Cederberg Camping and Bird-watching at Gecko Creek

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Gecko Creek Wilderness Lodge is a perfect destination to combine both camping in the Cederberg and bird-watching. Over 165 species of birds have been identified at Gecko Creek and guests camping enjoy waking to the sounds of hundreds of birds surrounding their tents.

 

Earlier this summer, we were fortunate to have two baby Cape Buntings hatch just outside the main house from their nest in a hanging plant. These two buntings now visit our guests who are self-catering in the lapa each meal. Here is a photo of Linton feeding one of the buntings some bread crumbs out of his hand. They are so tame they have become just like family!

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Some fast facts about the Cape Bunting from the Wikipedia website:

There are a dozen subspecies, differing in plumage, but all have the distinctive head pattern and rufous in the wings.

The Cape Bunting is 16 cm long. The adult has a black crown, white supercilium and black-bordered white ear coverts. The upperparts are grey brown with some dark streaks, and the wing coverts are chestnut. The tail is darker chestnut, and the underparts are grey with a pale throat. The sexes are very similar, but females may have a buff tone to the white head markings. Young birds have duller chestnut wings, a less distinct head pattern, and heavier streaking extending on to the breast and flanks. The call is an ascending zzoo-zeh-zee-zee. The song is a loud chirping chup chup chup chup chee chhep chu.

The Cape Bunting occurs in southern Africa from southwestern Angola, eastern Zambia, Zimbabwe and southern Tanzania to the Cape. Its habitat is rocky slopes and dry weedy scrub, mainly in mountains in the north of its range. It previously utilized stony arid areas with some short grass, but much of this has been lost to ploughing.

The Cape Bunting is not gregarious, and is normally seen alone, in pairs or family groups. It feeds on the ground on seeds, insects and spiders. Its lined cup nest is built low in a shrub or tussock. The 2-4 eggs are cream and marked with red-brown and lilac.

 

 

 

Cederberg Camping and Star-gazing at Gecko Creek Wilderness Lodge

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                      Photo taken at Gecko Creek Wilderness Lodge

                            Cederberg Astronomical Observatory

One of the many reasons people choose to go camping in the Cederberg is to enjoy the fantastic star-gazing at night.

The following information, as well as a spectacular gallery, is found at:

http://www.cederbergobservatory.org.za/index.html

High in the Cederberg Mountains, 240km north of Cape Town, on the farm Dwarsrivier lies the Cederberg Astronomical Observatory (19 deg 15′ E 32 deg 30′ S). Privately owned and a non-profit organization it is run by seven partners. The observatory has been in existence since the early eighties.Originally an undeveloped plot of land with little more than unpolluted dark skies and magnificent mountain views to recommend it, the observatory has developed over the years into an amateur astronomer’s paradise.Basic but comfortable accommodation has been erected, complete with ablutions and cooking facilities for the astronomers on duty.A 16″ Meade Newtonian telescope is housed in a dome and a 300mm Meade Scmidt Cassegrain is housed in a slide off roof observatory. Another dome, the ‘Sherman Tank’, has just been completed and now graces the skyline with a 12″ Cassegrain inside. Piers with power provide polar-aligned mounts for portable telescopes and there are a couple of home-made Newtonian telescopes available for general use.The partners’ interests vary from astrophotography and CCD work to measurements of variable stars and occultations. A few hours are set aside each Saturday night for the general public to visit.A slideshow is given offering a basic introduction to the wonders of the night sky and is followed by viewing through a telescope or two.The Cederberg Observatory has given many hours of enjoyment to many people. Anyone wishing to know more can contact the observatory through the contact form or contact any of the partners.  With the number of visitors increasing every year, in October 2010 the observatory celebrated 100 000 visitors!

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This couple exchangd their wedding vows at Gecko Creek Wilderness Lodge.

As the nights now get darker at Gecko Creek Wilderness Lodge, due to the moon becoming less visible, the true attraction of Cederberg camping at Gecko Creek reveals itself in the astoundingly clear night skies. Believe it or not, astronomy organizations worldwide have rated the Cederberg the finest star gazing position in the world due to the thinness of the stratosphere above the Cederberg. Our statement that the stars become like diamonds on velvet is no exaggeration as any guest camping at Gecko Creek that has been here on dark nights will tell you. You will observe more stars and planets camping in the Cederberg than you ever imagined possible. And YES, you will see a shooting star approximately every 15 minutes at least – providing you are looking up!

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This couple are star-gazing in the boma at Gecko Creek.

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A perfect pastime of many guests is to enjoy the Cederberg astronomy from their hammock.

