Cederberg Park Reserve

With our lives being super demanding and our daily schedules consuming us, now and then we must draw a line in the sand and say all stop. 

A while back I returned from yet another remote project and made the call that my boy and I must go away for a father and son weekend together as long as it is somewhere in the Cederberg Park Reserve mountains, which is located in the Western Cape of South Africa. 

This would also give my lovely wife some time for herself to relax after holding up the fort while I have been away working.

I trawled some online outdoor escape sites and found a great place in the Cederberg reserve mountains for our weekend away called Kromrivier lodge. Our plan was to leave Friday early, drive up, check-in early afternoon, and then start our weekend away in the mountains of the Western Cape. 

Plenty of Accommodation Options for Budget and Comfort

The Cederberg Conservancy website listed great backpacker campsite options, cottages, and new upmarket cabins. We booked one of the older, smaller farm cottages. Because it was just the two of us, we needed little in the way of packing. 

All we required was some fresh mountain air and some epic trails to explore.

Packing was easy. Outlined below is our basic packing list. Remember, this is a boy’s weekend away. So, toys and food were all that was required for our mini weekend break away.

3 Day BikePacking Gear Packing List:

Easy to Make Meals for Camping

Food for a boy’s weekend away is easy and uncomplicated. Some Rump steaks, sausage (Boerewors), Hotdog rolls, a loaf of bread, couple of fresh tomatoes, 700g of Cheese, 2 onions, biltong/ drone wors, nuts, dried fruit, Bovril, Butter, French press coffee, Windhoek lite beers for dad and Appletisers and some juice for the young man. 

We packed the grill with some firelighters and some matches in case they didn’t have any at the campsite. There would be no fire if these basic essentials were missing. If I knew about their well-stocked store and restaurant, then I would have even packed less.

All the above were loaded into our Defender and we were set off for our boy’s weekend away. Next, I had a look at the weather forecast.

Besides the late-night temperature drops we were in for some serious heat in the Cederberg, all in the high 38°C (100°F) good thing we packed our caps and hydration tabs. 

All routes were beautiful heading into our campsite

The drive out to the Cederberg was great, we blasted some old-school 80’s tunes i.e. The Cure, Depeche Mode, and some AC/DC rock all the way into the Cederberg. Until we could replace our music with the serenity of the Cederberg mountains. 

Driving from Cape town you have two options into the Cederberg catchment area.  One road option you can take is up the Westcoast and then head in from the Citrusdal area or the other option you can head inland via Ceres and then snake your way into the Cederberg region. Both roads are equally beautiful and worth the drive.

Turning into Cederberg park nature reserve took us onto a newly built tarred pass which eventually had us drop into the valley between the farms that operate in this harsh environment. I cannot imagine farming in such a dry diverse area. 

This area is super cold in the winter and sweltering hot in the summer. Due to the diverse climate in this region, there is also some wine production happening. Roughly 60km’s in, we dropped onto some corrugated gravel roads and snaked our way to the Kromrivier resort. 

The road was well-marked all the way until we found our turnoff. From the turnoff we turned right and slowly descended onto this little dirt pass, only to be greeted by an oasis called the Kromrivier resort at the bottom of the valley.

The Accommodations

We checked in at Kromrivier reception and went off to find our cottage called “Tortelduif” for the two nights. It is great to see the use of Afrikaans birdlife to name these cottages.

Our little cottage was right next to one of the newly built upmarket chalets. But we needed nothing more than what we had at our little “Tortelduif” cottage. 

Once we offloaded the Defender, we quickly got our two bikes’ front wheels locked in and went off to explore the resort grounds. It was absolutely sweltering hot outside.

Exploring the Park Requires a Permit

We did a couple of loops around the resort grounds just to get our bearings and then cycled back to the reception and grabbed a snack at the well-stocked onsite store.

I had to arrange for a permit at reception which would allow us to access two different cave sites the following day where there are historical bushman drawings. 

