From A to B, via Z

Posted by Mishqah Schippers on 25 March 2021

When time’s on your side, the best way to connect two country towns in the Western Cape is a wide, convoluted route, on roads you’ve never driven before.

Words and photos Mark Samuel |

From A to B, via Z

Bushmanskloof Pass above McGregor leads to a dead end, but it’s a wonderfully scenic drive nevertheless.

Taking an unexplored route between two familiar places was my mission. I knew the scenery along the road was going to 
be fresh and different, but the start and end points revealed themselves in refreshingly new 
ways, with hidden gems, too.

Like old friends we call on when needing a break from the city, the country dorpies of McGregor and Montagu, two to three hours inland from Cape Town, are places we head to often. They boast peace and quiet in abundance, coffee shops, quaint restaurants, and all those wholesome things you’d expect in a countryside town. A glance at Google Maps revealed a tantalising detour between these two favourites, one that’s well away from the more direct Route 60. From McGregor, Langverwagten Road skirts the northern edge of the Riviersonderend Mountains, snaking through foothills and farmlands, and 
although I’ve lived in the Western Cape for more than 20 years, I’d never taken it before.

Behind the wheel of a new Toyota Hilux, I headed up and through McGregor to Bushmanskloof Pass. It’s coined ‘the road to nowhere’, because several kilometres above town it peters out after cresting a saddle in the mountain range. But it’s a beautiful stretch of gravel road and I’d argue that although its intended end point of Greyton was never accomplished, it definitely heads somewhere – a very special somewhere: Eagle’s Nest House.

Eagle’s Nest House is perched right on the edge of a deep ravine.

This rustic two-storey stone cabin perches on the edge of Boesmanskloof, right near the start (or end) of the well-trodden mountain trail of the same name that wends its way between McGregor and Greyton. Utterly remote, the deck of this mountain dwelling offers views deep into the gorge.

Road trips should never just be about sitting 
behind the wheel of your car, so we stayed the night and early the following day we hiked down to the crystal-clear stream that’s forged its way through these mighty mountains. Nope, there’s no better start to a day than a kaalgat morning dip in a mountain rockpool, with only pristine fynbos and birdlife 
for company.

Back on the road afterwards, it was still too early for a tasting at Lord’s Wines, a few kilometres back down the pass. Duly noted for next time. Cruising 
onwards, clouds of dust billowed behind us on an already sizzling summer’s morning. In McGregor, Langverwagten Road branches off in a southerly 
direction before curving around to the east; fragmented farmlands swoop off to the sides, and the mountain range on the right veers steeply upwards to the jagged horizon.

The mountain stream below Eagle’s Nest is perfect for a dip – and clean enough to drink.

After a pleasant 30km stretch with no other traffic, we joined the R317, then snuck an ice-cream pitstop in picturesque Bonnievale, famous for its wines, fruit and cheese. From there it was a brief gravel stretch up and over the adjacent hills before we rejoined the R60 that connects Swellendam and Ashton.

Just around the corner on Route 62, the years-long roadworks project in Kogmanskloof Pass is edging towards completion but for me the delays have never detracted from this handsome little town’s appeal. In fact, the slower drive gives you extra time to marvel at the extraordinary rock formations that tower above the pass, twisted and gnarled by immense 
geological forces over countless millennia.

Staying over in Montagu is always a treat but spoil yourself with a few nights at Monte Vista Boutique Hotel. Centrally positioned on Church Street, the suites are beautifully decorated, air conditioned, and the gardens and pool area are meticulously maintained. An assortment of restaurants and coffee shops are within easy walking distance and most of the historical village can be explored on foot with little effort.

The Protea Farm tractor ride meanders slowly up the steep side of the Langeberg.

Rock climbing is why we usually venture out here – the mountains boast one of the best selection of routes in South Africa. But what we’d never experienced before was the famous tractor ride from Protea Farm in the Koo Valley, up to the top of a mountain that overlooks the Robertson valley below. So, a few hours later, as we crested the mountain, a sweeping panorama of farmlands stretching all the way to Robertson and McGregor, some 30km away in the distance, presented itself. Standing quietly and squinting my eyes, I could just about see the saddle in the mountains where our journey had started, and the giant horseshoe route we’d explored.

Designated Driver

Wayne Schoeman’s primary job is manager of Protea Farm but he’s also one of the tractor drivers who takes guests up the mountain. ‘Moving to this area was one of the best things I’ve ever done. When I started, I didn’t know much about farming but I’ve learnt on the job, and can’t see 
myself moving anywhere else.’

Montagu Tractor Trip

Operating since 1985 on Wednesdays and Saturdays, it’s a must-do. The bird and insect life is prolific and as you gain elevation, the views of the Koo and Keisie valleys just get better. On the descent from 1 500m, you stop at a mountain hut for drinks and a snack, and you can opt for a potjiekos lunch on the farm afterwards, topped off with dessert and boerekoffie brewed over a large drum. From R150 for adults, and R65 for children; 
lunch extra.

Staying on for potjikos lunch after the tractor ride comes highly recommended.


Road-trip vehicle

Toyota Hilux 2.8 GD6 4×4 Legend 

Perceived quality 
and comfort is a big 
improvement on what it used to be but power and performance, even with the new motor, is so-so. Off-road capability is excellent. The 
rubberised load box with automatic roller shutter is a handy addition but the overall asking price is getting a bit steep 
for a bakkie.

150kW @ 3 000–3 400r/min
500Nm @ 1 600–2 800r/min

Contender 1

VW Amarok 3.0 V6 TDI Double Cab Highline 4Motion

Amarok has been singled out as the most car-like of the bakkies but the others have caught up and surpassed it in many 
respects. It’s a pity VW took so long to bring the 190kW V6 to market as it feels a little out of 
step with the times. 
The price is very high.

190kW @ 3 000r/min
580Nm @ 1 400r/min

Service plan
Five-year/90 000km
From R921 900

Contender 2

Ford Ranger 2.0 
Bi-Turbo Thunder 
10 AT 4×4

The quality and comfort arguably edges out the Hilux. The power and performance won’t let you down and it boasts more toys than the Toyota… and more big pickup truck aggression. The 10-speed trans-
mission is great – that, 
combined with the lower price make it my pick… for now.

157kW @ 3 750r/min
500Nm @ 1 500–2 000r/min

Service plan
Six-year/90 000km
From R787 000

Stay Here

Eagles Nest House

Sleeping up to 10 (and more by 
arrangement), this remote mountain cabin above 
McGregor is perfect for a group of friends. Huddle around a winter fire, or cool off in the swimming pool in summer. The gorge below offers rewarding day hikes, including to countless rock pools.

From R400 pp. 
Two nights and six guests minimum over weekends. Boesmanskloof Pass road, 
Western Cape.

Monte Vista Boutique Hotel, Montagu

Monte Vista Boutique Hotel

A warm pool, 
tranquil gardens, safe parking, and beautifully appointed rooms provide for a delightfully comfortable stay in Montagu. Opt for the cool of the air-conditioned rooms or pool when it’s hot, and enjoy scrumptious breakfasts in the light and airy dining area.

From R1 959 per room (for two)/R1 470 single; 
breakfast included. Ask about specials during 2021. 
16 Church Street, Montagu, 
Western Cape. 

Eagle’s Nest House

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