Reilly on the Road travel blog

Ian (aka "The Professor) on the trail. (Why "The Professor?" It just...

Company along the trail

To keep us on track ...

The Oakhurst Huts on the Lottering River

Crashing waves were a constant ...

JBR on the trail...

Over the river and throught the woods ....






Gabi and Ian at Nature's Valley

The end of the trail ... Natures Valley

On a whim, I happened to call the South African Nat'l Parks to inquire about this one particular hiking trail - the Otter Trail in the Tsitsikamma National Park. This is apparently one of the best hikes in South Africa. The 5-day, 4-night hike tracks a beautiful stretch of coast and only allows 12 people at a time on the trail. When I called on the 21st, I asked when the next opportunity for a single hiking would be. the answer - Thursday, November 23 and January 20. I took Nov. 23rd.

It was a great hike to say the least. The 42k (22 miles) wasn't that much distance to cover in 5 dyas, but the trail tracked the coast which meant steep rises and descents along the headlands, some river crossings (fortunately the tides were on our side), but also some great stretches high up on the cliffs and along rocks and beach. So much of it was hidden under a low forest canopy. At times it seemed like it was just drilled through the vegetation. It reminded me of the forts we'd make under a hedge or bush as kids.

Right when I set off, I met up with South African Ian Assam starting out, and he was actually supposed to start on the 22nd, but caught up at work. To make up for it, he had decided to walk the first two stretches in one day. We were enjoying each others company, so once we arrived at the first camp site, I decided to join him and press on to the second camp. Apparently some others had cancelled the day before, so there would be beds available in the huts.

It seemed like a good decision at the time, but the second stretch was brutal - lots of near vertical ups and downs - some as much as 400 to 500 feet. The trail was well maintained with log "stairs" to make things easier, but we were both pretty beat when we pulled into the second camp just as the sun dipped under the Indian Ocean.

It made the steaks we had both been lugging taste that much better. It turns out that some others had cancelled, so there was a group of 6 friends taking the bunks in one hut, and just one other - Gabi Ankewitz from Germany - in the second hut. The three of us joined ranks and finished the trail together. The remaining stretches still had some ups and downs, but the combination of increasing fitness and lightened loads made things that much easier. One highlight was the crossing of the Bloukrans River mouth. This must be done at low tide, and even then, the water was up to my chest at points. fortunately we had brought "survival bags" (a fancy name for a super-duper trash bag) to wrap our packs in and float them across. All seemed in order until Ian started pulling out some wet shoes and socks. Something on his pack must have punctured the plastic. I checked mine and found a few points where the plastic was stressed, but fortunately not to the breaking point. To Ian's credit, his wet bag didn't dampen his spirits, and we were soon under way again to the final rest camp.

It was just wonderful as I mentioned. I've attached a bunch of pics from this one. There's quite a few of some flowers and plants. These are examples of Fynbos (fine bush) which is only found on the cape region of South Africa. In fact, the Cape region is one of the six floral kingdoms of the world, and the only one to be contained in its entirety within a single country, and despite being the smallest kingdom, one of the most biologically diverse. While there are some other plant groupings in this kingdom, the Fynbos biome is so unbelieveably diverse, it may as well be its own kingdom. All the plants seemed right out of Dr. Seuss story - they were fuzzy and pointy and tubelike.

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