South Africa’s Cederberg mountain range is a place where time stands still, and city lights have never shown on the horizon. This unspoiled hiking paradise is rich in nature’s giant sandstone carvings and San rock paintings in secret caves, and is a hiker’s paradise for those who choose to sleep beneath the twinkling stars.
Wolfberg Crack Formation
The reserve extends for approximately 50 kilometres / 31 miles from north to south, and 20 kilometres /12 miles east to west. It includes several mountains. The biggest ones are the Sneeuberg – Snow Mountain – and Tafelberg – Table Mountain (but not the one in Cape Town 230 kilometres /140 miles to the south and 2.5 hours away by hire car).
The dominant geological features are reddish sandstone boulders the wind has whittled away into unusual shapes. Thanks to bands of shale, we know the lower-lying areas were once beneath the ocean for they contain fossils of primitive fish dating back 450 million years. There are magnificent overnight trails through the area.
Cederberg Hiking Trails
The first recorded human visitors were San hunter-gatherer people who wandered freely and left their thoughts on walls of caves. They had no sense of ownership. The land, the animals, the stars in the sky above all belonged to the great collective that allowed them to gather food everywhere they went.
San Painting in Stadsaal (City Hall) Cave
The Clanwilliam cedar trees after which settlers named the area are almost all gone now, having become telephone poles and fence posts thanks to a previous, less aware generation. Some animal species have fared better, and leopards, caracals, antelopes, zebra and baboons still forage across the flowering fynbos small bushes, and semi-desert scrub for which the Cederberg is renowned.
Cederberg Fynbos Bushes at Sunset
These days the Cederberg belongs to eco-tourism, including camping, off-road biking, rock climbing and hiking although a few farms continue harvesting renewable rooibos herbal tea and protea flower plantations. Much of the northern area falls under the sympathetic jurisdiction of the Moravian Church, that maintains a quaint mission station where tourists snap up hand-made leather shoes and boots.
Tourist accommodation remains a sensitive point. Some hikers prefer it never existed. Most agree it has a right to, provided it does not interrupt the panorama of nature. I thought this lodge is a great compromise between the two alternatives, although it is just one of many stunning locations in the area.