Tradouw Pass

Trade between Swellendam and the Klein Karoo

©Chris Daly
Swellendam Drostdy Museum.
©Chris Daly
Traders yard at the Swellendam Drostdy Museum.

In the 1860s, Swellendam was booming. The Barry and Nephews’ trading empire was in full bloom, and the little harbour at Port Beaufort was bustling.

Unfortunately, farmers in the Klein Karoo had to travel all the way to Cogmans Kloof, 50km west, or Plattekloof, 30km east, to get their goods over the mountains to Swellendam. The traders at Swellendam were similarly frustrated when trying to get their wares into the Klein Karoo.

A distance of 30 or 40km may not sound like much today, but the average speed of an ox-wagon was never more than a couple of km per hour, and the extra distance cost the farmers a good few days in each direction.

A New Pass

Under pressure from the wealthy trading empire, and encouraged by the local farmers, Barry and Nephews parliament finally consented to build a new pass. It was to run through Tradouw Kloof, thus linking the towns of Swellendam and Barrydale, named after the fore-mentioned Barry dynasty.

Trusty, Thomas Bain, was sent out to survey the route, and he pegged out a 13km pass that climbed up the steep valley carved through the mountains by the Buffeljags River. He moved on site in 1869 and the pass was opened in 1873. It was initially called Southey’s Pass, but the old ‘Tradouws’ title was more popular. The road was reconstructed in 1979.

A Gorgeous Drive

In its day, Tradouws Pass was one of the main roads to the interior and the diamond fields of Kimberley. Today, it is a little-known pass that has outlived its usefulness.

Nevertheless, it is a gorgeous drive, with a large viewing area that repays your stop with a sweeping view out over the river gorge below. Tradouw is a Khoikhoi word that means ‘the ravine of the women’.

By David Fleminger

Accommodation in Swellendam

If you’re looking for the perfect weekend getaway in the Overberg region of the Western Cape, accommodation in Swellendam will offer coupl...more