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Hiking Wolfberg Arch For A Spectacular Starry Night.

It can be difficult to arrange trips with everyone’s busy schedules, so about a month before this one, we sat down and pointed at an open weekend and said “That one, keep that one open. We’re going on an adventure.” We had no clue which one, but we were committed. A large number of options came in. Each of us shared links to trips we’ve seen and wanted to do. The more we sent, the more excited we become – every possibility simply added fuel to the fire. We let the ideas simmer for a while and then one day my friend and co-adventurer Carel Chris sent a message “I’m game for this one.” Secretly, I was so glad it was the Wolfberg Arch – a trip I have been eying for quite some time and it seemed like my heart would miss a beat every time someone else did it. 

Although this hike would be nothing but spectacular, we knew it would demand a lot of discomforts and venturing into the unknown. We had some hiking experience, but this would be our first night spent camping in the wilderness.

The beautiful thing about adventure and travel is that you grow long before you leave the house. Taking responsibility to plan and execute any trip will teach you many new things and this was no different. I will however share some more information at the end of this article because there was so much information that contrasted each other and might be a bit outdated. 

The Wolfberg Arch is situated in the Cederberg Mountains, between Citrusdal and Clanwilliam, about 220km from Cape Town. Known for its red rocks, the Cederberg is a sight to see at any time of the day.

Make sure you arrive at Algeria before 5pm.

The hike starts inside Sanddrif Holiday Resort – with safe parking behind a gate only accessible by permit holders. The first hour of the hike is a steep climb to the Wolfberg Cracks. For those hiking with daypacks, this shouldn’t be too difficult, we had heavy hiking bags, so we took it easy. At the top, we had to decide between the wide and narrow cracks, the wide being on the left and the narrow crack on the right. The narrow crack would require some shimmying in small spaces, whereas the wide crack only has a bit of scrambling in the beginning and is the more obvious option. 

We decided to opt for the wide cracks, because of our big and heavy bags, and we wanted to avoid being stuck in the narrow crack with rain approaching. After a bit of climbing and scrambling, we reached a plateau with a beautiful viewpoint over the valley. Hereafter it only got better. Mind-blowing rock formations welcomed us as we walked through a dense bushed path with walls towering at our sides. 

At the top, we were surrounded by more mountains, with the Cederberg rocks stretching across the horizon. We followed the path until it became solid rock, and we had to follow the little piles of rocks all the way to the Arch. The section from the top of the cracks to the Arch took us about two and a half hours, this included our lunch with some very dry boerewors rolls (remember the tomato sauce next time guys). As we descended through the valley of the Red Gods, the arch suddenly appeared in sight and I was not prepared for it. It is a breathtaking sight and I became giddy with excitement.

To access the arch, we followed a trail on the left of it and it took us to the back of the arch where we set up camp. There were a few open spots, but the icy wind was howling so we found a spot in front of a large rock to protect ourselves as much as possible. I won’t complain about the view – it is probably the best spot to pitch a tent south of Kilimanjaro.

With a beer in hand, we simply stared as the sun set over the rolling mountains. We passed time with a card game and then made food and a steaming cup of coffee (it did not stay hot very long, so bring those insulated flasks).

When it got dark, I peeked out of the tent, switched off my light and looked up.

I remember I had to blink a few times to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. Looking up, it seemed as if a cannon had shot an infinite amount of stars right above us. We were hoping for a clear night sky, but the looming bad weather we had most of the day diminished our hopes. To be out there, far away, with friends is incredible enough. To see the heavens in all its glory will truly fill your soul. 

The next morning, we woke up early to watch the sunrise. If you do this trip, You are not allowed to miss it. To see the sun rising over those red rocks is a very special moment.

I remember clearly how the alarm went off and Carel Chris reluctantly asked “are we still getting up for sunrise?”. I replied “Yes!” before I realized how difficult it was to keep my eyes open. We remained still for a minute or so, clinging to the warmth of our sleeping bags. “I’m getting up or I’ll fall asleep again” I announced, probably to the disgust of the others. I climbed my way over a handful of half-asleep brothers and opened the tent. A warm glow burst through the arch, quite the contrast to the chilly air I suddenly breathed in. The others quickly started moving as I (perhaps a little extra loudly) gasped “WOW”.

