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Background and history

The Swartberg Range was an almost insurmountable obstacle to linking the Klein and Groot Karoos.


Mossel Bay, a port serving the Klein Karoo well, was all but inaccessible to the people of the Groot Karoo, who needed to take advantage of the markets introduced by the port.


Meiringspoort and Seweweekspoort were obvious choices for routes through the range and roads were constructed through these ports in 1858 and 1862 respectively. Due to the restrictive availability of funds, these roads were of inferior quality yet still delivered a much-needed lifeline to the economic growth of the Groot Karoo.


The Karoos are all but isolated by various mountain ranges and the economic development of the regions was curtailed and inhibited by the lack of transport routes. 


Through time a number of passes and poorts were built which facilitated growth in the Little and Great Karoos.  


For the traveller, there is much on offer in this region in terms of natural beauty. The Karoo’s famous stark scenery is prevalent on every route one may embark upon. If not travelling through the mountain ranges, with their breathtaking poorts and passes, the journey along any Karoo road is filled with its own unique beauty.


This group of passes and poorts has amongst them a few of the most amazing experiences one is likely to encounter in terms of natural beauty.


Head out from Montague on the famous Route 62, having of course enjoyed the countless wares and activities up until this point. This may be day two of your trip, having worked your way up to this point from Cape Town. One first encounters the Op de Tradouws Pass, a wide, modern pass that may not be a challenge or offer much scenery in comparison to what you are about to encounter. Just before Barrydale turn right to encounter something of immense beauty, the Tradouws Pass. Be certain to return to Barrydale, as this cultural oasis in the Klein Karoo is not to be missed.


Head over the Tradouws Pass, which is likely to take one quite a while, as the beauty on offer forces one to stop at most of the numerous viewing sites. Once on the other side, either make a U-Turn and gulp the Pass’s beauty in again, and then access Barrydale, or turn left at the T-junction and you will reach this quaint town from there.


After having lunch or, if perhaps deciding to stay over because the town tends to wrap its tentacles around you, head on up the R62 towards Oudsthoorn. Before you reach this historic town, you will be entertained by nature and some of man’s engineering achievements, beyond your expectations.


Ladismith, another historic little town on the way, offers the traveller some distractions. Shortly after leaving the town, you will need to turn left to encounter the most beautiful poort in the Western Cape, yes even more beautiful than Meringspoort, albeit marginally. The Seweweeks Poort is 17 kilometres of awesome beauty as the gravel road winds its way through the Swartberg.


One can continue through to Laingsburg and then up to Prince Albert on the N1. If you choose this, visit the mostly disused Bosluiskloof Pass. You will have to return to this road, and your choice is difficult. Head towards the Swartberg Pass via Prince Albert Road o the N1 or return through the Seweweeks Poort and then continue up the R62. We suggest another look at the Seweweeks Poort.


From their head over the Huis River Pass, a modern pass, which has overcome some great challenges such as sheer mountain drops and heavy rainwater passages. It is a beautiful pass, brimming with lush, green shrubs and teeming with raptors.


Stop in Calitzdorp, stay over if you want and then head onto Oudsthoorn.


Routes from there are described in the Eden section. They include Schoemanspoort, the Cango Caves, the awesome Swartberg Pass, Prince Albert Village, Kredouws Pass after the beautiful Prince Albert Valley, Meiringspoort, the rustic town of de rust with its donkey cart taxi, and so much more.   

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