Take four friends, a plan and a few toys and you have all the makings of a West Coast Way road trip. The idea was to travel north up the West Coast, then inland through the Cederberg and back to Langebaan.
The itinerary hinged around doing two Parkruns – Yzerfontein on the first Saturday and Langebaan on the second. Each person had to plan and book accommodation and activities for two days.
Living by the saying, life is a journey, not a destination; we always make numerous stops on the way to wherever we go. This time we began with breakfast in Philadelphia, and then craft beer and gin tasting in Darling.
Let’s Explore The San
Our destination was !Khwa ttu, a project dedicated to San culture and education. We opted for their bushcamp to the west of the highway. Surrounded by nature, we tucked into a braai and craft beer and then lay on our backs constellation spotting, or making them up, before a good nights’ sleep.
Next day we hiked under the highway and uphill to restored old farm buildings, now used as a restaurant, office space and accommodation. We chose to hike the Renosterveld Trail through farmland recovering to its natural state and filled with wildlife that once roamed the area. Zebras showed off their offspring as springboks hopped across footpaths strewn with daisies.
Stay At “C Bobbejaan” with Yzerfontein Accommodation And Do A Parkrun
Later we moved into self-catering accommodation at the interestingly-named “C Bobbejaan” in Yzerfontein. The idea was for two of us to go kayaking while the other two walked the coastal path dotted with rocky outcrops. These are popular with fishermen, with names, Duiwens, Hoebank, Bakoon, Blaasgat and Spruitgat.
After Yzerfontein Parkrun, we were back on the road heading for Rocherpan. Managed by CapeNature. Accommodation is in eco-friendly, self-contained, comfy cottages, each with views across a seasonal vlei, a popular stop for migrating birds. After enticing the guys away from their fascination with the compost toilet we hiked through veld teeming with wildflowers, before walking through a marine reserve of uninterrupted powdery white sand.
Bird Lovers Paradise
Heading inland, we stopped at four bird hides, one of them popular with an escapee herd of cows. The combination of marine, wetland and bush habitats provides ample feeding and breeding conditions for a wide variety of birds. About 238 species, 85 are waterbirds, including an abundance of migrant waders. Black harrier is the mega tick (we saw one) and specials are Cape shoveler, black-crowned night heron, African swamphen and moorhen. White pelicans and lesser flamingos are resident from July to December.
Mountain Mist was Sandy’s choice above the village of Aurora, known for being the first village where a geodetic (triangulated) survey was carried out in 1751 by the Abbe a de la Caille between Strand Street in Cape Town. It is located on the mountain at Riebeeck West, and an outbuilding on the farm Klipfontein a few hundred metres outside of Aurora. It has been declared a National Monument.
Mountain Mist has wooden chalets for hire but we stayed in the old farmhouse. A highlight was a hike along a narrow path above a gorge with views across the Piket-bo-Berg plateau and the snow-dusted Winterhoek Mountains beyond. The mountain is a botanical feast covered in fynbos, bulbs, orchids, trees and succulents. The area is also a haven for birders with Black Eagles soaring above the cliffs.
Spot The Woodpecker
Two birders were hoping to see the rare Protea Canary and said they heard a Ground Woodpecker frolicking among the rocks. Our hostess had given vague directions to rock art which we searched for and found under a massive balancing rock. We also enjoyed the use of the bush pool, fed by a mountain stream.
Turning inland through the Swartland we stopped at Org De Rac wine estate near Piketberg. More winetasting followed at Dwarsrivier farm in the Cederberg. Continuing on the rough road we arrived at Mount Ceder where Steve had negotiated two luxurious nights overlooking the Grootrivier, which we later paddled on. Next day we cycled through olive groves in search of rock art and found it. Antelopes and various figures of women carrying bags, bows and arrows.
Heading back towards the coast we had an early start after hiking to a waterfall and then stopped to take selfies among orange daisies at Op Die Berg. Passing through Nuwekloof Pass we stopped at Allesverloren in Riebeek West for more wine while watching springbok against a backdrop of Gouda wind turbines.
Back on the road, the mileage grew – as did the stubble – we stopped for food in Hopefield before heading to Langebaan.
Kayak Around The Schaapen Island
Early the next morning, the Langebaan Parkrun over, we enjoyed breakfast overlooking the beach and then kayaked around Schaapen Island. Due to people not being allowed to tread, it is heaving with birdlife, from Kelp Gulls to Cormorants, Black African Oystercatchers, Grey Herons, African Sacred Ibises, Swift Terns – and rabbits. Historically bunnies from the Schaapen Island were used for grazing sheep and rabbits, and to also provide food for passing sailors. Over time they adapted, grew large livers to deal with the salt in seaweed, which became part of their diet.
Back on land, actually the road heading south, we stopped at Grotto Bay where a kaleidoscope of flowers made a fitting end to this spring road trip.
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Karen Watkins started out as a travel writer and photographer supplying articles for numerous newspapers and magazines including Indiwe, Country Life, Go, Good Taste and others. Joined Independent Newspapers Limited in 2007 to work one year with Special Projects writing marketing copy before joining the Constantiaberg Bulletin as a multi-media journalist writing news and taking pictures until May 2019. And now she is writing for West Coast Way