My Cederberg Life

I've been a visitor to the Cederberg since 1982. I'm passionate about this area and its people, who live a fascinating lifestyle, many off the grid. I'm privileged to be called a friend, a virtual 'member of the family' by some of the people. This blog is my personal record of more than 35 years visiting this fantastic, rugged and mountainous region of the Western Cape, South Africa. The photo above shows the house that C Louis Leipoldt's family occupied. Now used as guest accommodation.

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A long time ago, Brian Walsh was the district forest officer for the Cederberg Region during the days when National Department Bosbou owned and controlled the forestry in Algeria, the mountain routes and campsites, prior to the takeover by Cape Nature.

Brian was an avid promoter of tourism and helped set up a number of forest campsites, including Algeria. His son Neville, a close friend of mine, introduced me to the Cederberg in 1982 when I first visited Dwarsrivier/Sanddrif on a trip he organised. Brian also set up Tokai Forest picnic area and well known Tweede Tol campsite above Wellington/Bains' Kloof.

He recently shared a few of Brian's photos with me, which included the following two historical images from the 1960s.

I believe they show the Kleinhuis (On Huisie today) and Groothuis on Sanddrif.

Here are the scan's of Brian Walsh's original black and white photos:

They are amazing records of the cultural history and architecture of the area.

I believe this may be the 'Klein Huis' farm Sanddrif. (Today's One Huisie)

Possibly the back of the 'Groothuis' farm Sanddrif.

Photos are copyright the Heirs late Brian Walsh - curated by Gareth Griffiths.

The Night of a Hundred Million Stars

Who needs Hollywood? In the Cederberg you can view far more stars and on a dark night they twinkle across the ages at the viewer.

This photo taken at the legendary Sanddrif December 2016.

Can't wait for my next visit.

Playing the Moon Toon

The Cederberg is one of the best places to play and photograph at Full Moon. Here, check it out ... The soft orb that is the moon gently rises over a windswept mountain landscape

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Freak electric storm brings fire but no rain

Cederberg - 20 December 2017.

Looking South of East - a faint glow from sunset.

Freakish weather resulted in a short electric storm without any rain, but lightning started a fire north west of the Uitkyk Pass. This photo was taken an hour after dark and shows the reflection of the mountain fire off the clouds in the west - note also the stars in the night sky. 

Bottling and Labeling Time in the Cederberg

A truly busy place to visit in mid-December 2017, Cederberg Private Wine Cellar was busy with bottling and labeling of wines right across the range.

Here, the Waitrose Shiraz was being labeled to get ready for the UK market. 

But there is much more to this  arrangement than a simple business transaction. Waitrose, in conjunction with the farm owners, pass on a proportion of profits into a trust to pay for educational, social and healthcare projects chosen by the farm's workers. 

A truly winning relationship made famous by the stunning people of the Cederberg.

Cederberg December 2017 - Waitrose Shiraz - Vintage 2016

Called the workers' wine, the people of Dwarsrivier benefit directly from the Waitrose partnership.

Cederberg Private Cellar - News on the famous wines

Always something new at Cederberg Wines.

During my recent trip I had the privilege of tasting some of David Nieuwoudt's latest vintages, ably assisted by Alex and Tammy Nel. What a blast.

Here are my great friends, Julian and Simone Ardagh, enjoying a late afternoon tasting with Alex. Alex is responsible for the white wines from Cederberg, Ghost Corner in Elim and also assists with Longavi Wines, which come from vineyards near Santiago in Chili.

Lappies (below) is Cisca Nieuwoudt's (really) big farm dog, known for his keen nose in selecting which Cabernet Sauvignon should go into the famous Five Generations Cabernet. Here he looks keenly in the direction of the vineyard, from where opportunity calls.

Here's a review of my current favourite: Ghost Corner Pinot Noir 2015. (click on name).

I'll cover the latest developments at the winery and also the brewery in the next post.

New Life in the Cederberg 2017

Thankfully, some areas are showing their colours - the photo below was taken under Uitrus cottage and shows the famous March Lily (Amaryllis belladonna) that appears after the fire. There were just 3 of these!

The Cederberg Visited - After the December 2016 Fire

The best way to follow up is to go there in person - I did exactly this during my annual Easter holiday visit.

All in all, the landscape remains dry, scorched and grey. Here and there, a sign of new life, for example at the top of the Driehoek River Valley, where the fire blazed down to from its origins higher up. 

 However, further East along the valley, the earth remains dry and grey.

At the Sanddrif campsite, the hardworking Nieuwoudt family have made the best of the situation by clearing all the burned vegetation along the river bank and creating a wonderful recreation area, which gives the resort a new feeling of openness.


Above and below: Thanks to some clever landscaping, the resort with its campsite is looking great.

However, walking in the direction of the Maalgat trail, the devastation of the fire is noticeable in the North-east, below the Valley of the Red Gods.

Above and below:  These two young baboons did not make it to safety - consumed by the fire, it seems they died clutching each other. Blackened skeletons are all that remain.

Below: A memorial to someone's loved one, exposed by the fire when the bush burned around it.

However, the fire was selective.

Above and below: Thanks be - the famous One Huisie was spared, with its thatch roof, including most of the ancient Oak trees around it. One Huisie is the former farmhouse of the parents of C Louis Leipoldt in a bygone century.

Green grass sprouts where the fire burned the hottest.

Thankfully, the popular stone pine 'forest' at the Maalgat parking area survived (below).

Above is what the 'beach' looks like now, near the crossing.

Fire in the Wolfberg December 2016

Anybody who reads this and wants to submit a photo - please use the CONTACT FORM on the right of the page to send a short description or caption to me, with some information about yourself. I will send you a link to where you may upload your photo and then I will place it on this Blog for you. All photos sent will be credited on this site and you as photographer will retain all copyright. I cannot however control whoever may download photos off this site and their subsequent usage. So tag your photo accordingly and keep the pixel size small.


It started as a puff of smoke in the North, above and behind Tafelberg.

This was a fynbos (veld) fire that burned hot and steadily for several days from 16th December and eventually spewed its wrath on the historical holiday farm of Sanddrif, part of the Dwarsrivier / Cederberg Vineyards complex, owned by the Nieuwoudt family. Passing Sanddrif on 20 December 2016, the fire was heading south of east  full tilt in the direction of Matjiesrivier.

There were some narrow escapes for a number of people and infrastructure.

The Calm before the Fire

A typical Cederberg night sky, but the reflection of stellar light off micro particles of smoke reveal the coming of the fire.

The Story of the December 2016 Fire

It started with a puff of smoke - and some haziness in the North - that was to grow more intense each day. This was exacerbated by extreme heat and a fierce wind speed.

The puff of smoke was dismissed by some as a 'fire near Eselbank' (a small settlement over the top of the mountain). However two days on, the Wolfberg side of the mountain was closed to hikers and mountaineers as a precautionary measure.)

Fire above Kliphuis

At the Kliphuis campsite on the Dwarsrivier Farm, a large gathering of national and international senior scouts were hosting their annual challenge.

The fire burned in their direction on Monday evening and looked as if it was going to head upwards over Gabriel's Pass. We were later to find out that the fire was to break away and head straight down the river instead.

Fortunately the fire missed the scout encampment at Kliphuis, although a large detachment of scouts stood by all night to evacuate.

The next morning, the entire mountain range was smouldering, the fire having been reported as heading up Gabriel's Pass to the upper reaches of the Wolfberg.

Fortunately, the scout camp at the Kliphuis campsite was spared from the fire.