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Background and history

The area covered in this section is wide and varied. As suggested in the sub section for Sir Lowry’s and Houwhoek Passes, the building of these passes opened a gateway to the Cape Town Port for the farmers of the area, and their roles and importance grew from there.


While in the early days the Passes played an important role in the economic development and sustenance of any region, as they do nowadays, their value to the modern individual is perhaps not as obvious and they offer a diversion from the monotony of a journey.


Many of us cross the Hottentots Holland Mountains on our way to popular destinations in the Overberg or beyond. We cast barely a passing thought to the absolute beauty available to us at the cost of a glance through the windscreen. And it often stays as that, an appreciation of the sights through a windscreen.


Yet how many of us stop the car to absorb the scenery just begging for our attention? Are we all too often not focused on the destination, neglecting the immense beauty accompanying us every step of the way? The Passes and Scenic Routes of this section may have been forged and developed primarily as transport routes for produce and other wares. At the speed of an ox-wagon or a carriage, the present was all the road user of yore had. He or she could not sit on the carriage and think of the destination two days away. Enjoying the moment was unavoidable.


In our humdrum, time-driven, frenetic world, even getting to our holiday destination as quickly as possible is the only objective. We can only start enjoying our holiday once we get there.


What a waste, if as we cross Sir Lowry’s Pass we do not take in the absolute splendour of the Sun reflecting off False Bay from the top; or do not take the long way around to Hermanus or Kleinmond, enjoying the winding path of Clarence Drive. It delivers some of the most natural beauty the Peninsula has to offer as sea meets mountain, sometimes with the awesome power of the waves seemingly touching the treads of the car’s tyres.


Why not, on a lazy Sunday, take a gentle drive along the N2 over Sir Lowry’s Pass, through Grabouw and Elgin, over Viljoen’s Pass into Villiersdorp. Have a cup of tea somewhere and head back from where you came, taking the R45 over Franschhoek Pass, stopping in the quaint town with it’s strong Huguenot heritage for lunch or maybe some wine tasting. Later continue your journey over Helshoogte, diverting for a visit to Banghoek, and then stopping for a visit to Stellenbosch.


Or if that is not your wont, carry on over Houwhoek Pass and stop in Bot River for some wine tasting. Then continue through Caledon, taking the R326 over the Akkedisberg Pass, and then on the R316 into Hermanus, where if you’re lucky you may be treated to a spectacle by the guests of honour, the Southern Right Whales, which come into the Bay to calf every year.


There are numerous Wine Estates in the area offering quality wines. Of course Hermanus is a hub of activity on its own. If it is not your destination, carry on either over the Shaws Mountain Pass, on the R320 into Caledon, and then take the R43 over the Eseljags Pass into Villiersdorp, crossing the dam wall of the Western Cape’s biggest dam, the Theewaterskloof Dam.


The options are wide and varied. With Mountain Passes in mind, there are a number on offer within a few hundred kilometers of Cape Town, if that is your base. But why be restricted to the Peninsula. Stay over at a bed & breakfast and enjoy the activities on offer around these passes. The mountain biking, hiking trails, the wine routes, restaurants, farm stalls and the nature reserves.


Whatever the destination, or the purpose of your travel, suspend the destination as a focus of your mind and rather take in the beauty and entertainment that is to offer en route.

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