After a relaxing evening of Christmas Carols by Candlelight in the De Waal Park, we were in the mood for a roadtrip the next day. Picnic basket and thermos flask of tea stowed away in the boot, a petrol tank just filled, and the Two Moms chatting away on the back seat, we took the N1 northeastwards.
Our destination? Klondyke Cherry Farm in the mountains outside Ceres. Every December, the friendly people of Klondyke open their orchards to us cityfolk, who descend on the farm in veritable droves, to pick hundreds and hundreds of cherries.
At R45 for a kilogram of cherries, it is well worth it. Woolworths Online sells cherries at a whopping R10 for 70 grams, which works out to R142 for a kilogram of cherries, if my calculation is correct!. Admittedly, I suppose if you factor in the cost of petrol and the wear-and-tear on the car, and the R15 entrance fee per person, it may not be quite as financially worthwhile after all. But it sure is more fun than queueing at the local supermarket!
Our navigator suggested that we turn off the N1 at Paarl, just before the Du Toit’s Kloof Pass, heading north via Wellington. From here, the Bain’s Kloof Pass crosses the Limietberge to the valley of Tulbagh and Wolseley.
Completed by Andrew Geddes Bain in 1853, after close on 5 years of construction, it was quite deservedly named after him, because it is truly magnificent and picturesque, particularly if you take into account the challenges and complexities of this project! (I have previously written about the fascinating history of this most scenic of passes here). We took a slow drive over the pass, stopping at various landmarks (such as the various boulder-mounted plaques at the top of the pass) and viewpoints (including the unusual pointed-nose rock formation known as Dacre’s Pulpit).
Shortly thereafter, we traversed Michell’s Pass into the high-lying fruit-growing valley of Ceres (for some of the history of this pass, have a look at my previous blog post here). A quick pit-stop later (note for future reference: at the Shell garage at the western entrance of Ceres, it’ll cost you R1 to … um … “spend a penny”), we drove through Ceres and out the other side on the R46. If you were to continue along this road, it would take you in a big curve through the mountains to join the N1 just before Touwsrivier.
We didn’t drive quite that far. Some 12km outside Ceres, we turned right at the sign for the Matroosberg Nature Reserve 4×4 Trail and and Klondyke Cherry Farm, along a route that is known as Bo-Swaarmoed Pass Road (the Afrikaans word swaarmoed means something like melancholy, and Bo means Upper, which suggests that there may well be a Onder, meaning Under or Lower).
This pass is well known among Capetonians, who tend to cause massive traffic jams here in the winter, when it often snows up in these mountains (Geoff of TurtleSA has written a neat little summary of just such an experience here).
About 18km further on, we came to a line of pine trees, and swung right at the entrance to Klondyke Cherry Farm, a working fruit farm with cherries, pears and apples. Sound appealing? You can also stay in one of the fully equipped cottages (see Budget Getaways). We paid the R15 a head entrance fee, received some plastic containers and were pointed in the direction of the cherry orchards.
Hats on head, sunscreen on exposed bits, and a bottle of water in hand for the thirst – it was a hot summer’s day, we trudged up the gentle slope to the cherry trees. They were so heavy with cherries that many of the branches were hanging right down low, where even the younger children could grasp them. We quickly realised that there were different varieties of cherries available, with the varieties indicated by splashes of colour on the main stems. It was such fun! It was also the first time that the Two Moms had gone cherry-picking!
Once we had filled all our containers to the brim, we returned to the little wooden house near the entrance, where we had our containers weighed. We had picked about 3 kg! We found ourselves a picnic spot at one of the empty picnic tables (which, as it unfortunately turned out, had been “reserved” by the car parked nearby… 😦 Oops… ). So, after a brief picnic, we packed away our things, and headed back down the Bo-Swaarmoed Pass into Ceres.
We didn’t want to drive back the same way, via Bain’s Kloof Pass, and thus, after crossing Michell’s Pass westwards into the Tulbagh and Wolseley valley, we continued westwards, driving through to the small town of Gouda via the Nuwekloof Pass (also written about here).
From here we zigzagged via the small settlements of Hermon and Riebeeck-Kasteel, crossing the area known as the Swartland (the ‘Black Land’). This may be a reference to the colour of the nutrient-rich dark soil or the renoster bos (Elytropappus rhinocerotis) that used to cover these rolling hills, making them look grey-black when viewed from a distance. (I have written about this area in a previous post here). This area is also known as the Bread Basket of South Africa, because there are rolling wheatfields as far as the eye can see… as well as olive trees and vineyards!
At Malmesbury, we joined the N7 southwards to Cape Town, and suddenly remembered – just in time! – that we would be passing the quaint village of Philadelphia – where the Pepper Tree Coffee Shop was sure to be open! And most fortuitously, it happened to be tea-time too! And thus, over refreshing iced coffees, scrumptious cheese cake and delectable apple crumble, we concluded our wonderful day trip on a high note.