The Cederberg. A destination that Byron has spoken about for many years. One that he holds in such high regard. You could say that he spent a lot of his adolescence here. Weekends away with his fellow scouts hiking, swimming, camping, laughing around the campfire, singing songs, exploring, partaking in a heap load of boyish mischief.
This is by far one of his absolute favourite places to get lost, so it was only fair that I get to experience this promised land too.
To get lost in the wilderness, to walk amidst towering peaks and unique rock formations, to see fynbos and fields of proteas surrounding you, streams and rivers flowing with fresh mountain water, an oasis in the mountains.
The Cederberg is the land of towering rocks, of green vibrant indigenous fynbos, secret waterfalls, ancient rock art, the elusive cape leopard and home to the most beautiful golden sunlight that catches the plains and the mountain range.
It is the mountain wilderness that you want to escape to. It is a place of complete isolation, where you can shake off the busy world around you and embrace nature at it’s finest.
It is the perfect location for those looking for some camping and a little hiking, those looking for some serious overnight hikes, a luxury escape, or just a place to put your feet up with a glass of wine.
The Cederberg is home to the rare and endangered Clanwilliam Cedar tree. The tree that gives this area its name.
The Cederberg Wilderness Conservation is currently trying to prevent the extinction of the Cedar tree from the area. It is said that The Cedar trees date back 255-300 million years ago to the last ice age. Currently, the trees are under a lot of pressure due to climate change.
Fun Fact: Clanwilliam is one of the oldest towns in South Africa. The first settlers arrived in Clanwilliam in 1725.
We were driving on an empty road in the early hours of the morning, it was cold, the wind was blowing and fog covered the landscape. When suddenly we came to a halt and Byron did a sharp u-turn. We had passed The English Man’s Grave. A lonely grave next to an empty road where Lt. Graham Vinicombe Winchester Clowes lies, a British soldier who was killed by Boer commandos in 1901.
The grave itself doesn’t tell you much and left me in wonder. In wonder about the man who lays here, about a time unknown to us, in an almost insignificant spot to us. However, it is where a grieving mother would weep after making the five week journey by sea to the Cape and then travel on until reaching this very spot on the anniversary of her sons death every year. An awfully important and respected spot to her.
I couldn’t help but want to know more. I Googled and one rabbit hole led me down another. History and events that took place in South Africa that I’d never heard of in my life. So interesting, but too much to share it all with you here. I suggest you start here: Engelsman se Graf a really nice article by Andrew Cusack.
The Sevilla Rock Art Trail was our first stop on our Cederberg journey. It is an awesome 5km trail that hosts 9 beautifully kept sites where rock art was left behind by the San people who previously inhabited the Cederberg for thousands of years. There is a little gated entrance to the property, but before you go in, you must go and park at the Travellers Rest Farm stall reception and pay an entrance fee.
Cost: R85.00.p.p (+free pamphlet with information on the 9 sites)
(If you are interested in this trail and are staying at Cederberg Ridge Wilderness Lodge, definitely come and visit with David, one of the guides from the lodge. We didn’t actually go here with him, he took us to the Stadsaal Caves and a few other destinations instead, but his knowledge on the rock art at Sevilla is impeccable and while we ate lunch he was explaining the whole layout to us as if we were all standing there. AMAZING! For the first time ever I felt like I could really connect to the San Art and the stories that they told.)
C. Louis Leipoldt (Christian Frederik Louis Leipoldt) was a very popular poet, dramatist, medical doctor, reporter and food expert in South Africa, especially among the Afrikaans people. Interestingly enough his father was the preacher of the old NG Kerk in Clanwilliam and his grandfather was one of the missionaries that founded the town of Wupperthal in the Cederberg. C. Louis himself had a great love for the Hantam area and a lot of his poetry was about his love for this area. So it is only right that his ashes were laid to rest here, in the rugged Pakhuis Pass.
For a period of time during 1908, C. Louis Liepoldt was the personal physician to Joseph Pulitzer, the American newspaper publisher. Ever watched the musical Newsies? You should!
The Ou Tronk Museum can be seen from the historical main road in Clanwilliam. The museum is actually situated in the old jail. It has the year 1808 on the front of the building, however, apparently, it has been standing way longer than that.
