Celebrating the wilderness: the Cederberg

Road into the Cederberg
Road into the Cederberg

The Cederberg, a mountain range much beloved by Kapenaars (lucky people living in the Western Cape, South Africa) and perhaps, especially, by Capetonians is no great shakes when it comes to hard statistics. Its mountains are no match for the Drakensberg in terms of height and on a global scale are definitely third-league. Yes, there are some challenging climbs and winter can see snow and rain – ┬ábut so what? That cannot compare to the brain-chilling, lung-searing extremes encountered in the Himalayas, Andes or even the Alps and Rockies.

On the Western flank of the Cederberg
On the Western flank of the Cederberg

But metre for metre the Cederberg beats or at least matches any competition when it comes to the authentic wilderness experience. That assertion may have been more true a few decades ago but even “progress” – better roads, wine farms, fancier accommodation – cannot entirely dull the impact of the Cederberg on the visitor. Wherein lies the “Cederberg appeal”?

For me it lies in the rough, spartan, rocky terrain unsoftened by the insulating effects of luxuriant foliage or even grasses.

Out of the roch
Out of the roch

The plants covering the boulder-strewn slopes, in all their variety of texture, shape and colour, possess the same spiky and uncompromising beauty of the terrain. The mountains are crowded in upon themselves mostly with deep valleys between and the single dusty road snaking far below only emphasizes the isolation and implied menace of the terrain.

Stormy weather
Stormy weather

Lost in this world a person would feel naked and exposed to the immensity of the Universe unmediated by any softness or sense of domestication. Faced with this most visitors remain close to the nodes of civilisation, but for the more adventurous souls, the appeal of the Cederberg lies precisely in its other-worldly quality and uncompromising terrain. Here a Man might meet himself face to face.

Distant hill - Swartland
Distant hill – Swartland

But to get there from Cape Town the route takes in the opposite extreme: the lovely, undulating and largely domesticated agricultural lands of the Swartland. The colours and textures of the Swartland vary with the season but the simple harmonies and rhythms of rural, agriculture are permanently etched into its landscape.

Riebeek Valley
Riebeek Valley

The Cederberg and the Swartland are thus polar opposites and in a recent visit with some friends I tried to capture some of the essence of each. The images with this post and in Today’s Favorites on the right-top come from this visit and additional pictures are to be found is the gallery page – to be constructed.

PS. Hover cursor over image and right-click to open higher resolution version in a new tab.

Mike Berger