed by Jill and Peter, they have really raised the bar to that of professional tour operators; Jill having said that this was their last, maybe that’s what they are going to pursue. I have no doubt that everyone who was on the tour will join me in saying well done.




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