We love visiting museums, especially in small towns. It’s fascinating to see how the town developed and how people used to live back then. Unfortunately, we ran out of time and didn’t get to visit ourselves this time.
Here are some other Historical Sites that you can check out:
We are not sure if you can go into them all, but you could do a historical walkabout.
The Velskoendraai Padstal is a family restaurant and farmstall right near the entrance of Clanwilliam.
They try to use only local fresh produce that is available each season. They also offer Rooibos Tea Tastings, as the area is known for producing the much sought-after tea.
They also have a really funny menu that we found delightful, with quips and jokes along the way. For instance, under dessert, they have the option “I’m On a Diet… R0.00” or you can order the “Velskoen Whatever Pizza” which basically just means you have no idea what you want.
We did, however, wait an awfully long time for our food, (about an hour) so I’d embrace the small town, slow lifestyle concept.
If you are a tea lover, then you have to visit The House of Rooibos in Clanwilliam.
Rooibos has become such a popular tea for all of its health benefits and for the fact that it is caffeine-free.
It comes from the fermented leaves of the Aspalathus linearis shrub that can only be found in the mountains of the Cederberg. Therefore, Clanwilliam is known as the Rooibos capital of the world.
It is a tiny shop but It houses a lot! You can do a tea tasting (iced and hot), you can watch an informative video all about Rooibos itself, they have a shop which sells all things Rooibos, but not only teas. They sell many different cosmetic ranges, including products like firming night creams to rejuvenating eye cream, household items like room sprays, delicious condiments such as sweet Rooibos & soya sauce, Rooibos-infused chutney, Rooibos spread with chilli, it’s crazy! Not to mention all of their blended Rooibos teas, and lattes; we definitely bought a lot from here!
Clanwilliam has been known to host some amazing flower routes, including the Bieudouw Valley and the Ramskop Wild Flower Garden.
You can read more about our wildflower journey here: The Most Spectacular Places To View The Namaqualand Wildflower
Cost: ± R23 p.p (Ramskop Wild Flower Garden)
My goodness, there are just so many hikes that you could do. Short hikes, day hikes, overnight hikes, 8-day hikes. This could definitely be a post unto itself and maybe one day it will be, but for now, since I haven’t done any yet, Byron will share his favourite memory from each hike with you.
Good to Note: You will need hiking permits for most of these hikes. You can get one from the Cape Nature Office (the Algeria Office) or different accommodations along the way like Driehoek.
Cost: (Conservation Fee)
Day Access – R70 p.p.
Night Access – R70. p.p.
Or use your Wild Card
It was nearing the end of our day’s hike and we were looking for a place to camp. We had come to a plateau on the mountain, one that was full of small rocks, no trees and very little of what we would consider good camping ground. After a short sit down, just long enough for our legs to start feeling the hike, we unanimously decided to push on. Although evening was drawing near and Algeria (our next stop) was still quite a distance away, we opted to make it as far as we could.
The distant rumble of the waterfall alerted us to the fact that we were nearly there, but daylight had all but left us and our legs needed more than a mere sit down. It was then that we came across a lone hut just to the side of some woods; it didn’t take much discussion before we were heading there for the night.
The closer we got to the hut, the more we realised that it was more of a structure than anything else. No matter, we dropped our bags and entered to scope it out. I remember Daniel and I being the first two to step foot inside and it was beautiful! Thick straw lay on the concrete floor, it was warm, shaded and comfortable. Positions were already being “shotgunned” when our luck changed.
Our walking on the straw had clearly woken the world’s largest spider who scurried from the floor and up the wall. ‘Hmmm… Not ideal, but not terrible either.’ Then it happened. A second spider hurried across the room, of equally mammoth proportions.
Needless to say, we spent the night under the trees with the soft rumble of the Algeria Waterfall as our ambience.
Welbedacht Cave is generally used as a stop-over when hiking to Tafelberg. Although there are actually a few smaller caves in the area, this one is definitely the best bet when hiking in large groups.
We found ourselves huddled up in the cave after a tiring day of hiking in the rain. I remember nobody even being willing to take off their bags, we just plonked down in silence. The small, yet stark, memory that has stuck with me through the years is Byron (a different Byron) just tilting his head up, opening his mouth and leaning back so that he could catch some drops of water dripping into the cave – he couldn’t have been bothered to retrieve his water bottle from the side of his rucksack.
