I'd gone on an adventure bike ride for a couple of days and had visited my friend's Roger and Karin at their house in George. I had no real plan in which direction my little adventure was going to take me in and Roger suggested a route over the Swartberg Pass to the little town of Prince Albert. Sounded great!
The Swartberg Pass for many is travellers, is the ultimate gravel road pass. There is a charm and a character around this old pass, coupled with its status as a national South African monument, which advances this pass to the very top of the list. It was Thomas Bain's final and best piece of road construction. Most of the historical points of interest are signposted along the pass. There are names like Die Stalletjie, Witdraai, Fonteintjie, Skelmdraai, and of course Die Top, the latter sign is almost completely annihilated by graffiti and stickers by some people who might feel they have just crested Kilimanjaro and have this intense desire to paint their name on the well-known sign.
The Swartberg Pass is quite long at 24km 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 fear of heights. The pass has almost too much to offer the traveller with a never-ending changing set of views - each as awe-inspiring as the one before.
The ride up and over the pass was awesome. It started off in the mist and drizzle but as I neared the summit it cleared and the sun came out brightening the views of the valley below. I rode into the pretty little town of Prince Albert at about 4 pm and looked around for a place to stay. I decided on the Swartberg Hotel on the main street. It's a beautiful place and the building has been used as a hotel for over 150 years, and today is classed as a national heritage site.
At dinner in the restaurant that evening, I was looking at some of the historic artworks hung on the walls, and the waitress came over and revealed to me that one of them was haunted. After pointing it out to me and chatting about the supernatural for a while she told me the tale of the most famous ghost story of the Swartberg area, it went something like this:
A long time ago, a romantic young Karoo man tried to impress his future in-laws but instead ended up in the company of a ghost. Hansie Odendaal, who lived in Prince Albert in 1949, offered to take his prospective bride and her parents on a drive across the Swartberg Pass. On one of the very steep gradients, the car they were driving in broke down and came to a grinding halt. The engine refused to fire up again and nightfall was approaching. So, in a rising mist, Hansie stacked rocks behind the wheels and started to walk back to the old Toll House where he thought he had seen someone. As he approached, the figure still stood there but did not react to his calls. Then, when Hansie arrived at the tollhouse, it was empty. Shrugging off what he had seen as simply an unfriendly hiker, Hansie decided to run down the pass to borrow a car in the town of Prince Albert. He felt a shadow following him. Each time Hansie turned around he saw nothing, yet he felt the presence. He became nervous and ran faster. When Hansie reached Tweede Water, the shadow vanished, as did his anxiety. Hansie managed to borrow a car and returned for Hettie and her parents, who had also started walking down the pass. They were convinced a young man had accompanied them all the way down until they reached Fonteintjie, where he vanished. They were not concerned as they thought he lived somewhere on the mountain. Later, after doing some investigation, Hansie discovered that a young police constable, who had accidentally shot himself in 1885, was said to haunt the Swartberg Pass in the area where their car had stalled.
At the moment we're all stuck inside and bored with the lockdown caused by COVID-19 and can't travel. I really hope it's going to change soon because I'm dying to get out on an adventure again soon. At SA Adventure we've been putting together a few new tours for when we can travel again. We want to set up some exciting tours within the borders of South Africa. One of them will travel through the Karoo and visit towns like Prince Albert and take the roads less explored like the Swartberg Pass. We want you to come along with us so we can help local hotels, restaurants and the like to recover after having no cash or customers coming in over this period.
Please keep checking our website's Tours Page to see the new tours we'll be bringing to you soon.
If you enjoyed this little story about the Ghost of the Swartberg Pass please Like, Comment and Share the post with your friends and don't forget to check out our blog on the Ghost of Uniondale... Stay Safe...