Cederberg Heritage Route, Western Cape
Travel north from Cape Town and over the Piekenierskloof Pass beyond Piketberg and you descend into a different world. You are only two hour’s drive from Cape Town and yet the country has changed; wilder, warmer with a raw, dramatic beauty. Towering mountains, brilliant purple in the late afternoon light, preside over a fruit-filled valley laden with the scent of orange blossom in the spring.
The majestic and rugged Cederberg Mountains are a gigantic mass of sandstone, richly coloured by iron oxides and eroded into a variety of strange shapes. This 100-km long range rises splendidly above the vineyards and citrus groves of the Olifants River valley. The Cederberg is most famous for these unique rock formations as well as for fine examples of San (Bushmen) rock paintings and spectacular wild flowers in spring (early/mid August to early September). Most of the Cederberg is a designated Wilderness area and thus remains one of the most undisturbed areas of the country. The hiking trails of the Cederberg Heritage Route aim to make this beautiful area accessible to walkers via the use of charming community guest cottages in the Moravian Mission villages of Heuningvlei, Brugkraal and Wupperthal on the eastern side of the Wilderness area and other guesthouses in or near Clanwilliam on the western side.
Rating of the severity of the hikes/walks
Most of the hiking and walking on the Cederberg Heritage Route trails is not very severe, though the paths are usually stony and uneven and occasionally the route goes through the veld with no path. However, some optional hikes are more challenging. There are also numerous streams and rivers to be crossed, which may involve taking off shoes and socks and wading. We use the following Rating System to describe each day’s hike/walk on our trails.
- Fairly easy walk on undulating terrain, up to 8km
- Relatively easy walking on undulating terrain, about 8-12km
- Steeper walking/hiking and/or a longer distance, up to about 18km
- Steep mountain hike with several hours of uphill walking
Walk exposure to heights and/or scrambling
- no exposure to heights and no scrambling
- some walking up rocky steps
- some steep rock scrambling and exposure to heights involved. People with a severe problem with heights may want to avoid this hike.
Day Packs & Estimated Times
The times estimated below include stops for tea and lunch and some time for photography, swimming and other activities. Hikers are provided with a packed picnic lunch at the start of each day so that you only need to carry a day-pack containing items needed during the day (water, snacks, additional clothing, rain gear), as your other luggage is transported from one overnight stop to the next.
Community Trail Escorts/Guides
Please note that the members of the local communities who escort you on the hikes from one night stop to the next are not necessarily trained and accredited tourist guides. Some of them are, but others are just local community members who know the local paths and will guide you to your next night stop and introduce you to your host. They have local knowledge that they should try to impart to you, but generally their home language is Afrikaans and they may have difficulty expressing themselves in English.
Accommodation on the trails
Accommodation on the Cederberg Heritage Route Trails is either in comfortable B&Bs or in community-based ‘homesteads’. Please note that, though the community-based homesteads are well kept, they do not have the bathroom facilities or perhaps the level of comfort that you may be used to. Bathrooms will usually have to be shared between the group and the room configuration may require three persons to share a bedroom, given the traditional nature of the mission cottages. We aim to describe this as accurately as possible but please come with an attitude of acceptance. The revenue from your walking trail is directly helping the local community.
1 night, Kleinvlei Campsite/Zimri’s Homestead, Packed Lunch, Dinner & Bed
Arrive at Velskoendraai Farm Stall, in Clanwilliam, by 10:00. Here you can enjoy something to drink, while Michelle Truter hand you your documents. Afterwards, you will then drive yourselves to Wupperthal. There, you will be taken on a village tour (not available on Saturdays or Sundays). You will then enjoy a light lunch. After lunch, you will meet up with your guides for a short walk of 4km (of about 2 hours) to Kleinvlei, where you will overnight in a tent at the campsite/at Zimri’s Homestead based on a Dinner, Bed, Breakfast and Packed Lunch basis. Your luggage will be transported by pack donkeys to Kleinvlei.
Clanwilliam is one of South Africa’s oldest towns. Colonialists settled the area by 1725. In 1820 about 350 Irish settlers arrived in Clanwilliam. You can still see some of the attractive 1820 settler houses in Park Street. Clanwilliam is now a centre for an agricultural community cultivating the uniquely South African Rooibos tea, citrus, table grapes and vegetables. The citrus orchards can be seen along the Olifants valley from Citrusdal to Clanwilliam. Further north there are a number of vineyards producing both wine and table grapes.
If you arrive in the town earlier in the afternoon, you may like to visit the Old Gaol Museum, the Strassberger’s Shoe Factory to purchase a pair of locally made ‘veld’ shoes, or the Rooibos Tea House for a video of the tea-making process. You may also like to visit Velskoendraai Farm Stall for a very informative and interesting rooibos tea tasting.
Wupperthal Mission Village
The mission village was founded in the early 19th century and remains quiet and seemingly untouched by the 21st century with some villagers still travelling by donkey and cart. Visit the old attractive Moravian Church, the tea factory and the shoe factory and shop, which sells ‘veldskoene’ – excellent walking/everyday shoes that, are all hand-made and excellent value.
