Land Rover Defender Night Sky Adventure Pt 2: To the stars

A shooting star above the range of Land Rover Defenders that travelled to the Cederberg in March. Picture: Supplied / Khulani Media

A shooting star above the range of Land Rover Defenders that travelled to the Cederberg in March. Picture: Supplied / Khulani Media

Published Apr 10, 2024


Dinner at Simbavati Cederberg Ridge is an experience. Al fresco dining at its pinnacle.

We were treated to pre-drinks at the fire pit, and with the wind picking up over the koppie, we retreated to the lawns between the manor house and swimming pool to enjoy our dinner.

The Simbavati Cederberg Ridge Wilderness Lodge fire pit. Picture: Supplied / Khulani Media

The chef whipped us up a traditional braai served with salads that were anything but traditional. Think of them as a modern, chic twist on traditional braai sides. Not your ouma’s potato salad. Three (unconventional) beans with a twist. You get the idea.

Dinner on the lawns of the Simbavati Cederberg Ridge Wilderness Lodge. Picture: Supplied / Khulani Media

For starters we were served flame-grilled prawns in a sweet, sticky, spicy basting.

Asian prawns. Picture: Supplied / Khulani Media

Mains comprised of a South African braai plate - juicy homemade boerewors, succulent, delectable Karoo lamb chops, moist flavoursome chicken sosaties, and grilled kingklip portions.

Boerewors, Karoo lamb chops, and chicken sosaties. Picture: Supplied / Khulani Media
Malay-spiced kingklip. Picture: Supplied / Khulani Media

While I have a memorable appetite, attempting dessert — deconstructed pudding topped with sweet tonka bean crème served inside a solar-powered light jar — would’ve been, at the very least, ambitious. We have a word where I grew up for people who would dig into this decadent dessert after a meal like the one we had: giemba.

The chef whipped up traditional braai sides with a modern, slick twist. Picture: Supplied / Khulani Media

We had been warned to arrive at dinner dressed in warm, comfortable clothing, with closed shoes that could handle sandy terrain. ‘Nice,’ I thought to myself, ‘nothing like a post-dinner hike to settle the food.’

Deconstructed pudding topped with whipped tonka bean crème. Picture: Supplied / Khulani Media
Oliver Keohane snaps a pic of his dessert torch. Picture: Supplied / Khulani Media

But we were in for a treat. A short drive to a neighbouring farm, turning off-road to the tracks between rows and rows of orchard as far as the eye could see. Which, to be fair, in the pitch-black night of the Cederberg post-sunset, was not very far.

Past blood orange trees we went, beyond citrus of many shapes and forms, finally turning into a vineyard where table grapes lay spread across tarps to become sun-dried raisins. Was that a fox or mongoose scurrying away from the feast in the Defender’s probing headlights?

We arrived at a sandy clearing, alighting from our Defenders, carrying our dessert-torches to where UCT Professor Peter Dunsby eagerly welcomed us to our exploration of the galaxies.

The moon had just set.

The lights from Clanwilliam little more than a faded orange smudge on the opposite horizon.

Hardly any other light pollution to impede our view.

To the stars we went.

Picture: Supplied / Khulani Media

Professor Dunsby is a cosmologist who focuses on the forces of gravity and their role in the expansion of the universe and how these expansion rates relate to the concept of time. I was mesmerised.

Through his telescope we looked at nebulae of nurseries where stars are born, spying on our cosmic neighbours, discussing the permutations of intelligent life beyond our reach.

The wind grew icy as it whipped and cut through our blankets, but we remained spellbound, unable to take our eyes off the majesty that lie strewn above us.

Picture: Supplied / Khulani Media

Considering the sheer vastness of the tapestry of stars and systems above us, in the quiet stillness of the Cederberg, a hush fell over the party. It seemed even the insects ceased their trilling, suddenly acutely aware of how small we all are. Insignificant, even?

Picture: Supplied / Khulani Media

But a reminder from the good professor that we are all of us made of the same stuff — the insects chirping in the dark, us humans and our evolved over-landing vehicles we drove in on, the fruit finding bud on their branches in their time, the massive balls of gas millions of light years away contained and maintained by forces beyond our comprehension, the fox and mongoose plundering the drying grapes — set our minds at ease.

The Land Rover Defender Outbound. Picture: Supplied / Khulani Media

How great we are as stardust.

And no more perfect a place to contemplate the bigness or smallness of your existence than in the Cederberg, at the Simbavati Cederberg Ridge Wilderness Lodge.

* This article is part of a multi-part series. Read Part 1 here.