(Old Bridge on the Montagu Pass).
The Eden District, because of its mountainous terrain, has a number of Passes begging to be experienced. They are amongst the most beautiful in the country and cannot be enjoyed to their full extent en route to a destination.
Appreciating the beauty of the area requires the cancellation of any time-based itinerary. Lock your watch away in the boot of your car, and surrender yourself to the whims of travel without a concern for time. Stop at the farm stalls, taste their wares, or any one of the Wine Farms along the way.
Chat to the locals, their love and passion for their region is infectious. Have lunch at a local restaurant, farm stall or Wine Farm. Enjoy the magnitude of the regions natural beauty. Lap up the history as you drive the Passes and marvel at how the early pioneers overcame the challenges they faced and how we have benefited as a result.
As a suggestion:
Stay in Mossel Bay. Leave early the next morning and have breakfast along the way, soon afterwards taking in the gentle challenge and splendour of the Robinsons Pass. Reaching Oudsthoorn, one is then faced with a choice of routes. Head out via de Rust through Meiringspoort, and witness the stark beauty as the poort crosses the Groot River more than 20 times. Stop at one of a number of extremely well maintained picnic areas and drink in the awesome sights of rock formations rising above you. The magnitude of the natural beauty is way too much to comprehend and one is left with a humbling sense of having experienced one of Creations natural marvels.
Heading out towards Beaufort West, take the R407 towards Prince Albert. Along the way you will cross the Kredouws Pass, certainly not as beautiful and challenging as what awaits you, in the form of the Swartberg Pass, but as one summits the pass, the picturesque Prince Albert Valley below is a pleasure in waiting.
Head over the Swartberg Pass, still to this day untarred, an engineering marvel and immensely beautiful. You will almost certainly find yourself slack-jawed at the magnificence of the terrain and man’s ingenuity. For many years this pass was the link between the Little and Great Karoos, and when one imagines the early settlers taking a fully loaded ox-wagon over the Pass, the achievement of that era hits home with tremendous impact.
At the foot of the Swartberg Pass, travel through Schoemanspoort, but do yourself a favour, first stay overnight at a bed & breakfast in the area. Schoemanspoort is extremely beautiful, but if taken in shortly after experiencing the splendour of the Swartberg Pass, it may fade into obscurity as your mind deals with the Swartberg experience.
The Cango Caves are adjacent to Schoemanspoort, and please don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy one of the region’s most popular destinations.
(A view from Robinsons Pass near Mossel Bay)
Overnight in George, the capital of the Southern Cape. The following morning, head out over the Outeniqua Pass, stopping at the numerous viewing sites to enjoy the awesome beauty of the Outeniqua Mountains. You’ll see the Montagu Pass snaking it’s way up the mountain. Be patient, you will get a chance to traverse it, but not before heading out towards Uniondale, crossing the Potjiesberg Pass and experiencing the Uniondale Poort, a beautiful meander along the Kammanasie River. On the way back, take the Hermon turn off. This will lead you over the Montagu Pass, for many years the main route over the challenging Outeniqua Mountains.
Then take in the Passes Road, staying another night in a bed & breakfast, as by now you are so deeply entranced by the beauty of the Garden Route, it would be unfair to tear yourself away from the area in a hurry.
Of course, the trip is not without its fair share of interests, be it wine routes, nature reserves, historic sites and of course, as suggested, Mountain Passes.
Enjoy the trip, decide on a destination later.