After packing the excited group into our new Mercedes Sprinter, sponsored by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, and filling our donated trailer to the brim with supplies we headed north into the mountains arriving at camp just after midday. The tents were put up and everyone was shown the ins and outs of our beautiful campsite. Armed with a bit of insight on the area and the work that we do, the participants were treated to a true Cederberg experience – ancient rock art and strange rock formations at dusk around the Stadsaal caves.
The next morning everyone was up early with only a few murmurs of complaint about the cold night and some giggles about the echoing baboon conversation that rings out every morning just before sunrise. We drove off towards the western section of the Cederberg with our tracking equipment to see if we could get a signal for Spot, our single collared leopard (and mother of two young) that roams the area east of Uitkyk pass. After proving once again the elusiveness of these sleek predators we decided to take a walk up to another rare resident of these mountains - Widdringtonia cedarbergensis or the Clanwilliam Cedar which is now only found above the 1000 m contour in rocky areas of the mountains that claim its name. The particular specimen that we visited is a majestic, tall character that is rooted into a sandstone boulder. Sitting underneath its old gnarled branches and looking south over this magnificent landscape it was hard not to feel like we had gone back to a time where nature held the highest authority.
The grueling walk up to the cedar had taken its toll on much of the group and a more relaxed afternoon was spent relaxing under the poplars at the campsite until the rain came.
The day before going home we had a little exploration of the magical Truitjieskraal area where we played around in the weird and wonderful rock formations. On the way we checked a camera trap, used to photograph animals passing along the path. It photographs everything that moves in front of it, including the group!
Lastly we had a memorable final afternoon dipping in the Matjiesrivier upstream from the camp.
It was with a feeling of sadness that our newest converts packed up their tents and took their seats in the bus. The drive back to Malmesbury was a quiet one with each person wrapped up in the memories of a privileged few days in the great wilderness that is the Cederberg.
(Matthew Dowling, Environmental Educator of the CLT)