Go Travel: Cederberg Mountains
Cape Town is a beautiful city. Its sparkly waters and even more sparkly people have made it the supermodel of Africa. Between million billion dollar luxury homes, trendy clubs and high end cocktails it’s a place that’s easy to have fun. But when the urge for a more chilled out weekend strikes, tuck the stilettos away and head out of town to camp in the Cederberg Mountains.
That’s just what my boyfriend, JD, and I did over the long weekend. This is a great time of year to live in South Africa. Public holidays spring up like wonderfully welcome weeds. Short work weeks abound and spontaneous adventure beckons. So, armed with our Boy Scout tent and Honda Civic (that is still running without a proper fan belt) we headed up the West Coast.
The division between jazzy Cape Town and wide open bush land is so stark that it takes a moment to register. Less than fifteen minutes after leaving our Blouberg apartment we were officially in the middle of nowhere. The West Coast had begun.
The West Coast of South Africa is one of the most underrated travel destinations in the world. While travel blogs and travel guides go on and on about the Garden Route (and rightfully so) they gloss over – or forget completely – SA’s other coastal route. The West Coast is a series of small fishing towns, smaller mountain towns and the Cederberg Mountains. The Drakensberg Mountains may be the more famous South African mountain range, but that’s ok by me. The Drakensberg can keep its travel reviews and reputation as the safest place to be when the Earth comes to an end. That just leaves more of the Cederberg open and unexplored. For those of you who like your mountains wild and quiet, the Cederberg will impress with its rugged rocks and twisty dirt roads.
We chose to camp at Driehoek Guest Farm, about two hours outside of Cape Town. This wasn’t our first time setting up camp in these mountains, but the Cederberg still got to me. Every time I come I wonder if maybe the people who choose to surround themselves with the great outdoors (instead of city car alarms) have it figured out better than the rest of us. That overly complicated sentence meant to say this: the Cederberg makes sense. The air was a little fresher, the sky a little bigger. And, most amazing of all, a whole new season was in full force: Fall. I know, I know, only Americans say Fall, while the rest of you laugh and call it Autumn. My South African boyfriend loves to say, “If Autumn is Fall because the leaves fall off the trees, then Winter should be called Stick.” But this was Fall.
No offense, South Africa, but your Autumn is weak. A few yellowish leaves here and there, an extra layer of clothes, and that’s it. This is what you get all excited about and call a new season. Back home in Michigan, Fall is an extravaganza. Trees look like they’re on fire with their brilliant red, orange and crazy neon yellow leaves. The air changes completely. It’s not just cooler, it’s physically sharper. It invigorates with you an energy that can only be satisfied by drinking apple cider, eating fresh doughnuts and hunting for pumpkins. Fall conveys a magical time of year where piles of leaves bigger than houses pop up all over town and you’re free to jump in any of them. It’s a time when your hyper aware of your rosy cheeks after coming in from outside, and you forget that summer was only a few weeks ago. Fall and Autumn are not the same thing.
So when I say Fall was alive and well in the Cederberg, I say so with a great deal of respect. Granted, there weren’t as many leafy trees to entertain with their changing colors. But Fall was in the air. Night time was wonderfully, snuggle up cold. Days had that intoxicating crispness. We still got away with hiking in just shorts and even jumping in a little pond (and by “we” I mean “JD”). But Fall was there.
It was there as we stumbled on Bushmen paintings and a leopard’s well used cave. It was there as we dodged the biggest flying bugs I’ve ever seen. It was there when we hiked, got lost, hiked and got lost again. It was there as we examined eerie burnt flowers that had somehow been perfectly preserved by the fire, and as I ran from the scorpion JD antagonized. It was there as we huddled around our campfire, drank coffee that tastes better after being laboriously made cup by cup, and used fallen logs to cross streams lined with golden Birch trees.
I didn’t realize how much I’ve missed Fall until I had a little piece of it for the weekend. Now get out there and go see it for yourself.