 

Cederberg Accommodation 4 x 4 Camping at Gecko Creek

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For adventurists seeking Cederberg Accommodation 4 x 4 camping, a stay at Gecko Creek Wilderness Lodge is highly recommended. After driving the roads in the Cederberg in your 4×4, come and relax by our refreshing swimming pool and enjoy the views overlooking the Cederberg mountains. We also offer a fantastic braai area in the boma where travel stories are shared around the fire at night. Bring your 4×4 to our Cederberg accommodation and camp underneath the gum trees and share a hammock with nature all around you. Our Cederberg 4×4 accommodation is close to mens’ and ladies’ communal five-star ablutions which have hot water showers. Gecko Creek also offers self-catering facilities in a large kitchen in the lapa where you have access to  large fridges, micorwaves, gas stove cookers, pots and pans, dishes, cups and utensils. Gecko Creek is conveniently located just 4.2 km off the N7 on the road to Algeria – a perfect gateway to 4×4 trails in the Cederberg!

 

Cederberg Camping and Exploring San Bushman Paintings

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Leopard Rock with San Bushman Paintings

The following article courtesy of:

http://www.africancraftsmarket.com/Bushman-people

The ‘Bushmen’ are the oldest inhabitants of southern Africa, where they are commonly known as Bushmen, San, Khwe or as the Basarwa. They have been resident in and around the Kalahari Desert for at least 20,000 years which spans areas of South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Angola. The terms San, Khwe, Bushmen, and Basarwa have all been used to refer to hunter-gatherer peoples of southern Africa. They speak a variety of languages, all of which incorporate ‘click’ sounds represented in writing by symbols such as! or /. Genetic evidence suggests they are one of the oldest, if not the oldest, peoples in the world. They were hunter-gatherers, hunting with bows and arrows, trapping small animals and eating edible roots and berries.

250Y8299They lived in rock shelters, in the open or in crude shelters of twigs and grass or animal skins. They made no pottery, rather using ostrich eggshells or animal parts for storing and holding liquids. For these reasons, animals and nature are central features in the Bushman’s religious tradition, folklore, art and rituals.The Bushman are small in statue and usually have large bottoms hence the term “Bushman bum.

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The most important southern Bushmen spiritual being was /Kaggen, the trickster-deity. He created many things, and appears in numerous myths where he can be foolish or wise, tiresome or helpful.The word ‘/Kaggen’ can be translated as ‘mantis’, this lead to the belief that the Bushmen worshipped the praying mantis. However, /Kaggen is not a praying mantis: the mantis is only one of his manifestations. He can also turn into an eland, a hare, a snake or a vulture; he can assume many forms. When he is not in one of his animal forms, /Kaggen lives his life of an ordinary Bushman, hunting, fighting and getting into scraps. The Bushmen’s beliefs go beyond that. The eland is their most spiritual animal and appears in four rituals:1-boys’ first kill,2-girls’ puberty,3-marriage and 4-trance dance.

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A ritual is held where the boy is told how to track an eland and how the eland will fall once shot with an arrow. He becomes an adult when he kills his first large antelope, preferably an eland. The eland is skinned and the fat from the eland’s’ throat and collar bone is made into a broth. This broth has great potency. In the girls’ puberty rituals, a young girl is isolated in her hut at her first menstruation. The women of the tribe perform the Eland Bull Dance where they imitate the mating behavior of the eland cows. A man will play the part of the eland bull, usually with horns on his head. This ritual will keep the girl beautiful, free from hunger and thirst and peaceful. As part of the marriage ritual, the man gives the fat from the eland’s’ heart to the girls’ parents. At a later stage the girl is anointed with eland fat. In the trance dance, the eland is considered the most potent of all animals, and the shamans aspire to possess eland potency. The modern Bushmen of the Kalahari believe in two gods: one who lives in the east and one from the west. ‘Medicine People’ or shamans protect everyone from these spirits and sickness. A shaman is someone who enters a trance in order to heal people, protect them from evil spirits and sickness, foretell the future, control the weather, ensure good hunting and generally try to look after the well being of their group.

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The Bushmen are well known for their rock art paintings of stickmen figure hunting and gathering. These bushman paintings have become important historical finds as they have given historians key data in the lives and times that the Bushman has been around as well as the movement of African people. The bushman are not notorious for their craft but are more known for their paintings and rock art. They do however make traditional arts and crafts today such as eggshell jewelry, bows and arrows, dancing and fire sticks and dancing skirts. They are also making exquisite textiles and ceramics that have been hand painted with traditional images.