With all the layers we had, including our sleeping bags, we huddled together under the arch as we waited for the sun to appear. With eyes red and heavy, we were yet again left in awe by the many wonders of this place. No matter how much you read up about the Cederberg sunrise, it doesn’t prepare you for the full experience. We were tired and cold, but we wouldn’t trade that moment for anything in the world.

Vibrant colours filled the sky, then the warmth of the sun reached us. Jaco provided us with some desperately needed coffee and we soaked in every bit of sun we could. We sat mostly in silence, mainly because we were tired, but maybe more so because we knew it wasn’t long until we had to leave behind the quiet valleys of the Cederberg and head back into the noise.

The hike back went smoothly, the sun basking on us, a welcoming feeling. It was a sad moment to leave behind these ancient mountains, but to be completely honest, we were all very eager for the warmth and comfort of our homes. In the end, that’s the beauty of life, we need the noise to appreciate the silence and the icy Cederberg winds to remind us to be grateful for a warm bed at home.

Thank you, Jaco, CC, and Darryl for having the courage to sojourn with me, your stoke is contagious.

Here are some more details: 

We wanted to go the day before so we camped at the Algeria campsite about 30 minutes away. The hike starts from Sanddrif Holiday Resort and they have amazing camping facilities as well, however they have a rule that you have to book for two nights over the weekend. So you’d technically pay for an extra night and not sleep there unless you hike up and back down on the same day, but I’d say sleeping at the arch is the best experience.  

The hike itself is 8 kilometers to the arch.

I’d recommend waiting for a sunny weekend because it gets very cold there. If you have the proper layers and sleeping bags you’ll be fine, but if you want to save some money I’d say wait a bit. Of course, you can’t control the weather so don’t let it stop you from going.

Permits: 

Email Cape Nature for a hiking permit that will allow you to sleep at the arch. You will also book the Algeria campsite through them. 

Email: reservation.alert@capenature.co.za

What you pay: 

Permit: R140pp 

Camping at Algeria: R180 (for 4)

Conservation fees: R320 (for 4)  

In total, we paid R1060 for permits and camping there for four people. Then when you get to Sanddrif you have to pay R100pp at the reception for a permit to hike as well. If you want to camp at Sanddrif it costs R320.00 per site per night for 4 persons PLUS R80.00 per extra person. (Max 8 persons per site). They also have cottages.

Email: sanddrif@cederbergwine.com

You can download our checklist here.

If you have any questions, feel free to email me at rheederstephen@gmail.com or send me a dm on Instagram.

Happy travels!

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We all start with WHY.

If you have ever been surrounded by young children, then you will know this phrase that so quickly becomes rather annoying and very quickly you are not only annoyed but most likely incapable of providing an answer. 

“Why?”

“Careful, it’ll burn if you touch that.” Why? 

“That’s dangerous!” Why?

“It’s bedtime.” Why? 

Then, one day, it seems to stop – It might be the way we respond, but somehow they just don’t bother asking why. The older I get, the fewer I find people that ask why with their lives. Why can be a lot of things. It’s not necessarily the denial of something, but rather here refers to our process of seeking more. More information, insight, wisdom and more life. 

I am so thankful for a handful of people that come to me with things they’ve discovered this last week, or questions they have because they’ve been thinking in a new way about something. The best conversions start with “I wonder if…” Now I wonder why it is that only a few have this desire for more. Why only a few press in to go deeper, to see the world, to understand. 

I believe every person has been created with the potential for great significance. Within us there are dreams to fulfil, futures to create and lives to touch. Significance however is broken down into moments. For each of us, there are moments that can divine our lives. When we are children, these moments can be small – as small as learning about a hot plate that could burn you. When we get older, some of these moments require great courage and character.

Those that do not spend time to build character, to ask the “why” questions in life, are most often unable to identify these moments as they get older. The more you press in, the more you start to notice your ability to change the narrative. The more you start not only to see moments of significance but also to create a life of significance. 

If each of us has the potential for significance, then what holds us back is our capacity for significance. Our pursuit of significance starts with a desire for more. A Genesis moment where we are convicted that “there is more”. We have to choose to be thrown down a rabbit hole of exploration to discover what it is that we are falling short of. What we do not know, what we have not perceived until this moment. At the root of it is a conviction that things can be different and better from what they are now and a curiosity to discover the things of God we are yet to know and perceive. If we do not pursue these things, we will not become the people we need to be or worse, that we were created to be.

I am unsure what stops us from being curious. My biggest hunch is that there are voices in our lives that tell us that our questions are not important and that life is not worth exploring. That our biggest significance is mere survival. 

