After the walk in the Tankwa a few months ago, I walked along the Western side of the Cederberg and from the flat desert plains of the desert I heard the mountains in the distance calling to me to “Come”. Consumed by my domestic responsibilities on my return, every free moment was spent researching routes I could take through the Cederberg to replenish my soul. The longing to walk long distances with vistas, perspective from above that always gives me a sense of joy and clarity to this somewhat crazy world we live in.
Serendipitously I came across a project called http://www.justtrees.co.za/ I researched further, I found out that they were facilitating, in collaboration with JUST TREES, CAPE NATURE and RED ESPRESSO, a Ceder planting day. I immediately felt excited as it was as if this would be a good reason to return to the Cederberg. I contacted the co-ordinator Elize Potgieter and she connected me to Carl Pretorius, the innovator of this great project. I told him who I was and that normally I walk everywhere, but that I wouldn’t be able to walk into the event this time at short notice, but that I would definitely like to participate in my small way and assured him that I would attend.
When I arrived at Sandrif, expecting to be set up my little tent in the rather cold palm of the Cederberg campsite, not only was I warmly welcomed, but also given a luxurious warm, well-equipped little house. That night we met Carl’s JUST TREES family as we were introduced around a warm glowing fire.
Carl told me his story and why he was compelled to do something about restoring Ceder trees back to their home. While he was looking for Rooibos tea for his product RED ESPRESSO, he was told of how the San, then the Khoi, and finally the Europeans contributed to the loss of these ancient trees. The excessive use of fire to stimulate grazing for domestic animals to flush out game had destroyed many seedlings and that the wood was harvested excessively for furniture and telephone poles when the farmers settled along the Olifants River during the mid- 18th Century. This as well as climatic change had contributed to the Ceder being one of 43 conifers to be on the endangered species.
He then collaborated with CAPE NATURE and propagated the seedlings at his nursery in Paarl and offered to contribute them to a “Put the Ceder back into the Cederberg” annual event as part of what he felt was his way of giving back. He explained how each year he was amazed and overjoyed to see how people came from near and far with their spades and their gum-boots, climbed up the mountain carrying their trees lovingly in their arms and willed them to survive.
So here I was, carrying my seven trees up the mountain. I could feel my own heart pounding from the weight of them and how long it had been since I had ascended a mountain in the past month. With each step, I could feel the weight of the previous month drop off me, as once more I had landed. The feeling of accomplishment opened up my heart again and I felt an overwhelming gratitude that I could be a part of something that no matter how small would contribute something to the future of this extraordinary land of ours.
The following day my dear friend and I went for a meandering walk up to the “Maltese Cross”, where the landscape was a constant reminder of millions of years of history where ancient people and animals had roamed. I felt like I had truly arrived back to myself again. Once I was in the wilderness I could already feel the longing to walk again. To feel the peace inside and I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude to Just Trees and everyone who had made this a memorable week end. I am again totally motivated to plot a route and walk from Paarl to the Cederberg next year inspiring, supporting and participating in a truly wonderful initiative, to bring these great ancient Ceders back home.