Heading home after a weekend break in the Cederberg

Posted by Rob House on 6 May 2010

Sharp tapping sounds woke me early and as I struggled to release myself from the amorous embrace of a slightly too snug sleeping bag they rang out again from just beyond my canvass enclosure. Stumbling out and tripping over my feet, I found the culprit. A small flycatcher was pecking off the bugs adorning the shiny rear view mirrors of a neighbor’s 4×4. Clever little beast I thought as I wandered off to make a cuppa, this time tripping over my boots.

The incessant tapping continued and while the kettle brewed and my brain fog subsided. I watched fascinated then realised that the little blighter was in fact beating his (or her) beak against the shiny reflective surface while attacking the reflected ‘intruder’. Not as bright as I thought I mused and wondered if his headache would soon match mine.

Al emerged from his tent like a hibernating bear while the campsite gradually came to life as the first sunlight caught the far mountains turning them bright orange. We packed for a quick 30km breakfast dash to Clanwilliam.

An easy dirt road led to an impressive breakfast at Nancy’s Tea room in Clanwilliam, most definitely worth stopping in for should you find yourself nearby, and hungry.

Replete, fresh tarmac greeted us as we left on the R364 towards the Pahkuis Pass, also recently tarred. Those with more time to spare can take a leisurely hike along the Cederberg Heritage Trail from this point, winding to Heuningvlei. There is also a donkey cart ride along the same route for those less inclined to stomp.

We picked up the Rooibos Heritage Route, which led us south, down past the Hoek se Berg Pass and the beautiful Biedouw Valley. The day was progressing well and my misgivings about the off road sections were fading as newfound confidence gained the upper hand

Wupperthal hove into view so we took the opportunity to catch our breath in a late autumn heat wave and take in the character and atmosphere of this little oasis. Once a Moravian Mission station in the mid 1800’s, the local Khoikhoi populace was the first to be encouraged to spiritual enlightenment. Freed slaves later swelled the community as farming became more established. The well-known veldskoen boot is made locally as is excellent Rooibos tea, while a myriad of trails keep hikers, cyclists, 4x4ers and a couple of adventure bikers very happy.

After easing some of the stiffness out at the village caf, I followed Al out of the village towards what I thought was a dead end. Al carried on determinedly, so I followed. The track gradually deteriorated and turned into an obstacle course, as it wound its way steeply up into the mountains. Loose rock, washouts and a steep drop to the left kept concentration focused on the immediate few metres ahead while trying to read what was coming next.

Al pulled on ahead while I took a breather and a few photos after topping out, then continued on an easier sand road into Eselbank, a small community in one of the most spectacular environments I’d yet ridden through. No sign of Al, so I pushed on down a sandy stretch past the towering Tafelberg to my right while high above stood Wolfberg Arch.

Twenty minutes later, and now riding like an enduro demon to catch up, I passed through a stream with no sign of wet tyre marks on the opposite side or sign of disturbance in the water. A clear sign to this tracker extraordinaire that, well, I was on my own out in front. I pulled over among the extraordinary beauty and sat among wild flowers and fynbos to wait. It was hard to believe I was only 250 kilomteres or so, from Cape Town.

Al caught up fifteen minutes later as I was about to retrace my path. He’d found a waterfall and I’d driven past him in my haste to catch up. There’s no cellphone coverage up here, which is mostly a blessing, but it wasn’t lost on me that accidents can happen…

Short winter days left light fading early as we trundled into our overnight accommodation and the end of this short weekend break at Mount Ceder. Perfectly positioned for a base camp, this little cluster of cottages provides a mountainside welcome for weary travelers. Best of all this evening was that there was no tent to put up and dinner was waiting. Cape Town was a short ride away tomorrow but for tonight it was feet up, a large whiskey and easy conversation under the stars.

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