Exploring And Camping In The Cederberg!
It had been a while since my last proper getaway and I have been longing to head into the Cederberg Mountains for an epic camping experience. I did thorough research on places and decided enough with the doubt that I would book a campsite. I settled for Nuwerust campsite which is on the Brandkraalrivier, just a short drive away from most of the activities and attractions that Cederberg has to offer. The outstanding reviews and ratings from previous individuals left me with a positive feeling that this was the campsite to go for. I planned my route, packed my gear and headed off on my own!
The exploration begins…
The weather forecast for the weekend was superb, sunny with highs of mid 20’s with no clouds in sight. I left mid-morning heading up the N1 with the GPS constantly reminding me where my next turn was. My Tracks4Africa is with a friend now that is busy travelling through Africa, so had to make a plan with good old Google Maps.
As I made my way further away from Cape Town the scenery began to excite me as it always does. Seeing the fields full of yellow flowers, mixed with lush greenery and you tend to find yourself slowing down in awe of this beauty! Between Hermon and Ceres you will travel through the Nuwekloofpas on the R46 that winds its way up and over to Ceres. I suggest taking a co-driver with you so that you can fully appreciate the beauty without having to multitask while driving as this became quite challenge. Once you have made it over the pass, be sure to check your fuel levels as there are no fuel stations in the Cederberg, the reality for my thirsty V6.
Onwards I went getting more excited as the trip progressed and to my surprise it was actually taking a lot longer than I thought, maybe it’s the fact that I’m trying to be a tourist and drive at the same time! A big highlight ahead was travelling over the Gydo Pass which winds its way up and over to Op Die Berg. Be sure to stop at the top of the view point and take in all the beauty that this landscape has to offer, it is simply outstanding. Not too far onwards you will find yourself nearing the dirt road that will take you straight to Nuwerust farm. After about 3.5hrs of driving I reached the start of the gravel road, “aired down” my tyre’s and made my way down the 45km dirt road.
The Cederberg road experience
The road conditions varied from fantastic, to absolutely terrible at stages and I wouldn’t suggest taking a small city run-around car here purposely as the road may damage the vehicle or the tyres. In a vehicle well equipped for these types of terrain, the drive is quite pleasurable and a moderate speed can be obtained as you make your way deeper into the Cederberg. There is a large mountain pass as you make your way out of Mount Cedar that you have to go over to get to Nuwerust farm. I was super excited about this as I saw adventure and excitement ahead but I didn’t realize how hard this is on a vehicle!
The sharp bends mixed with terrible corrugation and gravel took all the momentum away and you find yourself “Sukkling” between gears trying to find the optimum to drive in. What I didn’t realise was that the decent is just as hectic and you have to engine brake down this hill to avoid a run away! It is extremely tough on the brakes and at one point I wanted to stop just to cool them down. Nonetheless I made it to the campsite which is just past the bottom of the pass and it is a massive farm serving 23000 hectares of land!
I pulled up to the Office and got out the vehicle and to my surprise I immediately became a victim to thousands of bees circling the area! I should have seen a red flag when I saw a lady in a bee suit swatting bees away! Little did I know what was about to happen, and I got bombarded with bees taking a few stings to my ears! There is a separate blog post that I will share at a later stage on this event but it was fairly concerning!
I met the owners Steve and Louise, the most polite and friendly people around who have all the answers to your questions and purposely show you to your spot. Campsite No 44 was the one I had booked at which has shade, electricity and its own braai that looked straight onto a massive mountain. The sun was setting and it was time to set up my camp. I hauled out my gear, pitched the tent and gazebo and cracked open a cold beer! I lit the fire, pulled up a chair and sat reflecting on the awesome drive here while staring into the abyss. Shortly after I called it a night and little did I know how badly the temperatures were about to plummet!
The camping experience…
I woke up during the night and thought someone had thrown me into a freezer! I couldn’t believe how cold it was and I remember hearing voices the whole night and to my surprise it was because a group of people were huddling around a fire trying to keep warm! The morning revealing the reality and there was frost all over the car and ground and I immediately went to light a fire before anything else as it was becoming unbearable to cope with. I’m not sure how cold it was but surely at least 0 degrees or less! Huddling around the fire while drinking coffee that became cold from the first sip, I slowly began to warm up a bit while observing my surroundings!
Later on in the day two friends of mine were joining on this trip and I sort of took my time to prep the camp correctly while waiting for them. There was no reception there so I couldn’t warn them about anything to be honest but rather let them find out for themselves what was ahead. They eventually pulled up and were so stoked to be there, away from the city in a remote location! It was time for more adventures within the area to begin!
We decided it may be a good idea to head down to Kromrivier just 14km’s away and go explore the area for the afternoon. There is a fantastic brewery called “Nieuw Brew”, a magical spot right next to the Kromrivier overlooking stunning mountain ranges. It is surprising that in such a remote place you would find a well-developed restaurant serving great food and drink! We left the area after exploring a bit and on our way back we stopped off at Stadsaal Caves to have a chat with the Cape Nature staff about hikes in the area. It was just to our luck that it was heritage week and that most of the hikes were free, the only exception is that you have to sign in to get a permit and this is mandatory!
