CEDERBERG, SOUTH AFRICA
As a winter weekend getaway, Kirsty Hawthorne, Darian van Eck and Justin Hawthorne chose Algeria in the central Cederberg as their base.
With winter sunsets being closer to 17:30 at this time of year, getting to the Cederberg (a 2.5hr drive from Cape Town) is likely to be after dark if you’ve spent the day working. Algeria works brilliantly as it’s situated close to the N7, meaning that the after dark gravel road driving is kept to a minimum.
The cottages are modern, and with an indoor fireplace, you should be pretty cosy as you settle into your weekend. If conditions are clear, step out onto the patio with your beanie and jacket on to bend your neck towards the sky! It’s a great time of year for stargazing, especially if close to the new moon. *Note: The Cederberg Astronomical Observatory at Dwarsrivier operates in good weather on Saturday’s at 20:00 (excl. full moon) – a donation is recommended.
Rising early for a good coffee & breakfast, head on down to Dwarsrivier to obtain a trail permit for the Maltese Cross. En route you’ll drive over Uitkyk Pass where the views northwards are simply spectacular! Try this at dawn, as we did, where the sky lit up gorgeous colours of pink and purple. The mountain pass climbs steeply, where you gain 500m in elevation in the short drive from the cottage. While driving we spotted two Grey Rhebuck’s grazing on the fresh growth covering the green valley floor (fire recovery). A few minutes further on three Klipspringers were spotted on the rocky mountain slopes some way from the road. We watched them, and they watched us nervously.
The permit is free to Wild Card holders (R60 for non-card holders) and you’ll get the combination to the gate one needs to drive through. The hike is real value for effort – 7km there-and-back allows you to view one on the Cederberg’s iconic rock formations! To see an in-depth Route Guide for this hike, take a look at the previous blog.
After finishing up with the Maltese Cross hike, pop in at the Cederberg Private Cellars where you can get introduced to the unique high altitude wines of the region. Their tasting room is relaxed, staff are very informative and you’ll sample their full range (provided they haven’t sold out) for R40pp. Look out for the 2015 Shiraz (suggested by Kirsty & Darian who did the tasting), and take a bottle back to the cottage for after dinner chill in front of the fire!
We took away a few of their beers too – the Cederberg Brewery Original Lager – to accompany our braai that we had planned. The day had been extremely warm, Berg wind conditions preceding the approaching cold front which was making its presence felt as we drove a long road back to Algeria.
Listening to the rain come down as our fire crackled was comforting in more ways than one: Finally, some respite for the drought-stricken Western Cape. We also got excited as it meant the conditions come morning would be pretty stunning.
There is nothing like the morning after rain where the earth is wet, vegetation vibrant and swirling clouds giving depth to the beautiful rock formations of the Cape Fold Mountains.
Take a walk around the campsite. There are beautiful spots under talk Eucalyptus trees along the river with a photogenic little footbridge. We noticed the tracks of a Grey Rhebuck in the wet sand near the drift and not long after driving out of camp we spotted one running along the gravel road – trademark whitetail in our face as it moved at 25km/hr through the light rain. Before ascending the mountain pass it stopped, turned and sprinted past us! Wonderful!
The cloud was dense as we gained ground once again over Uitkyk pass and we negotiated the wet and muddy road at a snail’s pace. The rain abated with patches of blue after we had spotted another two Grey Rhebuck’s (possibly the same as the day prior) and stopped for a minute to watch a troop of Chacma Baboons moving down from the rocky crags through a dense stand of flowering proteas.
A breathtaking rainbow greeted us just before we pulled off the road to take a walk passed Lot’s Wife and see the finger-like rock formations in this area.
After consulting our map, we progressed to Matjiesrivier Nature Reserve to visit the Stadsaal Cave and see the rock art nearby. We had obtained our permits the day before at Dwarsrivier – free again as Wild Card holders.
The views towards the Wolfberg Cracks (closed as at June 2017) and Sanddrif are beautiful. The warped bands of rock along the Matjiesriver force you to pull over to pause for a moment and appreciate the nature of this majestic mountain range.
Pulling off at the ancient rock art site to view the work of the San is mandatory. The beautiful, preserved artwork gives you a glimpse into life in the Cederberg just a few centuries ago. There is useful information provided by Cape Nature on signage which includes explanations on the materials used in the 1000+ year old paintings.
Stadsaal, the City Hall, is a vast network of rock arches, overhangs & caves. The main chamber is impressive, with its numerous arches and pillars creating an interesting chamber. There’s a lot of graffiti here, some names date back to the 19th century and others dated 2017 – don’t add to it, please. Today, defacing the rock is a criminal offence.
It is well worth strolling around the maze of pathways at Stadsaal, where views towards Kromrivier are stunning!
The road to Ceres is an absolute pleasure to drive. So quiet and of good condition. The landscape changes as you pass by old stock farmers kraals and grave sites, dilapidated stone buildings and the oasis at every river crossed!
Upon reaching Op-die-Berg you’ll cover ground faster and soon Gydo Pass is descended with beautiful views over Prince Alfred Hamlet and Ceres. You’ll have the choice of numerous routes home from Ceres…all depending on preference and time.
- Stay at Algeria – a beautiful camp, smartly positioned for a weekend trip.
- Book with Cape Nature during winter (Algeria included) as you’ll get 40% off.
- Get the Slingsby Maps “Hike the Cederberg – Southern Section Maps 3 & 4” for the Maltese Cross.
- Get a Wild Card – you’ll save on conservation fees & permits when in the Cederberg.
- Justin Hawthorne
- Darian van Eck
- Kirsty Hawthorne
Justin Hawthorne was given a Hyundai ix35 to use for this Cederberg Adventure by MLT Vehicle Rental. The high clearance SUV handled the entire drive very well and was especially useful in getting to the start point for the Maltese Cross hike as the jeep track is rugged in places. Driving the gravel roads between Dwarsrivier & Algeria after rain meant that things were very slippery and muddy, and the SUV was a pleasure to drive in these challenging conditions. All round, the perfect vehicle for this road trip.
MLT Corporation is based in Cape Town and offers a wide range of services from car hire to shuttles and tours. Their fleet of vehicles is broad, with over 300 to choose from. Contact MLT Corp at: www.mltcorp.co.za / +27 21 551 7365 / email@example.com