“You’re planning the next trip and your saddle is still warm?!”, a good running friend chirped once, summing up in a nutshell my obsession for escaping for days on end on the bike. But a quick swipe of the fingers recently through the dusty layers that had built up on everything in the workshop, following a frenetic and busy season of work and deadlines, made me suddenly realise that if there was any warmth left in the saddle it was only kept there from the stuff piled on and around it. It was time to blow off the dust, and blow off some steam.
This desperate need to see endless space and far off horizons for a few days, combined with a last minute panic-stricken training session for another Cape2Knysna journey in July justified spending hour upon hour staring at maps and conjuring up another 2 wheeled escapade. Having had a healthy dose of hundreds of miles of flat, straight roads last year through the Tankwa, it was agreed that we should aim at the extreme opposite this year. Destination: the Cederberg.
The Cederberg is a truly amazing landscape, a range of mountains hovering around the 1900m above sea level mark, a few hours north of Cape Town. It catches the winter rains coming in from the west, hence the Tankwa Karoo, the sparse, desolate valley lying just a few miles to its east being the driest place in South Africa, akin to a lunar landscape with its biggest attractions being either the flaming Afrikaburn where you have absolutely no worries about igniting anything in the surrounding 500kms because there is nothing there, or its infinitely spread night skies of shooting stars. Or the Tankwa Padstal. Its not your average traveller that stumbles into the Tankwa.
The Cederberg mountains are often snow capped in winter, and bake with an orange glow under the relentless summer heat, but regardless of the season, the rock formations hidden amongst these vast cliff faces will leave your jaw on the ground. If you think lying on your back making pictures in the puffy Highveld clouds is fun, every rock in the Cederberg has some intriguing shape and alter-ego. And there are a lot of rocks to explore.
One of these landmark rocky features is Tafelberg – a flat topped mountain similar to its famous smaller brother that keeps vigil over the bustle of Cape Town. Tafelberg sits at just under 2000m ASL, and in keeping with cycling tradition to name the ride after what you’re riding around for days on end (think Tour de France, and the Tour de Towerkop!), our journey was officially named the Tour de Tafelberg.
The crew on board was once again made up of the close friends I’ve enjoyed many adventures with before – Elvis (a walking conundrum of a super chilled Kommetjie surfer bloke and a psychotically focused and dedicated Ironman type athlete / freak ), brothers Charl (super strong on the bike with an insane track record of Argus achievements) and Einstein / Weisstein (resilient adventure partner bringing a very dodgy ‘Brokeback Mountain’ style hat on the trip), and the legendary BUD – softening the blow of the dreaded mountain passes knowing there was a feast waiting over the top and a cake at the end of the tour!
The route was a simple loop, to be tackled over three days – from the very south, around the north and back down, with a few detours down side valleys.
The starting and finishing point was the beautiful Mt Ceder at the southern end of the range. Day 1 got off to a great start. The first few hundred metres were sheer bliss, downhill, before the first of many many long passes, the Grootrivier Pass, rose up in front of us. From the top we continued north, via Matjiesrivier, the 4×4 route down into Wupperthal and the equally numbing climb out the other side, and eventually out into the Biedouw Valley to the rustic Enjo Farm, a few kms from the Doring Rivier.
Day 2 started with another big climb up the Hoek-se-Berg Pass to the northern most point of the ride, where we headed east via the Pakhuis Pass, Clanwilliam, and south along the dam to reach Gecko Creek just as the sky grew dark and the stars grew bright.
Day 3 started with another climb (yes, are you noticing the trend here) up Niewoudts Pass, followed by the Uitkyk pass, before enjoying a lunch on the beautiful lawns of the Cederberg Wines estate at Dwarsrivier, where we felt it only right to sample the local brew, before setting off to beat the sunset over the last gruelling pass – the Groot@$%*&rivier pass, descending to our starting base at Mount Ceder once more.
Additional Photos (and real names!): Caitlin, Cobus, Andre, and Charl.