Completed by Thomas Bain and his team of convicts in 1888, the Swartberg Pass is now 136 years old, a national monument and a testament to Bain’s road-building skills. It winds through 23.8 km and the bulk of it traverses the Swartberg Nature Reserve, linking the Little Karoo to the Die Koup region of the Great Karoo. I have hiked portions of it, cycled it and driven it. Our latest traverse of the pass is shown in the drone video below, focusing on the four famous hairpins (or switchbacks, as I call them) where gradients sometimes reach 1:8.

In the picture below, my father Felix Pina, a fresh immigrant from The Netherlands, is shown gazing over Mullers Kloof from one of the switchbacks in about 1955, two years before I was born. The photo was either taken by my maternal grandfather or his son, my uncle, both of whom were keen long-distance drivers when most of our roads were still gravel. The pass itself remains largely unchanged.

The video below documents a cycle crossing of the pass on one of our Karoo cycle tours.

In 2018, we cycled it once more. This time the video includes scenes shot from my drone.

For more detailed information about the Swartberg Pass, I recommend the Mountain Passes of South Africa webpage.