The Cederberg is gorgeous. Really, an absolute wonderland, with gravity-defying rock formations and stark landscapes. And we were awestruck by the super cool rocks we were clambering over. We really were. But everything was so hard.
Just a 3-day hike in Cederberg, we thought we were in for a real treat. And we were, with all aforementioned natural beauty and what not.
However, we were also in for 4 hours lying on the salt flats trying to dig our car out of the sand, a good few hours of getting lost, a very dehydrated walk in the baking sun with sunscreen stretched thin, and once again, a broken-down car.
Day One in the Cederberg
On day one in Zooridge, we arrived excited and fresh-faced, ready to take on the world and all that. We’d packed sleeping bags, crackers, chickpeas and some spare undies – the camping classics.
We were going to sleep under the stars, because it’s summer so why not. Never mind the baboons, leopards and snakes and all (but really these are seldom a concern. It’s just that we ended up seeing a lot of panther poop, and spent our first night on a platform very recently inhabited by baboons).
That first night Glenn fell asleep in minutes, and I was left alone to listen out for every howl and whistle… when you’re not closed off from the outside world, it’s amazing how many sounds there are.
And it was really amazing when the moon came out. It was so bright I could see everything (still very much awake, about 3-hours later). But before that handy light-aide I must admit, every sound made me feel like a leopard was about to pounce at me. And I’d have to burrito myself and Glenn and roll us off the cliff into the water… a stupid safety plan, but anyway. Who’s hyper-rational at 2 am?
Of course, there was also the rain. While just a light drizzle, it made me feel freezing. Of course, Glenn was snug as anything, snoring away.
I honestly don’t know how it went so differently for us, but I experienced the four seasons of unbridled nature that night, while Glenn was tucked away on some dream-frolic. I did shove him awake at one point, but he looked around groggily, said ‘ja very pretty’, and went straight back to snoring – rivaling those sounds of nature with his own.
Anyway, next day I felt a little worse for wear, with some blisters and sleep deprivation. Still, it was beautiful and an exciting new day had started! We were going to trek through the canyon in search of the natural pools we’d been told about.
We packed all our stuff up after a good breakfast of crackers, cream cheese and apples, and set out!
The trek didn’t take us very far. We walked for about 2-hours before settling at the first pool we found. What can I say, we were excited to get naked and pull a full Adam and Eve.
Because that is definitely the best part of hiking somewhere little known and little visited. You get to be naked, and feel like a full-on earth creature.
So that’s what we did, we reached the little pools, took off our clothes, and proceeded to spend the day chill-chilling. We read our books, ran around and splashed, and played backgammon, stretched out on the hot black rock.
We sat, legs dangling over the little cascade, while we munched a lunch of crackers and chickpea salad soaked in lemon. Filled our water bottles from the running water and drank deeply. Ran off every time we needed to pee, to squat (well, I did) at a comfortable distance from our campsite.
It was a pretty perfect day, and the Adam and Eve activities went swimmingly.
That night I actually did sleep well, despite the suspicious leopard shit 4 meters away. Possibly because this time we were sleeping on a teeny sand bed, rather than rocks. Thank goodness!
Theeen the next day, after Day Perfect, we had to get back to our sad sand-stuck car, and past it, to the farm a couple kilometers further, where we’d set off (note, they told us we should just catch a lift with them, but Glenn was convinced our little Toyota Corolla could make the trip. Ah, misplaced trust).
We packed up the goods, sadly put on clothes again, and set off strong! We were doing great, looping back past that leopard kill that had freaked us out the previous morning, learning from the last day’s route-plotting mistakes, running slowly out of water.
And you’d think we’d be able to fill up our bottles again, being that we were trekking a riverbed. Especially because that’s what we’d been told. Hence the measly three bottles of water we had with us. But aside from at our Day 2 camping spot, the water was stagnant and undrinkable. So we took little sips, saved up our last apples for later, and quickly arrived at our first night’s camping spot!
From there, it was an hour of 45-degree-angle clambering up the side of the mountain to escape the chasm we’d strolled down 2 days ago. It went surprisingly well, and we were just busy congratulating ourselves on our impressive clambering skills, when we realized the cairns weren’t quite adding up.
We ended up wandering around for two hours, quickly discovering that each rocky hollow looked like an exit until you came right up to it.
Finally we did find our way out – I’m still not sure how, because I swear we doubled back twice and were no closer to getting out until we were actually out, standing on the other side of the rift. With giant rock formations like great frozen animals around us (it’s called Zooridge because the long ridge of rocks is made up of very animal-like shapes. And one distinct phallus, but that’s neither here nor there).
From there it was only a little more ‘holy shit we’re lost again’-ing, and an on-the-move apple eating (we’d had lunch in the place of lost-ness, calming our nerves with crackers).
We found our way out of the ridge after another 2 hours, trekked across the flats, and back up to what was meant to be our landing spot. Of course, the car was stuck, so it was not. But it still felt like a milestone.
Made it to the Car!
By that point our water was really low. The rest of the trip was just a walk across white sand and salt flats to get to our car and then beyond.
When we reached that stupid stuck car we poured the water that had been sitting in the boot for literal months over ourselves. Sooo good. It was too dodgy to drink, but it did make us feel a lot better under a sun that beat down at 35-degrees Celsius.
We could continue pleasantly soaked, and did, leaving the car that would have done the job in 10-minutes with a sad stroke.
It took us another 2-hours to reach the farmhouse, the whole time of which was spent dreaming of water, discussing the beauty of water, and just general water-related hopes and dreams.
The old couple that had helped us break into our car after Glenn forgot the keys in it (a whole different story), was there, happy to help again. We gulped down three glasses of icy water and juice each, took our truly rank shoes off outside, and waited for Koos, the husband, to get home with a tractor.
The End of One Hell of a Multi-day Hike
Long story short (well, shortish) we ended up having to tractor the car out twice along the sand, and then when we’d hit the rocks, it blew a fuse. And then another one, and another one. So we called on faithful tractor yet again, had it pull us back to that poor kind couple.
There (after another glass of juice – thank you kind angel-woman) we fixed up the car to the point where we could drive it as long as we didn’t rev too high. So we drove back in the dark at a comfy (not for Glenn, who drove) 70km/h.
Towards the end there, we’d both started to crack a little. But for the most part, Glenn impressed me with his resilience. I guess in that situation you have to be, because what kind of person would just give up and lie there when they’re literally their own only hope of getting out of there?
Still, we felt pretty proud. We’d survived a multi-day hike that was a lot more than we’d bargained for!
And while it took our scratched-up legs over a month to heal completely, and we went without a car for weeks while it languished at the mechanics, I’d do it again. In a heartbeat – because as an alternative to spending my weekend watching series, it was pretty great.
Besides, I walked away with the start of a pretty good full-body tan.