The Seweweekspoort is arguably one of the most incredible sections of dirt road in South Africa.
It’s one of the most awe-inspiring poorts or narrow passes in South Africa. The road to Seweweekspoort heads north off Route 62 at Amalienstein, midway between Ladismith and Calitzdorp. The road is good gravel, narrow and winding, crossing the Klein Rivier some 23 times, giving you the feeling that you are riding through the mountains rather than over them.
The 17km pass was completed in 1862, construction being overseen by Adam de Schmidt and Thomas Bain, and the spectacular kranzes, cliffs, outcrops and folded rocks speak to a tumultuous past. Who knows what exactly happened when these mountains were formed but the process must have been horrendous as the earth twisted and turned.
The whole area is under the management of Cape Nature Conservation and it is also a certified Unesco World Heritage Site.
The origin of the name Seweweekspoort is not clear but some believe that it took 7 weeks for mounted troops to escort a gang of highway robbers through the Poort. Others say that it took the police 7 weeks to catch a thief who was hiding in the Swartberg Mountains while others maintain that it took 7 weeks for a gang of liquor smugglers to travel through the Poort from Beaufort West. Alas the most probable (and mundane) is that the Poort was named after a missionary from Amalienstein, the Reverend Zerwick, his surname being distorted over time.
While the pass itself is just 17km long, we parked at the very attractive Barn62 Pub and Backpackers a few kilometres on the Calitzdorp side of Amalienstein and rode the R62 for a few km before turning right towards the pass, resulting in a return ride of about 51km. The going is easy most of the way, and once you hit the dirt road you pretty much climb (588m) constantly until you turn around at the end of the pass. What this means is that the return leg is almost all downhill, and you can really get your ears back and enjoy the twisty turnies.
The ride is long and dry (even longer if you stop to shoot pics. And you will) so be sure to pack adequate water and a power bar or something else to nibble at the turn-around point. Sunscreen on exposed skin is also recommended.
Route Distance: 50.5km return
Route conditions: The road through Seweweekspoort is pretty good gravel all the way. It's somewhat narrow in places so keep a watchful eye open (and an ear) for traffic. Using Barn62 Pub and Backpackers as a start point means you are going to have to ride a bit of Route 62 (be careful - we rode on the shoulder facing oncoming traffic) or navigate your way through the local community.
Barn 62: S33° 28.492' E21° 29.979'
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