THE STRANDLOPER TRAIL 10 to 18 December 2005
Check out the photos.
Zandree, Allan, Ted. Claire, Elize, Santjie, Arie, Jill, Jenny, Jean, Ken, Jack, Kate Therese, Howard, Magui, & Robbie.
It all started 4 years ago when Fern Carvalho proposed a hike from Port Edward to Port Saint John. Those hikers who under took that particular leg and subsequent legs were gob smacked by the spectacular seascapes, the demanding terrain, the size of the river mouths and the availability of a certain brown liquid which contained certain medicinal properties. For 4 years The Wild Coast Hike became a regular feature on our hikes programme. Last year (2005) the Wild coast Hike officially ended when we reached Kei River Mouth, a certain few had walked every step of the way from Port Edward to the Kei River Mouth are to be congratulated on their achievement.
The Wild Coast was a class act with all the challenges that any hiker could possibly wish for. What if anything, could equal such a hike? Only a continuation of the route seemed to be acceptable. So In April it was decided to continue walking from Kei Mouth down the coast as far as Gonubi. In other words The Strandloper Trail.
From the outset it was established that this hike was to be a leisure event as the route passed through many small villages and resorts all offering some kind of refreshment (so different from The Wild Coast).
A call to the manager confirmed that the most popular dates had already been booked and so it was decided to advance the departure date by one week and to enlarge the groups to one of 12 and one of 6. This meant that there would be some time available before the start of the hike. As Lalapanzi (an adventure and team building centre) offered accommodation and many out door activities it was decided to include this venue in the programme.
All the hikers agreed that the 2 day stay at Lalapanzi was special. The more adventurous tried abseiling down a 25 meter rock face while others hiked down the Gugura River before heading to Restaurant Naturel for some unusual food and service in the evening.
Bryan Church the trail manager was waiting at the Eco Centre to welcome and brief the hikers before setting off, it proved to be time well spent and we all left with a good idea of what was a head of us. After a short walk into the village of Kei Mouth we left our rucksacks at the local supermarket before boarding the Fish Eagle to cruise the Kai Estuary searching for bird and wild life. Picking up our rucksacks again we set off down the coast to our first overnight stop, Pump house. This is a disused sea water pumping station situated on a rocky out crop but a few meters from the pounding surf. The day of our arrival had been preceded by strong south easterly winds and with the tide rising. Massive rollers came silently in until suddenly they would rear up and hurl them selves at the massive rocks sending spray shooting 20 or 30 meters into the air a most spectacular sight.
The next morning we set out early for our destination of Double Mouth passing the village of Morgan Bay on the way and heading up to the top of the bluff where the most magnificent views awaited. The weather was perfect so we spent some time admiring the view. Then on to Double Mouth hut which was situated on a sand dune with a superb view of the sea. Elize managed to find a lift back to Morgan Bay to buy meat for the braai and Jill went one step further by walking all the way back to buy ingredients for the salad, which she served on a palm fond (very artistic).
Leaving Double Mouth hut we walked along Bead Beach searching for fragments of china which are reportedly still washed up from the wreck of the Santo Espirito but alas with no luck. We arrived at Haga Haga in time for breakfast so had plenty of time to explore this quaint little village before descending on the local pub for a pub lunch. The walk to Cape Henderson proved to be longer than expected for some of us. Perhaps it was a combination of reduced visibility due to rain, the positioning of the sign post or the alcohol consumed at lunch but some of us missed the turn off to the hut. A determined run along the sand by Jean alerted us of our mistake and a long trudge back to the hut ensued.
The next day our arrival at Cintsa West was well timed indeed, brunch in the form of a Strandloper special plus 6 ice cold beers was purchased at the local restaurant before setting off into the teeth of a fresh South Easter. Luckily Cape Henderson (the next hut was not far and fortunately very sheltered.
We encountered our first serious river crossing the next day at Kwelera River Mouth the tide was running out and the final 2/3 meters were tough going against the swift flow. All arrived on the farther side safely however Howard who had been assisting all to cross stubbed his toe. Approaching Gonubi there is an interesting stretch of beach consisting of round boulders about the size of a grapefruit or melon this made for heavy going, so quite a few breathed a sigh of relief when the town of Gonubi finally hove into view. Friendly lifeguards assisted those who did not fancy swimming across the Gonubi River with a survival bag.
The Gonubi Hotel proved to be an oasis for tired and weary hikers and a pleasant evening overlooking the sea helped to round off a great hike.
The next hike along the coast will probably start at East London and finish at Hamburg. Interested? Watch the programme.
This is what makes hiking worthwhile, the fellowship, the comaradarie, friends working together.