Exploring the Cederberg
Many people remember being a teenager with a fond, misty, sentimental look on their face. I for one am lucky to crack a grimace at some of the downright outrageous things I got up to during those years. Like the time my friends and I decided to go camping in the Cederberg.
At the end of high-school, instead of heading to Plettenberg Bay, the age-old venue for school-leaving parties, we thought beat the commercial crowds and head straight to the heart of the wilderness to live rough, drink hard and come back laughing at the herds who had frittered away their first taste of post-school freedom in a lame little holiday town.
As it turns out, the joke was kinda on us. Certain things are high on the list of priorities. Making sure that all your tent poles are packed is not one of them.Tell this to a teenager and they’ll scoff. As it turns out you can’t pitch a tent with two poles missing, as we found out that weekend. Which left us sleeping out in the open. This was great the first night, but when it started raining on the second, tempers started to flair. After much swearing and moaning, we miraculously found a cave for shelter. In fact, my most beautiful memory of the Cederberg is falling asleep in that cave, listening to a waterfall cascading nearby and waking up with nature in all her awesome splendour, where the silence is so pure you can hear it, feel it and see it. Which didn’t prevent me from getting a nasty bout of flu from sleeping the rain.
The Cederberg area lies some 200km north west of Cape Town, and consists of the mountains from which the area takes its name, the wilderness it hides, and several small towns. To reach the first of these towns, Citrusdal, one passes over the beautiful Piekinierskloof Pass, where farmers share the land with resorts and tourist accommodation.
As you continue through the pass, you see the small town of Citrusdal, laid out in the valley, and looking for all the world like a picture postcard. This area is famous for it’s citrus growing, which is exactly where Citrusdal got it’s name, but also for that uniquely South African tea, Rooibos. In the heart of the Cederberg range, you find the farms that are world famous for growing the best Rooibos Tea on the planet. The unique climate of the mountain range is the secret to this health tea that have created a prosperous farming community.
While a visit to this town, and the other small towns in the area will provide many attractions, and tourists will be charmed by the friendly locals and old world feel, most who visit this area do so for the wilderness itself, as well as the outdoor activities and sports that are on offer.
Hikers and climbers flock to the area every year, to visit such famous natural landmarks as the Wolfsberg Arch, Wolfberg Cracks and Maltese Cross. Natural rock formation, born from eons of erosion by wind and rain. There are not many places in the world where you can see rock formations that date back between 500 and 345 million years. The Bokkevled Group boats rich marine fossil deposits with brachiopods, trilobites and crinoids that are all protected by law and may not be disturbed or removed. Some of the famous rock formations are the Wolfberg Cracks and Arch, the Stadsaal Caves and the Maltese Cross.
Within the wilderness area, a nationally protected park, one can view indigenous San rock art, left by the earliest human inhabitants of the area, or experience the famous rock climbing sites at Krakadouw and Tafelberg peaks, to name a few. The animal life is varied with rock rabbits, klipspringers, baboons, porcupines, badgers, lynx, Wild Cat and Cape fox. The leopard is a protected species here; you may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of this elusive big cat.
While the area is run by Cape Nature conservation, there are several campsites in the area, the main one being Algeria, but others, such as Krom River and Jamaka, the latter of which are two of the privately run options.
Also on offer is the local amateur astronomical observatory, 4 x 4 trails or a visit to Heuningvlei, a village run by the Moravian Church, which owns a large portion of the area, and where one can purchase locally made leather shoes and boots, visit the herb garden or stay in the backpackers. Another attraction at Heuningvlei is a donkey cart ride through the mountains, on a purpose built track, largely inaccessible by more modern means.
Many lodges and resorts have also sprung up in the area, for example the four star Mount Ceder Lodge, for those who wish to visit the area, without roughing it.A visit to the area in the spring time offers another natural attraction – the blooming of the wild flowers in August and September, a sight which carpets the normally green area with colour.
As with most areas in the Western Cape, wine tasting at the award winning estate in the Olifants river valley is on offer, albeit in a spectacular natural setting. All in all the area has much to offer the eco tourist, as well as those looking for a restful, relaxing getaway, far from the hustle of bustle of cities and towns, where time seems slower, and there’s nothing more stressful than deciding what adventure to explore each day. Just check you’ve packed everything before you leave.