04 July 2014 by Andrea Weiss

The old 'Sugar Bridge' at Buffeljags, Western Cape

For those travelling down the N2 national road to get to their holiday destinations, sometimes a little detour to stretch the legs is just what’s needed. And what better way than to stop at an interesting landmark with a bit of history attached?

The ruins of the old 'Sugar Bridge' at Buffeljags off the N2 national road

It sounds a bit like something out of Hansel and Gretel. A bridge, built of sugar?

That's just what happened at this historical landmark at Buffeljags, just off the N2 about 14km outside Swellendam in the Western Cape.

So next time you're travelling to your holiday destination on the Garden Route, consider making this short detour off the national road to admire the remains of this old bridge that was once part of the main road between Cape Town and the Eastern Cape.

You'll find it next to a causeway across the Buffeljags River, the ruins of the old bridge to one side and a railway bridge on the other.

The old bridge dates back to 1852. It was built out of huge sandstone blocks from a nearby quarry and teak from a shipwreck, the Robert, which ran aground at the mouth of the Lourens River in 1847.

The bridge rested on enormous sandstone blocks The bridge rested on enormous sandstone blocks

But something was needed to cement the sandstone blocks firmly to withstand the potential flood waters of the Buffeljags River. 

So it was decided to use gypsum, imported from France, and household sugar to stop it from setting too quickly.

And, thus, when the bridge came into being in 1852, it became known as the 'Sugar Bridge' and carried traffic for 101 years until the new road was opened in 1953.

To visit the Sugar Bridge, look out for the Buffeljags turn-off about 14km out of Swellendam on the Mossel Bay side. You take what is known as the Olivedale Road, which loops around for a few kilometres, crosses the river, and brings you back to the N2 again.

It's one of those South African curiosities that makes for some interesting photographs and a fun break on your road trip.

The railway bridge and causeway over the Buffeljags River The railway bridge and causeway over the Buffeljags River

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