Hike South Africa


Cederberg

In December 2007, Mark, Nass and I embarked on the great trek. The plan was to spend 4 nights and 5 days trekking around this vast expand of natural wilderness area. And we planned to make it out alive. This was my first time hiking with a tent, my experience from Groot WInterhoek was that sleeping outside can be kind of chilly. A word on the tent though, its not a fancy hiking tent that will set you back a couple of grands, such as the brands available in Cape Union Mart or Cape Storm. We settled with a CampMaster Dome Wedge II that will set you back about R300 from Makro. You cant go to a campsite nowadays without seeing one of their brown and green range with lumo green ropes. Its not designed specifically for hiking, but for our purposes it suited us well, the 4kg’s splits very well 3 ways. I wouldn’t recommend it for camping in the winter conditions in the mountains where it snows or rains excessively, but summer in Cederberg its more than perfect, easy to assemble and accommodates 3 large, unfit and sweaty males with their gear and room left over.

3 amigos

The Tent

Algeria waterfall

The booking authority for Cederberg is CapeNature, their details are available on their website. You can buy a comprehensive map from their offices, or at the campsites such as Algeria where we started. There is also maps of the area by Peter Slingsbly, which you can obtain from Cape Union Mart. Personally i found the scale to be too small (1:75 000) to plan a comprehensive route. My preference is to obtain a 1:50 000 scale map from the Surveys and Mapping offices . These cost only about R10 as opposed to a R70 smaller scale map from CapeUnion Mart. The Cape Town office address is Van der Sterr Building, Rhodes Avenue, Mowbray, which is just off Main Road Mowbray (below the mill). The map reference 3219AC adequately covers the middle and southern regions of the Cederberg wilderness. If there is one useful thing I learned and actually enjoyed from High School its map reading and geography. I highly advise that at least one member of your party know how to read a map and compass, If I had to rely on Mark we would still be there. Planning a route is important in the Cederberg, my main concern was to have an adequate supply of water. Luckily it was a comparatively wet summer so there was water running in many of the smaller ravines. I rely heavily on Mike Lundy’s book, Weekend Trails in the Western Cape, as he covers many trails and gives useful route descriptions. However a word of warning, no offence to Mike but I suspect he is a cyborg sent from the future, his route description of Algeria to Crystal pool informs the unsuspecting fool that its about a 6 hour trek. It took us about 10-11 hours, and managed to get our tent up just as night ambushed us. (our excuse is that Lundy must of had a weekend pack, we had a 5 day pack.)

Algeria to Crystal Pool

This is about a 16km trek that starts off with a huge shock to the system by having to conquer Middleberg peak. The uphill slog start immediately as you leave the Algeria campsite. This took us the better part of the morning, since we were not in the greatest shape.

Up to Middleberg

Still up to middleberg

There is relief halfway up the mountain in the form of a waterfall. A slight detour to the left along the contour will take you to this spot which is ideal to rest to reflect on the wisdom of training before a hike. (note that the path to the left is the 2nd or 3rd path that veers off from the main path, I cant remember which one it was but there were one or two that veered off and went nowhere)

Waterfall

waterfall

Playgirl Poster

waterfall

Continue the trek up for another hour (or 2)

middleberg

middleberg

middleberg

Believe it or not but eventually you will reach the top where the path will veer right and you will approach the Middleberg hut, circa 1903. This is an empty shelter which can be used as night stop, or just as a shelter from really bad weather. This is a good stop for lunch, and there was a small stream nearby to fill up on water. The rain that had been threatening came in the form of light 5 minute drizzle session.

Middleberg

middleberg hut

poncho mania

The path continues in south-easterly direction as you gently climb up through Jurie se Berg. I have no idea who Jurie is and how he got a mountain for himself. There a some interesting rock formations, including the cathedral rocks. The area had suffered a fire in recent months or weeks, and there were patches of scorched earth and new life slowly emerging.

rocky

looking back towards middleberg

sweet smell of H2O

Rocky II

Rocky III

Rocky IV

Rocky V

Rocky VI

The path will start heading east as you enter Grootlandsvlakte. You will be able to see the round peaks of Sneeukop to the northeast where you know that crystal pool lies somewhere in the foothills of that region.

