Only 270 km from Cape Town, located in the Cederberg Mountains, the Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve is a natural haven of wide open plains, rich biodiversity, and the haunting presence of our human ancestors.
Follow Eric Wolfinger through 48 hours of adventure in the middle of the Cederberg mountains - chapter one.
Bushman's Kloof is the kind of place travelers don't usually find until their second trip to South Africa. Named for the nomadic hunter-gatherers who roamed the surrounding plateaus for thousands of years, the lodge offers an alternative that runs at a less hectic pace than the usual “big five” game preserve. Here one trades lion and elephant sightings for the chance to recharge.
It takes four hours to make the northward drive from Cape Town to the secluded lodge in the Cederberg mountains.
I cover the final leg of the journey through a wilderness preserve where the only sound is the hum of my engine.
My destination – a restored 19th century farmhouse surrounded by a two acre organic garden – stays hidden until the end when the road turns up a narrow valley (kloof in Afrikaans) and follows its ancient riverbed to an oasis of trees and reeds growing amdist the jaggy cliffs.
When I arrive, Londi introduces himself as my personal guide. Over the next few days we will explore the surrounding wilderness preserve. He makes clear that at Bushman's you go at your own pace. We bond quickly over a mutual appreciation of good food and plan a schedule so I won't miss a meal.
On our first outing – a sunset drive after high tea – Londi offers a brief history lesson. The 18,000 acre private wilderness preserve was a patchwork of meagerly productive farms until 1991 when they were purchased and restored to the wild ecosystem of endemic shrubs (the fynbos).
With habitat restoration and fence removal, many of the land's original native inhabitants – Cape Zebra, Eland, Springbock, and countless bird species – returned. One group remains conspicuously absent: the Bushmen, all that remain of these nomads are their paintings.
By some accident of geography and of history, Bushman's Kloof has the highest concentration of protected rock art sites of any reserve in South Africa.
The next morning Londi and I truck into the hills with a thermos of coffee and a tin of fresh biscuits still warm from the oven. Leaving the crumbs to a few songbirds, we follow a dry riverbed dotted with emerald pools. Just as the sun goes from warm to hot, we find shade in an overhanging rock – and facing us is a wall teeming with human and animal figures painted long before the Great Pyramid was built. Londi – whose official title is “Rock Art Curator” – explains that carbon dating remanants from fire pits inside shows some of the sites we are visiting are 10,000 years old.
To be continued...