Ideally, you should have a guide for this one – or at least someone who knows the ropes.
Our time on Tafelberg was awesome, but I will admit, required the assistance of some of the staff who were stationed there during our expedition.
It all began with a tour of the lower cliff face, where an expert geologist showed us how the mountains in the area have formed, been weathered away and shaped by the wind. We were then led around the mountain and into a crack, which was my favourite part. There were large openings that wended their way through the inside of the mountain and we had to climb ledges, shimmy through gaps and take multiple turns to navigate our way through.
Daylight began to stream in at the end of one of the tunnels and we found ourselves emerging on top of the mountain! We had just ascended quite some height without even knowing it, it was just like a fun and natural maze!
Again, we were shown some rock formations (like the famous “Sputnik”, which we obviously climbed inside of) and then guided to our final activity, rock climbing. Climbing up some of the rock faces on Tafelberg was amazing – the climb, the views, the friends. Granted we did some easy routes, I would still love to be back and spend some more days in a harness.
This one was rough.
It was day one. We set off early in the morning from Kliphuis, bundu-bashing along to meet up with Gabriel’s Pass. Our plan was to follow Gabriel’s Pass up and along to the Wolfberg Arch. Simple right?
After hiking for a while (longer than we had anticipated) we were yet to cross this path our map promised us. It was time to regroup. My energy levels were high, as were Brendan’s, so we retrieved the map and picked up our pace. When we were a small distance ahead of the pack, I dropped my rucksack, took the map and leapt up a few boulders to get a better view.
The last boulder I jumped onto wasn’t quite as sturdy as I had hoped and instantly shifted. I caught my balance, the rock didn’t. It tumbled down, pushing me off and rolling over my leg. Based on the sheer size of it and the surrealism of what had just happened, I figured my leg was broken. I couldn’t look.
Brendan sprung into action, sprinting right to me. I looked down. Luckily I had fallen into a small gap, so I could absorb most of the impact. A sharp edge of the boulder had pierced my shin, but everything else looked in tact. Brendan had his water bottle in his hand and swiftly removed the material case to stop the blood from rushing into my sock (for which I am eternally grateful).
The others had arrived now, and first aid kits were being flung in all directions. I knew I needed to clean it first and that it was going to suck. It did. Also, I could see my bone, which is not something I had had any intention of seeing that day or any day in fact.
We disinfected it, placed some gauze over the wound and bandaged it up. As I stood up, the bandage simply slipped off. We repeated this a few times in frustration, until STRRRRK, out came the duct tape. My leg hairs will never forgive me for it, but it got the job done.
With a little bit of pain and restricted movement (and a scar up ’til today) we kept moving.
Arguably the most famous attraction in the Cederberg Wilderness Area, there is a tradition that we do each and every time. Get on top.
Whether coming from Gabriel’s Pass or the Wolfberg Cracks, you finally get onto a plateau and can see the arch in the distance – that’s the worst part. You can literally see where you are headed, but it never gets any closer! It’s a cruel, cruel trick.
After hours of hiking, standing underneath the Wolfberg Arch really takes your breath away (not just because you’re tired). It is massive. It is awesome.
Now, if you look a little to the “thicker” side of the arch, there is a crack that can lead you to the top of it. There is one little jump you need to take that leaves you questioning how you will ever get down, but sitting on top of this beautiful formation and looking out over the Cederberg makes it all worth it.
This is the more common approach to the Wolfberg Arch. Most day-trippers will park here and make the full-day journey up. My favourite memory of the cracks, however, begins when there was no car in sight. In fact, it begins somewhere else entirely.
We had made camp for the night under a nice shelter with a cement floor in preparation for tomorrow’s hike. Now the only reason you don’t sleep under the stars in the Cederberg is if there is the threat of rain, but we weren’t too fazed.
Byron (other Byron) was sleeping next to me and he woke me up very calmly in the morning and simply said ‘get up’. I looked at the sky, it was still dark, it must have been really early… too early. There were clouds and it was raining; the outside was cold, while my sleeping bag was warm. I’m not getting up. No ways.
My defiance didn’t seem to perturb Byron in any way and he continued the morning ritual – except something was different. We’d usually air out our sleeping bags before packing them away, or enjoy some breakfast in their comfort at least, but Byron was packing up everything. Fast.
