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General Prince Albert Information - links, history, weather, etc.
This General information facility is created to talk and tell things about this town that are not directly tourist facilities as such. Things like the history, climate and calender of regular events, etc. Page 1, Page 2, Page 3, Page 4
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Gateway to the mighty Swartberg mountains.
Leave the Route 62 at Calitzdorp, Oudtshoorn or De Rust to follow the Swartberg Loop off Route 62.
This will bring you through some of the most breathtaking mountain scenery in South Africa to the Southern edge of the Great Karoo where you will discover the small town of Prince Albert nestling at the foot of the mighty Swartberg. The village is a living record of South African rural life over the last two centuries during which well-watered orchards and colourful gardens have been patiently coaxed from the harsh African wilderness.
The town and its surroundings offer attractions for everybody from hikers and bikers, to birdwatchers, stargazers and botanists. Artists & writers find themselves enthralled by the stark and dramatic beauty of both the endless plains and the towering peaks. More than anything else it is a place to slow down, forget the hectic pace of urban life and rediscover the bare essentials such as sunsets & thunderstorms over the plains, clear morning air & night skies crowed with stars.
The high wide sky and broad landscapes of their surroundings have infused the community with the peacefulness & patience that have equipped them to endure past hardships & with which they will endure future ones. Here, there is Time – time to appreciate the changing colours of the mountains, the mystery and the magic of tiny veld plants and flowers and the rustle of creatures who dwell there while eagles wheel against the peaks.
Above all, Prince Albert is The gateway to the Swartberg. This massive range forms the Southern edge of the African continental plate. Its tortured rock formations thrusting high above the plains bears timeless testimony to the ancient tectonic collisions of a world in the making. Here, the Creator had fun. The great symphonic swirls of multi-hued sandstone strata cut through by deep ravines separate the narrow terraces of the Little Karoo from the great interior plateau named “The Dry Country” of Karoo by the ancient San people. Explorers, writers and artists of past centuries – la Vaillant, Lawrence Green, Pierneef, Schreiner – have traversed these plains & captured the dramatic impact and magic of its landscapes & wildlife in words and pictures for generations of travelers to come.The Swartberg mountains are a magnificent backdrop to the village of Prince Albert. Once considered impenetrable, there are now three routes – The Swartberg Pass, Meiringspoort and Seweweekspoort linking the Great Karoo with the Little Karoo and the coast. The Swartberg Loop takes you through two of them - Meiringspoort and the Swartberg Pass. Both are on Prince Albert's doorstep, and with their awesome beauty and many opportunities for recreation, should be on every visitor's itinerary.
THE SWARTBERG PASS
The 27 km Swartberg Pass is considered one of the most impressive mountain passes in the world: an untarred road that winds to the summit 1583 meters above sea level in steep zigzags and sudden switchbacks with breathtaking views every turn. The road is supported in places by hand-packed stone walls, a trademark of the brilliant road engineer of the 19th Century, Thomas Charles Bain. Along the way there are relics of old prisons, tollhouses, and Way stations that bear historic testimony to past adventures. Often covered with snow in winter, the mountain's micro-climate supports fynbos and a rich bird life in contrast with the arid-zone flora and fauna outside its cool shady kloofs. The Swartberg Pass was declared a National Monument in its Centenary year, 1988. Those who have crossed the pass will never forget it.
This beautiful, secluded valley, roughly 20km long and less than 1 km wide, lies hidden in the heart of the Swartberg. It was inaccessible by road until 1963. Its many streams and fertile soil once supported a community who lived there for major than 100 years. Also known as "Die Hel" it is shrouded in romantic notions of mythical communities lost in hidden mountain valleys. Relic farms and several restored cottages remain to stimulate the romance. Access was only on foot and harvests of dried fruit and honey were carried out by pack donkey along seemingly impassable routes for barter with he outside world. Today, travelers can drive into Gamkaskloof along Eland's Pass - an unforgettable journey of breathtaking zigzags dropping dramatically to the valley 1000 meters below. The turnoff to Gamkaskloof is 25 km from Prince Albert, on the Swartberg Pass ascent. Visitors should allow at least 6 hours for the return trip to Prince Albert. Lovingly restored self catering accommodation and camping facilities are available in the valley allowing the imagination to wander through the web of stories, both mystical and true, of what life must have been like in this hidden valley. The route is not suitable for buses, trailers and caravans.
Meiringspoort is a deep cleft through the seemingly impenetrable Swartberg Mountain range. This natural passage forms a convenient link between the Great and Little Karoo. Soaring cliff walls with spectacular rock formations line the 25 km tarred road which winds along the floor of the gorge, crossing the Groot River 25 times. Entry to the Poort is via Klaarstroom, 55 kms east of Prince Albert en route to Oudtshoorn and the coast. Hardy plants, including indigenous pelargoniums, cling to the precarious rock faces while birds, baboons and smaller fauna abound in the protected kloofs & crevices. Among the most scenic spots is the waterfall tumbling into a dark pool which, according to legend, is bottomless. In Meiringspoort one feels insignificant against the overwhelming grandeur of the surroundings. Driving through this Poort with its winding road, the traveller is enchanted buy the scenery with a kaleidoscope of every changing colours. The richness of the vegetation along the river will intrigue the plant lover and the birdwatcher will be amazed at the bird life. Meiringspoort was originally opened to traffic on the 3rd March 1858. Experience the beauty of the area by staying in an idyllic country retreat situated in Meiringspoort.
A new book "Prince Albert (Kweekvallei)" compiled by the circle of writers in Prince Albert gives a flashback on the towns' biography.
Eben Venter a wellknown writer and also a resident from Prince Albert gives a preview of this book in 'Die Burger'; 10.12.2005; Bylae bls.9.
"Prince Albert (Kweekvallei)" can be ordered from the 'Fransie Pienaar-museum' 023 541 1172.