A Short Southern Cape Tour

Have leave, will travel.

Thirty-two years ago on our honeymoon, we chanced upon the road to Malgas. Well, actually we were then heading to Witsand, but getting there required us to take the road to the Pont across the Breë river at Malgas.

With lockdown levels down to the extent that local tourism has become possible again, and given our upcoming anniversary, we thought to check Malgas out again.


On the maps you will find the village identified as Malgas.

[Source:  Map data @2020 AfrGIS (Pty) Ltd]

When the village had its origin in the mid 1800’s it was called Malagas, after a local chief. However, as international mail tended to end up in Malaga in Spain, instead of in Malagas in the Southern Cape, the name was changed to Malgas.  So says the instruction manual of the Malagas hotel.

Now just let me run this past you again slowly.  International mail getting diverted to Malaga in Spain in the 1800’s?

Wikipedia offers a different take on the name.  It references the word Malgas as the Afrikaans word for a Gannet.  Also, if you split the Afrikaans word in two, namely ‘mal gas’, it means ‘mad guest’.  And this is, according to Wiki, the reason why the hotel opted for the name Malagas instead. But I think I’ll go with the hotel’s explanation.

Getting started

But let me start at the very beginning, to quote madame Julie Andrews, who is reputed as considering the beginning a very good place to start.

We set out from our home at the outskirts of Cape Town for a leisurely 280 km drive for the day.

Having had time on hand we took the scenic Du Toitskloof pass instead of the Huguenot Tunnel.  At the lookout point just before you start descending, we did the been there dunnit pic.

We did a coffee pitstop at the petrol stop outside Worcester.

I had a philosophic moment about how Covid has changed our lives.

Outside, I marvelled at two very cool Cape Sparrows. They figured out there is no need to go hunting anymore. You just check out the vehicles as they pull in, pick one with a bunch of dead insects on the grill and have an eat-out.  (Yes, I do have a picture of it, but it came out so useless that I’m not even going to insert it here.)

For desert they just hopped (literally) into the shop and collected the crumbs of a croissant here and there, and dinner is done and dusted.

Normally a pitstop is quite a business like affair, then one hops back into your car and continue with the journey.  However, as we had the whole day time, we took our time.  I even had time to pay more than just the cursory glance to the industrial sculpture in front of the building.

Through Worcester, Robertson, Ashton we went. In Ashton we stumbled across the 9th wonder of the Langeberge: the bridge that has been under construction for the past 24 years, was now passable.  OK, I might be exaggerating maybe with 20 years or so, but the bridge has been years in the making.  The local tourism website now lists it as a tourist attraction. It is impressive, I have to admit, but by now nobody really believed that it will ever reach the point where vehicles would actually be able to travel across it.  Well, you never know.

I wanted to post a picture of what the bridge looked like over the past many years (as found on Google maps), but did not want to risk falling foul of copyright principles.   So you will have to settle for screenshots from a hastily taken video taken as we too late realised that the bridge is already open.


From Ashton we travelled to Swellendam. Could there possibly be another town in South Africa with this concentration of restaurants per square kilometer? Ok maybe Riebeek-Wes, come to think of it.

We enjoyed lunch at Tredici.  A pleasurable experience with a massive plate of good food.

And then we hit the road for the final approximately 45km to Malgas, the last 40km thereof being gravel road. The road is very good, with the last 5km a bit more robust than the rest. It ends with a short stretch of tar road down into the village. I guess without that, it would be nigh impossible for sedan vehicles to tow anything uphill from the river, especially when wet. Long stretches of the gravel road appeared like clay soil. I can imagine it being a slippery slope when wet.  Just to give you an idea, below is Strava’s elevation analysis.  You’re talking about a 75m drop (or climb) over about 800 meters.

[Below was a walk from the Malagas hotel to and back from the Breede River Trading Post – hence the evident duplication in the elevation.]

Calculated as a percentage, it is an incline/drop of 9,4%.  This compares favourably with the Graskop Peak Pass which is considered to be the 12th steepest pass in South Africa (


We booked into the Malagas hotel (these brave folks stuck to the name, risking getting their mail ending up in Spain).  A notice at the entrance reads “no dogs allowed, not even small ones”.  I should have asked whether that includes Bullterrier – just to be clear.

The hotel is on the banks of the Breede river. Boat houses as well as dinghies, canoes and paddle boats are available to rent.

Note the ‘boat house’ lookalike just to the right of the pool.  Pretty Belinda probably lived there.

We went for a walk to get the idea of the lay-out of the village. Nothing much to it, though.

There is general trader.

Houses are mostly on the river bank on large erven, with a road on the away side of the houses, parallel to the river. Plus there is the hotel, two fuel pumps with notices that says ‘no mask no service’.

And that was it.  Or so I thought.

Taking a drive the next day, we found the rest of the village, substantially bigger actually than what we thought were the village.  I guess one can even call it a town now.

