As usual our production team is in full swing with several great new passes having been published in the past week which were filmed mainly in the area between Prince Albert and Meiringspoort. Winter has arrived in the Cape with a sudden and dramatic drop in temperature, coupled with heavy rain. Our recent filming trip revealed just how low dam levels are in the Karoo and just how welcome these winter rains are.
Today's featured pass is in fact a poort, rather than a pass, with hardly any change in altitude, but that in no way diminishes the grandeur of the scenery. This poort, which few people even notice after having driven either the Swartberg Pass or Meiringspoort, is the final bit of rugged mountain scenery, before one arrives in the hospitable and historic little Karoo dorp of Prince Albert.
We explore some of the history and uncover some weird facts about the village. For example - did you know that this is the only place in South Africa where Spanish jamon is produced?
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This fabulous poort provides a natural route for the regional R372 road which connects Prince Albert in the west with the tarred N12 north of Klaarstroom and Meiringspoort. The poort traverses two long mountains over a distance of just under 4 kms with a placid average gradient of 1:54, but hidden amongst the gentle gradients are a few desceptively sharp bends. This a lovely, quiet Karoo poort through a barren and wide landscape. A sense of timelessness exists here, which is a good tonic for the unhurried traveller. This is also Angora goat and sheep farming country.
A short and dramatic poort approaching Prince Albert on the tarred R407 from Klaarstroom in the east. This short poort often goes by unnoticed after motorists have traversed either the Swartberg Pass or Meiringspoort (both amongst the most famous of South African passes) and that is quite understandable. If you put the Witkranspoort anywhere else in South Africa, it would get plenty of attention. The poort is the final bit of mountain scenery to drive through before reaching the beautiful Karoo village of Prince Albert.
March 2018: The Swartberg Pass is currently open. There is a small stretch of about 100m just after Tweede Water which is strictly single width only where passing oncoming traffic is very difficult, but the rest of the pass is in good condition and can be driven in any vehicle.
The Swartberg Pass is for many South Africans, the rubicon of gravel road passes. There is an allure and a mystique around this old pass, coupled with its status as a national monument, which elevates this pass to the very top of the list. It was Thomas Bain's final and best piece of road building. Most of the historical points of interest are signposted along the pass. There are names like Die Stalletjie (Small Stall), Witdraai (White Corner), Fonteintjie (Small Fountain), Skelmdraai (Devious Corner), and of course Die Top, the latter sign is almost completely obliterated by graffiti by some folk who might feel they have just crested Everest and have this burning desire to paint their name on the well known sign.
The pass is very long at 23,8 km and it takes about an hour to drive, excluding stops. You will be treated to a wide variety of incredible scenery. The pass is not suitable for anyone suffering from acrophobia. It can be driven in any vehicle in fair weather. The Swartberg Pass has almost too much to offer the traveller with a never ending changing set of views - each as awe inspiring as the one before.
The Kredouw Pass lies along the beautiful Prince Albert Valley, on the R407 between the town of Prince Albert and the farming hamlet of Klaarstroom, within the northern sector of the awe inspiring Swartberg mountain range. The pass was originally named the Kareedouwberg Pass and this name still appears on the official government maps, but the practical language of Afrikaans sensibly shortened it to Kredouw over time. This also helps in not confusing this pass with the Kareedouw Pass just south of the town of Kareedouw, much further east on the R62.
This has to be one of the most iconic gravel roads in South Africa, holding almost pilgrimage status to gravel-road devotees. It winds through 37km of rugged mountain scenery, culminating in the vertigo-rush, single-width Elands Pass, and terminates in the Gamkaskloof - reminiscent of a lush oasis and paradoxically nicknamed Die Hel (The Hell).
Due to it’s length, we have produced a multiple video set to help orienteer first time drivers. We discourage anyone from trying to complete this as an out and back drive in a single day, due to the slow average speed of around 25 kph. Besides the time issue, it would be a shame to have to rush through this magnificent part of South Africa and not have the time to allow the Gamkaskloof to work its magic on you.
Mountain Passes South Africa is a website dedicated to the research, documentation, photographing and filming of the mountain passes of South Africa.
Passes are classified according to provinces and feature a text description, Fact File including GPS data, a fully interactive dual-view map and a narrated YouTube video.
We are as passionate about maps as we are about mountain passes. A good map is a thing of beauty that can transport you into the mists of time or get your sense of adventure churning. It is a place to make discoveries about deserts and seas, mountains and lakes; of roads leading into places you have not been before; a place to pore over holiday destinations or weekend camping trips. A map is your window to the world.