May 10, 2011

The Maltese Cross

Posted by Evelyn Mervine

I’m back to working long days in lab, and I miss being outdoors in South Africa. So, to make myself happy after a long 12-hour lab day, I thought I’d post some more pictures from my recent trip to the Cederberg Mountains in South Africa.

The day after we visited the Sevilla Rock Art Trail, my fiance and I hiked up to a rock feature known as “The Maltese Cross.”  Hiking up to the cross is a relatively easy, ~1/2 day hike if you’re in good hiking shape. For various reasons (too much time in lab for me and too much time at sea for my fiance), we are not currently in top hiking form. So, we decided to allocate a full day to the Maltese Cross hike. We also needed a full day because we were staying in a little cabin near the town of Citrusdal. The cabin where we were staying is actually very close to the cross as the bird flies, but there is no road or path leading directly from Citrusdal to the cross. So, we had to drive north– about halfway to Clanwilliam– and take a small, pothole-riddled dirt road through the town of Algeria and then down to the little village (just a wine farm, really) of Dwarsrivier. The drive from Citrusdal to Dwarsrivier takes about 1.5 hours– including about an hour on the dirt road– each way.

Driving from Algeria to Dwarsrivier is very scary, particularly when you are driving an old, rusty 1994 VW CitiGolf. Note that the car actually has the word “Citi” in it. This is a city car, not a Cederberg car. However, my fiance’s trusty CitiGolf– named Hubert– has made many a trip along the dirt roads of the Cederberg. As you might expect, Hubert always comes back from the Cederberg with an injury. On this trip a rock badly cracked one of his front lights. A month or so ago when my fiance was in the Cederberg, a tire blew out in a dramatic fashion. Last September we snapped the muffler in two. As you can imagine, driving along a dirt road in Hubert is somewhat nerve-wracking and destructive (to poor Hubert), which is why we are now looking into buying a proper 4-by-4 vehicle.

My fiance’s “field” CitiGolf at the farm in Dwarsrivier, South Africa, May 2011.

Paved to dirt, road to through Algeria, South Africa, September 2010.

Driving the “field vehicle,” Cederberg, South Africa, September 2010.

Even if you are in a 4-by-4, the road from Algeria to Dwarsrivier is scary. So scary that I do not even have good pictures of the scariness because I was too scared to operate the camera. The dirt road follows the edge of a very steep cliff for several kilometers. Then the really scary part comes– the Uitkyk Pass: a narrow, steep pass with a sheer and scary drop-off on one side. Most of the pass is unpaved. In very recent years, a small section of the pass that crosses a river and bends sharply at the same time has been paved. Before the paving, this section of the pass narrowed to single-file traffic… because the other half of the road had collapsed into the valley due to erosion. This narrow turn (just a few meters, really) has now been reinforced and paved in stone, but the rest of the pass is still dirt and still nerve-wracking to drive along, especially in a 1994 VW CitiGolf.

The best picture I managed to take of the Uitkyk Pass (near the paved section) The baboons (on the right) made me brave enough to take a photo but not brave enough to lean out the window. This doesn’t look scary in the picture, but it is. Scary cliffs are just out of the shot. Cederberg, South Africa, September 2010.
Slightly better view (through the dirty windscreen) of the paved section of the Uitkyk Pass. Cederberg, South Africa, September 2010.
Scary death road, the twisty part is the scary pass. Click to enlarge.

Zoomed in view of scary death pass. I think this image (from 2005) is from before they paved the scary section. Click to enlarge.

Anyway, I’ve survived the pass twice now. The saving grace of the scary road and pass is that the scenery is absolutely breathtaking. The view from the top of the pass is one of the most beautiful views I have ever seen, and the valley beyond is enchantingly quiet and lovely. The destination is also worth the scariness. Near the village of Dwarsrivier are two well-known hikes: the first is a hike through the Wolfberg Cracks and on to the Wolfberg Arch, and the second is a hike to the Maltese Cross. So far, I’ve hiked to the Wolfberg Cracks (back in September) and to the Maltese Cross (this trip). I hope to hike all the way to the arch next time I visit the Cederberg.

Looking back on the valley below the Uitkyk Pass, Cederbeg, South Africa, September 2010.
Another view from the bottom (non-scary) part of the Uitkyk Pass, South Africa, September 2010.

Here are some maps showing the location of the Maltese Cross:

Maltese Cross relative to Cape Town. Click to enlarge.
Maltese Cross relative to the town of Citrusdal. Click to enlarge.

Closer view of the Maltese Cross. Note the farm at Dwarsrivier in the upper right corner. Click to enlarge.

Closer view of the farm. Click to enlarge.

And here are some pictures of our hike up to the cross:

Dwarsrivier farm viewed from the hike up to Wolfberg Crack, September 2010.
Dwarsrivier farm 1, South Africa, May 2011.

Dwarsrivier farm 2, South Africa, May 2011.

Dwarsrivier farm 3, South Africa, May 2011.

Jeep (and CitiGolf?) track to start of Maltese Cross hike, South Africa, May 2011.
Long-tailed bird 1, South Africa, May 2011.

Long-tailed bird 2, South Africa, May 2011.
Long-tailed bird 3, South Africa, May 2011.

Long-tailed bird 4– just look at that tail!, South Africa, May 2011.
Starting the hike, South Africa, May 2011.
Don’t hike that away– too steep, South Africa, May 2011.

Bounding bokkies! Almost over the hill… look carefully, South Africa, May 2011.

Maltese Cross 1– in this photo I look bigger than the cross, South Africa, May 2011.

Maltese Cross 2, South Africa, May 2011.

Maltese Cross 3– in this photo I look much, much smaller than the cross, South Africa, May 2011.

Maltese Cross 4, South Africa, May 2011.

Maltese Cross 5, South Africa, May 2011.
Back down the trail, South Africa, May 2011.

Interesting sandstone weathering, South Africa, May 2011.

Gorgeous view on the hike down, South Africa, May 2011.

Another spectacular view, South Africa, May 2011.

View and leaves, South Africa, May 2011.

Tree-frame, South Africa, May 2011.