Swellendam is 220km (136 miles) E of Cape Town

Most people who choose to drive through the Overberg interior (as opposed to edging along its Whale Coast) are in a hurry to get to the Garden Route and may rush through and completely bypass the excellent pit stops and side trips along the way. Most important, try to set aside enough time to take the Route 62, which means veering north from Swellendam and traveling through the small towns of Barrydale, Ladismith, Calitzdorp, Oudtshoorn, and Prince Albert. This makes for a great road trip, and the empty, arid spaces are a great contrast to the later lushness of the Garden Route. An additional night will do, but you could stretch it to two, or even do the entire detour in a day.

Leaving Cape Town, you will ascend Sir Lowry's Pass to reach the fruit-growing areas of Grabouw and Elgin (incidentally, the area produces around 65% of South Africa's apple export crop) and the first of many farm stalls dotted along the way. Peregrine (opposite the Grabouw turnoff) is one of the oldest and still one of the best -- stop here for fresh farm produce and various traditional road trip treats, such as biltong (air-dried meat strips) and droëwors (air-dried sausage). The adjacent bakery is also excellent -- the pies (try the springbok), melktert (thick custard tart) and koeksisters (deep-fried dough soaked in syrup) are not to be missed.

The first detour you might consider is the R406, which loops past the villages of Genadendal and Greyton. Genadendal is the oldest Moravian mission village in Africa, with buildings dating back to 1738. The Genadendal Mission and Museum Complex documents the activities of the missionaries and their flock. It offers an authentic glimpse into the past but is rather run down and not always open; call ahead and request a guided tours: tel. 028/251-8582 or 028/251-8220 (Mon-Thurs 9am-1pm and 2-5pm, Fri 9am-3:30pm, Sat morning).

Greyton, a few minutes farther east on the R406, was developed much later by a more affluent community. Set at the foot of the Riviersonderend Mountains, with many beautifully restored Victorian and Georgian buildings, it's a great place to stop for lunch. Grab a table on the stoop at the Oak & Vigne (tel. 028/254-9037; open daily, lunch only). If you feel like spending the night (and this is a great village to do so in), a good-value B&B is Acorns on Oak (tel. 028/254-9567; R850 double), a country-style house next to the river with lush gardens crammed with roses and a fair-sized heated pool. Also make sure you book a table at 254 Restaurant on a Friday or Saturday night; you'll have good, solid country food and a chance to meet the locals. Other than strolling the streets, Greyton's main attraction is the 14km (8.5-mile) Boesmanskloof Trail, which traverses the mountains to the town of McGregor, another charming village. If you're not a dedicated hiker, a good alternative is the 9km (5.5-mile) walk to Oak Falls -- the highlight of the route -- instead. Note that from Greyton you can proceed along a back road direct to Montagu, or return to the N2 along a well-graded dirt road, so there's no need to retrace your footsteps. For information on this and more, call tel. 028/254-9414.