 

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Self-catering Accommodation in the Cederberg

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Gecko Creek Wilderness Lodge offers guests plenty of facilities for self-catering accommodation. We have gas cookers in the lapa, a spacious braii area in the boma, as well as a large potjie pot in the cooking area by the swimming pool. We have two very large fridges for guests to store their food as well as individual cupboards. All utensils, pots and pans, plates, glasses and cutlery are provided. Self-catering at Gecko Creek truly is an international experience as guests prepare their meals from all over the world. It is not uncommon to hear guests speaking Dutch, German, French, Spanish and English in conversations in the lapa kitchen. Here are

 two South Africans and two from France who paired up to make their first ppotjie.

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Car Hire to the Cederberg

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Guests looking for Cederberg accommodation at Gecko Creek Wilderness Lodge frequently ask if they can come in their small car or do they need a 4 x 4? Gecko Creek is conveniently located only 4.2 km from the N7 highway. Although it is a dirt road, it is usually kept well-graded with very few corregations.

We frequently have guests staying at Gecko Creek who are either heading north to Namibia on their travels in southern Africa or are heading south to Cape Town on a driving loop around South Africa. Our accommodation in the Cederberg is a prime location for many of the day hikes in the area including the Waterfall in Algeria, Lot’s Wife, the Maltese Cross, the Stadsaal Caves, and the Wolfberg Arch / Wolfberg Cracks. Guests travel to these Cederberg hiking trails in their small cars with no problem.

Gecko Creek highly recommends Drive Africa for all your car hire needs for the following reasons:

  • Great Service –  They are renowned for their hands-on, just-a-call-away service no matter where you are or what you need while out and about seeing the country in a Drive Africa rental car.

  • Great Vehicles – for a wide variety of vehicles from standard to luxury cars, 4x4s and Campervans, Drive Africa can get you the set of wheels you require – in mint condition every time.

  • Great Insurance – Their fully comprehensive insurance means your total peace of mind, both in South Africa and across the borders (conditions apply for cross-border insurance)

  • Great Long-Stay Transport Solutions – for long-term visitors to the country, Drive Africa has maxi rentals and guaranteed buy-back options for cars, 4x4s and motorhomes.

  • Great Deals for Young Drivers – Under 21’s and Students can afford South Africa car rental with Drive Africa’s specially designed packages for 18, 19 and 20-year old drivers.

For more information, click on car rental to the Cederberg for all your car rental needs.

 

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“Hike the Cederberg” Map by Slingsby

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Gecko Creek Wilderness Lodge is featured in the Northern Section of Peter Slingsby’s new “Hike the Cederberg” map., complete with our Leopard Rock, Elephant Rock, and ring road hiking trails. The map also outlines the property boundary, as well as our GPS coordinates, height above sea level (from 252 m to 609 m) and distances from the N7 to our gate (1.6 km to the Olifants River Bridge), then another 2.6 km to our gate located on the right hand side, followed by our 3.5 km driveway through the african bush to our lodge. Your Cederberg accommodation at Gecko Creek Private Nature Reserve includes the options of staying in wooden cabins/chalets, safari tents, or pitching your own tent or caravan under the shade of our trees.

Great little review in this month’s Go! magazine.

Hike the Cederberg by Slingsby Maps R225

You’ll have a hard time getting lost in the Cederberg with this map in your backpack. Every trail, contour line, cave and stream has been noted by the cartographers, who actually walked the routes themselves. Accommodation options and contact details are also included. Printed on two double-sided A1 sheets, you actually get four maps for the price. It’s the best Cederberg map we’ve ever seen.’

[we ACTUALLY walked the routes ourselves ]

Look out for a longer article in the January edition of Go! and Weg!

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Hiking in the Cederberg

Five Great Cederberg Hikes

We found this very informative article courtesy of news24:

http://www.news24.com/Travel/South-Africa/Five-great-Cederberg-hikes-20130122

If you feel the need to escape from it all and experience a bit of wonderful wildness, heading to the Cederberg area is always a good idea. Located about 200km from Cape Town (factor in a 3 hour drive, because of gravel roads), it’s viable as a day outing, but if you have time to spare a weekend break is definitely the way to go.

We check out five hiking trails worth exploring while there. Groups are limited to a maximum of 12 people per day. Permits are either available from Algeria Forest Station/campsite or Sanddrif.

From Algeria

Algeria is Cape Nature’s main campsite for the Cederberg Wilderness area, and the start and end point for a couple of the day hikes.

Middelberg Waterfall walk

Distance: 4km

Time: 3 hour return

Difficulty: Easy

Highlights: A short, moderately steep walk up the mountain from Algeria Campsite. The route is clearly marked and ends at the picturesque of the Middelberg Waterfall – the perfect spot for a picnic and dip in the small pool.

From Dwarsrivier/Sanddrif

Privately owned by Cederberg Cellars, Dwarsrivier is a few km along the dirt road from Algeria and also the point where many of the day hikes start and finish.