Sneeukop from grootlandvlakte

GE grootlandsvlakte

As you slowly decent into a valley you can see a hut on the ridge on the far side of the valley. The sleeppadhut is an overnight option, but not on our agenda. After hiking through the valley and crossing the wildehoutdrif stream the path will start ascending. By this time there were some seriously irritated team members wanting to get there already. The path seems to endlessly ramble along in no specific direction but up. It was getting late and I was beginning to seriously doubt my map reading skills. last raysHowever keep going, the path will eventually level out and even though it does wind aimlessly you will eventually enter the theater where crystal pool is. The path will be lined with stones that will lead into the “camping area.” There are several large boulders each with a cleared spot on one side that provides the perfect tent site. There is also a sandy patch on the other side of the path near the larger pool that is often used by scouts to sleep out in the open. We arrived so late we barely had enough time to put the tent up before it got dark, so the swim would have to wait till morning. Note that the crystal pool is a series of smallish pools, not one large pool like the one in Groot Winterhoek. The coordinates for crystal pool are 32° 21′ 09″S 19° 07′ 58″E. I provide coordinates for map reference, or if you are a yuppie, your fancy GPS thingamajig.

crystal pool camp out

crystal pool camp

crystal pools

crystal pools

crystal pools

Crystal Pool to the Spout, Tafelberg

The next day was a relatively easier hike, with the majority of the hike along the jeep track that runs southerly from the bottom of Sneeukop past Tafelberg. To get to the top of Tafelberg is another story though.

The start of the days sees a short climb up from crystal pool on the north east side of the theater. on the other side of the hill you will pass crystal pool hut, another old shelter. A path will veer to the left, but Keep going towards Engelsmanskloof, which will be climbed. (Apparently the kloof gets its name from the Anglo-boer war where a lone English soldier encountered a group of boer rebels. He refused to give up his weapon so he was shot dead.)

bokkie

engelsmankloof from the top

At the top of the relatively easier Engelmanskloof you will hit the jeep track under the twin peaks of Sneeukop. The track follows the contour around the bottom of Sneeukop and heads south. This is nice walking, we covered a lot of distance is little time. Looking west you will be able to see the Grootlandsvlakte valley from the previous day. Soon you will pass the Sleeppadhut just off the track.

jeep track

grootlandvlakte

gatvol

As the day progressed we passed more land that had been scorched, with greenery starting to flourish. The odd bokkie was startled by our presence.

bokkie

pretty plant thingy

Its advisable to fill up on water wherever possible, as there is no water available near the spout cave. (A scout infomed me that there was sometimes a trickle, but you had to look for it.) There was water from the small ravines along the jeep track, but in summer your best bet would be the stream that runs down Donkerkloof ravine and cuts across the track. As you round the bottom of Langberg you will see Tafelberg in the distance, with the spout rock jutting out on the south side. (The spout refers to the spout of a kettle)

Tafelberg

Tafelberg

Tafelberg and the spout

Shortly before the base of Tafelberg a path marked by a pile of rocks will lead off to the right and down to Welbedacht, this is the following day’s path. Carry on for a bit until a faint path which should be marked by a pile of rocks will start the insanely near vertical hike to the spout. There are two uphill sections separated by a short flat section in between. There is apparently in this plateau area a place suitable for a tent by some boulders. Otherwise, the steep section is still to come. The path will lead in between the Tafelberg table and the spout rock. Be careful, the path is very rocky and loose.

Tired

The cave is situated just as you reach the top the of the gap between the table and the spout, on the right. The front entrance is sheltered by a neatly built wall of rocks. The cave isn’t very high, at the back you will have to crawl in, but it is spacious enough to sit comfortable. The front right part of the cave may be just large enough to erect your tent, depending on the size. The cave is very dusty and dry, so thats a really good idea. We found a couple that beat us to it had already done so. They had been hiking for 6 days in the Cederberg, with another 4 to go. That’s seriously hardcore hiking. Our arrival may have interrupted some other hardcore activities they intended to do, I know I would!! Sorry dude, you had 9 other nights, take a breather.

The spout cave

The spout

view

sunset from the spout

I got gas

Nasso, our Greek relative of McGuyver, managed to rig a cover over the back section of the cave using the flysheet of the tent, to keep the dust out. A word of warning, there is evil beast in the form of a very fat mouse that inhabits the cave. It must make a good living out of scavenging. It is not easy to sleep when every 30 minutes or so the mouse either runs over your face or is scrounging around in your packs. Its also impervious to the LED lights of a PEZL headlamp and the lazer pointer Nasso’s model has on it. It is also not scared of the photon lazer sound effects that Nasso emitted in an attempt to dazzle and stun the mouse into submission. The only effect was a slightly bemused mouse wondering what these freaks are doing.

