A Short History of the Cederberg Heritage Route

It all began in October 2006 when a group of senior citizen hikers from Cape Town spent a few days in the Cederberg at the Krakadouw guest cottages in Boskloof near Clanwilliam. We had heard that there was a guest cottage called Nossie’s Place, owned by Mrs Maria Solomon, in the Moravian village of Heuningvlei that could sleep six or seven persons. So we devised our own slackpacking hiking route that involved spending the first night at Krakadouw, then hiking up Krakadouwpoort to Heuningvlei, where we spent the second night at Nossie’s Place, on a dinner, bed and breakfast basis. The next day we hiked from Heuningvlei to the Pakhuis Pass

This trip left two of our hiking group, Denis Le Jeune and Peter Hart, wondering why there were no slackpacking trails in the Cederberg area, such as the Whale Trail in the De Hoop Nature Reserve, the Tsitsikamma Trail and the Wild Coast Meander. The main way of experiencing the wonders of the Cederberg mountains, apart from day hikes from one of the holiday resorts in the area, was by serious back packing and sleeping rough in caves or tents. Noting that the very succesful Whale Trail was the brainchild of Cape Nature, and since the Cederberg Wilderness is under their control, Denis and Peter went to talk to Cape Nature at their headquarters in Cape Town about the concept of creating slackpacking trails in the Cederberg.

Cape Nature were supportive of the idea and it was suggested that the way to go might be to set up a public/private partnership in the form of a non-profit organisation. Jaco Rheeder, Business Unit Manager for the Cederberg Mega Park, arranged a meeting of interested parties in Wupperthal on 8th March 2007. At this meeting Peter outlined the concept of slackpacking trails in the Cederberg and Denis discussed the need to establish a Not-for-Profit organization. Their ideas received support and it was agreed to set up a Planning Committee to progress the matter further.

Some of the people deeply involved in the planning were Charl du Plessis and Rika du Plessis from Cape Nature, the Rev FA Hans of the Wupperthal Moravian Church, Inga Valentyn of Wupperthal Tourism, Abraham Ockhuis from the Heuningvlei Donkey Cart Trail, Ewert Manuel of Brugkraal and Terence Winberg representing Prof John Parkington and the Clanwilliam Living Landscape Project (CLLP) which specialised in guided rock art tours. Progress was rapid and by October 2007 we were ready to establish the new organisation and then complete the planning for the initial slackpacking hiking trails.

At this time Cape Nature and the Heuningvlei/Wupperthal community had just established the Donkey Cart Trail from the top of the Pakhuis Pass to Heuningvlei, so this was incorporated into the first three hiking trails, as were guided rock art walks presented by trained CLLP personnel. A major breakthrough in the planning process was made when Kate Bergh of Cedarberg African Travel (CAT) agreed to provide a central reservation service in her office near Clanwilliam for the proposed hiking trails. CAT is a well-established tour operator that designs tailormade tours, exclusive safaris, family holidays & flexible self-drive tours to Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands. Our central booking office is run very effectively by Michelle Truter, supported by other CAT staff.

The Cederberg Heritage Route (CHR) was established at our first Annual General Meeting on 17th October 2007 as a Voluntary Association Not For Gain with a written Constitution and in accordance with the relevant South African legislation. Founding member organisations were the Moravian Church at Wupperthal, the Wupperthal Tourism Association, Cape Nature, the Clanwilliam Tourism Association, Cedarberg African Travel and CLLP. In addition, membership of the organisation is open to individuals, being persons who have a keen interest in the Cederberg area and who subscribe to the objectives of the organization.

The principal objectives of the organisation are:
# to promote sustainable eco-tourism in the Cederberg region of the Western Cape of South Africa, incorporating fields of interest such as flora and fauna, geology, botany, rock art, history, culture, heritage and archaeology;
# to promote multi-day hiking trails (commonly known as slackpacking trails) in the Cederberg region, with overnight accommodation, catering and porterage of hikers luggage provided by the local communities;
# to promote and facilitate the training of suitable local escorts to guide the hikers from one night stop to the next;
# to involve and benefit the local communities.

The first project, implemented in 2008, was the establishment of three community-based, multi-day hiking trails. A fourth trail was added in 2009 and two more in 2012.
The five shorter trails can range from two to five nights duration, depending on optional extra days that may be chosen. The Cederberg 100 Trail is an eight night-seven day trail of about 100km in length, starting at the top of the Pakhuis Pass near Clanwilliam and ending at Driehoek Farm in the central Cederberg. There are options for guided rock art walks on most of the trails.

The Cederberg Heritage Route is deeply involved with community development in that our trails make extensive use of services provided by the small, remote communities in the Moravian Church area of the eastern Cederberg, centered on the mission village of Wupperthal. These services, for which we have provided detailed guidelines, include accommodation, catering, luggage transport, rides in the traditional donkey carts of the area and guiding, which provide some much needed cash income for these rural communities. We have also helped four of the Moravian villages to establish their own Tourism Committees with formal constitutions and have provided interest free loans for upgrading two of the village guest cottages and for making pack donkey harnesses for luggage transport on routes that wheeled vehicles are not able to negotiate.

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