Oh. Then the pontoon ferry is parked just upstream from the hotel, currently out of commission, though. I can see it has been modernised.

(No, you must look closely.  Behind the notice board you will see a yellow contraption – that’s the pontoon).

It now has an engine of its own, so no need for people to manually pull it across on the guide cable as was the case when we crossed on the pont 32 years ago. However, from locals’ talk it would seem this progress ended with the acquiring of the new pont. It seems never to have been operational and nobody knows when/if it will happen.


We took a drive further on the gravel road to where the Breë runs into the see.

Just before you get to Infanta, you get the municipal recycling.  Rather classy, I thought.

The first houses you find when you enter the town would seem to be the more recent addition to the town.

Then follows the original and evidently older town.  [The speed limit is 60km/h, in case you missed the sign, but I deliberately positioned it so as to be sure you don’t miss it.]

The two red circles on the map below indicates these two residential areas, with Witsand across the river.

[Source:  Imagery @2020 Maxar Technologies, TerraMetrics, Data SIO, NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO

Imagery @2020 CNES / Airbus /  Landsat / Copernicus, Maxar Technologies, Map data @2020 AfriGIS (Pty) Ltd]

With its 90 residents, Infanta is twice the size that Malagas with its 44 residents (according to Wikipedia, 2011 census).  I guess, though, that this refers only to permanent residents.  There is a small beach with a slipway, and above this a lawn where quite a number of cars with boat trailers were parked. I even spotted two local (CCK) registration numbers.

A collection of kayaks, canoes and surfboards were on the beach and quite a number of stand-up paddlers were doing their thing in the water.


As mentioned, the pont is not in operation, so we could not visit Witsand.   However, from Wikipedia’s wisdom it can be gathered that, in comparison with Infanta and Malagas, Witsand is a massive town – with 321 inhabitants.  That, too, was 2011’s census though, so there could easily be 322 people living in Witsand by now.

Breede River Trading Post

 Returning to Malagas we attended the Breede River Trading Post.  An elevated traffic light showed green.  I assume it means to indicate that they are open for business.

We bought a lifeline there: a small plunger with a packet of coffee.   As is typical of these rural shops, you have a large variety of also home made goods.

And lest you run out of money, there is even an automatic teller.  (No, the ATM is not for sale, it actually dispenses money).

Chilling out

On the balcony of our upper storey room we had our coffee, and was later joined by a hairy fairy.

Every now and then when he thought we were not looking, the harmless rain spider would edge downwards at a centimeter at a time. If he just knew how we feel about spiders, he could simply have lit up a cigar, walked up and down the table as if he owned it, and we would have let him be.   We’re just happy he did not get the pecking order right here.

But while on the topic of the hotel (forget about the spider now, we were mos sitting on the balcony of our room), what a pleasant stay it was.  The booking included breakfast and dinner.  We soon realised that we simply had to skip a few of the 5 courses on the dinner menu.  It’s just too much food.  But a difficult decision, as everything were so top notch.  Home cooked kind of food, the stuff two generations ago’s mothers used to dish up as Sunday food.   I missed my mom, bless her soul!

Out on the river

We rented a canoe from the hotel and paddled pretty much the same route that we walked the previous day – only, we stuck to the water this time. It worked better for rowing, we found.

However, pushing off from the side when we started, a speed boat came charging past, and we found ourselves battling not to tip over. So we went back and rather stowed my phone in a spot that seemed more likely to remain dry.

The flow of the river is virtually unnoticed. Yet, it took us 12 minutes to row back the distance that took us 19 minutes to row upstream. By then we were confident enough that we could withstand the wake of speed boats coming past, and retrieved my phone to take a few pics to commemorate the moment.

Late afternoon we walked the 1 kilometer from the hotel to the nearby Breede River Trading Post, only to realise it is actually 2km away. It is during this walk that we encountered the 75m incline over about 800 meters. (See the elevation graph above).

It was out on this walk that we noticed that the pont has actually moved to the other side of the river. I could hear the engine running. So at least it is not completely immobile.  By the time we came back, whoever took the pont has parked it where it belonged again.

While walking, I wondered about crop circles. I guess those are harvester tracks in the veld on the picture below.  But on second thought, naaah!  Must have been aliens.

On the road

One can be mistaken for thinking that both Malgas and Infanta are part of the Cape Metropole, judging from the car registration numbers.  Driving habits of the locals, though, are distinctly different. My wife and I actually played a game guessing whether a car approaching is local or non-local, only judging by the speed of the vehicle.

Local cars (CCK registration) drove like the gravel road was a tar road. City visitors, by contrast, seemed more respectful of the gravel roads. You have your exceptions, though. There was one local car going really slowly, but we assumed that this was the granny taking the car for a test drive after servicing the brakes. Maybe definitely.

Well, that pretty much concluded the leisure part of the weekend.  We still had lots of driving to do for the remainder of the weekend, but that was somewhat more purposeful than just driving around for fun.


Further reading:




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