Montagu - Tiny step 1: A mini tour from McCregor - CycleBlaze

June 8, 2021


With another short ride ahead of us today we were in no rush to leave our comfortable digs.  We got away at about ten o'clock and took a route new for us which was a small loop around the northern side of town so that we could avoid the main road for as long as possible.  This took us past a few interesting sites, such as the local prison, but also gave us a small suprise of a herd of Springbok and some Alpacas on a plot of land between the town proper and the prison.

Springbok (Antidorcas marsupialis) in a strangely domesticated environment.
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A long way from the Andes.
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We crossed the main R62 and continued down the road in the direction of Bonnieval on good road with a wide shoulder which meant we could forget about the traffic busy shuttling between that town and Robertson.  It was a lovely morning with clear views over the vineyards to the Riviersonderend Mountains in the south.  Robertson is surrounded by mountains which means that the wind is able to come from all directions, or none at all, at the same time.

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Ten kilometers out of Robertson we passed the Bon Courage winery, owned and run by the Bruwer family for many generations.  They make some good MCC sparkling wine, the lime-rich soils of the area lending themselves to good quality Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes that are the basis of MCC wines.  We were tempted to stop for a tasting (I have fond memories of their Blanc de Blanc) but it was a bit early in the day to be riding under the influence.

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A few kilometers later we turned northwards on a smaller road towards Ashton, taking us past the wineries of Excelsior and Zandvliet.  Zandvliet has been in existence since 1837 and has a lovely Cape Dutch gabled house that demanded to be photographed.

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Then it was into the mess that is Ashton.  It has never been a particularly pretty town but it is even worse at the moment because the main R62 through the town is being upgraded.  This includes an enormous bridge over the Cogmans River on the eastern side of the town.  The Cogmans, after whom the river is named, were a Khoikhoi clan who lived in the area at the time of the arrival of the Dutch settlers in the seventeenth century.

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The roadworks continued after Ashton, sometimes to our advantage because we could ride on the new sections that are not yet open to general traffic.  It remained like this all the way through the Cogmanskloof Pass which took us into Montagu. 

The southern entrance to Cogmanskloof showing the original road built by Thomas Bain in 1870.
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Construction going on at the hole, made by Thomas Bain, through the rock wall of Kalkoenkrantz (Turkey Cliff). I am not sure if they will widen the hole to accommodate the wider road. Hopefully they will just install traffic lights and keep it to a single lane of traffic.
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The northern entrance to the pass.
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Once in Montagu we enjoyed some freshly baked home made pies at a small bakery before heading to our digs near the hot springs four kilometers north of the town. 

I felt pretty tired after today's ride.  I guess it's a reflection of how much fitness one loses in such a short time as one gets older.  In some ways that's one of the reasons for this mini tour.  We struggle to cycle between tours because we get bored of cycling the same routes.  The Port Elizabeth area, where we spend much of our time when back in South Africa, has some of the best day cycling routes in the country with traffic that is accustomed to cyclists on the road but we have done them all so often already.  So touring is about the only way we get motivated to get on out bicycles.  

Tomorrow we will backtrack through Montagu and the Cogmanskloof on our way to Bonnievale.

Today's ride: 37 km (23 miles)
Total: 73 km (45 miles)

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