By Taryn McDonald
Seweweekspoort is where the Karoo captured my heart. Some describe it as the most beautiful 17 km stretch of road in South Africa. It lies within the Swartberg nature reserve and spans across both the little and central Karoo.
I hadn’t made any specific plans for the last week of my month of soloing, so after flipping through Jacque Marais’ “Moer and Gone Places” and “Top Trails” I decided to get off the grid and check out Seweweekspoort.
The route starts in a little mission town, Amalienstein. I suggest parking at the Amaliestein Kontrei (GPS coordinates: -33.484004, 21.459823). From here, there are two options for starting the trail. The first is to head east from the Kontrei and take the first left out of Amalienstein towards the R62, across the R62 and head straight up the gravel road, which vehicles use to get to Seweweekspoort. The second is to cycle west down the gravel road from Amalienstein Kontrei, the road will curve to the right towards the R62 and then cross over it. Follow this route north until it intersects the road (mentioned in option 1).
This is definitely the more fun off-road route to get to the poort, but I also ended up with about 15 giant thorns in my tyres. I pulled out a few but when it took a long time for the slime to kick in, I decided to leave the rest.
The route climbs very gently. You’ll barely notice it because you’ll be staring up at the giant masses of rock reaching up towards the sky. As you move forward, the poort closes behind you with its twists and turns, until eventually all you see is a little stretch of road ahead and behind and mountains all around. And all you hear is the crunching of gravel beneath.
In the poort specifically, the road climbs approximately 479 m (532m to 1011m ASL) over 17 km. For more information on the history of the pass: Click Here. On the western side of the poort you will see Seweweekspoort Peak towering above the rest. At 2325 m, this is the highest peak in the Western Cape. I made a mental note to come back to climb it one day.
The poort crosses the Seweweekspoort River more than twenty times and there are beautiful spots to stop for a snack.
Continue past the poort until the 22 km mark where you will find a T-juction, with Laingburg to your left and Bosch Luys Kloof pass to your right. Turn around here and head back for the ride of your life, enjoying the views of the poort from the opposite direction…approximately 20 km of downhill bliss with very little pedaling.
On the way down I felt a gentle mist spraying me sporadically. Could it be a drizzle on a ferociously hot day? Alas, it was not. A thorn had dislodged itself from my tubeless tyre and instead of sealing the hole, the slime was being released, going round and round up into the air and raining down on me. Carrying a hand-pump has proven to be essential on these solo trips! I stopped twice to pump it up really hard and that seemed to do the job.
There is only one place to sleep over at inside the poort. It’s called Aristata and it is located near the middle.
At the top near the T-juntion you will find Op-die-Plaas camping and Zandrivier Self-catering cottages. I chose to treat myself to a stay at Bosch Luys Kloof Private Nature reserve, which is located 12 km east of the top of the poort at the end of Bosch Luys Kloof Pass. I highly recommend it. The food is amazing, there are numerous trails for running and hiking, you can cycle to Gamkapoort dam (and canoe on the dam when the water levels are high), and you can even cycle the To-Hell-and-Back MTB route which takes you up to the famous Die Leer, which forms part of the Freedom Ride route out of Die Hel.