I looked next to me. A stream of water small enough to be annoying, but large enough to ruin my hike was rushing towards me, already having completely engulfed Byron’s old spot. Without time to direct my anger towards anything, I leapt out of my sleeping bag, shook Daniel awake and told him to ‘get up’. The irony did sink in, but I found some comfort in watching the Mexican wave of drowsy hikers bounding out of their sleeping bags with not a smile in sight.
The rain made no promises of easing up and we had to move on, so we garbed our plastic bags and braved the rain. You know, it’s not so bad as long as your shoes and socks don’t get wet. That’s right. You know it’s coming.
So we get to the parking lot of the cracks and can hardly look up because of the rain torrenting down. The closer we get to the start, the more we realise that the river we have been staring at is actually our pathway up the mountain. There’s nothing left to do but embrace it. Basically swimming up the cracks, with each step in no less than ankle-deep water, we trudged towards the clouds.
Usually you’d get warm when hiking in the rain, but not this time, you see, the cracks also channel the freezing cold wind right to you… constantly.
Why would this be my favourite memory of hiking the Wolfberg Cracks? The spirit.
As we reached the top, we all snuck into the first cave we could find and took off our outer layers of sopping clothing. In a huddle, I brought out my gas cooker and turned it on. A few moments later, so did Gilad. Eventually we had our gas stoves blaring, we were singing songs and running up and down the cave or doing push-ups to get some warmth.
I won’t lie, walking up that path-cum-river was no fun at the time, but I battle to do anything other than smile when I reminisce.
The tallest mountain in the Cederberg Wilderness Area.
My second expedition to the Cederberg was confirmed quite late and so we didn’t actually get to follow the route that we wanted to, which basically meant, no Sneeuberg. This was simply unacceptable.
We spoke to a few of the mountain rangers and they agreed to let us camp on top of Sneeuberg, on the condition that we stay on the smaller platform and get there by 3pm on a certain day. It just so happens that that was the day of our most challenging hike, with a name that suits it “Duiwels Gat” (Devil’s.. uhm.. Hole).
BEEP BEEP BEEP, the patrol alarm rings at 3am and nobody is willing to make the first move. Some of us are contemplating our life choices, while others are just trying to sleep. A little bit of rustling and the alarm turns off. Ah no, somebody’s up. Now you are faced with two choices, stay in your sleeping bag and be piled on and attacked or get up quickly and be one of the instigators.
Weirdly, I will always regret not having checked the time when we actually left Uitkyk, but I know that we passed the waterfall on the side of the road at 4am – which is just before the start of Duiwels Gat.
It’s already bright by 6am and blistering by 7. The problem with Duiwels Gat is that it is steep, long and dry. There are no random pools, no trees, no downhills… just long, long hiking.
This was my second time hiking Duiwels Gat, and I will celebrate to this day, but I had forgotten about a small oasis along the way. Just one. That icy mountain water just reinvigorates you. It sort of feels too cold to even get into (only your feet really, it’s tiny), but you force yourself because you know what’s ahead.
We drank as much as we could, filled up our bottles and headed off.
It was midday now and we weren’t quite as close as we needed to be, so lunch was munching some dry crackers while continuing to move.
Finally, we made it to the Sneeuberg hut, where we were to meet the rangers at 3pm. It was 3pm, but there were no rangers. We sat and laughed at the fact that we had just conquered this massive hike and are now at the point where most people only begin doing what we were still planning to do. Anyway. We spotted the rangers… making their way up Sneeuberg.
No two words were uttered before we were all up and speeding along the path. We were not going to miss this one.
Our speed hiking paid off as we caught up to the crew, who somehow didn’t seem overly thrilled that we had actually made it, but who cares, we were about to spend another night on top of the world!
Summiting Sneeuberg is no small feat, but really felt like nothing to us that day. Little sleep, dry crackers and Duiwels Gat had voided us of any rationality.
15 hours after taking our first steps that morning, we were sitting down to watch the sunset over the Cederberg and there’s nothing quite like it.
For some reason, this tor has become quite famous in the Cederberg and often makes its way onto the cover of magazines and online articles. I must be honest, I don’t know why.
I have only hiked to it once and was quite let down, not because it isn’t cool, but because there is so much more to the Cederberg.
