Otter trail – Western Cape

Route info:

Distance: Approximately 45km (excluding exploring and swimming)
Difficulty: 4.5/5, Tough with extreme at case, a lot of steep Ascends and descends, with the odd flat area.
Gear: full multi-day pack with all cooking and sleeping gear, a minimum 2l water bladder (can be filled at each hut and some rivers on the route) and food and snacks for 5 days, a walking stick does make the rocky sections easier to navigate through. Hiking boots is advisable.

Day 1
22 April 2018 (approx. 4.8km)

After we packed the transfer bus, to take us from Plettenberg Bay, the adventure started, literary, we had to push start the VW Kombi.
That was enough to kill the nerves and start the trip with a big laugh.

We got to the Storms River Reception, quickly signed in, weighed our packs, and in a flash, started the 5 days.
After a brisk walk in the forest, we reached the beach and our “rock-hopping” commenced.
It might be a short 4.8km hike on day one, but don’t mistake the distance as easy, it’s not, “ups”, “downs” and “overs”, “unders” are the basic terms for the day.

We found a little rock pool and used the time to cool of with the snorkeling gear, and also did the famous ‘youtube’ waterfall jump.

The trail goes back into the forest, only to be greeted by Ngubu hut, with an absorbing pebble beach to enjoy the first sunset
(with a Jagermeister shot, to celebrate Jannie’s birthday)

The huts are very basic, with 2 triple bunks each and a counter top. The “kitchen area” is just a table with benches around it and a basin to wash dishes. The shower for day 1 is a beautiful outside shower, but catch it at the wrong time, and its freezing.

Day 2
23 April 2018 (approx. 7.9km)

After a good night’s rest (thanks to the late night whiskey) the infamous day 2 was upon us.
I’m not saying that it was impossible, but for future Otter hikers, take this as a warning, it is TOUGH!

The first half of the hike is nice and fast, free flowing trails.
At 1.9km you get to Skilderkrans, and you simply have to take 30 minutes and enjoy it there, trust me, you’ll appreciate the views.

Everything up to the Kleinbos River, 3.8km, is amazing and you could be fooled into thinking this is a breeze.
Some steep climbs, even steeper descends and forest scenes that looks like a Disney movie, makes for good walking.

But then a turn for the worse happens… climb, climb and climb some more.
For the brave, one can go veer off to Bloubaai beach midway through the climb, but be warned, you just adding to your climb on the way back.
At the peak of this never ending climb is a viewing platform that looks down to Bloubaai beach.

At this point give yourself a high 5, you just finished the toughest climb of the Otter.

From here to the end its back to normal for the rest of the day, and getting to Scott’s hut feels like an accomplishment.

Day 3
24 April 2018 (approx. 7.7km)

Waking up to the sounds of the crashing waves is a feeling difficult to explain, but leaves you charged for the starting climb that awaits you.
The striking surroundings make one not really care about the climbs of the day.

We descended back down to the coastline and was greeted by a pod of dolphins playing in the waves.
This was obviously a great place to take packs of and admire the view and snack a bit.

From here on you follow the rocky coastline until the first river crossing for the day, Elandsbos River, approx. 2.5km’s.
This is a fairly easy crossing, but be careful not to get the packs wet.

After this point you wonder up and down the route.
It’s here where we got some cellphone signal, with most of us utilising the moment to check in with our families back home.

There is a steep climb before you can see Oakhurst huts from the opposite side of Lottering River.
Your mind plays tricks on you here, as the route turns to your right and tracks away from the huts at a very steep descend.
At the bottom of the cliff face, awaits Lottering River crossing.
We were lucky to catch it at low tide, so only a knee deep water crossing for us and a fast up and down to the huts from this point.

Oakhurts huts are without a doubt the most beautiful of all the huts, just the location alone makes it scenic.
We got a second show from a pod of dolphins, how lucky can we be.

This was also the coldest night, with the Old Brown Sherry keeping us warm.

Day 4
25 April 2018 (approx. 13.8km)

Without a doubt the most taxing day for me personally.
Not sure if it was nerves for the Bloukrans crossing, or perhaps the body taking strain from the previous 3 days of intense hiking.

You need to keep in mind what time low tide is on the day and plan accordingly.
We were the (un)lucky group that had low tide at 6:46am & 19:02pm.
We decided to do the later crossing, as per the ranger’s recommendation.

The first 4km’s is fairly easy, and the route is clearly marked, and distance markers every kilometer.
This is to assist the hikers walking in the dark hours of the morning to get to the crossing at low tide.

At roughly 4km’s, the route turns into a scene out of “Cliffhanger” the movie, with dangerours rock faces and narrow ledges.
This continues for about 3km’s. (take time here and don’t rush, this is not the place to make a mistake and plummet down to the ocean.)

The next 3km’s to Bloukans River is quick and easy, and we rocked up at the crossing smack bang on high tide, 13:00.
So we had to decide, do we wait 5-6 hours for low tide or do we attempt to cross?

With one of the group members making a calculated decision and test walked across, safely, we decided to do the crossing.

Even though it was high tide, we all crossed at hip high water and absolutely no undercurrent, how lucky could we get.
(We advise on reading the situation and cross with caution, high or low tide)

After the crossing we sat down for an hour to take in the euphoria of the mighty river crossing.
Little did we know that the last 3.8km’s was going to be tough.

You start of with a rock climbing expedition, with the help of a permanent rope attached to the rock.
The trail goes smoothly up to the final climb just before Andre’s hut.
I had Led Zeplin’s “Stairway to heaven” repeating in my head as the gum pole steps just didn’t stop, zig-zagging up the mountain side.

Ater this you get a flat field of Proteas and other flora, again, making the climb worth it.
Here you walk on the edge of the cliff for just over a kilometre, and get to a steep staircase down to the huts.

The huts are very far apart for some or other reason and makes for group separation.
After a tough day like this day, I was hut bound the entire time, until we passed out at 20:00.

Day 5
26 April 2018 (approx. 8.8km, to Natures Valley Pub & Restaurant)

The last day of the trail, bittersweet indeed.
Happy to be able to finish this awesome hike, but also not wanting to finish at all.

The 5 days of complete isolation changes a man (and woman)

Starting with an intense (and final tough climb) of the hike, you get the Led Zeplin song playing again.
Just as you about to freak out, the climb is over and the rest is history.

The most of the day 5 hike is a flat walk, in scenic Fynbos area with the odd Protea in bloom.
The trail follows the cliff all the way to the final decent ant Natures Valley beach.

At the beach, you are left with two choices, either walk 2-3km to the official finish of the Otter trail.
The other option is to walk into the little town of Natures Valley, to the Natures Valley Pub & Restaurant, where you can smash some burgers and down some cold-cold beers.

I think the choice is self-explanatory, we enjoyed the pub!
Obviously we had an Otters-arsehole shooter.

Our transfer shuttle, back to Plettenberg Bay, stopped at the official finish and allowed us to sign out of the trail and receive our certificates of completion.

5 Days… 12 friends… 45 kilometers… 1 unbelievable experience

Rating: 10/10

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