A Montagu Valentine
BLOUPUNT, the highest peak in Montagu, stands proud as it guards the small town nestled below in the valley.
Driving through the Kogmanskloof tunnel, you enter the Little Karoo and a beautiful town that attracts many visitors, both local and international.
Most people come for the attractions throughout the area and make the town a jump-off point for day trips, wine tasting, magnificent old buildings, the well-caredfor museums and to meet a cross-section of people. Added to this, Montagu offers one of the most diverse collections of medicinal herbs in the country.
In fact, people call from all over the world, and many swear that the medicinal herbs used hundreds of years ago by the Khoisan people help them with various ailments. The Montagu Museum has been researching and recording the rich oral history of the traditional remedies found in the Montagu district since 1982.
Many believe that the majority of medicinal plants in the country can be found in the 300km corridor from Kogmanskloof, at the entrance to Montagu, to De Rust, past Oudtshoorn. You can see, touch and smell more than 160 varieties of medicinal plants at the back of Joubert House Museum .
During a recent visit to Montagu, I sat with Blackie Badenhorst, a past curator of the museum, and a knowlegable person on medicinal plants. She highlighted a few and is proud of the mixtures the museum combines t o help t r eat more t han 40 d i f f e r e n t a i l ments , f r o m h i g h b l o o d pressure to colds and flus. She further highlighted the kanna, a type of a narcotic that can help drug-dependent people as it is non-habit forming.
Ghaap, another plant, is being extensively cultivated and harvested by a large pharmaceutical group, as an appetite suppressant. The San, on their long treks, used it to keep them going when food and water were in short supply.
We are frequent visitors to Montagu, as we use it as the gateway to discover all the other towns and villages in the area.
On our last visit, we stayed at the Montagu Country Hotel, which is owned and run by Gert Lubbe, a name synonymous with Route 62, and hosted by PJ Basson, the general manager.
The hotel was intended as a venue to host Paul Kruger, but the then owner suddenly refused to host the man and the townsfolk entertained him at Joubert House. The hotel, built in 1875, is one of the many fine places of accommodation in the town and boasts a novel experience, offering a full art deco experience. To crown it all, the hotel has a beautiful blue 1956 Cadillac De Ville, which really turns heads wherever it goes.
We took the ride and relaxed in the plush seats while PJ cruised slowly through the winelands and introduced us to some really fine wine.
One that we will never forget was a 2004 Zandvliet Pinotage, which we tasted on the Zandvliet estate that is also home to many of the country’s top race horses.
Another fine wine estate worth visiting is the Joubert-Tradauw Private Cellar, a family, boutique-style cellar, 10km west of Barrydale on the well-known R62 route.
The first wine, R62, was made in 1999 (Joubert-Tradauw bourdeaux blend merlot/cabernet).
The Unplugged62 range is an uncomp l i c a t e d s t y l e o f l i g h t wi n e s wi t h a distinctive fruitiness and is very popular with guests and in the overseas market.
Even though Joubert-Tradauw is situated in the Klein Karoo, the smaller region, Tradouw, is important to describe the climate which is a unique micro-climate in the Tradouw valley, that influences the harvest times so that they harvest as late as March or April.
The farm welcomes visitors for a full Klein Karoo hospitality treatment where Meyer conducts tours and discusses the wines.
Beate treats the visitors to her boere tapas alfresco platters, which are designed to compliment the different wines.
Being an avid walker, I then spent the afternoon visiting 22 of the historical buildings in the town, plus a visit to the dried fruit shop where the variety and moderate prices entices one to buy, buy, buy.
Montagu is a fine base from which to set out to discover the Karoo, coast and mountains. From the small town, you can easily spend a lazy day driving down to Cape Agulhas, Arniston and surrounds, or travel Route 62 to Barrydale then meander over Tradouw pass to Suurbraak and Heidelberg, before continuing to Riversdale and returning via Garcia pass, with refreshments at Ronnies Sex Shop.
It is also a great gathering place for motorcyclists riding the gravel roads from the town to Ladismith, and from Riversdale back via Korente dam then over Kanetberg to Brandrivier and through the town of Barrydale. For the really active, Montagu offers fine hiking up to Bloupunt, about a five-hour round trip, rock-climbing at Lego Land or off-roading on one of the several 4x4 trails in the area. Montagu is also famous for its hot springs and a visit even on the coldest of winter days when you can easily laze away in the hot water, is well worth a try.
Visit www.tourismmontagu.co.za or call 023 614 2471.
For herbal remedies, call Montagu Museum on 023 614 1950.
Email Gert or PJ at i nfo@ montagu countryhotel.co.za
Visit the Joubert-Tradauw Private Cellar at www.joubert-tradauw.co.za