This 4,27 km long tarred pass is a northern extension of the fabulous Robinson Pass and sweeps through the Brakpoort about 18 km south-west of Oudtshoorn. The road descends 144 vertical metres, producing an average gradient of 1:30 with the steepest section presenting at 1:14. There is one dangerous corner of 90 degrees where some negative cross-flow has seen several vehicles departing the road for the much rougher ground of the ravine on the right. On the sharpest part of this corner, solid concrete crash barriers have been created and judging by the many metal scrapes and paint marks on the concrete, it has already served its purpose in saving lives.
STOP PRESS 10th April, 2017: The Swartberg Pass is CLOSED until further notice, after a cloudburst on 9th April 2017, where sections of the roadway have been severely damaged on the northern side. The pass can still be driven from the southern side (Oudtshoorn) and access to Gamkaskloof / Die Hel is still open.
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.
Schoemanspoort forms part of the R328 and connects Oudtshoorn with the Cango Caves. It also doubles as the feeder route to the village of Prince Albert via the fabulous Swartberg Pass. This is the lesser of the three major poorts through this mountainous region. The others are Meiringpoort and the Seweweekspoort. The pass was first in use in 1855.
This poort has a bigger altitude variance than most poorts at 220m but due to the long length of just under 20 km the average gradient is an easy 1:88 and never gets steeper than 1:17. This is one of the most underrated scenic roads in South Africa and lives constantly in the shadows of it's more glamorous local attractions - namely the Cango Caves and the Swartberg Pass.
The poort offers magnificent Cape Fold Mountain geology as it twists and turns along the banks of the Grobbelaarsrivier.
The Robinson Pass on the R328 route, is a modern classic of the Southern Cape with beautiful sweeping curves and superb views around every corner. It's administrative number is TR 33-2. It connects the coastal port of Mossel Bay with Oudtshoorn. The pass has been rebuilt several times over the past 140 years and offers not only fabulous scenery, but many pages of history around every bend. The pass is subject to heavy rain and frequent mountain mists, which reduces visibility and makes the pass dangerous. It has claimed many lives over the years including a bus full of international tourists. A memorial stone in their memory stands on the left hand side of the road about halfway up the pass.
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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.
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