The magestic Swartberg Pass connects Prince Albert, off the R407, to Oudtshoorn (R328); the Groot Karoo to the Klein Karoo. Meiringspoort which was built to connect the Groot and Klein Karoos was often swept away and impassable as it follows and crosses the river many times.
Traders from the Groot Karoo needed to cross the Swartberg mountains in order to access the port at Mossel Bay. The frequent wash-aways of the Meiringspoort road prompted the authorities to look at another road over the Swartberg.
This engineering masterpiece was built and designed by Thomas Bain – the last of his 17 passes. Mostly convict labor was used to build this pass which was manual – no machinery was used. Look out for the dry-stone walls – a feat at the time and one that still stands the test of time. The pass was officially opened on the 10th January 1888.
The Swartberg Pass consists of 174 bends and curves and is rated as one of the finest passes in the world. The highest point it reaches is 1583m. There are a few viewing spots along the pass – stop and take in the fabulous views.
This pass is a gravel road and it is important to drive it slowly; it is narrow in many places and you might encounter a car coming from the opposite direction where there might be some negotiating passing each other.
A magnificent, worth-while drive on this national monument.