Some time back, I discovered the Travelling Bag Project and jumped at the opportunity to get involved. I had already been following Millican’s story online for quite some time but was yet to experience the tactility of the product up close. So, I was excited at the prospect of sharing my home, South Africa, and its truly beautiful landscapes through my story.
Words & Photography by Simon Pocock | @si_pocock
The seed of an idea for the trip came about by combining two of my favourite things; riding motorcycles and being out on foot in the mountains. I don’t often get to combine the two because of the practical challenges, but I was determined to make it work this time.
I locked in dates with a group of friends, but other than that we were keen to dive right in and figure it out as we went along. One thing we did know is that we wanted to explore the Cederberg Mountains and some of the amazing caves that scattered the area. We only had three days to work with and needed to ride a round trip of 600kms if we were going to get in some good off-road exploring, along with a night in a mountain cave.
The Cederberg's is one of my favourite places to explore that is still close to home. There is a rich cultural history of subsistence farming families that have lived there for many generations and the landscape is both harsh and beautiful; rugged terrain dominated by sandstone mountain peaks and ridgelines crisscrossing the area. Icy mountain streams make drinking water readily available almost year-round, and there is always a good swimming spot to be found for a chilly cooldown.
To reach the area, there is essentially only one road that runs north from the last hamlet town of Op-Die-Berg through to Clanwilliam. There are numerous off-shoots of dirt roads along the way, some leading to small independent communities and others to high peaks or even deeper into the mountains.
With our destination set, we were packed and ready to ride out late on a Friday afternoon, aiming for the small area of Slanghoek over the Bainskloof pass. We knew that we wanted to avoid major freeways for this trip and focus on following as many farm tracks and back roads as possible. It suited both our type of motorcycle and the continual itch to find new roads to explore. The sun was setting behind us as we rode over the Bainskloof pass and made our way down into the Slanghoek Valley after dark. In our attempt to ride the lesser known routes we got lost a few times on the way to our planned camping spot, but after some help from a friendly local farmer, we made our way towards what would be our home for the night.
We rose the next day to a beautiful sun-filled valley and perfect still weather for our day ahead. The ride would take us north from our first camp spot up and into the Cederberg Mountains. We stopped for supplies and fuel before leaving all civilisation behind, and soon we were deeply entrenched in the gravel roads of the area. Our hunt for the perfect swimming spot involved numerous wrong turns and water crossings, but proved fruitful in the end and allowed us some time to enjoy lunch off the bikes and in the shade. After our final rest, we headed off towards the base of the trail, which led us up into the mountains towards our spot for the night. Unbeknownst to us, there was one final challenge ahead.
As we arrived at the foot of the mountain and prepared to take on the climb, we realised that we’d need to hide most of our riding gear in and around the area. We parked our bikes and went about finding appropriate hiding spots for all extraneous gear - helmets, spares any other heavy supplies. With our loads considerably lightened - we certainly wouldn’t have been able to carry all that extra kit up the mountain with us - we set off on the path, glancing back at our bikes and hidden stash every so often.
The map highlighted a few options that would work as a possible shelter for the night and one of those, Spout Cave, was the favourite, as it lies just below the Tafelberg Peak, the second highest peak in the Cederberg.
The hot sun beat down on us from behind as we slowly made our way up the mountain. Nearing the top of the trail, our tired bodies were ready to find a camp for the night and we chose to head off-trail in search of the Panorama cave - the hardest to find, but certainly the most rewarding of our options.
Hours after we left our bikes in the shade of the Welbedacht oak trees, we had arrived at our home for the night and revelled in the joy of reaching our goal! Over the years, the cave has slowly been built up on one side to shelter weary hikers from harsh weather and was truly a special place to visit.
In the end, the day’s timing had worked out perfectly for us and as we were settling in as the evening light was beginning to fill the valley below us. Our bikes now completely out of sight down in the valley below, the only sign of man was the odd bit of dust trailing in the wind behind a car travelling down the dirt track far, far away in the distance.