With the issuing of our site permit the lady at reception noticed that we were on our bicycles out and warned us if we want to venture further away from the campsite, we must set our alarms for an early start if we want to escape the sweltering daytime heat within the valley.

Once the sun started to dip behind the Cederberg mountain range, my son stacked us a campfire and got it going.

Fire lit – we both sat outside, watching the last bits of daylight disappear and the flickering of our campfire illuminating new foreign shapes around us. 

It gets cold at night, bring a hoodie

Temperatures dropped quite quickly, and we both grabbed our warm tops and relaxed next to the fire until our coals would allow us to cook our meat. My boy cooked the boerewors, and I cooked the steaks to perfection, enough food to feed a small army. 

This mountain of food would definitely see us through the rest of the weekend. With our bellies full, dishes washed, we both crashed out early in our beds and drifted off to the nighttime sounds of the Cederberg mountains.

To avoid the heat, get an early start

The following morning, we had an early start or so we thought as we noticed loads of other cyclists returning from their morning rides out. The previous night I studied the area map and knew which way I wanted us to head in. 

There were some caves and bushmen drawings I wanted to visit at the “Stadsaal” site. 

Bring insect repellent, to ward off the flies

We were roughly 10 km from the campsite and noticed every time we slowed down, veldt flies would hoard us. They were freaking everywhere. My poor lad complained that he could barely see with all the flies buzzing around his head. 

It was so comical that I just had to stop and take a photo of us two in our predicament with mother nature.

 Luckily, I had an extra headscarf (Buff) with me and helped him to cover his head and face under the cycling helmet. I suggested that we turn back, at least it would be downhill back to camp. 

In record time we cycled back to escape the onslaught of the flies. Once back at camp I packed us some Bovril and cheese sandwiches, dried fruit, extra water, and packed our backpack. Grabbed the Defender’s keys and drove in a different direction.

Discovering Ancient Drawings While Exploring Cave

We drove out of the valley and headed to another group of caves that has some historical bushman’s drawings. This location was right on top of the Plato called the “Stadsaal”

Once we arrived, we parked and went to explore the historical drawings and rock formations. It was amazing to walk around these rock formations and study the different ancient drawings that stem back centuries ago. 

Even the fauna from this area stood out because of the harsh landscape. I could honestly see that my boy was enjoying the drawings and rock markings. Sometimes it’s great to step away from all the technology and soak up some ancient history from a bygone era.

At this stage, we were coming close to midday, and it was beginning to be a bit of a cooker outside. The Cederberg summer heat was properly setting in by now. 

Once we finished exploring the Stadsaal area, we jumped back into the Defender air-con on full blast and drove further into the hills until the dirt road dropped again into another valleyed section. 

Milkshakes Aren’t a Mirage in the Sahara

In the middle of nowhere, we found a sign advertising the best ice cream and milkshakes south of the Sahara at the Cederberg Oasis. We both looked at each other and thought the same thing – Milkshakes! 

Once we arrived at the Cederberg Oasis, there were campers and dirt bikers hanging out. Next, we ordered ourselves a killer Ice-cold milkshake each and found a pool outside under some shade netting. 

The owner obviously noticed that we were hot, dusty, and bothered and invited us to go relax next to the pool. Which we both did and enjoyed for an hour or so cooling down and getting energized for the next section of the afternoon.

Cooled down and refreshed, we made our way back to our own spot, but we did a circular route back, as there was another spot I wanted still to visit. We know this area as Truitjieskraal. 

Biking Out On Multiple Trails To See Cave Inscriptions And Rock Formations

It has a maze of paths, caves, and flat rock sections. This was on our way back to Kromrivier. This was also the initial place we meant to visit in the morning, when we were out cycling, before the vicious fly attack. 

We arrived and used our access code to get into this rock trail heaven. Indeed, there was a magnitude of trial options. We did some short sections of trail running until we arrived at this beautiful flat rock cave section. 

