On our recent visit to Prince Albert (where we stayed at Karoo View Cottages), we knew the first thing we had to do was to drive the Swartberg Pass.
This pass is considered to be one of the most spectacular mountain passes in the world!!
Just outside Prince Albert, we found the dirt road which would lead us through the impressive crags, cracks and lichen lined rocks of the entrance, to the summit at 1 583 metres above sea level.
Built between 1881 and 1888 by Thomas Bain and team of Italian prisoners of war, the road is nothing short of incredible, with steep zig-zags and switchbacks that keep your heart in your throat the entire time!
To think it was created in a time when there was no machinery or equipment to assist the labourers is insane… the road and it’s dry stone walls, were all constructed by hand!
Our experience of this pass was incredible. On our drive, we saw only 2 other vehicles (one being a rather sweet scene of a motorbike and side car carrying a four-legged passenger!)
The only sounds to be heard when we pulled over at various viewpoints were the gentle trickle of the stream, the wind in the trees and the abundant birds. We stopped a picnic spot, only to realise we should have packed a picnic – the scene was so beautiful – we wanted to linger longer and absorb it all.
Along the way there we passed relics of an old prison, toll hut, hotel and watched the temperatue gauge in our car drop down to from 15 to 5 degrees at the top!
The mountain supports fynbos and a rich bird population and we were lucky enough to spot a little grey klipspringer buck through the heavy cloud cover at the top!
As we came down the other side of the pass, we found ourselves in Oudtshoorn, not far from the entrance to the Cango Caves which we had visited just a few weeks prior!
After stopping off for some refreshments, we opted to return to Prince Albert via another scenic pass in the area via a detour via Oudtshoorn town and then the sweet small town of De Rust, we discovered the beauty of Meiringspoort…
The Swartberg Pass is a National Monument (declared in its Centenary year, 1988) and is also part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
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Images: Kathryn Rossiter