Swartberg Pass, again

swartberg pano blog
Playing with pano, full sun, not ideal. I took this standing on top of what’s left of the building from which the master road-builder Thomas Bain worked. It’s a pity it’s a ruin because it has historical significance given that Bain was this country’s most visionary road builder.

I found this in the draft folder. It was written about 6 years ago and I don’t know why I didn’t finish and publish it at the time. With some editing, here it is – low on wording, high on photos, and I’ll leave it like that. I remember well this strange client, and how difficult he was, but seeing as it took us to some of my favourite parts of the region, the time was not wasted.

So last month I had an unusual tour to the Klein Karoo.  One person, 6 days, and he didn’t hesitate to speak his mind about certain aspects of the trip – which details we won’t go into here, it’s fading from my mind. Luckily, he was thrilled with the open spaces of the Karoo and went nuts on Swartberg Pass. I decided to do a full day of it – up to the top of the pass in a 4×4, lots of stops for photos and plant stories, down into Prince Albert for lunch and a tour of the town, and then back to Oudtshoorn via Meiringspoort ad De Rust. It was a perfect day, warm and sunny, happy client, and my favourite aspect of any road-trip – mountain passes.

gentle start 2 swartberg
Gentle start up the mountain. The road was in surprisingly good condition as it had recently been graded. As I type, we have heard that it’s being damaged by rains again and can only be accessed in a 4×4.
start climbing swartbrg
Not at the top yet but already you can see how high the pass is. 1600m at the top.
retaining wall
Built in the late 1800s, this wall has not changed much since then. Its unique method makes it as strong as ever.
You’ll know you’re at the top when you see this.
swartberg scenes
roelnds office on swartberg
lucas thatchers
Lucas Thatchers are the most well-known thatching company in the Western Cape. The owner originates from Prince Albert and this is apparently the first building he ever thatched. It’s tiny, like a child’s toy, and neat as a in.
water of prince albert
One of the old water canals of Prince Albert – the town still uses this water reticulation system from the early days of settlement in this part of the Karoo. The whole of the Karoo is very dry but Prince Alvbert is especially dry so a nearby river serves well and not a drop of water is wasted.
domisee house
Classic Karoo Victorian house.
water mill
At the old water mill near the entrance to the town.

Between the mountains and the deep blue sea

Noordhoek pano

Noordhoek Beach. This is the view that always surprises visitors as they round the last curve of Chapman’s Peak Drive.

I don’t know if I could live anywhere that doesn’t have mountains or ocean.  I have both so I’ve been spoilt. I don’t climb the mountains often (does it count that I use the cable car to the top of Table Mountain quite often?) and I seldom swim in the icy waters of the ocean these days,  but I want to be able to see them, every day if possible. Luckily, showing it off to clients allows me to do this very regularly. My favourite tour in Cape Town is the round trip of the peninsula – I never get bored with it.

Lions Head

Lion’s Head from the top of Table Mountain. A national park surrounded by a city.

This narrow strip of land surrounded by water on 3 sides that we call the Cape Peninsula consists of the Table Mountain National Park extending from the city all the way down to Cape Point and the mythical Cape of Good Hope and covers 25,000 hectares. Because of the urban development, the park is broken into several different areas some of which are pay points but most of it is free and open, which makes it the most visited park of all South Africa’s 21 national parks. Click here to learn more about all the parks – that website should keep you very distracted for several hours.

Wherever you are on the peninsula, you are no more than a few minutes away from a walking trail, a rock-climbing cliff, a mountain bike trail, a beach, a tidal pool, a rocky coastal stroll, or just a stunning view.  The mountain range is also a wonderful landmark. I never stress if I realise I’ve taken a wrong turning, even in the dodgiest areas, because all I have to do is use the mountains to get back on track. Put me down in Johannesburg or any other South African city and I’m hopelessly lost without GPS. I still don’t understand why I have to drive for miles and miles through built-up suburbs from the national road to reach the beach in Port Elizabeth when the map shows it’s right there!

I’m not too sure what this blog entry is about except to say that I’m glad I live near the mountain and the sea. And I like the corny title, very much.

Scarborough pano

Witsand near Scarborough. Deep south of the peninsula, on what I call the Turquoise Route because of the colour of the water.


Roadtrip – Route 62 Mountains


The gentle farmlands of the Breede River Valley.

Last year I did a 10-day road trip, alone, from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth and back. I drove up along Route 62 all the way to where it joins the N2 just before Port Elizabeth and then drove back to Cape Town on the N2, through the Garden Route, veered inland again near Swellendam to region Route62 at Barrydale.

I had only vague plans for where I would stop over each night. The freedom to do as I wished was marvelous because that way I discovered unexpected new roads and places, and met some lovely people. Nothing beats the scenery along this route and I think it was the mountains that really got to me – they are unbelievably beautiful.  From the Breede River valley with its pink hues to the magnificent Seweweekspoort and then the thrill of a 4×4 drive to the top of Swartberg Pass at sunset and down again into Prince Albert and back to Oudtshoorn via Meiringspoort, it was a never-ending treat for the senses. P1020769


As you drive into the Seweekspoort you get the impression the road is heading straight into a mountainside but it twists and turns and meanders through the most magnificent towering peaks.



Red stone hills


At the foot of Swartberg Pass


The view from the top of Swartberg Pass is something to behold.



On the way back again I took this pass back to Barrydale from the Garden Route. The road from the N2 to reach the pass was not a good one and it was at that point that I realised I had just travelled 2000 kms without having first checked my spare wheel. I can’t describe the anxiety I started feeling … there was no-one on the road, no cell signal, no houses, nothing … and I kept going over very sharp stones. Luckily I made it, and it was worth it as this pass is stunning!

P1030092 P1030094


A note to all accidental visitors:

I am not a photographer and do not claim to have any particular skills whatsoever in that department. I have enormous respect for those who can see the potential in a scene and can create a great photo. Good photography is an art, in my opinion.

I am just a happy snapper, I have no special lenses or accessories, my camera is very simple and it's usually best to leave the setting on auto.

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