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Up and over the Koue Bokkeveld

Backroading Ceres to Citrusdal (R303)

So, you casually read the advertorial, packed the bags and hit the road. But, less than an hour in, instead of going north, the situation is fast turning south. To the front, a How’s my Driving sticker of a big-wheeler heading for the Namibian border. To the rear, another all-chrome mother of a beast bearing down fast. You grit the teeth and step on the pedal, ignoring the screams and blind rise ahead.  Something’s gone wrong somewhere - this is less idyllic weekend getaway than bit- part in a Mad Max sequel.

Folks, you can travel north of Cape Town, and you can travel north of Cape Town. Instead risking life and limb on the N17 for the pleasures of Citrusdal, why not rather try this one for size - the long, lonely and beautiful R303 between Ceres and Citrusdal. 

First things first, a pitstop in Ceres. That out the way, crank up the Ben Howard and make for Prince Alfred Hamlet. Look left, look right and cut straight through 'town' (there ain’t much of it) and hug those gorgeous curves of the Gydo Pass - now, isn’t this is what you had in mind all along? Start climbing until you reach cruising altitude at 1050m. You’re now in Koue Bokkeveld territory proper.

A vast plateau of farmland, this is apple, pear and veg country, with a nearby horizon of impressive sawtooth peaks - the Swartruggens to the east and the parched gargoyle foothills of the mighty Cederberg to the north. The eroded rock formations chiseled into the sandstone surrounds but a stark reminder of Nature’s cruel hand.

You’re now fully into the vibe. Pull over for a leg stretch at Op Die Berg - a scattering of farm buildings marking the high point on the plateau. A farm bakkie rattles past. A friendly wave versus that middle finger you got overtaking on the N17. To the left and right, signs luring you down side roads to farm cottages, cherry picking, mountain climbs and all sorts of adventure… You wanna take it slow along here, savouring the sweet offerings.

You’re on the dust now, twisting and turning, preparing for the landing into Citrusdal. Past the  Hexberg Nature Reserve you go, down the Middleberg Pass, loving every moment. You look back - smiles all round. Citrusdal’s orange trees are coming into view. Behind you, one hundred and ten kay of pure bliss.

Pick a cherry. There are a number of farms along this route offering seasonal cherry picking. Great fun for all.

Head for Matroosberg in winter for a good chance of building your snowman, 4x4 trips are offered up to the high peaks.

Don’t expect shopping malls in Op-Die-Berg, there is little more here than a few buildings.

 If you’re here during late August through to early September, you’re in for a fantastic show of wild flowers.

 Don’t be too precious about your beamer’s paintwork, some of this route is gravel.

The Route Map
Where To Eat ...
Capish!, Ceres
023-007 0065
"Italy in Ceres"
"Happiness is..."
"What a find! Amazing pizza!"
Die Tolhuis, Ceres
023-312 1211
"Little gem in the pass"
"Roosterkoeke, moerkoffie en spookstories"
"If you're really into roosterkoek (or really hungry) it's great!"
Die Pink Lady, Ceres
023-312 3070
"Nice layout, good value meal"
"Americano & Nutella Croissant anyone?"
"Best pap & wors"
The Grapevine Coffee Shop, Cederberg
022-921 2190
"Better than expected"
"Friendly service with heart"
"Very enjoyable light lunch"
Hebron, Citrusdal
022-921 2595
"Fabulous, quirky and eclectic"
"Steve has a passion for every dish he prepares"
"Service felt a bit disjointed and unorganized"
Kardoesie, Citrusdal
082-525 2247
"Convenient stop but it's become a rip-off"
"Worth the stop up a long and winding road"
"Great farmstall"
Bydidam Restaurant & Lapa
083-384 7911
"Great service, decent food"
"Beautiful supper after a long day on the road"
"Well worth a visit"
Things To Do ...
  • If mountain biking is your thing, the Eselfontein Mountain Bike Trail in Ceres ranks among the best in the country. Offering a choice of three distances (15km, 30km and 40km), the route is 80% single track and intelligently contoured to the surrounding landscape. A bushcamp and a comfortable self-catering house are available for overnighters.

  • From mid-November to mid-January, join the hordes at Klondyke Cherry Farm in Ceres for a picking and eating frenzy. Join the same crowds in winter for a frolic in the snow at Matroosberg.

  • The Baths in Citrusdal is blissful therapy after a hard day’s slog on bike or foot. Day visitors are permitted and there is a hot- and cold-water pool, as well as several indoor jacuzzis.
  • You'll find the start and end of the Christie Prins hiking trails on Koelfontein farm, 4km north-west of Prince Alfred’s Hamlet in the Skurweberg Mountains. This hiking trail was established as an Eco-tourism project by one of the local primary schools and is named after a local conservationist of the area. Permits, map and key are available from Hamplet Country Lodge.

  • If in need of a little adrenaline rush, why not whizz 1.4km through the sky, over 8 state-of-the-art slides, through some stunning scenery? Ceres Zipslides offices can be found at the “Natuurtuin” at the foot of Mitchell’s Pass, at the entrance to Ceres from Cape Town (R46).
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