The Cederberg Wilderness Area had been on my radar ever since I cycled to Cape Town five years ago. I missed out on it that time, in favour of taking the coastal route. Having had a wonderful six weeks previously exploring Namibia’s dirt and gravel tracks, my cycling legs could not muster the energy needed for yet more challenging terrain. Besides, the coastal route would be lovely anyway – it was – and less hilly and with only a few hundred kilometres left to go on that cross-continental journey, the desire to just reach Cape Town was too strong.
But ever since then, knowing I would be coming back to Africa one day, the Cederberg Area was a place I’d make sure to visit. This time, fresh at the start of a new journey, and more importantly on a little trail bike, ideally suited to the Cederberg terrain, I finally made it there. And I wasn’t disappointed.
OK, so we arrived in the region to sweltering temperatures – when even the wind blows hot like a hair dryer – that I had not experienced since the likes of the Malian Sahara desert. Even the locals said it was unusually hot.
From Clanwilliam, we took the 4×4 track via Wuppertal and Eselbank – a great way to enter the Wilderness Area.
Seeing a makeshift sign for a waterfall, we decided to check it out. Perfect for a quick dip and cool down. Just a shame we had to put our biking gear back on.
By the time we got back on a proper gravel track, it was still a long way to the campsite we’d intended to stay at and getting late in the day. Seeing a sign for another campsite, we figured on changing plan and camping early. But to stay at that campsite, you had to check in at the farm reception down the road. So off we went… only to be told that the campsite was full. The young woman who clearly had little interest in her job and hoping for these last tourists to leave so she could go home said the campsite we’d planned on going to may have space (or may not) so we should go there. Reluctantly, we set off. To our surprise, just a few kilometres down the road, I spotted another cluster of trees down by the river with a track leading to it. Reckoning on it being a campsite, despite no sign, we went to check it out. Sure enough, a beautiful, yet simple camping area with a dozen marked spaces under the shade of leafy English oaks, each with a water tap and braai facility. We asked the only other campers who we should speak to about camping.
‘Ah, well you need to go back up the road to the farm and ask at the reception, but I think they’ll be closed now it’s after five.’ Sigh. Welcome to Africa. Now, why on earth did that woman not mention this campsite to us when we were there! Clearly, she wasn’t not bothered about our business. Somehow I wasn’t surprised. Jimmy will learn soon enough, I’m sure. It was a beautiful night with the stars shining brilliantly, the cicadas singing through the night, the occasional unknown sound from the river and was followed up by an early bird-chorus wake-up call. But apart from that, it was a perfectly peaceful, quiet night. I’d forgotten how much I love those noisy silent nights!
The next day we went for a walk up to the ‘Maltese Cross’. Jimmy suffered terribly with the heat – being Scottish through and through, this was hardly surprising. We didn’t help ourselves, since we left far too late in the morning. Indeed, as we were setting off, everyone else walking the trail that day was just returning. Jimmy was insistent that we make an earlier start the next day. I didn’t disagree.
The next day (with an early start) we walked to the ‘Wolfberg Cracks’, where we had a great time climbing and crawling through narrow cracks and between fallen rocks.
It was a relatively tame ride out of the Cederberg, back to Cape Town. We stopped on the way out at the Stadsaal Caves.
We rode the rest of the way back on tarmac, via the narrow, winding Bainskloof Pass. Here the wind picked up, as with every afternoon. Only this afternoon the wind was more forceful. The cross-winds nearly forced us off the road. Instead we rode slowly in the hard shoulder, weaving like drunks and leaning into the gusts.And, finally back in Cape Town, we got our little bikes a wash down…
You can see the rest of the photos here: