THE OTTER TRAIL – JUNE 2005
After a hearty breakfast at Hikers Heaven we set of by taxi to the Tsitsikamma Nature Reserve. On arrival we completed the customary indemnity forms, collected maps and tide schedules. With the usual photo shoot done at the starting point it was off with a brisk walk into a small alcove before reaching the dreaded boulders. This part we had to do slowly as the terrain was wet & muddy in places. Lunch time was enjoyed in front of a majestic waterfall.
On arrival at Ngubu huts we were so mesmerized by the beautiful beach area exclusively reserved for us that it took us just five minutes to dive into the freezing water, have a brisk swim and feel totally energized thereafter. Just as well that we wasted no time as a short time later it started drizzling. By nightfall the drizzle progressed to a downpour so our proposed huddle around the campfire was put on hold till the next evening. This did not dampen our spirits as we celebrated Veni’s birthday indoors with a hilarious game of “30 seconds”.
This day had its own challenges – endless uphills. I dished out most of my sweets last night but the backpack still weights a ton. This walk was totally draining specially on the thighs and buttocks. Enjoyed a relaxing lunch on the sandy shores at Blue bay beach. We reached Scott hut in good time and enjoyed another relaxing afternoon swimming at our own private beach. We were rewarded with our first dolphin sighting with promises of more to come.
The backpack is much lighter but it makes no difference as the legs are sore. Took it slower and enjoyed a very scenic walk for the rest of the way to Oakhurst hut. The crossing of the Lottering river was a challenge as the water level was up to our thighs. With Nathalie coaxing and Rod guiding us along we managed very well. After a refreshing shower at the huts we enjoyed just gazing out to sea totally enthralled by the waves breaking on the rocks. Our reward for this day was an hour long dolphin display – the best therapy for a hard days walk.
Pip..pip…pip its 3.15am. Rise and shine this is the highlight of the Otter Trail – crossing the Bloukrans river. Precisely at 4am we were all lined up, headlamps switched on and raring to go. The early morning air was cold but we warmed up soon enough. With the headlamps zoomed onto the ground to better see where you step one became more aware of the autumn carpet laid out along the part – the colours of the leaves scattered on the ground makes a pretty mesmerizing picture. We walked in near silence occasionally broken by the roar of those majestic waves breaking on the rocks. At the 6 km mark we realised that we were behind schedule and speeded up our pace to arrive at the Bloukrans river crossing at 9.30am just in time to watch the river slowly receding to an acceptable level. We were truly blessed that the water level hardly reached our calves. What a relief to have such an easy river crossing, especially at the famous Bloukrans. After a well deserved rest in the rocky cove we continued the walk to Andre hut arriving at midday. Spent a lazy afternoon on what has become our own private beach just listening to the sounds of the waves and enjoying the total tranquility far from the maddening crowd. On this trial you only have the company of eleven other people the rest is nature itself – no noisy traffic or the incessant ringing of cell phones to break this total tranquility.
I woke up with a very heavy heart as I realized that this is the last day of the trial. As if to sooth my aching heart and calm me with last minute therapy the ever present dolphins gave us a last spectacular display. This we could watch from high up on the edge of the cliffs for what seemed an eternity. The rest of the walk to Natures valley was plain sailing except for a chill in the morning air. Winters tentacles have finally reached the Eastern Cape. On arrival at Hikers Heaven I was approached by an enthusiastic group getting ready to leave for the trail that day. Like a five day expert of the trail I gave time a quick rundown of our trip. Their biggest concern was crossing the Bloukrans and like a mother hen I insisted they check the tide schedule and calculate their group walking pace accurately in order to ensure an absolute low tide crossing.
Thank you Nathalie for your excellent leadership and to Rod for ensuring that nobody is left behind.
The Otter trail is a must do for any hiking enthusiast or naturalist. On this trail you become one with nature, drinking in its abundant beauty like there is no tomorrow.