Along the Breede River | 305km

Along the Breede River.

Montagu

Formerly known as Agter Cogmanskloof, the South African holiday town of Montagu lies between the Keisie and the Kinga rivers which join at the western end of the town. Founded in 1851, the town was named after Sir John Montagu, Colonial Secretary at the Cape from 1843 to 1853. The town's name is synonymous with muscadel grapes, soft fruit (apricots, peaches and nectarines) and hot springs. Montagu is regarded as one of the best-preserved late Victorian agricultural villages in the Cape, and a variety of architectural styles can be seen along Long Street, the oldest part of town.

Among Montagu's historic buildings are the old Mission Church, built in 1907 in Cape Gothic style, and the Cape Dutch Joubert House, dating to 1853. Both buildings now form part of the Montagu Museum, which tells the history of the town and its people. The hot mineral springs at the entrance to Badskloof have a temperature of 43°C at their source. The springs have attracted visitors for over two centuries and the modern complex comprises six outdoor and two indoor pools, three spa baths, a hotel, self-catering apartments and restaurants.

Cogmans Kloof

...carved by the Cogmans River, is a spectacular gorge with magnificent contorted rock strata, some of which have been thrust almost vertically. In the 19th century, Cogmans Kloof provided the only access to Montagu from the west, and involved a challenging, often hazardous journey during which the river had to be forded eight times. Construction of a new pass began in 1869, but the road was only opened after the completion of the tunnel through Kalkoenkrans in 1877.

With a height of 5 m, the 16-m-long tunnel is one of the outstanding features of the pass built by the renowned road builder, Thomas Bain (son of Andrew Geddes Bain). Perched on top of Kalkoenkrans is a stone fort built by the British in 1899 to deny access through the kloof to Boer forces during the South African War.

Bonnievale

...on the northern banks of the Breede River, lies amid a patchwork of peach and apricot orchards and vineyards. In the early 1900s many of the farms in the area concentrated on ostrich farming. But following the collapse of the industry in 1914 the farmers switched to wine and dairy farming; soon six cheese factories operated in the valley.

Boesmanrivierse Co-operative cheese factory, established in 1926, has grown into the largest cheese factory in South Africa; its products are sold under the Parmalat label. The factory produces Gouda and Cheddar cheese, as well as milk powder and butter.

McGregor

Founded in 1861 in a scenic valley surrounded by mountains, McGregor is a picturesque, tranquil South African holiday village of whitewashed thatched cottages. The town was originally named Lady Grey after the wife of the Cape Governor, Sir George Grey, but in 1903 it was renamed after Reverend A McGregor to avoid confusion with Lady Grey in the Eastern Cape. With its neat grid plan, orchards and beautifully preserved historic houses, McGregor is regarded as one of the best examples of a mid-19th century village in the Western Cape.

Among its variety of architectural styles are whitewashed cottages with low-pitched thatched roofs and plain end-gables and Georgian-style double-storey houses with flat roofs. It is the start and finish of the popular Boesmanskloof Hiking Trail. The 14-km-long route meanders through the Riviersonderend Mountains between Greyton and Die Galg, 14 km northeast of Greyton.

Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve

...was proclaimed in 1957 and for some years housed a predator control research and hound training centre. In the late 1980s the research centre was closed down and the 1 872-ha reserve was developed to protect the succulent vegetation of the Karroid Broken Veld and its fauna. The reserve is especially attractive between August and October, when fields of gazanias and other species come into full bloom.

From 1987 to the early 1990s, Vrolijkheid was the centre of the Quagga Breeding Project, which aimed to revive the extinct quagga (a zebra-like mammal) through selective breeding. The animals have since been relocated to several new host sites. Visitors can explore the reserve along the 3-km Heron Trail or take the 19-km Rooikat Trail, which requires a full day to complete.

Robertson

Lying below the Langeberg in the Breede River valley, Robertson is surrounded by vineyards and orchards, while the streets of the town are lined by numerous fine Cape Dutch, Victorian and Georgian houses and cottages. Robertson was established in 1853, and among its historic buildings are the 'Pink Church' (1859), the Powder House - once used to store gunpowder - and Druid's Lodge (1860), a long rectangular house which is now occupied by the town's museum.

Robertson enjoys a high reputation for its wines, roses and thoroughbred horses, and is also an important producer of apricots, peaches and nectarines. With its lime-rich soil and dry climate, the Robertson Valley is one of the Western Cape's largest wine-producing regions under irrigation. It enjoys acclaim for its excellent dessert wines, and also produces outstanding whites (notably chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and colombard).

The Robertson Valley Wine Route, embracing the Ashton, Bonnievale, McGregor and Robertson districts, comprises 24 wineries open to the public. The 865-ha Dassieshoek Nature Reserve lies on the northern outskirts of the town on the slopes of the Langeberg and preserves a tract of montane fynbos.

Worcester

Worcester is located amid rugged mountain scenery on the banks of the Breede River and is the 'Capital of the Breede River Valley'. Worcester is a well-known education centre and one of South Africa's most important wine-producing areas.

The Karoo National Botanical Garden

The focus of the Karoo Garden, on the northern outskirts of Worcester, is the conservation of the succulent flora of the Karoo, which has become a very popular spectacle amongst South African holiday makers. The garden provides protection to about 400 plant species occurring naturally in the 114-ha flora reserve. About 10 ha of the garden has been developed for the cultivation of Karoo plants from the arid summer and winter rainfall areas, as well as the flora of other arid areas, such as the Richtersveld, Knersvlakte and Namib Desert. In addition to the 400 species occurring naturally, some 6 000 other arid-adapted species have been established.

Hex River Valley

Bounded by the Hex River and the Quadu mountains, the 22-km-long Hex River valley is a beguiling mixture of vineyards, orchards and dams. One of the most scenic valleys in South Africa, the Hex River is especially attractive in autumn, when the vineyards are transformed by a kaleidoscope of autumn hues. In winter, snow often mantles the peaks, which are dominated by the Matroosberg (2 250 m). Planted with over eight million vines on 3 500 ha under irrigation, the Hex River valley is the largest producer of export table grapes in southern Africa.

Over 50 per cent of the country's export table grapes, mainly Barlinka, are produced here. The town of De Doorns owes its name to the many thorn bushes that grew here when stock farmers first settled the valley. For visitors travelling by train, the scenery is no less spectacular. To eliminate the many tight curves of the original railway line, a new one - featuring four new tunnels totalling 16 km in length - was brought into service in 1989.

DIie Koo and Die Keisie

Apples, peaches and wheat are the main agricultural products of the fertile Koo valley, nestling between the Waboomberge and the Langeberg. Named after the Koo River, a Khoi name which has been interpreted to mean 'cold' or 'an edible plant', the name is used for a well-known brand of canned fruit, jams and vegetables. To the east of Die Koo lies Die Keisie, a valley which owes its name to the Keisie River, a Khoikhoi name translated as 'ugly'.

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