Perhaps it only takes one voice to change that narrative. 

Choose to believe that everybody has the potential for more and all they need is someone to light the fire. Not everyone will listen, not everyone will follow, but as you seek to go deeper, as you create a life of meaning, there will be those that look at you and hear the gentle whisper, 

“There is more.” 

This is the first adventure I remember. I’m so grateful that my parents took me to new places, stirring the curiosity inside. Years later, I still find meaning and purpose in the thick forests, mountains and unknown valleys of life.
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Slow down in Yzerfontein – a small piece of heaven on the West Coast.

No greater gift could arrive than our time at Yzerfontein. After 2020, every holiday or vacation is beyond enjoyable, but this little town is a place to cast away every care and find peace in the rhythms of the West Coast’s beauty. 

I’m here with my parents – this is worth mentioning because I believe they need this the most. My dad spent the majority of his year attending to those in the Covid ward. Mom probably needs new glasses after trying to master digital work-life and helping people from afar. 

Dad in front of the new Yzerfontein sign located in the harbour.

Life here looks more or less the same every day. We take long walks along the beach almost religiously each morning. If not the beach, then we explore some of the countless trails around the town – the benches along the way make it a little easier – and you might see a Dassie on the way. Tea a short bit before a good lunch, followed by a much needed afternoon nap (this relates especially to the parents). The afternoons here cater for a lot of time to read or for coffee in one of the town’s coffee shops. Late afternoon is again reserved for beach time – this time with a bit more sun. 

Dassies soaking in the sunlight.

One of my favourite things to do is to explore the town on foot, with my camera in hand. The goal is not to find the spectacular, but rather to find the beauties hidden in the everyday life of Yzerfontein. In the ordinary, there is always something to catch you off-guard. The ocean and the wilderness here seems wild beyond measure – as it was meant to be. Seagulls flock together and might just steal some of your lunch if you aren’t careful. Then there are those that have chosen to either build their lives here or build a getaway from life. I try to slow down and capture the moments where these things align – where beauty stares back at me through the cracks of empty holiday homes. 

You never know what you’ll find on any given day here. On one of our long walks, we saw some movement in the water. A seal had drifted close to shore and I say drifted because this fella looked like he too, was on a summer break. Lazily he drifted through the water – stomach towards the sky, with no worries at all. I suggest you do the same when you visit Yzerfontein. 

Things to do:

Walks across the sixteen-mile beach or the trails towards Schaapen Island. 

Places to go:

For the freshest fish and chips, visit Skafti.

For Coffee and Artisan bread, visit Rosemead Artisan.

For a local beer, visit Yzer Bru.  

Nearby: West Coast National Park & Darling 

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Two days in the Western Cape Mountains: Boesmanskloof Trail

In South Africa we celebrate a day on the 24th of September called Heritage day, celebrating our diversity and traditions that are so deeply rooted within our country. As with most public holidays, it offers most people time to rest or  get away for the weekend. 

About two weeks before Heritage Day I received a text from my friend, Jaco Boshoff, with one clear intention: to get out of the city. We narrowed down our options and finally decided on the Boesmanskloof Hiking Trail. The trail starts in Greyton – a small town about two hours outside of Cape Town. This one-day hike promised stellar views and according to the article – was only a 5/10 in the fitness category. Little did we know how subjective that review was. 

We brought in another friend, Darryl Pinetown, borrowed some hiking bags and started packing excitedly. The thing we looked forward the most, was reaching the top – the cosy cabin, fireplace and cold pool. With that in mind, we packed for the top – meat, snacks and of course some wine was all thrown into the mix – so much for a lightweight hike. It needs to be said that neither of us three ever hiked with this amount of weight in our bags and we would certainly question some decisions over the next few days as our shoulders cry in pain. 

We arrived in Greyton just before 07:00, expecting warm temperatures and clear skies. To our surprise, the air was crisp and the mountains covered with fog. It did, however, work in our favour as the first 6 kilometres is a brutal and relentless jeep-track climb. 

We started out through the Greyton Nature Reserve on a well-maintained trail. Lush green veldt surrounded us – the mist adding a touch of contrast. Our first hiccup came when the trail suddenly opened up into a riverbank, with no clear trail markings. We gave each other a few nervous glances and made the clear assumption that we’ll have to cross this river and hope the trail continues on the other side. 