My advice would be to only include the Maltese Cross on a different trail, such as heading up Sneeuberg, rather than making it a separate trip on its own, but, each to their own.
As for my favourite memory of it, it would have to be how we were too busy reminiscing about our time atop Sneeuberg to even notice it nearing. We stopped at it, spoke about how it would probably be frowned upon to try and climb it, so we continued back to Kliphuis, a.k.a. base camp.
Please don’t get me wrong, I love the Cederberg and would hike out here every day rather than sit behind a desk, but when you are in the Cederberg… You know… There’s lots to do.
Thanks for sharing your memories Byron… Onward
I’m assuming you know the story of Lot’s wife right? The lady in the bible who looked back and turned and then dissolved into a pillar of salt?
Ya, I don’t think it has anything to do with that, I actually have no idea why it’s called Lot’s wife. However, you can see a rock formation that looks like a woman praying.
You will find a small parking area before you reach Dwarsriver farm. All you have to do is climb out and explore. The whole trail is about an hour and a half long, a relatively short one for the Cederberg.
Truitjieskraal is a short interpretive trail lined with information boards that tell you all about the San and Khoekhoe cultures. It is also one of the most impressive places to go and check out rock art as there are over 2500 rock art paintings on the trail!
This is one that neither of us has conquered yet. It is the third-largest peak in the Cederberg and we are sure equally as epic! You see, you can come back to the Cederberg time and time again and still have new places to explore!
Due to previous graffiti damage, Cape Nature is trying their best to protect these caves so you will have to purchase a permit to get in to see them. There is a gate with a combination lock on it, and all you need to do is enter the code you received with your permit.
Stadsaal Caves or translated into English, City Hall Caves, are huge rock formations that have eroded over time and have created interleading caves and passageways that provided shelter to humans from various walks of life.
First, it was home to the San /Xam hunter-gatherers who lived in the Cederberg area for over 500 000 years. They left behind fascinating rock art telling stories of religion, spirituality, living situations, family and so on.
Many years later it became a rumoured meeting ground for the national party in 1948 (which is also where it got its name, City Hall). It houses some really old graffiti left behind by the people in the party itself, as well as some other names that date back to the 1880s (like C. Louis Leipoldt) as well as the names of the old owners of the farm and their friends.
This is actually in the same gated area as the Stadsaal Caves. Once you enter into the reserve, it’s the first turnoff to the right.
The rock art depicts three different groups of people and a herd of elephants. The most interesting part is that one of the elephants at the back of the herd has turned around and is headed in the opposite direction to the rest. There is no definite consensus yet of why this may have been or what it could mean, maybe a lesson on life and death, what do you think?
The Cederberg Astronomical Observatory hosts a two-hour stargazing show every Saturday night, where they introduce you to the brilliance of the night sky and you get to gaze into one of their telescopes. This was something we were so looking forward to and it was very high on our bucket list (well as a couple, Byron has visited before) because the Cederberg has the most incredible unpolluted night sky and when the stars come out to play, they are just phenomenal. Unfortunately for us, we couldn’t go because they were closed on the Saturday that we were there due to moon interference.
So, if this is high on your bucket list or something you really want to do, take a look at their schedule online. Currently, they only have dates for 2020, so just keep your eyes open until they update the website.
For all of you wine connoisseurs out there, pay a visit to Cederberg Wines.
While staying at the Cederberg Ridge Wilderness Lodge we had a lovely visit here with David, our guide. We had just visited the Stadsaal Caves and the Elephant Rock Art before arriving at the wine farm and, courtesy of Cederberg Ridge, had a picnic outside. This is where we discussed all of the history that we had just seen and when David described the entirety of the Sevilla Rock Art Trail to us just from his memory! Truly impressive. We had so, so, so many questions for him and he answered them all… really well.
After that, we made our way inside for some wine tasting.
I will say that Byron and I don’t know much about wine yet, and felt that they didn’t really help a newbie out. They kind of just expected you to know what you wanted. Maybe it was because of the whole covid situation, but nevertheless, it would have helped to know wine. We did overhear a very happy international customer who knew exactly what he wanted and apparently he makes a special effort to go down to the Cederberg every time he visits especially for the wine. So, maybe you will find it easier to navigate than we did.
