Monday, 8 April 2013

When is a good time to visit the Cederberg?

As a preamble, South Africa is a good place to visit, notwithstanding bad press. It's unfortunate that our national image looks really silly if not downright stupid from time to time, but that can nearly always be laid at the feet of our politicians, and certainly not our geography.

South Africa has many geographic, cultural and natural faces, and from the deep silence of the Karoo to the open, roaring throat of the Augrabies to the mystery of the Cango Caves to the vista of Table Bay to the baffling question of where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans begin and end, there's more than enough for a lifetime's travelling.

As usual, preferences can be applied to the Cederberg, with its inland towns of Clanwilliam, Graafwater, Citrusdal, Wuppertal and coastal towns of Lambert's Bay and Elands Bay. Not everyone enjoys the intense heat of mid-summer, peaking in February, up to 45C, and over, yet I have seen guests relishing the challenge of logging their mountain hike on some of the hottest days.

My own favourite seasons are spring and autumn, when the weather is warm, mild, with an edge of cold in the mornings and evenings. It's not always about the season, though. For me, travelling is about mood. Like a face, place has a sense of being singular and having many moods. When you feel a place's mood, it's like getting to know a person. I remember standing still one day in the middle of Southern Namibia, knowing how solitary I was in all those square miles empty of another human, yet not feeling lost or desolate. I remember waking up in the samll hours somewhere in the Karoo, and going outside to sense the surrounding air, hearing infinitesimal subtle noises that made the vast backdrop of darkness and silence even more tangible.

The Cederberg has its own many moods and if anyone were to ask me when to visit, my answer would be "Now". The appeal of the place has to experienced. I doubt if it can be explained. The mountain range is not cosy, the weather can be intimidating. The extraordinary beauty of the sping-flowers is transitory. Yet in every mood there's an ancient face to be glimpsed, and many stories to be found.

If visitors are looking for bright lights and glamour, they will look in vain for these in the Cederberg. The spirit of the place speaks more clearly from depth to depth. I have seen visitors coming back from a day's excursion, having been touched in wordless ways by what has been experienced.

"Did you have a good day?" is our usual question.

They will put down the small bag, or bottle of water. Their hands will go up in appeal for words. "Wonderful!" is often the first one. And then the search for the explanation of what is wonderful.

Which time of year does this happen? All times. Which season? All of them. What disappoints guests? To be truthful, I can think of a handful who decided that the weather was against them, either because of rain or heat, I think also of a couple who were expecting a casino.

The spring flowers are always a major attraction, yet this is only one face of the area. The other many moods are always there, to whisper, command and captivate the appreciative attention.