Words and pictures by Andrew Middleton. Pictures by Max Breitensteiner.
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After getting the shivers again from too much city time, the Cederberg began calling my name this month. A spot of webtrawling and phoning-about soon offered up a solution to the blues: just two-and-a-bit hours from Cape town is Koningskop, which would match my needs – a good campsite and a trail that wouldn’t damage a shiny new test car.
While camping, I usually avoid human contact like one should avoid cheap Indian food, but on this particular long weekend the site was packed. There are 50 grassy, mostly shaded sites, though, so it wasn’t a problem… and the little kids running around reminded me of the good old days.
There’s a big dam right opposite a restaurant (open only in busy season) where you can do a spot of catch-and-release while the youngsters play in the pool. There’s even a jungle gym and a small shop that sells massive bags of wood and the usual necessities that everyone forgets.
Surrounding the property are two 4×4 routes: the 12km ‘Petoorskrans’, an extreme challenge for modified 4x4s; and ‘Boesmansklip’, a shorter, scenic route that will test the mettle of a standard bakkie, but without breaking it. (7km).
As tempting as it was to go rock-crawling, we opted for the easy route instead. The trail runs north, up a steep ascent between spectacular red sandstone rock formations which enable you to look over lush vineyards far below. As climbs go, it’s not particularly technical, but you’ll need to engage the rear locker at times as the rocky axle-twisters offer a challenge to standard long-wheelbase vehicles like our Triton.
At the top of the trail, on the halfway mark, visitors are treated to a chance to view original Khoisan San rock art on a cave wall. Nobody knows exactly how old the paintings are, but judging by the elephant and other game depicted, they are estimated to be as old as 28 000 years. The /Xam people inhabited this area for over 500 000 years, but unfortunately left about 200 years ago when European colonialists began farming the area and hunting the wildlife.
The return leg down the circular route is much more thrilling than the ascent. A narrow gap between two towering rocks on a particularly loose, steep descent toward a sheer cliff gets the heart rate up. If your passengers are scared of heights, it’s best that they step out at this point. If you’re the driver, avoid looking down the sheer cliff ahead and concentrate, unless you feel like doing some impromptu skiing.
The whole ‘easy’ route takes about an hour of driving and is a perfect excuse for some morning exploration; and, with care, it won’t be a threat to your vehicle.
After the steep descent, the trail levels out and heads back to the campsite. We opted to spend more time exploring the surroundings, and headed toward Sanddrif vineyard in the heart of the Cederberg. They offer a selection of fantastic wines that are available for tasting, as well as for sale. From Sanddrif, one can take the spectacular gravel road south toward Ceres and back to Cape Town, to complete the journey. This way, you’ll never drive the same road twice on your weekend away.
We found Koningskop to be great for a quick weekend outing, and as a base from which to explore more of the Cederberg’s treasures.