Last year Woody and I went to South Africa for one week of unadulterated adventures in Rocklands. I was fairly new to bouldering then and, even though I’m South African, I had never been outdoor rock climbing in my own home country. Outrageous, I know. In my defence, I will be returning later this year in May to make up for lost time!
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Rocklands, it’s basically the bouldering mecca, the motherland of climbing – people from all over the world travel here to get on the beastly sandstone rocks. Set in the Cederberg mountains, three hours drive north of Cape Town, the semi-desert terrain and remote location make for a very beautiful environment.
As you come over the mountains and approach Rocklands there’s a certain point when all reception is lost – and we all know that the best expeditions start without technological interferences.
When there’s a dramatic shift in time like morning to night Africa skies know how to impress. Being out in the middle of nowhere and somewhere means that you get even more colourful sunsets and the most spectacular starscapes at night. The stars here are truly phenomenal.
The best time to go to Rocklands is when it’s winter in South Africa (summer in Europe), the weather is generally between 15 and 25 degrees celsius with cooler evenings. That being said, it can vary quite drastically in either direction. In summer it’s unbearably hot and it doesn’t make for good climbing.
I think having goals is hugely beneficial to any fitness regime and I’ve used our last trip as incentive to train harder over the past year. My biggest frustration when I was there was that I was too weak to try a lot of really cool looking climbs. I’ve found that being stronger and lighter has helped me feel more prepared for the physical challenge of bouldering outdoors, but also to be able to have more fun when jumping on harder problems. That being said, here are some pictures of Woody on some incredible climbs. #goals
Here are my five top tips when visiting Rocklands:
- Accommodation – The Storytellers JP and Tracy have a selection of small to large glamping spots that are rustically quaint and ideally located near some great boulders. The secluded little campsite has an uncomplicated set up, which makes for a very homely, but rugged, experience. The canvas tent has a comfy bed, whilst there’s a simple outside kitchen area on the patio. The bathroom is basic, but beautiful. Honestly, I could endlessly rave about both Tracy and JP, but in a large nutshell they’re both down to earth, lovely humans and great hosts. We loved our little tent so much that we booked the exact same one again this year. JP and Tracy also run an upliftment project with the local farm worker’s children (who come from families where there is high alcohol consumption) and teach them to climb. If you have any old climbing shoes when you go be sure to donate them to a great cause.
- Natural products – Tracy makes beautifully crafted natural products that are made from indigenous plants in the area and also from a few plants she grows in her garden. Read more about her creations here. I’m a big fan.
- Other accommodation – There are few places available in the area, such as Thys’s farm de Pakhuys, which offers plenty of choice for accommodation, including camping. Alpha Excelsior has lovely Cape Dutch farm house experiences to caravans out back.
- Hen House – is located on Alpha farm and is run by Becky and James and is simply great. It’s a coffee shop, which is open according to the climbing season – so from around the beginning of June to the end of September. Becky is absolutely lovely and makes the most delicious dirty chais (espresso and chai tea together). Hen House is the only spot nearby that makes food and has WiFi (besides the local town, which is 30 mins drive away). They also run a little laundry service on the property. This is the best retreat from the rain or scorching heat. They’re open 9am – 5pm Tuesday to Sunday, check their facebook page. They even have movie nights and pizza nights. I highly recommend their toasties and cakes, but most of all I insist you try the dirty chai. You’re welcome.
- Supplies – Clanwilliam is a 30 minute drive from Rocklands. There’s a Spar grocery store for all your food needs, a liquor store next door, a basic service station for petrol and a pub next door called De Kelders for some tasty grub (be warned, they smoke inside the pub bit, but not where they serve food). There’s also a polite tea room worth visiting to stock up on some indigenous rooibos tea.