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Overnight in the Cederberg

Everytime I go to into nature I just feel so alive, so complete. It doesn't matter if I'm swimming in the sea, hiking on Table Mountain or going out on a holiday in the bush. The outdoors is part of who I am.

Recently, we went into the Cederberg Mountains, a nature reserve about 300 km north of Cape Town, South Africa. Each time I go there, I discover something more beautiful and awe-inspiring about the place. We often stay in a little cottage about 700 m above sea level, overlooking the surrounding wilds. There are beautiful walks to go on, especially in the well-known Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area, a World Heritage Site known for its amazing rock formations and unique wildlife. You can see quite a few antelope springing around, mainly rhebok, as well as a spectacular selection of fynbos, a beautiful shrub. Best of all, you can walk along and explore the river, which means coming across beautiful places to swim.

If you are into hiking, there is a day-long walk that meanders through the most fantastic valley full of awesome rocks and cliffs. On this particular trip, we merely ventured into the mouth of the valley, but it was enough to inspire awe and art. While hiking there, everywhere I looked there was another beautiful type of grass, feathery restio or some unique type of fynbos. We also saw an orb-web spider eating a locust. Later, we had a lovely swim in a deep pool in the river, gliding through the water with the frogs and crabs. After dinner, we played poker and sat under a sky filled with so many stars that it would be impossible to count them all. It was a time when I felt so awed by the immensity of nature and the universe.

It is incredible how much joy, pure joy, nature can bring you. Sure, you feel happy when you complete Battlefield 3 or veg on junk food, but this is different. This is vast and unending. You think your view of the stars from inside your house is epic? Think again!

When we awoke, we went for an early morning climb on a sloping koppie, a small rocky hill. When we got to the top and saw the valley and the huge boulders strewn about, we really felt quite miniature compared to the enormity of the natural world all around us. When we got back to camp, we went for a swim in the dam, then settled in for a monster breakfast. By the time we finished, it was long past 10:00 am, and the South African temperature was creeping past 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Farenheit). We sat down to play a game of Monopoly to while away the afternoon, during which time the temperature reached 35 degrees (95 degrees Farenheit). While lounging, we suddenly noticed some black shapes moving in the grass. We looked through our binoculars, and what did we see? A troop of baboons!! Complete with red bums and darling little babies, the large family tramped through the wilderness. We spent another hour and a half watching the baboons drinking from the dam, playing with one another, sleeping in the shade. So human. In an hour, the baboons had gone, and it cooled down enough to go for another swim. After cooling down, we hopped on bicycles for a cross-country ride to see more of the park. A typical day in the Cederberg. Below are some of my photographs from this journey.

Images are copyright protected and may not be used without permission. All photos are courtesy of Samuel Strand.

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Samuel Strand
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