As many will know, the Western Cape region is covered by a patchwork of mountain ranges and valleys. The valleys are often fertile (excepting parts of the Karoo), enabling a range of fruits to be grown and, of course, the area is home to the SA wine industry.
We have selected two towns, both with character to base ourselves in – some would call them quaint! The first was Montagu, close to the Robertson wine valley and then Prince Albert which is in the Greater Karoo and thus a little more remote.
Travelling from De Hoop to these two towns has involved a fair amount of crossing mountain ranges. De Hoop was close to the Overberg range which we largely skirted around.
Montagu nestles under the western end of the Langeberg range. To get there we travelled up the Tradouws Pass, through the middle of the range; this was a good and pretty route on which we found a first waterfall! Our guest house was under the hills overlooking Montagu and thus we did not get sunrises or sunsets, but the warm morning light on the mountains was great.
The town seems to based on two long streets joined by crossing streets. Like many towns in the area, the architecture is interesting and a mix of styles. However it was hot in the town so we we pleased to be staying in the hills on an olive farm. The manager was interesting as he had part written a book on the Selous region of Tanzania and only recently been promoted to Montagu where, after bedding the Guest House down, he wants to study the local Fynbos.
Whilst at Montagu, we took a half day travelling in the Robertson valley ending up for lunch on the Breede river at Viljoendrift vineyard which was fun and with live music.
Leaving Montagu, we retraced our route for a while before travelling via Ladismith and Calitzdorp and De Rust en route for Prince Albert in the Swartberg range, which is very picturesque. This is a one street town but very interesting and recently celebrated its 250 anniversary.
The town sits at the end of a fertile valley and at the foot of the Swartberg pass – another creation of master pass builder Bains. The town is a bit of a time warp but also an arty centre with galleries of paintings and photos.
The B&B was pleasant but we had to eat out in the town enabling us to visit and sample more of the area. Breakfast was around the pool accompanied by the feeding Red Bishop birds ..
The next day, we travelled up the Swartberg pass, all gravel road and not a little hairy! For most of the way to the summit some 20kms away, the road was not fenced or walled, with plunging gorges. It is truly a wonderful experience not just for the views and the ride but also the flora; we saw the last remnants of the proteas in a large forest area near a road to Die Hell for which you would need 4×4!!
Also so we found a corner of pretty flowers, Watsonias. The view on the other side towards Oudtshorn was not the same being more farming country. The pass is some 1583 metres high.