Exploring the Cederberg area
The next plan was to head back to Nuwerust camp and go explore the river that we were sitting on, the Brandkraalrivier. The water was as chilly as it gets and so cold that you find yourself struggling to walk across it. The streams had that dark tea colour look but is extremely shallow and one can expect a bit of a walk downstream to find a pool deep enough to swim in. Nonetheless a beautiful area, clean, and full of life. We called it a day, headed back to camp and lit a fire while planning on the next day’s adventure.
We had come all this way and a hike was definitely in order but there were so many to choose from that it became difficult to decide. The farm does offer free hiking right on their doorstep outside of Cape Nature grounds. We had heard that Maltese Cross may be promising so decided to proceed on this hike. The entrance to this hike takes you past the Cederberg Observatory Centre and a permit must be obtained. All the permits can be bought inside the parks on the actual day which is fantastic!
Onwards we went, following a dirt road for about 10km’s all the way till we reached the parking lot that was the start of the hike. At the time we didn’t know much about this hike and I couldn’t help but notice this enormous mountain in the distance that seemed right on the track of the path! I became a little concerned that we were in for a mammoth of a climb, luckily we weren’t!
You can expect the climb to be less than 7km’s round trip and it has a fairly steep gradient. There wasn’t much to be seen at the start but it was one of those hikes that becomes better and better as you go! We crossed fresh streams, walked along edges and it leveled out on a flat plateau at the top which reveal the Maltese Cross standing proud. It is one of the most interesting sights I had ever seen!
Straight after the hike we passed Stadsaal Caves and one can’t come all this way not to go and view this place of history! We signed in and drove up to the parking lot and immediately one can notice how spectacular the terrain is. There is a network of caves and crevices formed from millions of years of water and wind erosion that leads from one to another. If you are not careful you can find yourself a little disorientated and I could just imagine that if it were at night, you could most definitely get yourself very lost. We decided to call it a day as we had been on the go for a long time and it was time to head back to camp!
My friends and I are not the kind of folks who park off and chill the whole day and we tend to get itchy feet with adventure. Not long after we reached camp, we decided to go play on the 4×4 track that the farm has to offer, it didn’t go too far but we just wanted to explore a little more. Another day was down and time seemed to be flying by! When we camp, we braai every night with very little exception and that we did!
Time for the adventure to end
The next morning we had to pack up and it was time to head back home. It didn’t take us long to do this as we try keep everything neat and tidy as we go. Making our way out the gates, we couldn’t help but go and play on the 4×4 track for one last time before we headed up the steep pass!
It had been an awesome eventful weekend and it was time to hit the dirt for a long haul back to the tar road. We drove in convoy for a short while but held back as to not drive in each other’s dust clouds. Along the way we passed a few city cars, crawling on the dirt roads slowly attempting to make their way back out. We pulled up to the tar road grabbed our compressors and inflated out tyres back to operating pressure. A quick check inside the engine bay and surroundings and it was time to hit the road.
As you drive off you can’t help but appreciate this wonderful terrain and climate that we live in. For the first time since I hit the dirt the road, I put the music on while sitting back with a smile on my face. Cederberg I will be back sooner than you think!
What you should know about the Campsite
- There is a braai per campsite, bring your own grid and stands
- The facilities are well kept with hot water showers
- Ice, wood and a few items can be bought at the office
- Gravel roads are rather harsh, take the Ceres route instead of N7, its shorter at 45km
- Gravel road between Nuwerus and Kromrivier are very corrugated
- No cell phone reception in the park
- The closest petrol station is Ceres
- Permits can be obtained in the area for the hikes and to visit the caves
- There may be an excessive amounts of bugs
- You don’t need a 4×4 to access the campsite
- Wifi is obtainable at the office for a fee
How to get to Nuwerust in the Cederberg
There are a few different ways to get to this spot from Cape Town especially and I would suggest heading up the N1, turning off onto the R44, heading towards Hermon, taking the R46 through the beautiful mountain pass of Nuwekloofpas all the way into Ceres. From there head N through Prince Alfred Hamlet, up the Gydo Pass which is breath-taking all the way to Die Dorp Op Die Berg. From there turn right at the Cederberg sign and follow the tar road for approximately 18km till the gravel road begins. Do not take the gravel road to the right that will take you to Kagga Kamma, Nuwerust Farm is 45km’s straight ahead.
Handy Co-ordinates for Exploring
- Start of the gravel road to Cederberg from Ceres –32°56’06.85”S 19°27’05.90”E
- Beginning of the gravel road to Cederberg from N7 – 32°21’50.0”S 18°56’21.4”E
- Start of the mountain pass from Mount Cedar – 32°38’12.66”S 19°24’04.16”E
- Nuwerust Farm – 32°33’42.13”S 19°22’39.27”E
- Cederberg Astronomical Observatory –32°29’58.58”S 19°15’09.61”E
- Start of Maltese Cross Hike – 32°30’28.34”S 19°12’08.84”E
- Maltese Cross – 32°30’44.56”S 19°10’37.35”E
Other Campsites Nearby
- Cederberg Oasis
- Cederberg Algeria Campsite
- Jamaka Organic Farm & Resort
- Kagga Kamma