Heading into the Swartberg Pass, it’s unlikely you’ll really understand what you’re about to experience. The landscape does make a dramatic shift and the black mountains of the Swartberg certainly do seem to cast a looming presence on the dirt road leading into the pass, but the steep drops, narrow corners and sheer beauty of it all is almost guarded by the mountains from their exterior, sentinels protecting a secret.
South Africa has a lot of roads that do this. They lie in waiting for discovery and are very often left to nature for recovery, rocks and vines and tree trunks claiming them back from where they were once carved. The Swartberg Pass is much the same, rocks lie on the sides of the narrow dirt road, as if preying cats looking to gain back the space lost to allow vehicles to pass.
Look how tiny that car looks in comparison to the mountains!
We were headed from Matjiesfontein to Oudtshoorn and the Swartberg Mountains are the divide between where the haunted village of Matjiesfontein lies in the Klein Karoo and the greater expanse of the Groot Karoo, home to Oudtshoorn and our next destination, the Cango Caves. The Swartberg are what are known as fold mountains, which basically means they look like pasta dough rolled out flat and then compressed back together and sliced through to reveal the folds. The layers are unique and because of the altitude these mountains reach, it’s extremely impressive to look down into the Swartberg from the top of the pass.
The folds of the Swartberg Mountains is obvious in the valley.
Driving from Oudtshoorn, the pass winds through a valley initially with a small stream and a picnic spot that is awesome to hop out at and take photos (except for the litter hidden just off the road, but more about that in another post). After the shady valley section, the pass begins the climb. At this point you’ll likely lose all cell signal and be forced to concentrate on the epic scenery, how very tough right?
You can see why they’re called the black mountains, right?
All in all, it takes about an hour and 30 minutes to cross the pass if you stop every so often for photos. There are small spots along the way to stop and the pass wasn’t even that buys so we stopped in a few place son the road when we saw a photo opportunity. All in all, seriously worth the detour and the dirt road, but isn’t that true of all passes?
Looking down onto the Groot Karoo on the other side of the pass.
My drive along the Swartberg Pass formed part of my second #MeetSouthAfrica trip and was courtesy of South African Tourism. As with all my posts, editorial control remains with me.