Article by Alex Kock, courtesy of Lekker Kampplekke
If I was a songwriter, I would have penned down lyrics about the beauty that is the Cederberg mountains, à la Lynyrd Skynyrd’s 1974 ode to Alabama… Big wheels keep on turning, carry me home to see my kin…
My kin – albeit not by blood – lies in the Cederberg mountains. For me and my family, this is our home away from home, the place we hold as dear as Lynyrd Skynyrd holds Alabama… Lord, I’m coming home to you… It is a place of sacred silence and splendour that I doubt you will find anywhere else in the country (dare I say the world?). It gives you landscapes and views guaranteed to take your breath away, unique and historic rock formations and unforgettable evenings under the milky way… Simply exquisite and without a doubt, my favourite place in the whole wide world.
We have been camping in the Cederberg area for the last eight years, sometimes up to four times a year and have witnessed everything from floods to perfect days. And while the temperature can rise to well above 40°C or dip into the minuses, it is always a treat to visit this region. People often ask me why the Cederberg mountains continue to make such an impression on me. The answer is easy: it offers incredible peace and quiet, coupled with an excess of scenery – what more could you ask for? If heaven was a place on earth, this would be it. But if you do need more, it offers an array of activities: beautiful backroads and trails, waterfalls, streams for swimming, famous rock formations at Truitjieskraal and the Stadsaal and Khoisan drawings.
Furthermore, you can get your hike on with some popular hiking routes such as Wolfberg Arch and Maltese Cross. The area boasts a variety of great campsites and other accommodation options, but I lost my heart at Mount Ceder over the past couple of years. Why Mount Ceder? Well, it feels like home – whenever we arrive we feel welcome, and the hospitality of owners Adele and Pieter is incredible. They will always go that extra mile to ensure every visit is the best one yet.
So, let’s hit the road… back to my “kin”! Its Monday and according to the weather forecast, the weekend ahead will be perfect for some camping. I quickly confirm our stand with Adele and start counting the sleeps until the weekend. Come Friday, we knock off early and turn our vehicle’s nose to this spot so dear to our hearts. Another reason I find the Cederberg area so attractive is the fact that although it feels far from civilisation it is, in fact, not that far in distance. This, of course, makes it a great weekend getaway option. From Paarl, it is precisely 186km to Mount Ceder via Ceres through the Gydo Pass whereafter you see the turn-off to Klein Cederberg. From there it’s 50km gravel until you reach Mount Ceder.
Upon arrival, camp stalwart Gladson helps to ease the admin of signing in, and we set off to our home for the next few days – a beautiful campsite close to the river. As with every single time I stop here, I realise that I would not want to be anywhere else in the world at this moment. For me, there are two critical factors to consider when I assess a camp terrain – firstly, how neat the lawns are and secondly: what does the braai area look like. At Mount Ceder everything is, of course, spotless (hence why we return time after time). We quickly set up camp so that we can enjoy the beautiful late afternoon without feeling rushed. It’s quiet, not a leaf rustles under the camelthorn trees, and the fire is lit… pure perfection! We pour ourselves an enjoyable glass of Cederberg wine, coming from the country’s highest-altitude wine cellar at 1 000m above sea level and start with dinner.
On Friday evenings our go-to meal is roosterkoek burgers as it’s quick, easy and with alternating fillings of lamb, steak, chicken or a mince patty it hits the spot every time. The left-overs are packed away for a breakfast roll with bacon and eggs – food fit for a king! It’s a beautiful evening, with abundant stars so close it feels as if we can touch them. Once again, I realise how blessed we are to end off a busy week in this special place. Waking up the next morning we are greeted with a rather chilly 2°C, but there’s nothing a warm cup of boeretroos can’t fix. While the kettle comes to a boil, we stand in awe of the day breaking in a festival of spectacular colours – a promise of a beautiful day ahead. After our special roosterkoek breakfast roll, we are ready to head out. Although I have explored most of the Cederberg area on my many visits, I still enjoy a drive out to appreciate the scenery.
We opt for a back road through to Truitjieskraal and find a sheltered rock formation to enjoy another cuppa, right there in the veld. There is not a soul in sight – just the way we like it! After a bit more driving to appreciate the picturesque surroundings, we head back to Mount Ceder to hike the waterfall trail that forms part of the farm. The pristine beauty of the area is simply breathtaking – if you have not been there before, it should get onto your bucket list. Back at camp, we enjoy a quick lunch of fresh potato chips with a playlist featuring the Springbok Radio hits of old and we wish we could freeze time.
Relaxed, we explore the area around the camp and stand in awe of the beautiful pink vygies in full bloom. The Cape experienced some great rain this year, resulting in rivers flowing in the Cederberg that I have not seen before, even as a regular visitor. As such, I get to experience a Cederberg first: sundowners next to the flowing river next to our camp site – indeed a lovely experience. Saturdays allow you to spoil your guests with some inventive bush cooking, a good potjie or a lekker braai. Tonight we keep it “healthy” with our favourite veggies (pork belly and chicken) on the coals accompanied by braaipap and sauce. Sitting next to the fire, I realise yet again how privileged we are to be able to camp and enjoy the outdoors in this way.
How on earth could I then ever consider leaving this country for the apparent greener pastures elsewhere in the world!? My visits to Mount Ceder are precious to me – it’s a place where I have lost my heart over and over again. As a fully operational farm, it produces high-quality olives and olive oil. The camp terrain consists of three private sites with solar and battery power. The ablution block is always pristine, and they have fresh, running water. There are also more sheltered accommodation options available for those colder winter months. Sunday morning comes too soon and after another unforgettable sunrise on the river bank, coffee in-hand, we pack up and head to the restaurant for breakfast before going home. Driving back, we treasure our memories and review our calendars to see when we can come to visit again.
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