The Wolfberg Arch & Sederhoutkop Hike

The Cederberg – 24-27 September 2015

Day 1 – travel day Thursday: We, that being Iain, Elke, Steve, David, Tania, Janet, Jen, Vanessa, Marius, Marinda and Loraine, having arrived at Driehoek all in good enough time to pitch tents (good practice), go for a short walk, prepare the braai and celebrated Heritage (Braai Day) Day in true South African fashion and before we knew, it was time to put head to pillow and settle in for the night.

Day 2 – Friday:  The alarms went off at 04:30, yes, not pleasant, but a lot needed to be done before our intrepid trek such as packing, packing, and more packing! Dress, breakfast, pack, upload, offload, upload, check, comfortable back-pack sitting correctly, and then the journey begun up to the Arch. The weather, just perfect for a hike and it was not too long before we started shedding off the first layer of our warm clothes, it had warmed up remarkably quickly.

The scenery changed constantly as did the flora and fauna – such a diverse region which left each of us in harmony with its offerings whether it was the rock formations, the flowers, the colour variations, we were awestruck. We found the perfect tea spot nestled amongst the rock characters, literally, it was fun identifying the shapes and with views covering 360 degrees including the cedar tree forest at the foot of Gabriel’s Pass which was waiting for us – another up climb and there were many to come!

The Arch Hike 125

The chain was broken and part of that chain found refuge under the cedar forest, when realising that 3 of our party were not with us – they had missed the path going up to the forest and continued trudging along the jeep track. Vanessa doing what she does best – on a rescue mission, found the ‘lost’ 3 and guided them back in the right direction! So with the chain now re-linked, refreshed, regrouped, gathered our gear and continued on our merry way, the upward meander along the zig-zag path to the summit of Gabriel’s Pass, where we eventually met up again with our other ‘lost’ wayward wonderer, Steve, who had assumed that we were not too far behind him, um, little did he know what had transpired. This was where we had our lunch.

We had yet another climb, and a rather tricky one, and we still had a way to go! A few decisions were made splitting the group up but the meeting point would be at the Arch. We were finally on the plateau in search of this famous master piece but the journey seemed to go on and on and on and on, with the rock formations changing constantly, and then finally, what did we see, oh yes, visible in our sights (just 3 of us at this stage) and with an increased pace, we now had purpose, the Arch was waiting. And yes, we were definitely not alone, there were already two separate groups that had arrived before we had and shortly after our arrival, another group of 4, making that a total of 24 spending the night at this extraordinary wonder.

On arrival the wind was horrendous and yet as the sun had set, it dropped instantly and behaved itself for the remainder of the night hours.

The Wolfberg Arch, hard to describe how one feels when you are confronted with this monumental apparition in its natural enormity when standing right underneath it, so impressive! And this is just a one minuscule formation in this area, as it is surrounded by temples of rock formations drawing you back in time to, perhaps, the Rome Empire with their colossal buildings of that time. However, keep your wits about you, over the other ledge is a sheer drop so do not continue walking as the 90° drop!

The richness of the colour constantly changing and the views stretching for miles and miles at a full 360° degrees and with the setting sun and rising moon in the evening, followed again by the rising sun early the next day.

However, there is one major concern, being the number of people who do spend their time camping here, is whether they do, in fact, keep their areas clean from litter and that does include toilet paper. Be mindful of others who wish to enjoy the same pleasures that you did. Keep our reserves litter-free, or should we say toilet-paper free.

Day 3 – Saturday: Time to move on, back on the trail down Gabriel’s Pass to the jeep track and filled up those water bottles and bladders.  The downward descend was remarkably quick without any hitches, falls, nothing at all just upsetting of an ants’ nest when refilling all the water carriers. Poor Tania got bitten (sorry)!

This part of the 3-day hike was mostly along the jeep track which also changed in patches, from sandy, to pebbly, then to shale, stony and the general consensus was that walking in the sand was by the far the most difficult! The walk was inclined to go on and on but we secured a relatively good lunch spot albeit with not much shade but the sound of running water compensated for it and, at least, it wasn’t a blistering hot day, as the Cederberg in known to be.

Heading on towards Sederhoutkop, the spot was awaiting, and our legs were starting to tire but we continued, with the scenery constantly changing, this time the cloud formations which added to the ever-changing scene. David was keen to find those of us keen on flowers some the ground proteas, which he certainly did – another beautiful flower – and again, such a variety of flowers in this region, and some have even rather difficult to identify. Also, we finally spotted some wildlife, a congress of baboons (apparently this is the correct term for a troop of baboons) doing what baboons do best, continue with whatever they were doing.

We spotted water along way, heard water along the way but could not see where it was and how far from the roadside it was nor did we find any foot paths to ascertain exactly where the running water was, and little did we know that our ‘campsite’ for the night was within our range! In the middle of this wide open space, we found what looked like a monstrous ship (rock formation of course) bearing signs of human existence, camp spots were clearly demarcated for tents and Steve having found himself his man-cave for the night.

So after setting up tents and preparing for some sustenance and the moon rising on the night before full moon, a gentle little stroll was required to investigate the tranquility of Sederhoutkop. The tree life that had existed here in the past were merely skeletons but adding to some perfect photographic opportunities! After a long hard day, it was time for some well-deserved rest, if you were fortunate enough to have had some rest, there were quite a few restless sleepers on this night.

Day 4 – Sunday and heading homeWe woke up again to another beautiful morning, and with the weather still being so good to us.

Before loading up and heading off, a good stretch and sharing how we were feeling thus far – and then off we headed back along the jeep track until the road forked off onto the path downwards. Again, a gentle meander down and then we decided to head off to do a bit of cave seeking, which was awesome but unfortunately all the rock paintings had been somewhat destroyed by a fire within this cave which will require some restoration – there has to be somebody out there who can restore all these rock paintings?

Rain appeared to be heading our way, the clouds were rolling in but so far so good. We had a quick stop, replenishing our bodies with a bite to eat and continued on our way down amongst Cederberg’s finest rock mountains. We did have a few drops of rain but not hard enough to warrant putting on all that rain gear nor was it too long before we hit flat ground again – almost back at Driehoek, just another 2kms to go, with just a few obstacles to overcome (crossing over gushing water) but we had made it and were ready to do so all over again.

The last stretch along the dirt road back to Driehoek – all safely down and still marveling over this unique and special experience, and how fortunate we were, the weather conditions played their part and were ideal, once again. It was time to bid farewell, cast our commentaries and say au revoir to the Cederberg until the next time which will, hopefully, be soon. ~ Written by Loraine Nielson / Photos by me