My annual holidays in South Africa almost always involves extensive hiking activity, often with my friend from school days, Ralph Pina. Despite being married with children with children, Ralph has the luxury and freedom of being able to disappear into the country, whilst also sharing some activities with the family. December 2017 saw us off to the Cedarberg Sandrif and Algeria camp sites for 4-5 days of hiking, which included a possible overnight at the Maltese Cross.
The Cedarberg is a dry wilderness of spectacular beauty. The first night was spent at the beautiful campsite at Sandrif, accessed by road via Ceres and Op die Berg. Early the second day we set off on a walk to the Maltese Cross, having parked at the entrance to the reserve. Once there, we met up with three members of CALDI, a UCT-based group studying African languages and we learnt much as to how their efforts have helped to preserve the cultural heritage and transfer it to written form. We were only able to stay at Algeria for two nights. The next day we visited the rock paintings and Stadsal caves, where entrance is by permit only. We lunched at Cedarberg Oasis en route to Algeria campsite on the western side of the Cedarberg, which turned out to be somewhat more crowded. Temperatures generally soared well into the 30’s Celsius. No mercy and no respite.
Having transferred from Sandrif to Algeria campsites, we settled on a walk up the valley from Algeria along the Rondegat river, whilst easier than that to Maltese Cross, was nonetheless undertaken in mid-thirty Celsius temperatures, thus presenting something of a challenge.
Such was our thirst that we were prepared to drive the 28 km (in both directions) just to lay our hands on a six pack of Windhoek lagers, post the walk. The extent of the severe drought can be seen everywhere. Whilst revellers are able to bathe in the waters passing by Algeria campsite, the levels in the Clanwilliam Dam show the reality of the Western Cable’s water shortage.
We were lumped with rather interesting campsite neighbours, a collection of families from the Cape Flats. Boisterous to begin with, they did tone noise levels down a tad after a day. This coincided with the subsequent removal of a zip-line which had attracted all the kids in the campsite. Despite having our tranquillity shattered somewhat, the Cedarberg remains a special place of real beauty. A howling southerly wind tore through the campsite on the final evening, threatening to levitate the tent I was sleeping in. Ralph was safe in the camping utility perched on the roof of his bakkie.