Cederberg Heritage Route, Western Cape
ONLY FOR EXPERIENCED HIKING FIT HIKERS
Travel north from Cape Town and over the Piekenierskloof Pass beyond Piketberg and you descend into a different world. You are only two hours 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. 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.
2 nights (1st night), The Rectory Guesthouse OR Blommenberg Guesthouse, Dinner & Bed
Arrive in Clanwilliam in the late afternoon and head to your overnight stay at The Rectory Gusethouse/Blommenberg Guesthouse on a Bed, Packed Breakfast & Packed Lunch basis. You will be met by Michelle Truter at 17:00 who will hand over your documents. You will also receive a meal voucher to the value of R180 to enjoy dinner at the Rooibos Country Club.
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 House of Rooibos for a video of the tea-making process. You can also do a very informative and interesting rooibos tea tasting at Velskoendraai Farm Stall.
Accommodation at The Rectory, Clanwilliam
The Rectory is a national monument and is situated in the main road of Clanwilliam. It has a beautiful courtyard. Accommodation at The Rectory is provided in four en-suite rooms. Two rooms have each got a double bed. The other rooms have 2 ¾ beds.
Accommodation at Blommenberg Guest House, Clanwilliam
Blommenberg Guest House has nine en-suite rooms are situated around our lush garden courtyard with a swimming pool. Eight are standard rooms. Of these, six have twin beds and two have queen size beds. The bathrooms have walk-in showers. All are quiet, secure, spacious and airy.
2 nights (2nd night), The Rectory Guesthouse OR Blommenberg Guesthouse, Packed Breakfast, Packed Lunch, Dinner & Bed
This morning, you will be transferred to the top of Pakhuis Pass for your guided hike down to Boskloof, in the beautiful valley of the Jan Dissels River. The 17km hike (7 – 9 hours) follows a very scenic route across the western side of the mountain, starting at 900m altitude and undulating down to about 200m. (Rating 3B, undulating but basically 700m downhill. Most of the path is well made but the last section of about 1km is quite steep and rough. This is quite a strenuous hike.) The vegetation and rock formations are most interesting. After your day hike, you will be transferred back to The Rectory Guesthouse/Blommenberg Guesthouse for your overnight stay on a Bed, Packed Breakfast & Packed Lunch basis again. And you will enjoy dinner at Michael’s on Park Restaurant (a meal vouche to the value of R200 per person is included).
Accommodation at The Rectory Guesthouse OR Blommenberg Guesthouse on a Bed, Packed Breakfast & Packed Lunch basis again.
1 OR 2 night(s), Heuningvlei Backpackers Guest Lodge, Breakfast, Packed Lunch, Dinner & Bed
This morning, you will park your vehicle at De Vlei Guesthouse, in town. You will then be transferred back to Boskloof for the start of your day hike. Today you will enjoy a guided hike of about 13km (6 – 8 hours, Rating 3B) up the Krakadouw Pass trail, through the heart of the Cederberg Wilderness Area, to Krakadouw Nek and then down to the guest cottage in the small settlement of Heuningvlei. The views are breath-taking. The up trail follows the valley of the perennial Dwarsrivier stream through patches of beautiful indigenous bush and trees. It also passes an unusual round blockhouse built in about 1901 by the British forces during the Anglo-Boer War. The trail is generally not very steep, climbing up some 900m to the Nek and then descending 300m to Heuningvlei. Again, this is quite a strenuous hike because of the uphill climb. You will stay in Heuningvlei on a Dinner, Bed & Breakfast basis.
Anglo-Boer War in the Clanwilliam District
The 10th Royal Hussars, 16th and 17th Lancers, Gordon Highlanders and 3rd South Stafford regiments were sent to Clanwilliam during the Anglo Boer War (1899 – 1902). They were put ashore in Lamberts Bay as the Cape Town docks were overloaded and had to walk with all their equipment for forty miles to Clanwilliam in the summer heat. The soldiers were stationed in the “Clanwilliam School”. Due to skirmishes in the area, a number of soldiers were killed and 23 are buried in the St. John’s Church cemetery. Others are buried in the district.
