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Seven Weeks Poort

The road to Amelienstein in the Little Karoo penetrates the 'Klein Swartberge' through the Seven Weeks Poort, possibly one of the most awe-inspiring and spectacular of all the mountain ravines in the country.

Nobody can blame the author and poet, C Louis Leipoldt, for calling it one of the "seven wonders" of the old Cape Province. The magnificent vertical rock folds, reaching for the skies on both sides of the road, reflect the inconceivable forces of the volcanic eruptions millions of years ago, forming the chain of Cape ripple-like mountains. Often the converging slopes leave only a narrow pass, just broad enough for the Huis River to pass through, whilst the precipices of naked, distorted rock-faces tower like walls of a natural rampart, obscuring the sun.

During 1859 the authorities decided to build a pass through the Poort. The initial work was done by a team of convicts, without the presence of a road-engineer. Progress was slow and in 1860 AF de Smidt, brother-in-law of the renowned pass-builder, Thomas Bains, took charge of the operations. The road was completed in 1862.

The pass winds for 17km through the mountains at a level of 600m - 1000m above sea-level. It crosses the stream 23 times, whilst the mountain slopes on both sides reach 1500 - 2000m.

There are several stories explaining the origin of the name: it took seven weeks for mounted troops to escort a gang of highway robbers, being banished from Barrydale, through the Poort; or for the authorities to catch a stock-thief who fled into the mountains; or for a gang of brandy smugglers to return through the poort from Beaufort West. The most likely explanation is that the poort was named after a missionary from Amelienstein, Reverend Zerwick. The local population could not pronounce his name and called it "Seweweekspoort".

The ruins of the original toll-house can be seen on the northern entrance to the Poort. According to tradition, the ghost of one of the first toll-gate keepers can be seen on dark, stormy night, when he appears with his lantern, stopping motorists. As soon as they stop, he with his lantern disappears, as mysteriously as they had appeared.

The Protea Aristata, rare protea specie, was rediscovered in the 1950's, after it was believed for quite some time that it had become extinct. In December these proteas bloom and in spring the aloes. Other protea species were also found on the higher slopes.

The Poort is dominated on the western side by the Seven Weeks Poort peak, at 2325m being the highest in the 'Klein Swartberge'.

Source: Johlene Ellis - WebWorX & Oudtshoorn Info

  Article Date: 8 March 2005


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