There is cell phone reception from just outside the cave overlooking the valley if you need to inform your loved ones you are still alive. The spout cave is situated approximately at 32° 24′ 53″S 19° 12′ 26″E

Batmans cave needs a springclean

The morning after

The Spout Cave to Welbedacht

Morning view

The previous day

The next morning we woke up with dry dusty mouths and noses, with the odd taste of mouse foot. It was a clear crisp morning, unlike the previous two days. You could sense it was going to be stinkingly hot. The original plan had been to hike from spout across the valley and up to Sneeuberg hut. However the team was feeling a little mutinous and I was threatened with being stabbed in the back with a spork. (A spork is an ingenious plastic cutlery invention that is half spoon, half fork and half knife. Well, actually more like half spoon, half fork-knife. Or half spoon, 4/10ths fork and 1/10 knife. Its about R15 from CapeUnionMart.) So we settled for an easy day and to look for something in the valley.

We didn’t have breakfast (or shock horror coffee as well) as we had run out of water (due to drinking gallons to counter the dry cave) and had decided to have a late breakfast near a water source in Welbedachtkloof. Backtrack down Tafelberg and back along the jeep track to pile of rocks that marks the decent down the kloof. There is another cave, Welbedact cave that can be used if one is not inclined to climb up to the spout. Its also conveniently closer to water. Its not so much a cave than an rocky overhang but its less dusty. We spent most of the morning taking it easy down the kloof. The fire that had passed through had rendered it desolate, and the heat seem to reflect off the vegetated soil.

Welbedachtkloof breakfast spot

lizzy the lizzard

scorched earth

At the bottom of the valley there are the burnt out foundations of an old foresters station. Coming down the kloof we had eyed some very promising trees that looked like an ideal spot to call it a day and camp. It turned out to be some oak trees at a parking spot for those wishing to enter the reserve from that side. Fortunately they had been only slightly scorched by the fire and were faring well. It is situated on the boundary of the wilderness just north of Driehoek farm. Strictly speaking I’m not sure if it is intended to be a camping spot but as the heat picked up we really didn’t care. There is a stream close by which made it perfect for an afternoon bathe. The odd car came by with some day walkers, and a nice old couple who informed us of the very interesting history of the area, which I unfortunately cant remember what the topic was.

Welbedacht

Welbedacht

welbedachtkloof on the left

boundary

It was good to just relax that afternoon, and cool the one beer each we had been carrying with in the stream. We even managed to play some poker that night. Please see the picture where my all-in on pocket jacks rivered Mark’s pocket kings with a diamond flush.

plastic empire

Marks tell

This all in moment was brought to you by Castle Lager

Welbedacht back to Algeria

We had several options as to where to hike for the fourth day. Our original plan would have taken us from Sneeuberg hut down Duiwels gat towards Uitkyk, which would have been a long day. We decided to keep it simple as the weather forecasts had said that this day would be extremely hot. So we left early and followed the gravel road that would take us to Uitkyk pass and then look for a spot to camp somewhere closer to Algeria. By 8am it was already blistering hot. The road goes from Welbedacht and cuts between two small peaks before joining a fairly busy gravel road that joins Ceres to Clanwilliam via Uitkyk. (I say busy as in more than no-one. Watch out for speeding yuppies in 4×4’s)

on the road again

Getting hot

Uitkyk pass

After a slight incline you will reach the top of Uitkyk pass. There is a path that leaves the road and runs down towards Algeria. Be aware this aware is heavily populated by baboons. There is a slight detour marked by some metal poles that goes along a barely visible path through thick bush to a waterfall and a cave. The cave is full of baboon excrement, so it was lucky that the baboons were not at home.

Mark

waterfall

waterfall

Heading back down the path the temperature was baking. There didn’t seem to be any appropriate spots to set up camp, and being so close we decided to just trek down and spend the night at Algeria. It was still a fairly long journey along the gravel road, and my thermometer registered 42° in the shade. I thought I was going to die. In fact I think I may be dead and I’m in purgatory writing a blog. Nevertheless we made it back to Algeria where luckily there was a camp site available. The screaming little kids make you appreciate the silence and serenity of the wilderness. A big thanks to the gentleman who provided us with ice chilled Heinekens. The next morning we made our way to the hot baths at Citrusdal for a sought after bath and braai.

End Note

The cederberg is a vast area with many different hiking routes available. Some of the areas are accesseble from neighboring farms where you need permits for. The privately owned campsite at Driehoek is convenient for hiking around the southern regions, such as to Tafelberg, Wolfberg and the maltese cross. We touched on a mere fraction of the region, and hopefully in the future we will be able to explore further. Plan any route before venturing out aimlessly into the region, and have sufficient water on you at all times.

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