The villages of the Wupperthal Moravian Church in the eastern Cederberg area
Heuningvlei, Brugkraal, Grasvlei, Kleinvlei, Eselbank and Langkloof are all members of the fourteen outpost villages of the Moravian Mission Church at Wupperthal, the successor to the Rhenish Missionary Society that founded Wupperthal in the 1830s. The communities are mainly involved in subsistence farming, running herds of sheep and goats and cultivating crops such as sugar beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes and Rooibos tea. Many community members are seasonal or occasional contract workers in surrounding areas, depending on what work is available. The villages all are situated in areas with perennial water and arable land.
Kleinvlei lies about 8km south of Grasvlei by road. It is 7km north of Eselbank via a footpath, but by road it is a roundabout route of some 28km via Grasvlei, Brugkraal and Wupperthal, Kleinvlei is a picturesque, traditional Moravian village, mainly of thatch-roofed whitewashed cottages. It is a bit smaller than Eselbank. It is set alongside the Dassieboskloof River with Skerpioensberg (1626m) to the west and Sneeukop to the south west. From Kleinvlei the Dassieboskloof River runs through a beautiful gorge to join the Tra Tra river at Wupperthal. There is also a 4km footpath to Wupperthal through the gorge. Kleinvlei has a small campsite and is at the southern end of the Donkey Cart Trail that starts at the top of the Pakhuis Pass and runs through Heuningvlei, Witwater, Brugkraal, Grasvlei and Agtersvlei to Kleinvlei.
Accommodation in tents at Kleinvlei Campsite
Accommodation at Kleinvlei Campsite is in tents. Each tent has two single matrasses on the floor. There is also one communal bathroom for ladies and one for men – each with a shower and a separate toilet with basin. On the premises is also a lapa with a “braai” and an electricity point. Meals will be served and enjoyed in the community hall.
Please note: This is the most rustic accommodation on the trail
Accommodation at Zimri’s Homestead, Kleinvlei
Accommodation at Zimri’s Homestead is provided in three bedrooms, each with a double bed. There is a bathroom with a bath and toilet. The house also has a kitchen, lounge and stoep. Meals are provided by the ladies of the community and will be served in the community hall which is about 100m – 150m from the homestead.
1 night, Cloete’s Homestead, Breakfast, Packed Lunch, Dinner & Bed
Today, at 07:00 or 08:00, you have an escorted hike of about 13km (6 – 7 hours, Rating 3B) from Kleinvlei via Grasvlei to Brugraal, involving about 300m uphill, over the mountain and a gradual 200m downhill to Brugkraal. From Kleinvlei, the route heads off over the mountain, on informal paths used by the local residents. You will then reach the first waterfall on the Grasvlei River. You will then walk through the veld, between the jeep track road and the edge of the Grasvlei River gorge, where you will have views of the two impressive waterfalls on the river, on your way to Grasvlei. Beyond Grasvlei, (about 2km), the route follows an easy path north through attractive countryside, to Brugkraal. You will overnight at Cloete’s Homestead on a Dinner, Bed, Breakfast & Packed Lunch basis.
Accommodation at Cloete Homestead
Accommodation is provided in the Cloete’s homestead which can sleep up to ten persons. There are two bedrooms with a double bed each (one with an en-suite bathroom) and a loft area with a queen size bed and four single beds. There is one bathroom, off the passage and a separate toilet in the loft area. The cottage also has a living room with a fireplace, and a kitchen. There is also a stoep to sit outside. Meals will be brought to the cottage for you to enjoy.
Return to Wupperthal & Depart, Breakfast & Packed Lunch
Today, at 07:00 or 08:00, you continue on the guided trail down to the main village in the area, Wupperthal Mission Village. The hike is approx 12km (6 – 7 hours, Rating 2B) down the valley of the Grasvlei River, via the small villages of Grasvlei and Agtersvlei, and then along the Tra Tra River through Sassakloof to Wupperthal. From Brugkraal to Grasvlei (about 2km), the route follows an easy path through attractive countryside. Beyond Grasvlei, one walks through the veld without a path for about 3,5km, until the route joins the gravel road heading for Agtersvlei. If the Grasvlei River is not running too high the route crosses to the western side of the the river to give a close-up view of the first of two beautiful waterfalls. It then continues down the western side of the river to the second waterfall where there is a huge pool with access for swimming. The route then continues through the veld until it joins the road. If the river is too high to ford safely, the alternative route runs through the veld, between the road and the cliffs above the river on the eastern side, and then crosses the river at the concrete road bridge. Along the way, you will make a short detour to a good viewpoint for the first waterfall. After crossing the bridge the alternative route makes a short detour back up the river to the second waterfall before returning to join the road at the bridge. The route then follows the jeeptrack for about 2km to a point beyond Agtersvlei where it leaves the road and goes through the veld to ford the Tra Tra River and join the path through to Wupperthal. This is where the trail ends and you depart for home.
March 2023 – February 2024
- Per person price (6 pax) ZAR2 600 per person sharing
- Per person price (4 pax) ZAR3 025 per person sharing
- Per person price (2 pax) ZAR4 250 per person sharing
- Accommodation and meals as specified in the itinerary (Full Board)
- Road Transfers as mentioned in the itinerary.
- Services of a local community guide for all the trails
- Transport of luggage between overnight stops
- Transport to/from Clanwilliam (quoted extra on request)
- Travel insurance
- Drinks (but tea and/or coffee are provided at the overnight places)
- R55.00 admin fee once off per booking.