This year, my mission was to see snow in South Africa. In the Western Cape to be exact. Unfortunately, snow is unpredictable. That has been made clear by Gauteng’s delight in having a record amount of snowfall. So I decided to do my research thoroughly.
I found the one place in the Western Cape where it snows the most and where the highest mountain in the province stands. Matroosberg Private Nature Reserve, 35km outside of Ceres. I read all the articles I could find about them, about when it snows and how much it snows. I found that the snow there tends to last longer than in other places and that it reaches to the lower regions, making our chances even better.
I thought that the end of July is deep enough in winter for snow and far enough away from spring to still be cold enough for snow. I read what others said about the snowfall patterns and I was certain that by the end of July, we’re guaranteed a weekend of hiking and snowball fights.
But as I said, snow in South Africa is unpredictable and as our luck would have it, we had two full days of nothing but warm, wintery sunshine. So what do eight friends do in Matroosberg when it doesn’t snow but it’s still pretty cold? Quite a lot, actually.
Since we still had the urge to see at least something that was frozen, we got up early in the mornings and set off on aimless walks around the reserve. It’s an absolutely breathtaking piece of land, where the mountains reach up around you and the scenery changes constantly. One thing that struck me the most was the silence. A peaceful, serene kind of silence.
We spent hours just walking around. We hiked passed a beautiful stream and up to where the rockpools are. The views up here are incredible and it’s the perfect place to spend the day in summer, climbing up from one pool to the next, sliding down the slippery rocks and into the pools and lazing in the sun on the flat surfaces.
Hiking one of Matroosberg’s main attractions. The trail itself starts at 1250m above sea level and the peak lies 2249m above sea level. It’s a challenging hike, but the reward for reaching the Western Cape’s highest mountain is entirely worth it. The same mountain is also accessible by the 4×4 trail. Those of you who love your off-road driving will have a field day navigating your way to the top.
The more adventurous at heart can take up kloofing or abseiling while the others enjoy quad biking, explore the reserve on mountain bikes or challenge each other in a game of paintball. Matroosberg even caters for those who enjoy their niche sports, like fishing and target shooting.
Now that you know that you won’t have a minute of boredom, I can tell you about the many different accommodation options. We discovered a new type of camping that weekend. They call it indoor camping and it’s absolutely perfect for a place where the winter evenings get much too cold for a traditional camp. These brand new, wooden cabins have everything you need to be comfortable, but none of the amenities that push up the price.
It’s basically a wooden structure with one living room and a connected bedroom with four bunk beds. There’s a hot water shower, flush toilet, fireplace and electric plugs, making it the most comfortable ‘camping’ experience I’ve ever had. It costs only R80 a person per night and each cabin sleeps eight people comfortably. We made jaffles (when last did you have a jaffle?), played endless rounds of boardgames and spent hours relaxing in front of the fire. And don’t worry about not having a fridge, just put your drinks and milk outside. Believe me, it gets more than cold enough.
The other accommodation options include the quaint lakeside houses that sleep six each and cost R1800 for a weekend. They’re situated close to the indoor camping at the foot of the mountain. Then there’s the ski hut that sleeps twenty people and is situated much higher up, close tot the start of the hiking trail. It costs minimum R500 a night or R100 a person if you’re more than five.
The Goatherds House is a sturdy, stone house that’s over 100 years old and far removed from any of the other accommodations. It as no electricity, to keep to the tradition, but they have installed hot and cold running water for your comfort. It costs between R1500 and R1800 for the entire weekend and sleeps six. Then, off course, there’s the traditional campsite. It’s situated beside a stream and shaded by huge pine trees and could be ideal in summer. It costs only R50 a person a night.
You can see that Matroosberg offers a lot, not only for summer and not only for the snowing days in winter. It’s an ideal break away from the city, the hosts are friendly and the many dogs (and lamb) that are pets in the owners’ house just love to come and curl up in front of your fire or join you for a walkabout in the morning.
Why not take a drive to Matroosberg this weekend? Rumour has it that the snow will stick around until then. Check out their Facebook page for regular updates about the snow or visit their website at www.matroosberg.com.
If you don’t live near Matroosberg, here are 10 accommodation options near snowy places.