The beauty in death: Endangered Ceder trees of the Cederberg
Ceder Tree - Cederberg - South Africa
I am still dreaming about the Cederberg…these places have a way of staying in my subconscious and unconscious! Well, one of the things I maybe haven’t dreamed of too much is hiking to the top of Mied se Kop, which is one of the “easier” peaks to climb up. I wanted to photograph some of the rare Ceder trees which once covered this mountainous region. Dawie Burger from Driehoek Farm – which lies just outside CapeNature’s wilderness area – suggested I hike up Mied se Kop, because there were some fine specimens on top.
“There’s no path,” Dawie explained with a half-smile on his face, “but you can do it in about two hours, no problem.” Now, when a local in the Cederberg tells you that a hike will take two hours, you may as well double the time. My folks (who were visiting from Cape Town) and I and Thandi made good progress, but the trees on the summit always seemed just out of reach. It was a tough hike, but we eventually made it, and were rewarded with some of the best views in the Cederberg, of Tafelberg and of Sneeuberg.
And then there were the Ceder trees. Once, these were common in the region (and of course, they give the region its name). Today, they only survive in pockets, and only – it seems – on ridges and summits. For decades, they were harvested, because their wood is highly durable, yet very workable. Kobie Hanekom, the local school teacher from Bosdorp near Algeria (and whose father was a forester), told me how thousands of telephone poles between Ceres and Calvinia were made from Ceder wood.
CapeNature and private organisations like Bushmans Kloof Private Game Reserve are now starting to replant ceder trees in certain areas, to try and ensure that they don’t die out completely.
At the top of Mied se Kop, I photographed some imperious Ceders. Some have been dead for decades, yet they stand proud and firm, despite raging northwesterly winter storms, and gale-force south easterly winds, as well as scorching and freezing temperatures. When I touched the bare wood on their branches and trunks, I got the sense that they were still alive (even though they were clearly dead). “The beauty in dead things”…nature has an amazing way of expressing beauty, even when “life” has disappeared.
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