Matroosberg Nature Reserve, Ceres
It was the end of July and we were watching the weather forecast closely, waiting for a big cold front to hit the Western Cape. Then it finally came, a double cold front stretching all the way to the Namibian border, and to top it all it was the weekend. We were mostly ready and packed, but still we only managed to leave late the morning.
It was cold in Cape Town, with the mercury only reading 14ºC. Then, as we left, it started raining, and it rained so hard that the windscreen wipers could not wipe the windscreen clean fast enough. We crawled along at a snails pace for the next few minutes, until the rain slowed down slightly. As we entered Ceres it stopped raining, but the clouds looked very ominous, and after all the rain the silence was overwhelming.
After we sorted out our bill at the farmhouse, we proceeded to the campsite. The campsite is situated in a grove of Pine trees with a small (mostly dry) river skirting the outer edge of the campsite. We pitched our tents, lit the fire and sat down to our first gluhwein. There was only one other group of people in the campsite in a caravan. We were watching the thermometer even closer by now, and the temperature was plummeting. It was now 19H00 and the temperature was 3ºC.
As the Pine trees at the camp site is quite dense, we did not notice straight away that it had started snowing. When we realised this, we were ecstatic. As Capetonians, we never get snow, only if you make the effort to get to high ground do you have the possibility of getting snow. After our first braai ever in snow, and a few more gluhweins later, we heard this loud crack. We looked around and could not figure out where this noise was coming from. It was not long and this cracking noise grew more consistent, and then we realized that it was the branches of the pine trees cracking under the weight of the snow and cold.
Apparently the wind was also howling, but in the Pine forest we were oblivious to this. We thought that the cracking branches was quite cool, until a branch about the diameter of a side plate crashed down and brushed one of our tents and nearly seriously hurting the occupant. By now it was 0H00 and we realized that the falling trees were not so cool anymore, and we decided to make a hasty retreat. As we started with our hasty retreat our neighbor in the caravan asked if we could help him get his caravan hooked to his vechile. Without thinking we agreed to help. Afterwards I thought how bizarre is this, here we are about to leave all our equipment thinking that the situation is serious enough to do this , and here we are helping a complete stranger in a pretty serious situation to get his gear out of there while his wife and young children are sitting in the car. We thought stuff the equipment, our families are more important.
As we were leaving the farmer got there with his quad bike telling us to get out of the campsite immediately, it was far too dangerous. According to the farmer this was the worst storm that he has seen since he has been on the farm. He gave us one of his chalets that he still had available, and at no extra charge. We thought that this was very decent of him. The chalets are tiny, but it has everything that one needs, even a sheltered under roof outside braai, and an added bonus it was much warmer than our tents, even though we never got inside them that night.
The next morning when we went to fetch our belongings, did we only realized the full extent of the damage. The campsite looked like a war zone, and if we had not moved our vechile, we would have conceded serious damage. A tree fell exactly where our car stood. We would have gone home with a car with a caved in roof and minus a windscreen. In that cold I don’t think anyone of us would have thought it was funny.
Some of the telephone poles also blew over and left wires snaking across the road. Many cars got stuck in the deep snow (4x4s included) and I bet the farmer had a busy day trying to get the vechiles out of the snow. I wonder what time many of those people got home that night, if at all.
We edged our way down the Bo-Swaarmoed pass as the road was extremely icy. The first few kilometers we were literally crawling down the road. As we got to the bottom of the pass we saw that the authorities had closed the road. We also saw an irate motorist arguing with the police,(I assume because they didn’t’t want to let him through), but I didn’t think that it was worth the risk seeing the snow in such hazardous conditions, specially here in South Africa where our vechiles are not really equipped for these conditions.
In future if I get stopped at a roadblock and get told that the road is too unsafe to continue, I will be far more understanding. This was an experience we thoroughly enjoyed, but with hindsight we were very stupid. Hopefully I don’t find myself in a situation like this again, because what was an awesome experience could have turned out in tragedy. I have definitely learnt a lot through this experience.
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View Map to Matroosberg from Cape Town
023 312 2282
Didi de Kock: 082 453 9841
|Nearest Town||Ceres||Max Persons||Six|
|Distance||160km from Cape Town,2H20||Brochure|
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