Completed in 1862 by Adam de Schmidt, brother-in-law of the renowned pass-builder Thomas Bain, the Seweweeks Poort off the R62 near Ladismith is simply breathtaking. No amount of poetic licence can describe what one feels when lost in the beauty of this 17km trail through the Klein Swartberg.
With the walls of the ravines rising sharply alongside the doors of your car, jagged yet beautiful, one drives along slack-jawed at the sheer rugged beauty on offer.
Stopping to take in more of what is on offer goes without mentioning, although the narrow road in parts forces one to be careful as to when to take the opportunity.
Once you enter the Poort proper, the mountains envelop you, and you are given a sense of driving through a mountain as opposed to over it. Most other Poorts are open enough for one not to perhaps realise that concept, but the narrowness of the path and the height of the cliffs (reaching up to 2000m in places), leaves one with a sense of going through a mountain, like an oversized ant.
In fact it is eerie in such a nice way.
One crosses the Klein River by means of drifts on more than twenty occasions, adding to the allure of the trip. This is made even the more awesome when the river flows strongly after recent rains.
The magnificent vertical rock folds are a result of volcanic eruptions millions of years ago, forming the chain of Cape ripple-like mountains.
The origin of the name is unclear but popular belief, if not accurate but certainly mystical is that it took 7 weeks for mounted troops to escort a gang of highway robbers, being banished from Barry dale, through the Poort. Another is that it took 7 weeks for the authorities to catch a stock-thief who fled into the mountains, or it took 7 weeks for a gang of brandy smugglers to return through the Poort from Beaufort West.
The most likely explanation is that the Poort was named after a missionary from Amalienstein, Reverend Zerwick.
The ruins of the original tollhouse can be seen on the northern entrance to the Poort and according to folklore, the ghost of one of the first toll-gate keepers can be seen on dark, stormy nights, with his lantern, stopping motorists, only to disappear mysteriously.
The very rare Protea Aristata, was rediscovered in the 1950’s, after it was believed to have become extinct.
The Poort is dominated on the western side by the Seven Weeks Poort peak, the highest in the Klein Swartberg at 2325m.