Sleeping under a rock rainbow: A night at the Wolfberg Arch

Sleeping under a rock rainbow: A night at the Wolfberg Arch

 

Pitching a small hiking tent beneath the Cederberg’s gargantuan star-speckled sky is something special; falling asleep with the silhouette of a giant rock arch towering above your head is just plain extraordinary.

And then, of course, there’s waking up.

A slither of sunlight crept across my face, forcing my eyes to open and my cheeks to feel the icy morning breeze. Crawling out of our toasty tent (and ultra-warm sleeping bags – we’d learnt the hard way with the Cederberg), I looked around at one of the most spectacular landscapes I had ever seen – a moonscape, in fact.

Front and centre, the infamous Wolfberg Arch, a 15-metre high archway of rugged rock, tinted vivid golden-orange by the sunrise. Through the arch: an arid, rocky expanse, dotted with sandstone outcrops in the most peculiar formations, each one different, each with the potential for an imaginative existence: a crashing wave, an alien, a cumulus cloud…

Firing up our gas stove to satisfy our a.m. tea craving, we perched on the rock floor with the arch over our heads, and watched the sun come up. A Cape Rock Jumper flitted inquisitively between us, au fait with the tasty tidbits sometimes to be gained from hikers.

Snaking towards us was the little path we had arrived on the day before.

We had begun our mission at Sanddrif Guest Farm, home of Cederberg Wines and the only farm from which to access the renowned Wolfberg Cracks and Wolfberg Arch.

The hike kicked off with a series of steep, calf-twinging switchbacks, which lead directly up the side of the mountain to the entrance of the Cracks. The view over the Cederberg below was a hot, arid expanse; the view into the Cracks a ‘hole in the wall’ into the unknown.

Entering the Cracks through a tight, dark squeeze, we emerged into a mysterious world of rock caverns and corridors, some 30 meters high. Voices echoed in surround-sound, and orange and white light refracted back and forth off the angular surfaces. Photographs struggled to capture the scene.

The way forward was not difficult to navigate. Bar a couple of rock obstacles and tight squeezes (some a little hairier than others), a mix of shimmying and hiking transported us down a narrow ‘one-way street’ between two enormous walls of sheer rock, a slither of blue sky high up above our heads.

Emerging from the Cracks on the other side, the dry heat of the day hit us like a wall after the cool, dark microclimate between the rocks. A top-of-the-world plateau provided a vantage point for 360-degree viewing.

Having experienced one of the Cederberg’s most spectacular geological formations, we began our afternoon hike to what would be one of the most awe-inspiring nights of our lives. Silence, solitude and star trails, framed by the magical silhouette of a rock rainbow.

 

NOTE:

Permits need to be obtained before hiking to the Wolfberg Cracks and Arch. These can be obtained from Sanddrif during office hours, or booked telephonically. If you would like to overnight in the Cederberg Wilderness Area, an additional hiking permit needs to be purchased from Cape Nature.

Kate Black

As the daughter of a wildlife filmmaker, Kate spent her early childhood in the Okavango Delta. Over the years, she has been fortunate to explore many of Southern Africa’s other wild places, contributing to her keen interest in African wildlife conservation. With a career grounded in digital marketing, Kate recently made the decision to work as a freelance communications specialist, with a particular focus on environmental NGOs. An avid trail runner and hiker, she loves the outdoors and the incredible natural diversity that the Western Cape has to offer.