Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Simon's Town - A Day Drive Through Swartland

Hi everyone,
Yesterday we had planned to take the cable car to the top of Table Mountain.  Unfortunately it was closed due to strong winds.

View of Table Mountain from the lower cable station
Instead we went for a 500km drive to the north of Cape Town to explore the Swartland region.  This is a  large farming area supporting vineyards, large orchards and huge grain fields.  Less arable parts are covered with "renosterveld" (rhino bush) - mostly low scrub with colourful flowers.  There are a number of mountain ranges in the region.

Flowering renosterveld
We drove north from Cape Town on the N7, passing fields of recently harvested grain and hay.  Both sheep and cattle were in the hay fields enjoying the stubble.  As we approached the town of Citrusdal we drove over the Piekenierskloof Pass.  Citrusdal is a small town just south of the Cederberg Wilderness Area.

From Citrusdal we drove east along a dirt road, crossing the Middelberg Pass.  This is a very scenic drive with views down into the valleys on either side.  Some of the renosterveld was still in flower at the top of the pass, creating carpets of gold flowers.

View from Middelberg Pass
Mountains around Middelberg Pass
From Middelberg Pass we joined the R303 tarred road which winds through an extensive orchard region.  It boggles the mind to consider the number of apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, plums and oranges which are grown here.  'Astronomical' might cover it.  Mountain ranges tower over the fields.

Bare mountains above, rich orchards below
The next range of mountains was the Gydoberg which is crossed at Gydo Pass.  On the south side we found extensive vineyards.  Many of the fields sparkled in the sun and we thought we had discovered the source of all sparkling wine.  ;)  Turned out it was only reflective foil fitted throughout the fields, presumably to ward off birds.

Gydo Pass
At the town of Ceres we turned west on the R46, using Mitchell's Pass to cross the Witzenberg.  We zigzagged west back to Malmesbury, passing through Wolseley, Gouda and Riebeek Kasteel.  The land gradually reverted to grain and hay fields.

Mitchell's Pass
From Malmesbury we returned to Cape Town on the N7.  The drive took about 7 hours.  It reminded us of drives we've done in the western USA.  Very spectacular scenery.

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