The Swartberg pass

The wind screams outside our tent and we are on a dreary campsite. The wind seems to push away the dark clouds and morning dew and leaves us with a sunny morning. The rays of sunshine slowly start to heat and dry up everything around us. We can also feel it in our bodies as we heat up with the rest.

The Swartbergpass, (Wikipedia)

The Swartberg Pass runs through the Swartberg mountain range in the Western Cape province of South Africa.

The Swartberg is amongst the best exposed fold mountain chains in the world, and the pass slices through magnificently scenic geological formations. Much of the Swartberg is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The pass is especially famous due to the spectacular geology that is exposed at its Northern end. The contortions in the rock display astonishing anticlines and synclines, and the vivid coloration of the surrounding Quartzite is remarkable. At the Northern end of the pass seven-hundred-metre-high quartzite cliffs of the upper Table Mountain Group can be seen, and these are often tilted through 90 degrees . Arguably the most famous of all these cliff faces is the spectacular ‘Wall of Fire’.


Loose yellow coloured gravel leads us up via a winding road. It almost looks like a snake. The road is a contrast to the mountain and is strengthened by a low stony wall on the side. The missing crash barrier gives us the opportunity to look down, deep down. Helga moves on her seat to the middle of the car while she leans a little bit to the left so she can just look outside. She’s been quiet for a while and she only lets me know she’s there by sighing every so often. When I look at my own hands I can see that my knuckles are white from holding the steering wheel too tight. I so would’ve preferred to drive this road with my motorbike, I think to myself. If we meet up with another car, there is going to be a serious challenge in passing each other….I follow the road as far as my eyes can see. The big cloud of dust behind us is clearly visible and when I look ahead the sky is clear.

A couple of signs on the road tell us that the pass is closed. We were warned about this by the owner of the campsite. He told us this is a way of stopping in transit traffic going to Prince Albert, since this is the fastest route. He told us to tell the workmen that we have a reservation in the area and that they would let us through.


Helga moves the sign on the middle of the road away and we drive past the first workers. They give us a look of slight disapproval while we pass the first machines. We drive all the way in to the shoulder of the road when a grader passes us with high speed. The two of us just fit on this road…

After a few kilometres we take a turn left and continue to Die Hell. 

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