This trip report comes from Vassil Boasherliev, who is one of Kevin’s climbing partners and good friends. In July of 2016, he went to Rocklands in South Africa to boulder and explore.
As a rock climber, more specifically a boulderer, the Rocklands in South Africa is one of the great pilgrimages. I made that pilgrimage in July of 2016, and what began as a pure climbing trip quickly turned into one of the most interesting and memorable experiences of my lifetime.
My girlfriend and I decided to take a one-month trip to South Africa to climb in the Rocklands and experience life on another continent. In addition to vigorously training our bodies to ensure optimal performance on the rock, there was an intense amount of research and planning that went into undertaking the trip. We had to be prepared up to six months in advance with our bookings for accommodations, as the best ones are fully booked that far in advance. South Africa is also among the most dangerous places to drive in the world, which is coupled with the fact that the driving is on the left hand side of the road.
Arriving in Cape Town was something special. I’m not sure if it was the 38 hours of travel or the harrowing driving situation, but it is truly one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to. White sandy beaches and a beautiful ocean view are to be had only a short drive from some world class climbing. We then began our three-hour journey to the town of Clanwilliam, which is just on the other side of the Pakhuys Pass housing the bouldering area. This drive is particularly dangerous as there are areas we were warned to not ever stop over at. The exact warning was “if you get a flat tire, you limp it to a gas station, NEVER stop in the middle of the highway, especially at night!”
We spent the first week of our trip in a farm with newly built small cottages for climbers a little further from the beaten path. Called the Bushmans’ Cave, this was a very nostalgic experience for me because they had sheep and other small farm animals running around, reminding me of my grandparents’ farm in Bulgaria. More interestingly they had several ostrich, along with the standard farm animals of sheep, goats, and chickens. One morning, I had decided that I wanted an ostrich egg for breakfast. asked my hosts about it, and they simply stated “You’re welcome to get as many as you want, you just have to go out and grab it from the nest.” I gathered as much courage as was necessary and found my way to the closest gate to the ostrich nests, but one look from these monstrous birds was all it took to discourage me. Maybe next time….
When you go to a place like this, you become immersed in the culture of the people there. The place primarily sports herb farms producing rooibos, an herb used in almost all aspects of life. If you get a chance to use any products with this super-herb, I would highly recommend it. You can find rooibos in tea, foods, shampoos and soaps, and many others. This part of the world is also wine and beef country, and this mixed with an amazing exchange rate equates to steaks and wine almost every night. Seriously though, 1 kg of fillets was approximately 13 USD, a certifiably unhealthy, aka just the right amount, of beef and wine was consumed during the trip. In the winter, they have come to rely on the income from the climbing community and have created an incredibly friendly and accommodating environment. The Traveler’s Rest is a part of the climbing community, Sometimes it was easy to forget how wild the place was; luckily we were reminded that this was still the bush by a rather large group of baboons on our first day driving to the boulders. Unfortunately, that was the one and only time we were close enough for a good photo of these guys, though they were never too far off making for very interesting clifftop silhouettes against the sky.
With regards to the climbing, I am quite literally speechless. Never has a place left me so in awe of the movement, the sandstone, the people. It suited me quite well and I was able to pull off 5 V10’s and one V11. Valerie had a similarly successful experience, dispatching her first V8! We went there with little expectations and eager to experience a new place, and left with a whole new family and second home. There is no place like the Rocklands, the sheer beauty and magnitude of the place is overwhelming, inspiring, and addicting. I highly recommend a trip.
-Vassil Boasherliev (@vassil_boasherliev)