Tips for your trip to Cederberg

Winter in Cape Town is rainy and cold: terrible conditions to climb and hike in, so this winter Jake and I decided to enjoy indoor activities like indoor markets, finding good restaurants and having more hot chocolate than should be allowed, and we had tons of fun doing so.

The Cederberg in South Africa is an incredible place to visit. The natural beauty will leave you speechless., and there are so many ways to explore the Cederberg. If you are planning an adventure to the Cederberg, keep these top tips in mind to help you get the most out of your trip...

But, after a couple of months of this we both started yearning for some outdoor adventure and climbs. So, somewhere in July we decided that we needed to plan a little getaway. August was coming and the rainy season was beginning to subside so this was the perfect opportunity to plan something big. We toyed with a few ideas but after realising we really want to hike and climb we settled on going to the Cederberg for 5 days.

The Cederberg conservancy is well known among hikers and climbers in Cape Town both for its natural beauty and magnificent and challenging climbs. So, naturally, as soon as the rainy, cold season began to subside, this was the first place Jake and I thought of going to celebrate the coming of Spring (even though it was a month away).

As we drove towards Cederberg and  further and further away from Cape Town it was amazing to see civilization just melting away and giving way to the natural beauty that we don’t often get to see living in the city.  Planted grass gave way to colourful wild shrubs and small flowering trees. Manicured lawns gave way to seas of bright flowers as far as the eye could see and paved pathways became dramatic, rocky landscapes. It was like we’d taken a time machine to a time before man ever set foot on the continent. It was humbling, inspiring and exciting all at once. This is my favourite part of climbing and hiking trips, getting to see the world as nature intended, in all its glory.

What is the Cederberg?

The Cederberg is a huge expanse of land that has some amazingly rugged rock formations as well as a variety of flowering plants and hiking trails that are distinctly unique to the area.  It is a conservancy, so the area is mostly untouched except for a few farms and camping sites along a dirt road.  This was the perfect romantic/ camping and climbing getaway weekend and a wonderful way to end the winter.

While I had been to the Cederberg a few times before I had only done some light hiking to visit the crystal clear rock pools. I had never actually climbed there and I had certainly not been there in winter before, so this was an exciting adventure for me.

The beauty of driving to, and through the Cederberg

Driving into the Cederberg conservancy is a spiritual experience. The rugged red dirt roads travel in between and sometimes on the edge of towering mountains and everywhere we looked there was an array of stunning shrubs all in flower. Even the atmosphere seemed to feel different.  Just watching the scenery roll past us and new mountains and scenery opening to us calmed us down.

Cederberg rocks

Watch out for the rainy season’s floods

After hours of driving we easily found the Cederberg/Algeria sign that marked the beginning of endless dirt roads for the next 5 days. This was the quickest way to get to our first camp site, but not 10 minutes after turning into the dirt road we stopped dead in our tracks. For a good few seconds we just sat there staring at the sight ahead of us.

The route we needed to take passed over a small river via a low lying bridge. The problem was that it had rained heavily the night before and the river was now swollen, so much so that it completely consumed the bridge. We were not in a 4×4 or any kind of fancy off-road vehicle so trying to cross the river would only end in disaster, it just wasn’t worth the risk. Panic almost set in, we had come this far and made all our bookings, we couldn’t turn back now!

Know your route

Luckily Jake knew of another way to get to our camp site that didn’t involve crossing this swollen river, but it would take much longer to get there. We didn’t want to drive the dirt roads in the dark, but that was the least of our problems.

As we travelled further and further away from Clamwilliam, the nearest town we could access, we realised that we really should have invested in a jerry can. Because of the long detour our petrol consumption would be much higher than we initially estimated. It was way too late to turn back and get one and we just hoped that the river would subside by the time we were ready to head home.

Keep an eye on your petrol usage

Even though there was so much we wanted to see we were forced to alter our Cederberg touring  itinerary slightly so that we would stick to hiking trails and climbing spots that were relatively close to the campsite, just to conserve petrol. This actually ended up being a good thing because we didn’t waste too much time driving around, and we had more time to have fun.

After a couple of hours on the dirt road and flowing landscape we came across a few bright green vineyards that seemed totally out of place in the harsh Cederberg mountains. Soon after, we came to the farm where we would be camping for the first few nights of our Cederberg trip. We were tired and hungry and ready for soft beds, so it was awesome that we had decided to book into a chalet for the first few nights.

Camping and Chalets

The chalet was a warm, inviting, cute little cottage with a fire place and space to sleep at least 6 people.  It was the kind of home away from home that makes you feel relaxed and safe the second you enter it. The Kromriver farm really was the perfect place to rest after the long drive. We were greeted with a warm and friendly welcome and we were so glad to see a fridge full of cold drinks and even locally made craft beer at the reception area, which doubled up as a little coffee shop.

The sun was setting as we unpacked and prepared supper. The stars above us soon lit up the sky as it only does when you are far from the city and high in the mountains. And we enjoyed the rest of the evening star gazing and sipping Cederberg pumpkin ale that we bought at reception, while planning the activities of the next day. Up next, climbing and exploring the Cederberg rock.  I was like a kid on the first day of holidays; I couldn’t wait to start having fun.

Also note: Cell Phone Reception

There is no phone reception at all in the Cederberg area. Let people at home know where you are going and where you will be staying just in case. It’s always a good idea to keep a list of emergency numbers when you are traveling there.

Take extra petrol

The Cederberg is a vast area with kilometres and kilometres of rough dirt road. If you want to really explore the area to its fullest you will definitely need a jerry can with extra fuel. You really don’t want the added stress of potentially running out of fuel ruining your trip.

Use an off road vehicle

While you can in theory drive the dirt roads of the Cederberg in a normal car you do risk damaging your tyres and suspension. If you can, rent or borrow a 4×4. This will make the trip a lot less bumpy too.

Drive carefully

If you are not used to driving dirt roads then you should know that it is a whole different ball game to driving nice smooth tarred roads. You will need to drive less than 50km/hr even if you are in a rush to get somewhere. Driving faster will increase your risk of blowing a tyre, and there is no cell phone reception to call road side assistance.

Always carry extra food and water

The Cederberg is a large area of land with no shops or malls at all, and dirt roads do take longer to travel than tar roads. It’s always a good idea to take extra supplies as well as extra distilled water for your car, just in case.

Carry clothes for all seasons

The Cederberg is known for its indecisive climate. While it might be warm during the day, the nights can get very cold. When you pack, make sure you have the right clothes for camping. This will make your trip so much more comfortable and enjoyable.

Plan activities close to your campsite

You really don’t want to be driving for most of your trip to the Cederberg, so plan things close to your campsite. Luckily there is plenty to do in the Cederberg conservancy, from hiking and mountain biking to climbing and even just spending the day taking pictures of the views that surround you.

Know your routes

Make sure you have a map with you at all times. The dirt roads are mostly unmarked and can get very confusing so having a map and keeping track of the landmarks around you will ensure that you don’t have to spend the night in your car because you got lost.

Phone in advance to check that roads aren’t blocked

No matter the season you are planning to travel in its always good practice to phone in advance to check what the weather is like in Cederberg as well as if the roads are closed or rivers are swollen.

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