Basically, the Maalgat swimming hole is just that. A big natural swimming hole in the mountains. It’s really deep which makes cliff jumping possible and there are even various heights that you can jump from to test your resolve. The swimming hole itself is located at Sanddrif and you can get a permit from them, however, they don’t give out permits to day visitors over the school holidays or long weekends.
Warning: The Cederberg is scorching hot during the summer and the hole has no shade. So be careful!
We stopped off at The Baths on our way out of the Cederberg. It is a campground offering other accommodations too, such as self-catering chalets and flats.
The reason for our visit, however, was to see the baths themselves; two pools filled from natural hot springs that can reach up to 43 degrees celsius!
The campgrounds do look very nice and Byron and I said we might just come back to test them out! They also have natural rock pools, hiking trails and a restaurant.
Be warned that you have to pre-book your visit. We didn’t and almost got turned away. Luckily for us, they let us in.
You can find out more here: The Baths
Cost: R100 p.p
If you watched our vlog, you will know that we sat outside the museum and the Sandveldhuisie for quite a while.
They were both clearly open, however our calls for assistance were left unanswered and we felt too awkward to roam around inside without first alerting someone that we were there. Eventually we decided to move on. Just as we were leaving, we saw people arriving back into the building; so we just came at an awkward time, but it is definitely something you can do.
The museum is obviously a museum, while the Sandveldhuisie is like an arts and crafts store mixed in with a coffee shop and deli, making it great for road trip refreshments.
Normally, I would just tell you where to stay, but this time the accommodation has to be listed as something to do in itself!
Cederberg Ridge Wilderness Lodge is absolutely amazing! Their suites break away from the lodge and offer guests their own sense of isolation in the wilderness, while still allowing you to live the ultimate luxury lifestyle.
You can read all about it here: Tranquility At Cederberg Ridge Wilderness Lodge
From a simple cabin to a campsite under the trees, from a walk to the neighbouring waterfall to a pig that believes he is a horse, from roaming alpacas to an old family museum… This is the magic of Driehoek Guest Farm.
You can read all about it here: The Allure Of A Cabin In The Mountains
Kagga Kamma’s Open Air Suites are absolutely amazing and a must-do bucket list activity! You are completely isolated from everyone, you have luxury comforts in the middle of the wilderness, you can have a jacuzzi while staring up at the night sky and all of the beautiful stars. It’s awesome! It’s also where we got engaged!
You can read all about it here: Coming Soon…
In the meantime, watch it here: Kagga Kamma
This family guesthouse is located in the Koue Bokkeveld. It lies within the gates of one of the oldest family businesses in South Africa and offers you solitude amongst nature, warmth within its walls and history all around you.
You can read all about it here: Warmth Beneath Snow-Capped Mountains At Boplaas Guesthouse
In the meantime, watch it here: Boplaas
Recently, my father and stepmother decided to hire out a van and hit the road to experience some of that super cool van life.
They travelled through the Cederberg and loved it! Stopping off at Algeria and Kliphuis. We are very keen to go back and try Cederberg van life – anything to be back there really…
Summers (November to Mid March) are hot and dry.
Autumn (Mid-March to April) are warm in the daytime, while a little cooler in the evenings.
Winter (May to Mid-August) have comparably high daytime temperatures for winter. The evenings and mornings prove to be chilly. You could also be faced with one or two rainy days.
Spring (September to October) The winters have passed and the flower season is in full swing!
The Cederberg is located right near Clanwilliam, about 241km from Cape Town.
For the sake of this travel guide, I’m going to give you the distance to Clanwilliam. From there you can easily enter the Cederberg Wilderness Area.
I do think it’s important to note that having a 4×4 or high ground clearance car would be greatly appreciated on these roads. It’s not 100% compulsory because we did it fine in a little sedan. However, a 4×4 would have been lovely to have. The roads are mainly sand and if there has been a lot of rain in the area, some of the streams flood and cover sections of the road – and then you will need the 4×4, but this doesn’t happen often at all.
We absolutely love the Cederberg and will venture out time and time again to spend time in the mountains. It makes an epic road trip destination!
Make sure you save this post for later by pinning a picture down below, so you can refer to it later when you travel down to the Cederberg.
Then share your favourite memory or two from your time in the Cederberg with us? Don’t forget to tag us and hashtag #DtenrouteSA!
Enjoy Your Journey!