There were all these dates and historical family names marked on the roof section of the cave. I actually recognized that there were names of writers, poets and political figures from back in the early 1900s scribed onto the cave roof. 

We decided to have lunch with the historical greats before us and unpacked our sandwiches at their historical meeting spot. We chatted away and enjoyed the silence these hills and caves provided. 

What’s more, this area is such a magnificent spot as it offers rock formation for bouldering, marked climbing routes, hiking, trail running. For the less active, a great area for having a picnic while soaking up the ancient rock formations. 

We took so many photos of the Truitjieskraal area. We slowly wrapped up our afternoon snack and went exploring some more trails in and around the rock formations, which had us eventually finish back at the Defender. 

I could see at the stage that all the fresh air and activity took its toll on my lad. We loaded up and made our way back to our cottage “Tortelduif”. Back at the site we just kicked back until 17H00. 

Seeing The Stars Requires Advance Planning

The stifling heat was still unreal, but there was a light breeze in the air. So, we went for a walk down to the river and had another cool-down swim. I recalled seeing something about stargazing in the area.

So while my boy was chilling in the river I hoped out and went across to the information center to inquire about the Cederberg Observatory. 

The lady mentioned that it’s a short drive out, and it starts at 8pm sharp, just after sunset. We are in the mountains with no interference of any city light that could influence the star gazing which would make it spectacular. 

All it would cost is both the drive-out and a small donation to the Observatory which is run privately by 7 stakeholders within the area. Still, it’s purely a non-profit Observatory. Spreading planetary knowledge and sharing experience to those who are interested.

We made an early fire just to cook some sausage and then got ourselves ready for the drive out to do some stargazing on another farm roughly 20km’s away. We arrived a bit early and there was not a single soul on site.

While we waited, right at 8 pm two friendly older gentlemen came out of the little white building and began to set up for a slideshow and rigged up an old telescope.

We patiently waited until another two families arrived with their kids. Unfortunately, that was the extent of the visitor’s support.

They kicked off around 8:30 with some slides and facts which took us up to around 10 pm and stargazing through the telescope. The moon was so bright which overpowered the stargazing. 

Getting A Good Nights Sleep

All the day’s activities did eventually have my boy fall asleep on my lap while the star experts waffled away. 

I eventually excused us from the star guru chat. Got my lad in the Defender and we made our way back to our cottage. The drive felt forever, especially with it being so dark in the mountains. Luckily the moon and stars aided us home with some natural night-time light. 

Eventually, we arrived back home just before midnight. My boy just said good night, dad, and crashed out on his bunk. Although it was an absolutely jam-packed day of activity, I was content that we have seen so much during our brief stay.

On Sunday would see us check out and make our way back to Cape Town again.

Saying Goodbye to Cape Town and Cederberg

I set the alarm for a little later the following morning and had my boy sleep in a bit. Once he got up eventually. I made us breakfast from the last bit of leftovers, and we sat outside chatting away about the previous night’s stargazing. 

We went out for one more cycle on our last morning. Up along a different path, this time and we cycle up mid-way up the pass. 

My boy was keen on the idea, as he knows cycling uphill will deliver a great downhill ride back. We took it easy and made our way up the pass until we got roughly midway and stopped. We gathered our breaths, took some photos, soaking up the views, and then charged down the hill back to our cottage “Tortelduif” like some mad hat downhill racers.

As always, these little escapes fly by too quickly and unfortunately had to pack up and check out by midday. Both of us got stuck in and loaded the vehicle quickly.

Squared away all our gear, ensured that we tied and secured our bikes down. We dropped off our cottage key at the reception and then made our way out of the Cederberg region. 

Obviously, the 80’s tunes were blaring away again while we both sat with a huge grin on our faces after our epic weekend away. 

The Cederberg will definitely see us, boys, again. We might even bring mom with us next time.

If this article got you thinking about, backpacking stovestents or hiking boots, for your next trip, we have several guides to help you pick which ones work best for you.

Author: Willie Richards

Source: The Hiking Adventure