The first blockhouses were built on the orders of the British Commander-in-Chief, Field Marshal Lord Roberts, in March 1900 following the capture of Bloemfontein. Roberts was eager to protect his army’s main supply route, the railway connecting Bloemfontein to the Cape. When the Boers took to the veld and the guerrilla phase began in late 1900 they proved elusive and were very difficult to bring to battle. Lord Milner, the British High Commissioner at the Cape, suggested extending the blockhouses away from the railway across the veld. The idea was to literally fence the Boers in by constructing an obstacle against which pursuing British columns could trap them. In addition, supply depots could be established away from the railway along the blockhouse line giving the pursuing columns greater range.
The blockhouse system required an enormous amount of manpower. Well over 50 000 British troops, or 50 battalions, were involved in blockhouse duty, greater than the approximately 30 000 Boers in the field during the guerrilla phase. Many of the troops guarding the lines of communication and manning blockhouses were from the militia, part time civilian soldiers. In addition up to 16 000 Africans were used to patrol the line at night.
Life in the blockhouse was very dull and tedious. The routine was simple and unchanging, the possibility of Boers trying to cross the blockhouse line always present. There was little scope for amusement on the veldt. The blockhouse was part of a successful strategy that eventually brought the ‘bittereinder’ (bitter end) Boers to the negotiating table. Although the Boer general, Christiaan De Wet, thought they prolonged the war because the great expansion of the blockhouse system in mid-1901 allowed the Boers to regroup and fight on.
Mission Village of Heuningvlei
The farm Heuningvlei originally belonged to the nine Ockhuis brothers, who inherited it from their father – a Dutch settler who married a Hottentot woman, Vytjie Swart. Three of the brothers went bankrupt and sold their shares to the other six. The remaining six soon sold their ownership rights to the Rhenish Missionary Society. Today, Heuningvlei is one of fourteen outposts of the Moravian Mission station, in Wupperthal.
Twenty families are currently living here, most of whom are subsistence farmers planting sugar beans, potatoes and sweet potatoes. The community is also renowned for using traditional methods to produce dried fruit and for organically cultivating Rooibos tea. The community identified tourism as a means of improving their livelihood and the provision of accommodation, meals and guiding has provided the community with extra income.
The younger children go to school in Wupperthal, whereas the older children go to the secondary school in Clanwilliam. The children normally board during the term. Wupperthal has a clinic, but the nearest hospital would be in Clanwilliam. Although the shop in Wupperthal stocks the basics, most of the provisions needed by the inhabitants in Heuningvlei, are purchased in Clanwilliam.
Accommodation at Heuningvlei
Accommodation at Heuningvlei is provided in either the community guesthouse or in a homestead/s. Meals are provided by the ladies of the community. Please note that even if a specific property has been confirmed to you, it does happen that the community has to move you to another property because of certain reasons.
Accommodation at Heuningvlei Backpackers Guest Lodge, Heuningvlei
Accommodation at Heuningvlei Backpackers Guest Lodge is comfortable. There are two rooms, each with 3 bunk beds, the third room has a double bed and single bed combination bunk bed and the fourth room has a double bed and two single beds. There are two separate showers and 4 separate toilets with basins. There is also a lounge and dining area with fireplace and a small kitchen. Please note: To access the showers or toilets from the rooms, you have to walk out of the room, onto the stoep and enter through another door.
Optional Day 4
Optional Walk near Heuningvlei, Breakfast, Packed Lunch, Dinner & Bed
If you wish you can have an extra day to enjoy either a hike up Krakadouw peak or a circular walk around Heuningvlei – depending on your fitness levels and/or inclination! However we do ask that your whole group opts for one or other of the optional walks and also that you let us know in advance which option you are likely to do. Your optional hike will start at 07:00 in summer and 08:00 in winter.
Option One: Guided hike up Krakadouw Peak
This is an immensely rewarding, but strenuous hike up to one of the highest peaks in the Cederberg Mountains. It is an 8 hour hike (3-4 hours ascent 900m, approximately 1 hour on the summit and 3 hours descent, Rating is 4C). Some scrambling up gullies will be required so above average fitness and some mountain experience would be expected. However at the top you are rewarded with 360 degree panoramic views of the whole of the Cederberg range and a fascinating terrain. On the way up and down there are also wonderful views, incredible rock formations and a number of the rather rare cedar tree, Widdringtonia cedarbergensis, which is endemic to the Cederberg area.
