Part 3 of a 3-part series about the Cederberg Heritage Route. Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.
When I left off, my travel companions and I had spent a magical evening in the village of Hugel-Bugel (a.k.a. Heuningvlei). We awoke early the next morning for the final installment of our Cederberg adventure: a hike across Krakadouw Pass.
Our guide for the day was Abraham, an ageless, salt-of-the-earth kind of man. Abraham has lived in Heuningvlei all his life. He has worked tirelessly to encourage conservation and responsible tourism in the Cederberg.
Abraham was waiting at our door at 8:15 a.m., the agreed-upon departure time. We weren’t quite ready. ‘We’re a bit late,’ said Abraham. Note to self: ‘Africa time’ does not apply in Hugel-Bugel.
I’m glad Abraham got us going. It was a stunning Cederberg morning. My friend Michelle, the most well-traveled person I know, said this was one of the most beautiful settings she has ever hiked in. She’s probably hiked in at least 20 countries around the world.
We didn’t encounter another soul on our hike, except for birds, two klipspringer (rock-climbing deer), and some baboons calling in the distance.
Morning sun, clouds, and rocks.
We spent the first couple of hours on flat terrain, chatting with Abraham about the ecological history of the Cederberg. The Cederberg got its name from a special species of cedar tree that used to blanket this wilderness. The trees are nearly extinct now, due to forest fires and people chopping them down. We didn’t see a single cedar in the Cederberg. (I don’t know why ‘cedar’ is spelled with an ‘a’ and ‘Cederberg’ is spelled with an ‘e’. Go figure.)
We wandered into a sea of giant red flowers. The African name for the flowers is perdekop, Abraham told us. The scientific name is Leucospermum reflexum. Perdekop is a threatened species and exists only in the Cederberg. There is also a yellow species of perdekop, which is so rare that only five or six clutches of them still exist. We saw one group of yellow perdekop far in the distance.
Another Cederberg fun fact: The Heuningvlei River is one of three rivers in South Africa officially deemed clean enough for drinking. It is the most delicious water I’ve ever tasted. Abraham doesn’t carry a water bottle, just a small enamel cup. When he gets thirsty, he waits until he passes a stream, dips his cup, and drinks.
As the morning wore on, we began to climb. The sun disappeared and the temperature dropped. By the time we reached the top of Krakadouw Pass, it was freezing but stunningly beautiful. I was too cold to take a picture.
Abraham told us that Krakadouw Pass got its name from the sound that thunder makes when it crashes over the pass. “Crack-a-DOOO!” I’m not sure if this is true but I love the story.
Michelle (foreground) and Nina (distant speck) hike down from Krakadouw Pass.
Should be smooth-sailing on the way down, right? Wrong. Hiking downhill, especially for four straight hours, is freaking hard. At least it was for me, Michelle, and Nina. Abraham didn’t mind the downhill slope. In fact he was often several minutes’ walk ahead of us — his hat a tiny dot winking at us in the distance. This was frustrating, as we felt lonely without our guide and weren’t sure what the big hurry was, anyway.
Our limbs felt heavy and our feet were sore. We were crabby with Abraham, who didn’t seem to understand why we were tired.
We forgot our complaints when we rounded a bend and saw this:
Sweet Jesus, is this a mirage? No, it’s the Krakadouw Cottages at Boskloof. Otherwise known as Heaven.
We romped across an idyllic field of white wildflowers and met the burly farmer who runs the Krakadouw Cottages. Abraham then led us to our cottage. We nearly cried for joy.
We loved our little cottage. We didn’t want to leave it, ever.
We lounged on the grassy lawn, dipping our toes into the freezing Jan Dissels River a few meters away. (Nina submerged herself completely, a feat for which she deserves mad props.) We ate oranges from the orange grove down the lane. We drank Nescafe and ate rusks.
We barely cared when a raging brush fire (we later learned it was perfectly under control, set by a farmhand to open up the riverbed) threatened to burn our cottage down. We were not leaving Heaven under any circumstances.
