Thirty years have passed since Renée and I last spent time in the Ceberberg and, having just been there for five days, we realise how foolish we have been to have stayed away for so long. It really is the most magnificent piece of mountain wilderness imaginable.
We towed our campervan from Hermanus up to Driehoek Farm on Sunday and set up camp at a site of our choice, as all the weekend trippers had left by the time we arrived. As a result, we were able to secure a site with a wonderful view up the valley, close to the river and in a good shady spot. Boesman, the farm labrador immediately adopted us and spent the next 24 hours on our doorstep.
On Monday morning we warmed up by doing a 6.5 km hike around the farm, taking in the flowers and birds, as we walked on Rondeheuwel and then across the valley to see some bushman art. The Wabome (Protea nitida) thrive in the area and we saw many really old specimens with thick trunks, such as must have been used by early settlers to make parts for their wagons. We then made our way, via the bird hide, to the old leopard trap and then on past the waterfall before heading back to camp, where we swam in the pool on the Driehoek River. It was a very short swim as the water was icy! Later in the afternoon, we drove down to Sandrif Farm and chose a camp site for our move there on Wednesday.
On Tuesday morning we set off for De Rif, and old farm site on the shale band, half way up Wolfberg. The rock formations which we passed through were quite amazing and we saw many interesting flowers along the way. There were also the skeletons of old cedar trees which had not survived the fires that rage through the area from time to time. The path wound through the rocks and in and out of valleys with plenty of beautifully clear streams.
On arrival at De Rif, we were not sure what to look for and could find little signs of previous habitation. There was, however, a lovely stand of cedar tress protected by a well-kept fire break. We decided to carry on up the mountain and climbed the path known as Gabrielspas. This zigzagged up the steep path to a neck which gave us a good view of the Karoo stretching out to the east.
A drop into a valley and up a boulder strewn slope brought us out on top of the mountain and along a well marked path to the Wolfberg Arch, where we had lunch. The stone beacons marking this path are all little replicas of the arch, so one is left with no doubt as to where one is heading.
The wind was still brisk and cold, but fortunately the clouds which appeared to be approaching from the north never reached us. We returned to camp via the same route, once again enjoying some of the most splendid scenery possible.
The whole walk took us just over six hours and measured 17.5 kilometres. Needless to say we were pretty exhausted, especially since we seem to walk quite fast when on our own. Both of us decided that we had had our exercise for the week and that we would take it easy for the next few days.
On Wednesday morning we packed up camp and towed the ‘van the short distance to Sanddrif, where we once more set up in a very sheltered spot. We were glad to get away from the cold wind experienced at Driehoek. We spent the rest of the morning exploring the Maalgat, a stretch of river with beautiful swimming pools and wonderful round potholes worn in the quartzites over many years. Then, after lunch, we went to the caves at Stadsaal where we were amazed by the rock formations, and where we also visited the very well-preserved rock art site, with its clear depiction of the elephants that used to frequent the area.
We knew that Mike and Koekoe Ravenscroft were due at Sanddrif that afternoon, along with Rodney Andersen and Ebeline de Villiers, and we were pleased to run into them at the Dwarsberg Farm. They invited us to join them for supper in their cottage at the campsite. Mike said that they would be walking via the shale band, over Wolfberg and down the Cracks and we were persuaded to join them. The weather did not look too promising and we had a few showers in the night.
Thursday morning loomed bright and clear and we all (except for Koekoe) set off full of enthusiasm. The hike along the track on the shale band was soon over and we had tea at De Rif, before once more climbing Gabrielspas and on to the Wolfberg Arch – for the second time in three days!!
Mike and Rodney demonstrated their climbing skills by going up to the top of the arch (where Mike got his knees and elbows a bit bloodied doing some chimneying in the rough rocks).
Whilst they were doing this we were visited by that much sought after bird, the Cape Rockjumper, one of which hopped over to within a couple of metres of us to investigate. We then set off past Wolfberg summit on the path to the top of the Cracks.
It was another mind-blowing experience, with the most wonderful rock formations all around us for about five kilometres. One just cannot describe it properly and photographs cannot capture the magnificence of the area.
The weather was perfect for walking. High cloud and a light breeze kept us cool and we even had to wear light windbreakers at times. Had it been hot we would have been pretty exhausted, but we never felt too warm at all.
We stopped for lunch just above the Cracks and then proceeded down the so-called easy route, which proved to be quite a scramble. The Cracks have been described as the most spectacular feature of the Cederberg, and this is no exaggeration.
One walks between high looming cliffs and buttresses that appear ready to tumble down and obliterate the antlike hikers clambering over the boulder jumbles within. We virtually had the mountains to ourselves and only met one couple during the entire day.
Our final descent down the very steep zigzag path to Sanddrif was undertaken with sore knees and feet, but we all agreed that it had been a wonderful day. We covered 19.5 kilometres in around eight and a half hours. Later that evening we again gathered for a braai in the cottage, before tumbling into our beds, all very weary from all the exercise. Renée and I could not believe that we had climbed to the Arch twice in three days!!
On Friday we packed up camp and returned home via the Grootrivier and Blinkberg passes. We had intended to stay over until Saturday, but the thought of having to suddenly be surrounded by weekend campers was not one that we relished. We had had too good a time on our own and wanted to remember it that way! We had walked about 45 kilometres and were excited about planning our next trip to this wonderful wilderness.
Both camping sites can be recommended and both Driehoek and Dwarsrivier produce excellent wines, the latter at the Cederberg Cellar on the farm. On could travel a long way before finding a better spot to spend a few days.