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Maltese Cross

Distance: 7 kilometres

Time: 3,5 – 4 hours

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Highlights: The easily recognizable footpath is marked with cairns pointing the way to the 5-storey rock formation, dubbed the Maltese Cross. The out-and-return route starts with a mild uphill climb and then an easy downhill return along the same route. The entire trail offers superb views of the Cederberg Mountain range.

Lot’s Wife & Window Rocks

Distance: 1,6km

Time: 1 – 1 1/2 hours

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Highlights: While you can drive, take a leisurely stroll from Dwarsrivier towards Algeria instead, until you see the Lot’s Wife parking sign. Taking on the shape of a petrified praying woman if seen from the correct angle, it’s no surprise why the intriguing rock was named after the Biblical woman who turned into a salt pillar when she looked back to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. From there you start a gentle walk to where the beautiful Window Rocks can be seen.

Wolfberg Cracks and Arch

Time: 8 hours return

Difficulty: Tough, only for seasoned hikers

Highlights: Starting about 1,2km from Sanddrif at the foot of the Wolfberg, the trail takes you through three cracks in the rocks – of which the third one is the hardest to climb – and eventually the famous arch at the top. Although there is an alternative route via the Riff, the same route is recommended on returning from the Arch. When obtaining the passport, make sure you get proper directions for the route from the office staff.

Stadsaal Cave and rock paintings

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Distance: Okay, okay. It’s not actually a hiking trail, but you can spend much of the day exploring and adventuring the area once you’ve reached it by car… and it really comes highly recommended.

Time: Depends entirely on you!

Highlights: Once you’ve obtained your permit from any of the tourist offices in the area, head along the gravel road that leads to Ceres and look out for the Stadsaal Caves sign. A gate limits access to the area, but with the permit you will receive a key. First stop off at the well-preserved bushman paintings, depicting what seem to be elephants. From there, meander along to the large Stadsaal Cave, either on foot or by car. Here you will see some more modern kind of ‘rock art, ‘ including the names of ministers, writers and presidents that had been grafitied there by the men themselves.

Cape Nature has put together an extensive hiking guideline for visitors to their parks, check it out for useful tips and suggestions.

“Vir n’ Slag”

20131129110127_1471211_229046470603439_1569630388_nOn Friday evening, December 13, the 175th anniversary of the South African Groot Trek will be passing by on the sand road below Gecko Creek and camping in the Cederberg overnight at the Olifants Bridge. The trek is made up of ox wagons, horse riders, and volunteers who will be re-enacting part of the famous historical journey from Citrusdal to Clanwilliam. The evening will see celebrations around the campfire involving potjie kos and other traditional delicacies. For more information, they have established a facebook page called “Vir n’ Slag”. The whole event lasts between December 10 – 16 at various locations between Citrusdal and Clanwilliam. http://https//www.facebook.com/pages/Vir-n-Slag/227261320781954

Cederberg Wildlife

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One of our many resident agamas searching for his morning meal at Gecko Creek. Found the following descriptive from the website Scarce:

Biology The southern Rock Agama is probably the most well-known lizard in South Africa . This is because of its extensive range and the conspicuousness of the brightly coloured males perching on rocks and fence poles along roads. It is diurnal and mainly rock-dwelling. It may form dense colonies and both males and females maintain territories, but those of males are larger and may contain those of several females. It has a polygynous mating system and a dominant male will mate with several females within its territory. Females will mate with any male that gains access. A dominant male normally perches on the highest point in its territory and does a characteristic pushup display and head nodding when intruders come too close. When danger threatens it hugs the rock and its bright colours fade quickly so that it becomes camouflaged against the lichen-covered rocks. It can run at great speed over the rocks and also jump from rock to rock.Many people believe that it is highly poisonous. A farmer in the Kamiesberg once told us that the Rock Agama is responsible for many deaths among his cattle, particularly calves. According to him the lizard will jump on the back of the calve from a rock and then bite the calve in the neck region. The calf will die within minutes. There are of course no poisonous lizards in southern Africa, in fact there are only two poisonous species in the world, occurring in North and South America. It is, however, true that the rock agama can inflict a painful bite, drawing blood, because it has two fang-like teeth in the upper jaw.Its diet consists mainly of ants and termites, but it will also eat other invertebrates. It is oviparous and two clutches of 7-18 oval, soft-shelled eggs are laid in a shallow hole dug in damp soil, the first clutch during October-November and the second in January-February. Incubation takes 2-3 months.Agamas are closely related to chameleons, as is obvious from their ability to change their body colour and from the way they use the tongue in feeding. The tongue is, however, much shorter than that of chameleons.