I'm not great at putting experiences into words. I'd much rather snap some photos and try and capture what it felt like visually. You could call it lazy, especially in an age where photos seem to get more attention than words. On top of that, I've found that I try and capture experiences purely to share on social media, which really isn't the point of getting outdoors and disconnecting. I still love taking photos though, so I'm going to start sharing my photos and experiences here a bit more, with a little more intent. Here goes nothing...
We left Cape Town a little after 4pm on Friday, with Stu and his trusty Mitsubishi Pajero being our aides to adventure. The 'We' I'm referring to were Stuart, Simon, Mubeen, Tauriq, and myself. The lucky few who had a weekend free and the means to escape from the city and into the wilderness for a brief moment. The two and a half hour drive out to the Cederberg meant we would arrive after dark, with the intention of heading out into the night to Spout Cave, which would serve as our shelter for the evening. The drive to our starting point gave us plenty of time to rethink this plan, as the rain bucketed down on the Pajero, Stu navigating puddles, mud, and dense fog with precision (precision being hitting the odd puddle for me to try get the photo below, thanks Stu). The rain fell harder and the temperature began to drop as we climbed in altitude. Our goal of getting the to the cave that evening began to seem a little bit irresponsible, and cold. Taking the weather into account, we decided it was best to wait the evening out in tents and a caravan at base camp, and head out in the morning.
We started our trip the next morning, the weather still looming, but the rain had stopped and this presented us with the opportunity to get going without being drenched within the first minute.
We were now a bit short on time, and had decided to leave Tafelberg out of our itinerary, and instead headed for Gabriëlskloof, with the aim of heading over to the village of Langkloof. Gabriëlskloof was a beautiful pass through the mountain, with a river running through the whole kloof. All of us were pretty stunned by how much water was everywhere. Good ol' Mountain Tea available almost always on route!
Gabriëlskloof was presumably named after someone named Gabriël, and after reading up on Slingsby's "Cederberg Names" site, I found that he was a postman who would travel this route, delivering post between the valleys on either side of the pass in the late 19th and early 20th century. The kloof felt quite remote and wild, even with the trail running through there. It must've been quite a tough commute back in the day, with Cape Leopards around and probably way less water. I hope the the people that sent those letters were grateful, Gabriël.
As the view of the next valley slowly revealed itself, we were all quite blown away. The weather made for some dramatic views, as it often does in the mountains.
The village of Langkloof came into view as we skirted the base of the pass. We decided to head through the village rather than around it, hoping to get some advice on where the Agter-Tafelberg trail started on the far side of the valley. The goal had been to find a trail that used to be a part of the Cederberg Heritage Route, which took a turn off the Agter-Tafelberg trail, crested a pass, and joined the Esselbank trail, eventually leading us to the Sneeukop hut where we would stay for the evening. None of us had done this linking trail, hence the decision to ask for some local beta.
As we passed through the village we ended up asking a group of guys working on their garage roof if they had heard of the trail we were looking for. They assured us they had, and sent us across the valley in search of it.
After crossing a small river and a sheep pen, we eventually found the Agter-Tafelberg trail, and began to search for the Cederberg Heritage Route turnoff. By this time, the weather had begun to set in, and a light drizzle was now falling, with grey clouds looming overhead (weather reports had warned of snow, high winds, and the possibility of flooding). After finding the turnoff, we began the climb towards the top of the gully, all on what were beginning to be weary legs. The trail was quite visible at first, with a couple cairns to show us the way, but slowly it began to disappear. We would follow the trail for 20 meters, then it would seemingly end, we would look for a cairn, find nothing, but accidentally find what seemed to be a trail, and then continue. After about 20 minutes of this, Stu decided it was time to consult the map. He saw that if we opted to keep going on this route, we would still have another 20km to go, after having already done +-20km. With the weather moving in even more, we decided it was best to rather head back to the well known trail, and head to the Sleepad Hut for the evening.
The final slog to the hut seemed to drag on, the weather getting ever harsher. We were essentially running into a storm, but luckily it wasn't raining yet. We were in the cloud, all holding on to the thought of a warm drink and food at the hut. To be honest, being out in the weather like that was actually quite special. One often stays indoors in adverse weather (potentially wise), meaning you don't get to have a different experience in the same "space". Regardless, getting to the hut was welcome by all. Once we had settled down, we all noticed a window facing the direction the wind was coming from was broken, and the cloud and cold wind blew in from outside. Mubeen nobly sacrificed his bag to over the whole. We defrosted quickly as tea and coffee were whipped up.
The night was pretty amazing, as we all sat in our sleeping bags, eating warm food (read Smash with olives in it), with the wind whistling and howling outside the windows.
The next morning the weather was much the same; cloudy, windy, cold. We head off down back to our starting point, seeing the Cederberg in a completely different light, literally. The clouds came and went as we descended, revealing small peaks and beautiful vlaktes every now and then, water flowing every where.
After a beautiful descent back to our starting point, we were chased to the caravan by the incoming rain. In the distance you could see the waves of rain moving closer by the minute. As we reached the safety of the caravan the rain bucketed down properly, and we were thankful it hadn't started earlier! As we got in the Paj and left the mountains, a torrential downpour started, with us making it over the Olifants river bridge with minutes to spare before it overflowed.
An epic weekend microadventure that had me, and I'm sure everyone else, excited to be back before we had even left.
Thanks for taking the time to read this and take a look at the photos. I'm hoping to populate this blog with some old adventures in the mean time, but there'll be some epic new ones soon enough.