Montagu - Route 62
Garden Route - South Africa
Cape Dutch House in Montagu
Montagu is a small town in the Little Karoo .
It is situated half way between Cape Town and Oudtshoorn
on what has become known as route 62.
When one travels from Cape Town the route goes through Worcester,
Robertson, Ashton and then onto Montagu through the
beautiful Cogman's Kloof pass.
The route from Cape Town winds its way through beautiful
farmlands and vineyards.
It is a virtual wine route all the way to Montagu.
The village of Montagu
Montagu nestles in the western corner of Kannaland and
is one of the best preserved Victorian agricultural
villages in South Africa.
The town was established in 1851 on the farm Uitvlucht when
a number of plots were sold and the Dutch
Reformed Church was established.
The village was named after John Montagu, the then Colonial
Secretary of the Cape.
Colonists from the Wagenmakers vallei near Wellington bought
up most of the plots and started building houses in the town.
They had the onerous job of lugging materials from Welllington
over the Bainskloof pass to Montagu by ox wagon.
Many of the houses were built in the Cape Dutch style
and have thatch roofs.
The oldest house in the town was built in 1853 and was
restored to its former glory in 1983.
It now forms part of the local museum.
The town is built between the Kingna and Keisie rivers which
join to the west of the town and then flow
through the Cogman's kloof.
In the older days of the town there were no roads and
the locals had to drive through the kloof with their ox wagons
and cross the river about eight times before they reached Ashton.
Montagu became famous for its hot spring which was found on
the Uitvlucht farm. People came from miles around to dip
themselves in its healing waters.
Over the years the “baths” as they have become known have
changed hands a number of times. Eventually they were taken
over by the Municipality of Montagu and a caravan park
and campsite was established.
In 1981 disaster struck when a flood washed the baths away
and took all the soil and vegetation out of the kloof.
Since that disaster a brand new Springs Hotel has been built
and it attracts many visitors.
On the 23rd March 2003 disaster struck again. It started to rain
and soon the Cogman's Kloof was flooding. At the peak of
the flood 1070 cubic metres of water per second was
flowing through the Kloof.
To add to the woes of the town the Bellair dam which is built
in the Gouritz River and stores 10 million cubic metres of water
collapsed releasing the water into the Gouritz river resulting
in flooded homes, and the loss of 100 hectares of lucerne
and 19 hectares of orchards.
Bridges at the entrance to Montagu were also swept away cutting
off the town from the outside world.
Thankfully there was no loss of life.
Of course with every disaster that occurs
blame has to be apportioned.
In this case it was the owners of the Bellair Dam
who were called upon to face the music for the collapse of their dam.
What is funny is that the owners of the dam could not be found
as the farmers who had originally built the dam had all sold
their farms and left the area.
The Irrigation Board who had allocated water to the farmers
had collapsed when the farmers had sold up.
It has been stated that the dam was in good condition
before the flood started but when water started flowing
over the top it washed away the soil which inevitably
lead to the collapse of the wall.
In July when we drove through the area there were still signs
of the devastation caused by the floods .
All the soil in some orchards had been swept away and there
were fruit trees hanging onto the sides of what used
to be the centre of the orchard.
The course of the river was strewn with debris and
rocks and all the vegetation was gone.
The good news is that the town has been cleaned up and that
they are open to receive visitors again.
For those who like their sweet red wines try some of
Montagu's muscadels when you visit the town.
I'll join you if you invite me.
Email : Geoff Fairman
6 Bothma Street, Monte Vista 7460 South Africa
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Cape Town - Montagu
Page updated 4.6.2015