A few years ago Cedarberg Africa joined up with the Not-for-profit organization, Cederberg Heritage Route, to offer a series of slackpacking trails in the Cederberg mountains, only 2 hours north of Cape Town. Cedarberg Africa organizes the booking of the various trails and liaises with the suppliers ‘on the ground’. There are five 2-4 night trails and an epic Cederberg 100 trail (8 nights). I’ll describe these later.
The reason why I was so very keen to get involved with the CHR trails was that it was promising that elusive Holy Grail… The chance for genuine community involvement and sharing in the success of the project. It has been truly inspiring and heartening to see how the trails and the people providing the services have grown over the years. So I thought that I would give you an update…
The Cederberg Heritage Route offers a series of five ‘slackpacking trails’ in the Cederberg Mountains of the Western Cape. Slackpacking basically means that you don’t have to carry your overnight gear from one stop to the next. That is taken to your next night’s stay by car. Or in our case sometimes donkeys or donkey carts! All you have to carry is a day pack with whatever you need for the day.
In the heart of the rugged Cederberg lies the Cederberg Wilderness Reserve and therein lies both the big attraction of walking in the Cederberg but also a big potential drawback. Its wilderness status means that there is no overnight accommodation available in the reserve, only the remnants (and I mean that literally) of old forestry huts. This provides you with a dirt floor and a roof over your head and nothing else.
Now I don’t know about you but I am beyond the stage of sleeping out semi-rough if I want to enjoy a multi-day hike. I am happy to get completely tired huffing and puffing during the day but at night, I want a proper bed, bathroom facilities and a nice hot meal which has been cooked by someone else!
This is where CHR’s community involvement works so well. Alongside the Wilderness Reserve the only settlements in the northern Cederberg are the Moravian mission villages of Heuningvlei, Brugkraal, Kleinvlei, Wupperthal and Eselbank amongst others. The people of these villages generally practice low-scale agriculture and so the Cederberg Heritage Trail has been a way of getting these people to participate in tourism.
Each village provides overnight accommodation, local walking escorts and all meals. They charge us a set rate for each of these services (agreed yearly) and 5% of those rates goes into a central kitty for each village, which is used to improve general facilities for walkers in each village, such as replacing bedding or mattresses.
What we particularly value is that the various services are divided up between the villagers so that no one family is getting all the revenue. So 2 or 3 people will have guesthouses, but other people will do the laundry, another person will provide the breakfasts and picnic lunches and yet another will provide the supper. Each village also has more than one trained walking escort (who has a community guiding certificate and first aid training).
When we started the Cederberg Heritage Trail, we were the only source of walking tourists into these villages. But now many people who don’t want to do the full slack-packing trail, contact the villages directly and book with them. This is ideal if they want to say in the area for a longer period for bouldering for example. This is fantastic as it increases the likelihood that the villagers can make a living only from tourism.
Because of this, we also run an informal loan system with the key service providers who want to expand or upgrade their accommodation. We lend them money at zero interest and then we deduct 50% off their fee for accommodation until it’s paid off. The remarkable thing is that we have not have one defaulter in the 3 years that we have done this!
As well as bringing much-needed funds into the villages, it is clear to us that the villagers have become much more confident in their provision of services. Initially we mentioned in our trail descriptions that the guides did not speak much English (as their home language is Afrikaans) but recently
So this is a true win-win experience. You get to walk in the pristine Cederberg Wilderness without having to rough it at night.
Recap on the trails of the Cederberg Heritage Route
- Klein Krakadouw Trail – 2 or 3 night easy trail ideal for a weekend trip & also great for families. The optional extra day allows you to hike up Krakadouw peak if you wish. Or take a relaxing day walk in the valley.
- Groot Krakadouw Trail – 3 or 4 night route heading deeper into the Cederberg mountains.
- Wupperthal Trail – 3 or 4 night route which ends at the larger mission village of Wupperthal
- Pakhuis Trail – stunning 3 or 4 night route, more suited to active, fit hikers
- Gabriel Trail – 4 night remote trail in the central Cederberg mountains
- Finally the epic Cederberg 100km is an impressive 8 night trail following the spine of the Cederberg mountains.
The trails offer swimming in mountain rock pools, guided rock art tours and rugged unspoilt mountain vistas. The scenery is magnificent and the fynbos is stunning, especially in the spring from August to October.
The best time to hike the trails of the Cederberg Heritage Route is from mid March to November. The high summer (mid November to mid March) tends to be too hot for walking. Two of the trails are outlined in detail on our website. The trails are all fully inclusive of all meals and teas/coffees. All you need to bring are any drinks you may want for the trails and for the evenings.
Want to book a trail?
Contact Michelle at Cederberg Heritage Route.
Tel no: +27 083 468 8030
Or visit their website: www.cedheroute.co.za