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Matroos­berg Nature Reserve, Ceres

Matoosberg from Bo Swaarmoed Pass

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

Con­tact Details
Tel no

023 312 2282



Cell no

Didi de Kock: 082 453 9841
Waldo de Kock: 079 502 7382

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Fax Web­site click here
Camp Details
Near­est Town Ceres Max Per­sons Six
Elec­tric­ity No Chalets Yes
Dis­tance 160km from Cape Town,2H20 Brochure
Tips and things to do

Need­less to say in win­ter it gets really cold, and very quickly, so bring plenty of warm clothes.
1. Bring your moun­tain bike
2. 4×4 Route
3. Hik­ing

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