Just before sunset, we went into the wildflower field for a victorious group photo.
I had set the timer and barely made it up before the shutter clicked. The sun went down seconds later.
An Afrikaans fairy godmother appeared with dinner — fish briyani, lasagna, salad, and (you guessed it) jello trifle. This one was a masterpiece.
I’ll be honest, it wasn’t the highlight of the meal. I don’t think we Americans really ‘get’ jello trifle. I still ate two servings.
Thus, our Cederberg journey came to an end. There were some challenges but I loved every minute of it.
If you’re looking for a relaxing trip where you can leave your brain (and your leg muscles) at home, the Cederberg Heritage Route is not for you. But if you’re up for a little adventure, a little exercise, and a lot of laughing, go tomorrow.
I want to do this. I’m sold. How much does the whole thing cost? So stunning.
Hi Kathy. I knew I should have included the price! It varies depending on which route you choose (there are several, ranging from 3 to 5 days), how many people are in your group, and various other factors. But our trip cost about R3000 per person, which is a little less than $400. Not bad for a three-day trip.
I want to do something like that so badly it’s killing. I have cabin fever. I haven’t been US-based for this long in years. It’s killing me.
Sara is doing a short-term project for Habitat for Humanity, but the analysis can be done from home. Still nothing big coming down the pipe. The development of the NGO is progressing at a snail’s pace–if not slower than that.
Hello again 2summers, this sounds absolutely fantastic,would you be willing to share the contact details so we can plan on a similar experience on one of our future trips ,please? next trip is already being planned, for late july early august, back to Venda country, rock art on Makgabeng plateau, Tuli block, western part of greater Kruger and a week in Maputo and Inhaca island…hint, you could go and scout it out for me???just kidding, keep on taking those amazing pictures and writing those very informative texts so we can all learn and dream…a big thank you,
Hi Catherine, of course! Here is the website: http://www.cedheroute.co.za/. You can also call Michelle Truter at Cedarberg African Travel – her number is +27 27 482 2444 ex14 and her email is email@example.com. Happy travels and thanks again for reading.
Thanks a lot ! enjoy your day!
You tell a great tale, and yes, I’d love to do the trip….:-)
Your Photos are awesome, as usual!!
crackadoo looks heavenly!
Thanks very much. It was good scenery to photograph.
i love the red perdekap pictures, and i especially the love the descriptions of ‘heaven’ 🙂 i didn’t get an email when this posted?
Hmm, that’s weird. No idea why…Glad you appreciate my description of Heaven. It seriously was — we loved it there. I definitely could have stayed a couple more days.
Sounds like you had a fantastic trip – made all the better by some great story-telling 🙂
Heather, I just love your blogs!
Maybe I can give you some clearity on the words “cedar” and “ceder”. In English you get the word “cedar” for the cedar trees and, as you said, the Cederberg Mountains are named after the cedar trees. And then, on the other side, you get “seder” – the Afrikaans for “cedar”. When they decided to name the Cederberg Mountains, they decided to combine the two different languages’ (English and Afrikaans) spelling of “cedar”.
The donkey cart driver was suppose to show you the Cedar Trees on the mountains, just before you reached Heuningvlei. There only a few still left in the Cederberg area. Heuningvlei also plants and grows these cedar trees in a little plantation next to the Heuningvlei Backpackers’ Lodge (The villagers should have showed you it. It is a very successful project, as the trees only survive 1 000m above sea level.). They have an annual treee planting day, were everyone interested can plant a cedar tree. When the trees are big enough, they replant them in the Cederberg Mountains.
Ah, thanks for clearing up the ceder/cedar thing! I couldn’t find an explanation anywhere online. Sorry we missed the cedar plantation, I would have liked to see that. Next time 🙂
Thanks again for organizing such a great trip.
Very amazing pics! Love them!!
‘The End’ – what an end!! – super pics
Thanks Joshi, much appreciated.