My first hike in this area was Driehoek to Crystal Pools and Sneeukop which was based on Mike Lundie’s description in “Weekend Trails in the Western Cape“. This time we did the route as described in his book.
Getting there: from Cape Town, head north on the N7, passing Porterville then Citrusdal. About 25km after Citrusdal you will find the turn-off to Algeria on the right. Follow the good dirt road over Nieuwoudts Pass until you reach Algeria. You will check in at the gate, but will have to park park at the Algeria Offices a little way back up the road.
GPS Coordinates: -32.374310, 19.059777
Permits: the Cederberg Wilderness Area covers much of the Central Cederberg and is managed by CapeNature, which is divided into three areas. This hike falls into Area B. Permits must be booked in advance from CapeNature. A permit to overnight costs R120 per person per night, plus a conservation fee of R50 per person.
Difficulty: this is a long hike in fairly rugged terrain with some big climbs and descents
We used a number of sources to plan our hike: Mike Lundy’s Weekend Trails in the Western Cape and a 1:50000 topographic map purchased from the office at Algeria for R60.00, and Slingsby’s Cederberg Map.
Please ensure you understand the Wilderness Area concept before undertaking to hike in one. Specifically pay heed to the lack of shelters and toilets!
We stayed at Nuwerust Rest Camp
From the Algeria gate office, walk through the campsite, crossing the Rondegat River, up the dirt road between the last campsites to the right of the main ablution block. You now head up the kloof to Middelberg Hut. I have described the hike from Algeria up to the Middelberg Waterfall in detail, but even if you have seen the waterfall before, it is well worth it to make the very quick detour — it will no doubt leave you breathless, again.
We had lunch under the oaks standing beside the stream. The Cederberg is dotted with oak trees, I like to imagine most likely the result of pioneers wishing for familiar shady trees to remind them of faraway homes in distant lands while they eke out a livelihood in the harsh mountain terrain. Must be the romantic in me.
Soon after we passed through what can only be described as a grove of living Ceder trees. I was quite amazed to see this many after seeing so many skeletons. Cathedral Rocks also passes by to the right of the trail.
Groot Hartseer is not as terrible as it may sound. However, it does present itself at the end of a long day of hiking and should not be underestimated. It is a steep set of switch-backs which late in the day might offer some welcome shade as you conquer the last climb of the day.
Big Boulder Camp at Crystal Pools was very busy due to it being Easter weekend. There was far less water in the river than on my last visit; odd considering that was during an extremely hot January trip. We nevertheless managed to find a pool for an evening bath.
There was an icy cold wind blowing, and once the sun had set we may as well have been streaking on an ice-field in Greenland it was so cold!
The day starts with the short challenge of Klein Hartseer to warm your legs up.
The fairly long haul up Engelsmanskloof was made easier by a cool early morning breeze.
We reached the Jeep track and stopped for tea and snacks before heading across to the xxxxx hut.
The descent back into the Algeria valley is via Die Gat, which is a rather crude description for an astonishingly majestic kloof, but quite fitting as you do end up feeling like you are descending straight down into a hole.
Watch out for the Leopard claw marks on one of the trees next to the path.
When you finally reach the valley floor, head left down the valley towards Algeria without crossing the river. If you pass the first of the CapeNature houses you have gone too far. This is quite possible as the sign mentioned in one description of the route is no longer there. I must admit I found the trail back to Algeria along the river tedious and would be tempted to leave a vehicle at the houses and avoid it altogether. Maybe I am just not fit enough.