These are not your usual holiday destinations, but their beauty will take your breath away.
My travels for work have taken me to some really interesting places that I would like to share with you. Even if they are not the spots you might immediately think of for a holiday, especially for people with disabilities, let’s take a look, as they offer such breathtaking beauty and are well worth visiting.
The Cederberg wilderness area (covering about 71 000 hectares) is a three-hour drive from Cape Town on the Cape Namakwa Route. The Cederberg mountains make for a spectacular show, offering amazing rock formations including the Wolfberg Arch and Maltese Cross, and stretch from the Middleberg Pass in Citrusdal to the north of the Pakhuis Pass in Clanwilliam.
Although it is a mecca for rock climbing and mountain biking, there are many other exciting things to see and do, such as donkey cart adventures, hot and cold natural spring Victorian baths, and rock-art sites featuring remarkable examples of San and Khoi art. It’s also the heart of the rooibos tea industry.
Citrusdal has an organic market, museum and Astronomical Observatory, from which Halley’s comet was observed in 1986. Clanwilliam boasts its famous dam, which usually offers lots of water activities, although right now the water levels are extremely low.
The Cederberg forms part of the Cape Floral Region – a world heritage site – which includes fynbos, laurel-leaf protea, the red disa and rare snow protea. And don’t forget the Clanwilliam cedars that give it its name and are found on the upper mountain slopes (home to the elusive leopard).
Other wildlife includes porcupines, honey badger, Cape clawless otter and aardvark. The more common predators include the African wild cat, lynx, bat-eared fox, aardwolf and Cape fox. There are also the usual baboons, dassies, grey rhebok, klipspringers, duiker and grysbok. The birdlife varies from the Cape eagle-owl to the Cape canary.
My work is to train the staff of the national nature reserves in universal access as well as customer service excellence with a focus on people with disabilities. So, I was able to visit the main accommodation site of the Cederberg Algeria Wilderness Area. The staff here at Cape Nature are all very eager to ensure that the facilities are accessible, but access ramps, accessible routes and ablution facilities are just not completely there yet.
They are about to start building seven new units that will be completely universally accessible, so watch this space. If you are travelling with family or a caregiver, your stay would most probably be reasonably accessible; though help would be needed for the ramp gradients and kerbs. If you can use a bath and standard toilet without grab rails, you will manage with the current facilities.
The facilities are self-catering – so you need to bring everything with you. The accommodation in the two towns, Citrusdal and Clanwilliam, have various “wheelchair friendly” venues, with the best being the Clanwilliam Hotel, a charming, recently renovated establishment on the main road of the town, part of the Country Hotels group.
There is a large accessible room on the ground floor with a step-free shower, but no grab rails or shower seat. The basin is positioned on top of a cupboard, which hampers access. The parking area and pool at the rear of the property are accessed via two very steep ramps, for which you’ll require assistance.
Just outside Clanwilliam (22 km) is the Elandsberg Eco-Tourism reserve, which offers two accessible self-catering units with adapted accessible wet rooms, and wheelchair access to the wild garden. There are a number of other “wheelchair friendly” establishments in both Clanwilliam and Citrusdal, but I was not able to visit these due to time constraints.
This area is worth visiting even if you don’t do any activities, as the rugged spectacular colours and views of the mountains and fynbos as well as the absolute peace are completely soul-restoring. I can’t wait for my next trip up to the Springbok area in the Northern Cape!
Mandy Latimore is a consultant in the disability sector in the fields of travel and access. email: firstname.lastname@example.org