South Africa’s Cederberg reserve – the names means ‘mountains where cedars grow’ – is inland from the rugged west Atlantic coast and two hours’ drive from Cape Town. This place of towering mountains and dramatic beauty is largely the preserve of hikers content to sleep beneath the stars, although here and there are stone overnight huts for backpackers, and the occasional bed and breakfast.
Hiking the Cederberg Wilderness Area
Abiding Nature Paradise
The area set aside in 1973 comprises 710 km2 (270 square miles) and is a Cape floral region protected area. The high spots are renowned for dramatic sandstone formations and the valleys for stunning floral displays. The weather is harsh to unforgiving for the unprepared. Summers are hot and dry from October through to March, while in the winter rainfall is sparse with occasional snow dustings on the tips of mountaintops.
There is wildlife in abundance for those who care to look, although hikers are safe provided they take precautions sleeping under stars. Predators include shy leopard and caracal wild cats with tufted ears also known as desert lynx. Their prey includes rock hyrax ‘dassies’, large antelope, chacma baboons, and also birds, smaller mammals, insects and reptiles. Every spring carpets of wild flowers cover much of the area for a few short weeks.
Threads of Fading History
When European settlers arrived the native hunter-gatherers regarded their cattle as part of the bounty their Gods provided. Their bows and arrows were no match for settler firepower, and so they retreated to mountains inland where they made their final stand as they recorded their culture on the walls of Stadsaal sandstone caves.
Today, the new generation of invaders are tourists flocking here, although conservation rangers ensure they follow planned routes to scenic spots that make this region famous. With no electric light, a trillion stars stud the night skies. A visit to an amateur astronomical observatory is a perfect entrée to cooking fires burning down until perfect for a barbeque ‘braai’. Remember to ask to taste the region’s indigenous ‘rooibos‘ red bush tea.