On telling people you’re going to the Cederberg you will be told one of two things. Either a warning about the cold along with strict advice to take all the clothes you own, or that you must hike to the Maltese Cross. In some cases, you’ll even hear both. After spending a winter weekend there, both ring true. The Cederberg is a beautiful part of the world and I’m a bit embarrassed it took this long to get there. On a cold Friday in June, armed with wine, good food and a hot water bottle we set off to celebrate a new chapter for a good friend.
Day 1: Stars, burgers and smoke signals
We booked ourselves into Kromrivier – a secluded farm nestled in the heart of the Cederberg. This is a non-sponsored post, so please visit their website for more detailed info. You can also read my quickfire Q&A post on Kromrivier here.
Arriving in the dark, we received a warm welcome from the Kromrivier team (hounds included). We checked-in, made a bee-line towards the restaurant and all but climbed into their fireplace. Cue mandatory wine glass and fireplace shot, pictured below. In true black mirror style, this is a friends glass of wine.
With a small menu, Kromrivier makes good, home-cooked food and they do it well. Their lamb burgers certainly did not disappoint. Yet while the burgers were delicious, they are not the culinary heroes of this tale. More on that later. We headed to the chalets and despite the rain on the drive in, we lucked out with a clear sky and amazing stargazing. The stars alone, are worth the trip.
Now, my cabinmate Fae and I have many talents but it turns out that making fires is not one of them. I won’t go into detail, but after smoking out the entire chalet, both our rooms, using up all the blitz (including the cardboard packaging it came in) and accidentally setting fire to a box of matches, we managed to get one fire going. Sadly, we can’t even take credit for it. As if by magic, our friends arrived at the door to help us. As there’s no cell reception at Kromrivier, they had clearly seen our unintentional smoke signals.
No one is lying about the cold. In fact, they’re underplaying it. If you are heading there soon and are unsure about whether to take a hot water bottle, your slippers and all your clothes. Take everything. And perhaps get a few lessons in the art of fire making.
Tip: Put your hot water bottle in your bed/ sleeping bag an hour before you go to bed. This takes the edge off.
Day 2: The Carrot cake, the cross and the wine
Waking up to a dramatic sunrise, we got the chance to see the paradise we had heard so much about. The people weren’t lying. Surrounded by birdlife, the dam, pink mountains and the lack of reception, I strongly considered giving up city life and moving to the great outdoors. Whilst contemplating this new life, two Egyptian geese arrived at the dam, promptly shattering the daydream. I share a complex with two of them. Sadly they are enthusiastic warlords in ongoing hostilities between geese, guinea fowl and one unsuspecting grey cat. Whoever tells you that the suburbs are quiet is deluded.
The Carrot Cake
On our way to get our hiking permits, we bumped into the Kromrivier carrot cake. Larger than a small car and featuring the usual ingredients, pineapple pieces and probably enough sugar to shoot you into space. We shared 3 slices over the weekend between the 5 of us, and it turns out we ate half the cake. Mars is nice this time of year.
The hike to the Maltese Cross led us over rocks, through waterfalls and up some steep bits. The snaps don’t really do the view justice, but it’s a great hike. You can grab your permits at Sanddrif Resort and it took us about 3 hours in total. Dress in layers, because although you’ll freeze at the start, you’ll soon start stripping off once the hike gets underway. Don’t be lured into a false sense of security, the sandy flat bit at the beginning is no indicator for what lies ahead. It’s not a difficult hike, but there is a significant uphill climb.
The Wine Cellar
After the hike, we visited Cederberg Wines who have a tasting cellar at Sanddrif Resort. Their wine tasting is R40 ( June 2018) and includes tasting 14+ wines. Yes, that is one-four generous glasses for four-oh rands. If you manage to drink it all, mind the gap, the small stream and the giant boulder on your way out of the cellar.
The Cederberg wines are well-known, have won some prestigious awards and their Brut MCC is apparently very nice. If you can’t tell already, I’m not a wine expert, so if you’re looking for more on that, please visit their website. The tasting is a lovely experience and yes they have card facilities. It’s definitely something to add to your itinerary and according to Lynne, something to do once you’ve finished your hike.
The Horseback Riding
Another highlight was horseback riding through the valley just before sunset. It felt like there was no better way to take in the surroundings. And frankly it’s great because the horse does 99% of the work.
In my vast experience (a staggering 4 outrides) there are some tricks when it comes to horseback riding. Firstly, when they ask you if you have experience with horses, you must just say no. This is not the time to moonlight as Daenerys Targaryen. There’s always one horse that thinks it’s a wee lightning McQueen and if you put your hand up, you’ll be on it for the next hour.
Then there’s the horse that likes being second. You’ll be riding along, probably taking a selfie, when your horse suddenly bolts up the line like a bat out of hell. Rider, phones, other horses and trees be damned. It won’t settle until it’s behind the leader.
Then bless, there’s the horse that doesn’t ever really kick into gear. If like Fae, you get this horse, now is probably the time to accept the things you cannot change and stop the serenity prayer right there.
If staying at Kromrivier, horseback riding is R200 (June 2018) per person.
Day 3: Ancient Caves and Elephants
On our last day, we reluctantly packed up our things and left Kromrivier to explore the nearby Stadsaal Caves. You’ll need permits for the caves which you can purchase at Kromrivier. Don’t be fooled into thinking you don’t need permits, you criminal you. The gate has a combination lock and you’ll only get the code when you buy the permit.
Stadsaal is a series of ancient, inter-leading caves which you can read more about here. The caves and rock formations are stunning to behold. While the main cave is certainly impressive, the names listed on the walls left me feeling unnerved. I had no idea about the history behind them and encourage you to read up on it. If you’re a photographer, this is definitely a place to visit as the rocks offer up some incredible shots.
The Rock Art
The paintings are over 1000 years old and were the highlight for me. And no the elephant on the far right has not been touched up. According to records, a photo from 1919 confirms that the elephant on the far right has always been darker than the rest. Made from blood, ground rock and sometimes soil, the white and yellow paint has all but faded away, however the red remains. It’s sad to think that this art could indeed disappear altogether. Go and see it while you still can. It’s quite something to stand where those artists stood and look out onto their world.
Would I go again?
In a heartbeat. It was nice to get out of the city, get outdoors and cut off from the world. It feels like we are constantly assaulted by advertising, notifications and demands on our time. It’s nice to switch off. If you’re feeling something similar, make a booking and head out into the mountains.
Kromrivier is well-located for all the activities listed above. The team is lovely and the upgraded chalets are perfect for a city woman venturing into nature. For more on their accommodation, click here.