We gathere at the Yellow Aloe – a real oasis in what can be a very hot Clanwilliam – and were treated to an excellent light lunch. This was followed by a trail briefing by Cederberg Travel, the organisers and co-ordinators of the Cederberg Heritage Trails, before being piled in to the transport vehicle for transfer to the start on the Pakhuis Pass. There we met Gert our cart driver and the six donkeys, Trapnet, Satan, President, Tryna, Beaufort and Willem, plus Jonas, the ‘sparewheel’ and back up. They would be transferring our luggage to Heuningvlei, with option for hikers to ride on the cart or walk the trail.
Having been sitting all the way from Cape Town, we all opted to start the trail on foot and the cart went ahead of us with the luggage. This section of the trail follows an old jeep track that is no longer in regular use, but is suitable for the donkey cart to negotiate at a reasonable pace. Within a few hundred metres of the start of the trail it is easy to forget that there is a tar road in the near vicinity. The rocky outcrops, randomly balance boulders, sculptured shapes, deep valleys and high peaks absorb one quickly in to the wilderness environment. There is no formal hiking guide on this section, with Gert stopping his charges from time to time to allow walkers to catch up.
I opted to experience to donkey cart ride on a section of the trail to rest my legs and to enjoy Gert’s dry humour and his interaction with the animals. On a rocky road, a donkey cart is a bumpy, bone jarring experience and not the most comfortable form of transport. Most reasonably fit hikers will probably opt to walk most of the route. It is a bit of fun however and amazing to see how these hardy animals keep their footing, negotiating the rough terrain with some steep slopes, particularly on the downhill sections. The Afrikaans term ‘stadig oor die klippe’ (slowly over the stones) comes to mind. Being a jeep track the walking is reasonably easy and it takes about three hours to cover the 12km distance.