On the scenic way home

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RUSTIC: Oudrif's distinctive straw-bale cottages. Picture: Christopher List

Cape Town - The road snaked up the spectacular Pakhuis Pass, winding through majestic, though blackened, views over the Cederberg after a recent fire. The town of Clanwilliam lay before us, glinting in the sun.

I opened my throttle, speeding down the tarred road like an orange bullet. Unbeknownst to me a loud pop had rent the air. Chris struggled to control his bike as the tyre’s air released and the back rim hit the tar with a thud, sending him swerving left to right as if he was riding on jelly.

Suddenly it fishtailed, catapulting him like Superman, only to land as if someone had put out Kryptonite. It seemed the Cederberg was not ready to relinquish its hold on us.

After a gravel road booby-trapped with thick pockets of sand and the full-frontal attack of the sun, we were woozy with exhaustion when we had ridden into the Cederberg a few days earlier.

An easily avoidable fall later, getting trapped in sand and nearly delirious with the heat, by the time we’d reached the white stone that was our marker, we were totally confused. Was the stone dyslexic or was it us? It obstinately pointed left, despite directions to turn right.

Unsure, we followed the GPS to the cool waters of the Doring River, as thrilled as sailors seeing land after months at sea when Oudrif’s distinctive straw-bale cottages were revealed at the bottom of the hill. Apparently, we’d taken a route which has bested many 4x4s.

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AT HOME: An agama lizard in the Cederberg Mountains. Pictures: Christopher List

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The following day we joined owner Bill Mitchell on a hike across the river to an overhang painted with elephants and eland, hunters and prey. Only the more potent ochre and yellow colours remained while the blacks (made from charcoal and manganese oxides) and whites (from less robust clay) had faded over time, which accounted for partially headless figures, known as “hook heads”.

Though there’s plenty of conjecture about the meaning of Cederberg rock paintings, we learnt that the site could have been an initiation spot, while the prevailing view is that it represents shamanic activity. There are even those out there who believe the paintings come from a higher life form.

With over 130 Bushman rock art sites situated amidst the dramatic sandstone and shale formations the Cederberg is famous for, the 7 500 hectare Bushman’s Kloof was our next stop. Apart from ancient rock art, it provides a predator-free refuge for numerous antelope; the Cape Mountain Zebra; the Clanwilliam Yellow Fish; the Cape Clawless Otter, and the aardwolf.

They also regularly clear alien vegetation, host an annual cedar tree planting event, grow their own food and recycle waste material with an advanced biolytic system. Recently, they’ve converted the staff village to solar. With the Footprints of the Future Project, local children learn about conservation, hospitality and ecotourism.

After a game ride where Cape Mountain Zebras came right up to us as we enjoyed our sundowners, a mysterious ancient rock art site of indeterminate age and an archery lesson we were travelling to the coast.

We didn’t make it very far. Spud lay on the side like a potato turned to Smash. Wires sticking out in a bizarre Einstein-like hairdo, steering column and dashboard obliterated, we wondered if our trip had come to an unforeseen end. Fortunately, hope comes from the darkest places. The Western Cape Traffic Department was there in seconds. Officer Wilma Cloete took Chris to hospital, where he learnt he’d sustained only flesh wounds.

Our accommodation in Clanwilliam was sponsored by the Longhouse Guesthouse. Scoot Cafe, one of our first sponsors, offered us a red P200e Vespa to get us home. Three days later, battered but not beaten, we were ready, having swapped Spud for his replacement, Beetroot.

After a stop at Djuna Guesthouse at the beautiful Brittania Bay for some R&R, and a trip to the quaint little fishing village of Paternoster, we arrived at The Beach Camp in Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, which has “no electricity by choice”. It offers glamping for the nature-lover with a protected bay that attracts a diversity of birds.

Solar lighting, long-drop toilets with whirly birds for airflow, gas or firewood for cooking and an organic veggie garden that’s open to foraging guests (who also water it when they shower) ensure it is aligned with its goals to minimise its impact on the environment.

The West Coast Nature Reserve overlooks the turquoise Langebaan Lagoon, one of the few lagoons fed by seawater and protected as a Ramsar Wetland of Global Conservation Importance. A community development and Black Economic Empowerment success story, Duinepos offers self-catering accommodation in chalets that were once houses for park staff and is set to become a fully green destination. - Cape Times

l By the time you read this, we’ll be approaching Cape Town. See www.facebook.com/EcoFriendlyAfricaTravel to find out more.

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