On a recent trip to the Cederberg we paid a visit to the Stadsaal. I had last visited this area on my first trip to the Cederberg in 1984! Somehow I had never found time on subsequent trips to wander amongst the fantastical rocks of this fantasy rock citadel.
Getting there: head south from Dwarsrivier / Sanddrif
GPS Co-ordinates: S 32°30.831′, E019°18.811′
Permits: R40 per person for a CapeNature permit, available from Algeria, Driehoek, Sanddrif, Kromrivier, Nuwerus and Oasis.
The area is gated, and you will need the combination for the padlock which will be on your permit. Drive up the road until you reach a sign for the rock art, where you will turn right and reach a parking lot. Follow the signs on foot to the overhang where you will see a truly magnificent display of art [S 32°30.805′, E019°18.774′].
Return to your car and head further along the road for about 200 metres to the parking for Stadsaal itself.
Not all of the “rock art” here is of Bushman origin: the “graffiti” on the walls actually has some relevance to the more recent history of South Africa. I somehow had it in my head that a meeting of quite some historical importance had been held here. A quick Google on Monday morning seems to indicate that this is indeed the case:
From an article on WegRy: “Before CapeNature took over Matjiesrivier it was a privately-owned farm, the last owner being Wynand du Toit, a recce captain in the former South African Defence Force.
Du Toit spent more than two years as a prisoner of war in Angola in the 80s after being captured on a mission near Cabinda.
Ambling through and clambering around in the Stadsaal Caves you can just picture the faithful gathered around some bigwig at the first National Party meeting in the Cederberg held in these very chambers decades before Du Toit’s name would become a household one.”
And from Overlanders: “The Stadsaal caves, as they are formally known, are so named because it is the place members of the then National Party met when they decided to contest the 1948 elections that brought them to power.
The Afrikaans word stadsaal could simply refer to the impressive size and design of the main cave which, like any good city hall, is the most impressive of the various surrounding “buildings” in this wide complex of caves. It also, however, refers to the fact that this was a common meeting place over the years – it’s the perfect site for a clandestine bosberaad – and many of those who met here scrawled their names on the wall. In between the more recent graffiti, there are names of Boer generals and, half a century later, those from the National Party and Broederbond elite who were amongst the “architects” of apartheid. The latter, ignominious association would taint the place, but the caves themselves are so impressive that they dwarf the rather pitiful human attempts to achieve an impossible permanence.”
On our trip during the Easter weekend of 2013 we noted that a set of new information boards had been erected featuring photos by Scott Ramsay.