Loop Drive from Swellendam to the Little Karoo, South Africa


Breakfast at the Klippe Rivier Country House starts with a buffet selection of cereals, fruit, nuts, yogurt, a wedge of cooked ham and a cheese round.

Cooked breakfast consists of the usual offerings including yummy broiled tomatoes and sautéed mushrooms, and hearty wheat bread toast. My soft-fried egg was perfectly cooked, a rarity in South Africa.

Tradouw Pass

Wanting to get a taste of the Karoo, a semi-arid region to the north, we decided to take the 150 kilometer loop drive through the Tradouws Pass on R324 to Barrydale where it hits R62 (claimed as the longest wine route in the world). It then heads east to Montagu and back to Swellendam on R60.

The first week in October, it was a beautiful spring day with clear blue skies and temperatures in the low to mid 70s. Tradouw Pass, a short cut through the mountains, has interesting rock formations and deep gorges that plunge to the river below. Pretty on a pretty day but nothing spectacular.

Little Karoo

Not knowing exactly where the Klein (Little) Karoo started (one of those regions that every town in the area claims to be the gateway to) we drove east for about 10 kilometers past Barrydale, the most likely gateway town. We were rewarded with stark mountains dotted with wildflowers in vivid oranges, reds and purples, as if an artist had thrown bright colored confetti at his canvas. Arid and untouched compared to the land on the other side of the mountains.

After a lengthy photo session by the side of the road, we turned around and headed back east on R62. East of Barrydale the landscape becomes cultivated again, but with orchards and vineyards rather than the fields of grain and pastures around Swellendam. There are few wild flowers in this direction, none-the-less, the patchwork of colors of various crops against the rugged mountains make for a scenic drive.


In Montagu, a quaint little town against a backdrop of craggy hills, we stopped at the Rambling Rose Café at 36 Long Street for lunch, where they serve lighter lunch fare and breakfast all day.

We tried the chicken curry and the bobotie, a local dish of ground beef in a spicy, fruity and slightly sweet sauce covered with a thin custard layer. Both dishes were well seasoned with just the right amount of spice.

A few blocks away we happened on a bird park with ibis, egrets and weaver birds all nesting in a few packed trees.

Past Montagu we cut through a rocky passto the R60 into a region of vineyards and grain fields back to Swellendam.

Marloth Nature Reserve

Wanting a bit of exercise before another big meal at the guesthouse, we stopped at the Marloth Nature Reserve just north of town. It doesn’t look like much from the main road, but the loop trail up the east plaat and across and back down the west plaat was green with spring growth. 

Lovely with the late afternoon light shining on various species of fynbos blooming in whites, pinks, reds and yellows. The trail took us just over two hours with ample time for picture taking. It’s steep in sections but well maintained. Maps are available at the main office.

Dinner at Klippe Rivier Country House

Dinner back at the guesthouse. We started with the cauliflower soup and rocket salad with roasted red pepper.

Mains included pork tenderloin in honey mustard served with couscous and beef filet in port sauce with mashed potatoes, both served with roasted vegetables.

Dessert was a poached pear (the only real disappointment of the evening, underdone and flavorless) and a brownie with ice cream. As on the previous night, the simple preparations were generally well executed.

October 7, 2011

For links to all the posts in this series see the South Africa page.