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Published: October 9th 2015
We woke in Boutique Backpackers having not slept particularly well. We were keen to get moving so we quickly packed and were on our way. We wandered down the street and went into the quaint gift shops. After about an hour we decided we had to be on our way. We got in the car and joined the queue of traffic to leave the town. We were puzzled that there was so much traffic but it turned out a lorry had shed its load and it would take three hours to clean up. Farm Road
Not wanting to waste three hours of our day sitting in the car parked outside an ostrich farm at the exit of a tiny town we decided we'd find an alternative route. We turned back towards Oudtshoorn and just outside De Rust found an untarred farm track which we believed headed towards the Cango Caves, though there was no sign. This road gave us a lovely drive through very scenic countryside. It was so green that we could have been driving though the Lake District rather than the semi-arid Klein Karoo. We found a fertile area of good farmland and wooded valleys.
We drove past livestock farms, olive plantations and even fields of wheat. The whole area was beautiful... And we'd never have seen it had we not been forced to take a detour. Eventually we saw a sign-post for a bed and breakfast we'd seen advertised on the road to the caves and knew we were going in the right direction. Soon we emerged onto the same main road we'd used the previous day and started to recognise landmarks. Swartberg Pass
Just before we got to the Caves there was a turn onto the Swartberg Pass. The opportunity to drive over this pass was one of the reasons we'd decided to stay in the area overnight. I love driving over mountain passes due to the scenery, the challenge and the sheer thrill of driving. The Swartberg delivered well on all of these and it was truly a delight to drive over it.
The road started gently enough, meandering through fields of green and yellow. By the side of the road we found a café and farmstall, 'Korbus Se Gat' (literally Korbus' Hole), which was a lovely place to stop for a cup of coffee. Beyond here
the road climbed steeply, giving fantastic views down to the valley.
The road was narrow, untarred and bounded only by a two inch wall. On the other side of the wall was a significant drop. Part way up we stopped at 'Skelmsdraai' (Rascal's Bend), a large outcrop of rocks, to take pictures. Then we continued up the ever-steepening road until we reached 'Die Top'. The summit was actually the point where the road swept round between two large crags before starting its long descent. The views from here were indescribable. We parked and enjoyed a good half hour of sight-seeing.
The road on the other side was more difficult: the surface was rougher, the bends tighter and the hills steeper. It was so much fun! The landscape was also harsher, rockier and more arid, which gave it a completely different feeling. At one point we came across an immense bright red and orange cliff-face looming over the road.
Not far from the end of the pass there was a turn for Gamkas Kloof. This is the road to Die Hel, a village which until a couple of decades ago was completely isolated from the rest of the
world. The mountain pass is supposed to be amazing but the 30km drive takes 2 hours. We'd have loved to have gone but unfortunately we didn't have the time. We will do it some other time. Prince Albert
Five kilometres from the end of the Swartberg Pass lies the pretty town of Prince Albert. Unlike De Rust, this town actually feels big enough to live in. We stopped and wandered around the town, again just one Main Street. This street is lined with trees and flower beds which, when coupled with the pretty old Cape Dutch style houses, makes for a lovely quaint feeling.
The first shop we went into was an antique shop, cafe and guest-house complete with swimming pool. It looked like a charming little place to stay. The other shops were mainly generic gift or craft shops. At the end of the town was the church, a strikingly pretty white stone building. We spent a while wandering round but it was getting late and we had a long drive home. Klaarstroom
Lindsey took over driving for a while and I relaxed in the passenger seat. After the stunning
vistas of the Swartberg Pass, this road seemed quite dull in comparison. We travelled for miles without seeing any settlements, just a few scattered farmhouses. Eventually though we came to Klaarstroom, which Sharon and Gandalf had recommended to us. It's location was pretty enough but I can't understand why they recommended it to us as there was nothing at all there. We drove through and out in less than two minutes having seen it all. Aside from modern cars, I'm not sure anything has changed here for a long time; the village feels like it got to the 1940s and decided it had had enough of progress and just stopped. Meiringspoort
Beyond Klaarstroom, the road changed significantly. We entered a long winding gorge with vertical cliffs on both sides. A river ran along the side of the road and every so often we crossed this on tiny concrete bridges. It was early evening and the light was turning a magical golden shade. This made the red rocks of the cliffs gleam orange. Half way into the gorge we came to the Meiringspoort Waterfalls. These falls had been our planned destination upon leaving De Rust so we
were glad to finally get there. We walked up to the falls and saw their splendour. The main fall was about a hundred feet high and dropped vertically into a deep dark pool. This pool then dropped via two smaller falls into a shallower pool. This then emptied via a single short drop into another shallow pool before the water fell away down the hill. Having seen the pools we decided we had to swim so we went back to the car to change into our costumes before walking back up. This was definitely a great way to end our afternoon. Driving Home
It was growing dark as we left Meepiringspoort. We drove back through De Rust and Oudtshoorn and continued on towards George. The sun setting over the Klein Karoo was gorgeous. As we got entered the Outeniqua Pass above George the clouds descended and we found ourselves driving in thick fog over the mountains. Fortunately, as we dropped down the slope the cloud thinned and our visibility increased. By this point I was very tired but had another 30km to drive. We eventually got home completely exhausted but having thoroughly enjoyed our adventure.
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