Rocklands, South Africa. Orange rock, vast skies and the most incredible barbecued food you will ever have.
I spent last summer in the climbing mecca that is Rocklands. It was my first ever trip there and I was blown away by the quality and quantity of the climbing. Every line looks stunning and climbs so nicely.
Rocklands has fast become one of the most popular summer destinations to go bouldering, however it is still surprisingly tricky to easily find out information regarding getting there, accommodation options and a few other top tips. Hence why I find myself writing this article, in the aim to create a useful resource for first time Rockland goers to refer to when looking into booking your trip!
So, lets gets to it!
Catch a flight to Cape Town, which is currently experiencing the worst drought it has ever had, so please watch your water usage whilst there.
Hiring a car from a rental company will allow you to drive 3-4 hours to Rocklands. Aside from companies like Avis and Sixt, there’s also one called Penny K’s – they seem dodgy but are some of the soundest people ever, offer cheap rates and you look like a local riding round in an old school, slightly beat up, mobile!
If you don’t fancy the drive, take the bus from Cape town to Clanwilliam and then hitch a lift to Rocklands itself. If you do choose to do this, then take care at the Cape Town bus station. Rumour has it it’s not such a nice place.
There are quite a few options and there are set to be a lot more this season! I have included a variety of options in this article. The main thing to remember is IT BOOKS UP FAST! In fact, so fast that I am a little worried I may have missed the boat for the 2018 season – fingers crossed I am just being paranoid!
Travellers Rest accommodation is in numerous farmhouses and cottages around the area. There is the option to rent just a room or book out a whole house. With varying levels of luxury available depending on the price you want to pay, this can give a lot of flexibility. Overall, however, the houses are relatively cheap. They are also often quite chilly, but this is soon solved by lighting one of the big open fires! Travellers Rest itself is a restaurant, located in the heart of the accommodation and climbing. It has WiFi, great coffee all day, every day and serves brilliant food – the Mac ‘n’ Cheese burger and then Malva pudding for afters is definitely the highlight! There is also a small shop there, which you can buy essentials from if you don’t fancy the 40-minute drive into Clanwilliam.
Next on the list is the Alpha Excelsior accommodation, which is set in beautiful surroundings and right next to numerous climbing areas (the Plateau, Coop and Fields of Joy are all within walking distance). Accommodation includes the main farmhouse, other small cottages and some cool static caravans. The main farmhouse is beautiful; the interior is gorgeous with lots of traditional decoration. Again, you can rent a room or the whole house. I would recommend this option if you want a more luxurious stay, with the Hen House café (serving amazing homemade cakes, coffee and scrummy breakfasts) less than 100m away. The caravans are a field away from the Hen House and offer a much more budget option. The beds in them however were the most comfortable I stayed in on my trip! Take lots of layers if you do decide to do this, as there is no heating in them.
Becky and James, the owners of Alpha Excelsior, are some of the most thoughtful and accommodating people you will ever meet and will make sure your stay is super comfortable. If you stay with them then you have use of their gorgeous and tranquil dam, which you can swim and kayak in. They also have a vineyard and produce olive oil from their olive trees. James is very knowledgeable on the wildlife in the area and if you’re lucky he may even take you on a scorpion walk!
The Campsite is the most budget option and probably has the best party scene in the area. I didn’t stay here but did visit for a few parties! I had a lot of friends who stayed here and had a great time.
There is relatively new accommodation in the Bushman’s Cave area – it’s a good 30-minute drive out, but looks brilliant and there is a large barn which Eric, the owner, is open to customers using for pretty much whatever they please.
These options are the main choices for the area and give you a range to choose from, though there are more around if feel the need to explore. Wherever you stay, you’ll meet lovely people who share a kindred spirit for adventure and, of course, rock climbing.
More top tips
Where to buy food? Clanwilliam! There is a Spar there which is your best bet.
Buy your pass, to allow you to climb! Best bet is to buy this at Travellers Rest. The local park officers do check passes and you will get fined if you are found climbing without one.
Check out the Floris restaurant in Clanwilliam: incredible food at ridiculously cheap prices.
Head to the local butchers around the bend on the main high street for your biltong. It is the best in the area!
Take a walk to the waterfall – you can ask the Hen House for info about how to get to it!
Get a mid-trip massage at Salon Nicola in Clanwilliam. Potentially the best 250 rand you will ever spend.
Check out the insane and world renowned rock art, it’s some of the oldest in South Africa!