The Cederberg earned its name from the distinctive Cedar tree which grows high in these mountains and which was previously harvested for furniture and telephone poles, writes Jeanne-Louise Wiese. These days the area and its trees are protected within the greater Cederberg Conservation Area which stretches from the Middelberg Pass in Citrusdal to the Pakhuis Pass at Clanwilliam.
The conservation area was proclaimed in 1973 and consists of the 71 000 hectare Cederberg Wilderness Area and the 12 000 hectare Matjiesrivier Reserve as well as some conservancies on privately owned land, which borders the conservation area. The Matjiesrivier Reserve is renowned for its marvellous sandstone formations such as the Stadsaal Caves, the Wolfberg Arch and the Maltese Cross. Those who have visited this area will know that one of the most spectacular attributes to the area is the sunsets when the sun hovers across the western horizon and lights up the oxide-stained and lichen-covered red sandstone cliffs of the Cederberg Mountains.
Various conservation projects have been launched in this area which contributes to the conservation of ecosystems within the Greater Cederberg Biodiversity Corridor. One of these is the Working for Wetlands project which now has 40 projects across South Africa and targets 91 wetland areas. The project aims at setting rehabilitation objectives for wetlands by offering technical expertise to landowners and collaborating with local partners. One such project falling within the Cederberg region aims to conserve amphibians and reptiles through collaboration with the tourists who visit the area and contribute to the survey of frogs, tortoises, snakes and lizards. So if you happen to have a camera strapped to your helmet, when riding in the area, you can also contribute by photographing any of these animals and sending your data to the Cape Nature offices and help conserve these sensitive species along our much loved cycling routes.
The Cederberg region forms part of the Cape Floral region and covers the landscape with mountain fynbos, proteas, red disas, South Africa’s famous rooibos tea plants, many different varieties of buchu, and among the high peaks of the Sneeuberg, the rare and endemic snow protea.The best time to load up your bike and head out for a full day trip through this magnificent floral display is during spring. And the location I’d recommend is around the Agter-Pakhuis Pass.
In addition to the flora, the area boasts a long list of wildlife; such as porcupines, honey badger, the Cape clawless otter, African wildcat, lynx, bat-eared fox, aardwolf, Cape fox, aardvark, grey rhebok, klipspringer and the occasional elusive leopard. But one very special kind of animal is found in the crystal clear mountain streams and these are the fynbos fish. They’re not just ordinary fish as they only thrive in streams surrounded by fynbos and are endemic to these areas. A remarkable 24 of the 27 fish species found in the Cape floral region are found nowhere else in the world. These fish are under severe threat as a result of excessive water abstraction from the rivers, invasive alien fish preying on them and their habitat being degraded by pollution. So consider these fish when rinsing your dirty water bottle in their streams.
All public roads in the area can be used for mountain biking however there are a few official MTB routes which charge visitor fees. These include trails at Kromrivier, Dwarsrivier, Nuwerust and Mount Ceder. The Cederberg offers a true wilderness experience not easily surpassed. Head for these mountains and lose yourself among the rocking mountain biking trails and sandstone formations and appreciate the fact that you are riding amongst the most rare and picturesque ecosystems in the world.