The Cederberg Wilderness is one of the least trodden parts of South Africa – one of the many reasons it is so alluring as a hiking destination. Take the Gabriel Slackpacking Trail and stay in a series of tiny mountain villages with local families for an experience as authentic as the local rooibos tea.

Did you know?

The Cederberg is named (and misspelled) after the rare Clanwilliam Cedar, only found in the higher parts of these mountains.

Only two hours’ drive north of Cape Town lies an utterly different world. Here you’ll find untamed beauty and unusual plant life among the weirdly shaped rock formations and mountains coloured by iron oxides and the setting sun.

The Cederberg Mountains fall within the Cape Floristic Kingdom so they are botanically remarkable. And not for nothing is this area usually referred to as a wilderness. The rugged terrain means that civilisation has never had much more than a tenuous hold here. The few roads demand respect and the settlements (mostly Moravian mission villages) are thinly populated and far apart.

There are hidden treasures to be found in the Cederberg – notably the rock art in overhangs. Walking is one of the best ways to appreciate the region’s breathtaking scenery, and slackpacking offers the ideal way to do that. As you walk with a small day pack, your heavy packs are transported via donkey cart or other means to your overnight stops.

The Cederberg’s Heritage Route’s Gabriel Slackpacking Trail takes you on a four-night experience through this remarkable wilderness, named for the highest pass you walk over.

They are among the outposts of the Moravian Mission Church at the larger Cederberg town of Wupperthal. Here people are involved in subsistence farming, with the main crops being sugar beans, potatoes, and rooibos tea.

The walks during the day vary in length and difficulty. Hikers need to be fairly fit, since some of the routes are steep and rocky, with the longest walk being 14km. A community trail guide accompanies the group, pointing out the paths and special scenic attractions.

The route ascends mountain passes, descends into gorges with spectacular waterfalls and goes via some of the incredible rock art in caves and overhangs. It also goes close to some of the Cederberg’s most iconic rock formations: the Maltese Cross; the Wolfberg Arch and Sneeuberg.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Cederberg African Travel
Tel: +27 (0)27 482 2444
Fax: +27 (0)27 482 1420
Email: info@cedarberg.co.za

How to get here

You’ll leave your vehicle at the Clanwilliam Living Landscape Project. Clanwilliam is well-marked on maps, and is a two hour drive north of Cape Town, along the N7.

Best time to visit

If you’re interested in seeing flowering fynbos, the best time is spring and early summer (September to end of November).

Tours to do

If you arrive early in Clanwilliam, you could visit the Old Gaol and take a tour of a rooibos tea factory.

What will it cost

Costs depend on how many people take the trail. For six people, the cost for the four night trail is approx. R3 375 per person sharing. If there are only four people, the price per person is R3 850 and if there are two people, the cost increases to R5 075 per person.

What to pack

This is a fully-catered hike, so you need only bring your water and snacks, as well as some additional gear and raincoats in the day pack. For the rest, bring sturdy boots (remember you may have to cross streams, so bring a change of socks and maybe a spare pair of shoes) and warm clothing for the evenings.

Where to stay

The first night is spent at the Yellow Aloe Guesthouse in Clanwilliam. The following nights will be homestays in tiny mountain villages.

What to eat

Expect the food to be simple and wholesome. Make a point of sampling the rooibos tea. This region is the only place in the world that it grows.

Best buys

In Clanwilliam you can buy a pair of locally produced ‘veld’ shoes at Strassberger’s Shoe Factory and the Clanwilliam Living Landscape Project participants make and sell pretty necklaces and bags at the craft shop.