Now usually, this would not be an issue, but we were clearly not caffeinated enough on this early morning, and this was not how the article said the trek would start. We left our worries behind with an “Oh well, let’s go”. Luckily there were no serious blunders, besides when I put half my shoe in a puddle of mud, but I won’t elaborate on that here. 

Then the climbing started. It was here that our bags made their presence known all the more. In other words, our shoulders began to feel the pain and so did our legs. For some reason, this was the perfect time for my two compatriots to start asking some deep questions. Luckily, Darryl took the lead on that one – and he can be quite the storyteller, so I could continue to struggle in silence.

We reached the top of the six-kilometre climb, out of breath. We paused for a moment, and then looked up. The mist slowly started to give way, revealing the most beautiful peaks towering above us. The moment lasted for a few seconds as one of the guys blurted out what we’ve all been thinking, “Dammit, I thought we were at the top”. We continued hiking the next bit of rolling hills and then sat down to have some snacks. Here we could see the valley we’d descend into next, and the horrifying climb waiting at the end. 

This adventure again reminded me how valuable nutrition is – with every pitstop we could have a snack or energy bar, I could feel how it almost immediately affected my energy. Eating was not a routine act, but rather a survival necessity. It got us through those dark moments in the pain cave. Of course, the idea of our evening braai waiting, definitely spurred us on as well. 

The descent into the valley was rough, with loose rocks adding to the mix. Different muscles started aching and the trial required a little bit more concentration now. Luckily, we came around a bend and there it was…A waterfall with a serene pool waiting just for us.

The waterfall at the halfway mark.

THE WATER WAS FREEZING. Nonetheless, exactly what we needed. After a few plunges, it was time to take out the Bialetti to make coffee and eat ham & cheese sandwiches. If you would have asked me, I’d say that was the best lunch I’ve ever had. We sat in silence as we devoured the food, besides the occasional grunt of frustration the increasing amount of insects caused us. 

Once we were sufficiently refuelled, we filled up our water bottles, soaked our buffs and set off into the most difficult part of the day. My legs seemed to take forever to warm up again and at the same time the sun brutally emerged – the weatherman was right with his sunny prediction, the valley’s rocks baked us into scorching dehydration. 

This hike was truly resourceful at exactly the right time. Just before our final ascent, a little stream trickled down in a shaded area – giving us one final boost to the top. Nature supplies abundantly. The next part we hit an actual dirt road – some of the locals many years ago tried to connect Greyton and McGregor with a road through the mountain, but they ditched their effort soon after the summit. We enjoyed the easier terrain as we ascended what we thought was the final climb. 

The deserted road towards the summit.

Have you ever felt absolutely dead tired, but because you knew you were so close to the end, you were able to dig extra deep and give it a phenomenal push to finish victoriously? That’s what we did. Never in my life have I ever felt so betrayed when came to the cabin at the top and there’s a sign pointing to the right with our cabin name on, putting to a steep hill that seems never-ending. 

What followed was the most extreme mental battle, heightened by the ultra-steep gradient and loose sand of the final climb. Finally, we could see our cabin, next to a tranquil swimming pool – heaven.  

We reached home for the night, exhausted but extremely grateful for a beautiful day. We celebrated with a beer in the swimming pool, with the views of the mountains surrounding us as our legs recovered in the icy water. Needless to say, after a cup of coffee we fell asleep for a mandatory afternoon nap.

The evening was something out of a storybook – a perfect sunset, meat on the fire, stokbrood and lots of wine that created memories we won’t forget for a very long time – most of which can not be adequately described on this page. 

The next morning started with coffee and rusks, we were quietly mentally preparing for the way back. We packed our bags and set off into the sun around 08:30. A small breeze would join us all the way to the end, making it just a little more bearable. 

The hike down was a lot faster, but do not underestimate the annoying power of a steep downhill. We felt muscles ache we did not know existed, but nothing could hinder our stoke. Being in the mountains is an absolute privilege and the camaraderie, nonsense chats and incredible views could only give us high spirits. 

We made another stop at the waterfall and pushed on to have lunch further down the road – leftover boerewors rolls never seem to disappoint. We met a lot more hikers on the way down, many still in high spirits, yet to face the brutal ascents. 

We reached the bottom around 13:30 and had one final heavenly swim before heading back to the car. And so two glorious days came to an end. The views, the escape, the fellowship and yes even the pain, made it two of the best days of 2020. Get out there, escape the comfort of your home and be intentional to make memories. Boesmanskloof, we thank you.