Our third day in the Cederberg Mountains took us to a campsite along the river at Jamaka organic farm, where we were greeted by the very friendly Sam. They grow various fruits including mangoes, irrigated by their own spring. We bought some of their home-dried mango strips. Delicious.
Our camp site was by a large pool in the river, which was perfect for a late afternoon dip, once we’d inched our bodies into the rather cold water! The water was crystal clear and we could see the fish swimming with us.
The next morning we followed one of the farm’s hiking trails up the hillside behind the farmhouse. It wound up through thick scrub for much of the route, giving welcome shade from the African sun. Occasional tortoises crossed our route, including a tiny baby no bigger than a lemon (not sure you can really compare a tortoise with a lemon but you get the idea). A small snake disappeared into the bush, not alleviating our (ok- Angela’s) slight paranoia about Puff Adders and Cobras that we know are resident in this area. We left the shade of the trees and arrived at a natural amphitheatre , carved by water, which had been used by the farmers’ forebears to ferment and dry wild rooibos leaves to make tea. Many of the South Africans love rooibos but it’s an acquired taste which neither of us has yet acquired. Maybe because it’s meant to be good for you…
Further up the hillside we found the fence that marks the boundary between the farm and government land (the wildlife department owns the upper half of the mountain) and started along the return loop. The path, barely 3 ft wide, picked its way through the low scrubby vegetation or ‘fynbos’ (literally “fine bush”…) along the rocky mountain-side. Not 10 ft in front of us a Black Spitting Cobra reared up in the middle of the path, hood flared. Absolutely beautiful and utterly terrifying, we backed off! Gareth passed Angela to get a photo. Shrugging off warnings about the accuracy of their venom-spitting with a “don’t worry, I’m wearing glasses” he managed to get a snap as the snake lowered down. After a bit of a think the snake decided it was equally as concerned with our presence but considerably less interested and slithered off the path into the bushes. Do we turn round or carry on? Well, we’d come this far…. We thought we’d heard it move off so with adrenalin pumping and barely daring to breath we inched past, staring into the scrub just in case it was still there. Holy moley that was scary. Ange was still shaking when we got down to the farmhouse.
Can you spot it?
There you go!
From the farmhouse we headed back to find a route along the river to the campsite. One of the farm’s collies, Sunny, set off ahead of us and it soon became clear that she was leading the way. She stayed with us all afternoon and night. The following morning, after a shared breakfast of toast with marmite and peanut butter, which she seemed to enjoy, we headed up the mountain on the other side of the valley in the hope of finding a cave with San rock paintings we’d heard about. Sunny led the way, much to our delight and relief – as far as we were concerned we now had our own snake-dog. We shared lunch, water and shade with our new friend. The snake-dog obviously did her job as we had no serpentine encounters this time. She stayed with us all day and even joined us for a dip in the river when we got back to camp, trying and failing to catch the fish which she was completely absorbed by.
Sunny the snake dog, chasing fish