Option Two: Relaxed guided walk in the hills behind Heuningvlei
Alternatively you can enjoy an easy day hike of 10 – 12km in the hills to the east of Heuningvlei (Rating 2B). There are some rock art sites in the area that you can elect to visit if you so wish. Again the rock formations and varied vegetation and wild flowers provide interest along the way. Near the end of the walk you can swim in a large, deep pool in the Heuningvlei River, in a beautiful setting.
Overnight at Heuningvlei Backpackers Guest Lodge again on a Dinner, Bed, Breakfast & Packed Lunch basis.
Day 4 (or Day 5)
Return to Clanwilliam and Depart, Breakfast & Light Lunch
This morning, after breakfast, at 07:00 or 08:00 you can enjoy a donkey cart ride from Heuningvlei to the top of Pakhuis Pass of about 12km (2 hours by donkey cart or 2½ – 3 hours walk, some 300m ascent and 250m descent, Rating 2A) on the Donkey Cart Trail. The track is quite rough and the donkey cart is not a very comfortable vehicle, so be prepared for a bumpy ride. You will then be collected from there and taken on a guided rock art trail. After the rock art trail, you will enjoy a light lunch before you are transferred back to De Vlei Guesthouse, by 15:30, where you collect your vehicle/s and depart for home. PLEASE NOTE: If you elect not to include the rock art trail and light lunch, you will be back in Clanwilliam by 10:00 – 12:00. And the price per person will be less. If you wish not to include the Sevilla Rock Art Trail and Light Lunch, please let us know, on confirming this booking.
Donkey Cart Trail
You can opt to ride in the traditional donkey cart of the area – an exhilarating 2 hour ride (including a couple of stops for photography), or choose to walk all or part of the trail. This is a 12km trail on a wide track which would typically take 2½ – 3 hours to walk (Rating 2A). The mountain scenery is spectacular and there are usually a variety of indigenous flowering plants to be seen along the way. Take note that the donkey cart is not a luxury vehicle – it is a bumpy ride though cushions will be provided!
A note about donkeys
Donkeys are not horses; they are by nature fairly stubborn with minds of their own, so it may take a while to round them up and to harness them to the carts. As the road is fairly rough and steep in parts 6 donkeys are used per cart. They require constant urging, both vocal and physical by the driver/handler, who has to ensure that each donkey is “pulling his weight”. This requires the use of a whip, sufficiently long (up to 3m) to reach the leader of the team. The whip’s “bark” is more impressive than its “bite”, as the far end of the whip does little more than touch the animal’s hindquarters.
Passengers should be willing to get off the cart and walk up or down steep sections.
San (Bushmen) Rock Art
One of the most appealing activities in the Cedarberg, is to follow a walking trail to some of the ancient rock paintings of the San people, the first inhabitants of the Cape. The Cederberg is one of the best areas for rock art in Southern Africa with over 2,000 discovered sites (The other three areas are the Drakensberg Mountains in kwaZulu-Natal, the Brandberg in Namibia and the Matopas in southern Zimbabwe.).
Typically you visit the Sevilla Rock Art Trail. The Sevilla Trail consists of 9 different rock art sites, in a very attractive environment, and will take about 2½ – 3 hours (Rating 1A) to complete but you can choose how many sites you wish to visit.
3 night option
March 2023 – February 2024
- ZAR5 725 per person sharing Per person price (18 pax)
- ZAR6 925 per person sharing Per person price (6 pax)
- ZAR7 775 per person sharing Per person price (4 pax)
- ZAR9 050 per person sharing Per person price (2 pax)
4 night option
March 2022 – February 2023
- ZAR6 600 per person sharing Per person price (18 pax)
- ZAR7 925 per person sharing Per person price (6 pax)
- ZAR8 875 per person sharing Per person price (4 pax)
- ZAR10 425 per person sharing Per person price (2 pax)
Note: If you have one or two people who are happy for other people to join them, please specify this when booking. We will invoice you for the two person price but will reduce the price if other people join the tour at a later stage. Unless you specify that, we will assume that each booking is a private tour.
- Accommodation and meals as specified in the itinerary (Full Board)
- Tea, coffee, milk and sugar at all the overnight places
- Road Transfers as mentioned in the itinerary
- Services of a local community guide for all the hikes
- Transport of luggage between overnight stops
- Transport to/from Clanwilliam (quoted extra on request)
- Travel insurance
- R55.00 once off per reservation.