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 Post subject: Herman on the Otter trail : Jan '07
Unread postPosted: Tue Jan 30, 2007 8:06 pm 
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Location: Vanderbijlpark
I'm not a hiker, but the Otter trail has the kind of reputation that kicks a non-hiker into action too !!
So when a friend asked me if I wanted to take up two cancelled spaces, David (my son ) and I jumped in, boots and all !! We stayed over at Storms River the night before .

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The forest huts were beautiful and ours , no 4 , seemed better than most because it was right in the trees - hidden from the rest ...
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A walk across the bridge at the river mouth is a must - it was hot and humid in the forest on the way to the bridge and a tinge of doubt about the next five days started to trouble my mind ...!!!

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After a nice meal and a few beers I slept like a baby that night and felt ready for action the next morning. The trail now starts at the entrance gate right at the top - no longer on the rocks down at the caravan park. A nice downhill start through the forest.....
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You soon join the old trail down on the rocks ........

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A little while later the route passes the cave....
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First stop for us was a lunch break at the waterfall - where day visitors must turn back.
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We had a lovely swim and the youngsters - David, Stefan and Steve climbed up to the waterfall for a shower ....
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We had no idea who the other people on the trail would be as we just took up cancelled bookings and just after we arrived at the first night's hut - Ngubu hut - a lone figure came walking towards us and introduced himself as Stèphan Kehry. For a brief second I wondered if it wouldn't be better for him to sleep in the other hut where there were only two hikers, but we started a conversation that soon became an almost instant friendship. Even more so later that evening when he opened his backpack and produced two bottles of wine - complete with a light container with ice !!
Talk about instant friendship !!!
Here Stèphan and David drink a toast to the beginning of a lovely hike !!


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As it was my first ever hike, I gathered information from any source available, but the one bit of advice that everyone seemed to agree on, was that one should take fresh meat for a braai on the first night. I also read somewhere that the wood at the huts might be damp or wet sometimes, as can be expected in a forest ? So Petro bought a ready- made, neatly packed , "fire in a container" and put it in my backpack ! We were all a bit sceptical about this device and agreed that, as it was bought by a woman, it was probably designed by one too - and it of course wouldn't work !! We were wrong - it worked beautifully and it soon became clear to all of us that it was
designed by a man !!

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Last edited by Herman on Sat Feb 10, 2007 4:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject:
Unread postPosted: Tue Jan 30, 2007 8:41 pm 
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Joined: Fri Dec 03, 2004 6:51 am
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Location: Vanderbijlpark
We started early on Day Two - I thought that it would be rather chilly under the shower that early in the morning, but it was already quite warm and the setting and the view ( one could see the ocean) made up for the cold water !
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Almost every day on the trail starts with a steep climb to a lookout platform, from where you can look down to see where you started from a few minutes before. As if one needs to see that - you can feel clearly how every bit of energy that you saved for the day's hike gets used up long before you reach the top !!!

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One of the features of Day Two is "Skilderkrans" - a rocky pinnacle which might indeed inspire wannabe artists as its name indicates. It is quite a climb to get to the top, but fortunately you can do it without backpack !

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David at the start of the climb to "Skilderkrans" ...... (I also made the climb and met the two other hikers on the way up. Chadwick and Arlene were two lovely people - both experienced hikers- Chadwick had done the Otter a few times before and was a great source of information.)
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The view from the top makes the climb worth the effort though ....

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A while later we had our first river crossing - the Kleinbos river - not a difficult one, but the first river where it wasn't possible to step over on rocks - we had to walk through the water.
It was already quite hot and the opportunity for a swim couldn't have come at a better time !!

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Just a kilometre from there , one can take the turn off to Blue Bay. We dropped our backpacks and climbed down over the rocks to the lovely secluded bay.

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The water was lovely and we spent over an hour at Blue Bay.
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A nasty surprise waited for us just after the swim - the steepest climb of the entire hike !!
The rail rises more than 200 metres over the first 500 or 600 metres just after leaving Blue Bay !! The stunning view from the top was a small consolation !!

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Day Two ends at the Scott huts at the Geelhoutbos River mouth - a lovely setting and a lovely end to ( in my opinion) the toughest and prettiest day of the whole trail.

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Last edited by Herman on Sat Feb 10, 2007 4:46 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject:
Unread postPosted: Wed Jan 31, 2007 8:43 pm 
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Joined: Fri Dec 03, 2004 6:51 am
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Location: Vanderbijlpark
Day Three starts at the Geelhoutbos River, where we were told to look out for otters
in the early morning - we had no such luck. We did see one of the "Big Three" of the
Otter Trail shortly afterwards -two Knysna loeries in the trees above us.
No photo unfortunately.

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It was another hot and humid day and quite uncomfortable when the trail passed through the thick forest...

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There was another river crossing - the Elandsbos River - another one where you had to change
into swimming trunks and sandals. No rock hopping possible...

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Many hikers use hiking poles or sticks - Chadwick also had one, but it didn't work for me.
It would just make things more complicated - the hike was hard enough already !!

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Day Three was a much easier walk than the previous day, mainly because we stayed
on a higher level with only a few "ups" and "downs". Lovely views of the ocean and we
spotted dolphins far below on more than one occasion.

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Looking back to where we came from - we started way beyond the point in the background
and still had some distance to cover.


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Oakhurst huts - a welcome sight, but it meant a steep descent and another river crossing ...
The Lottering River is best crossed at low tide and the tide worked out perfectly for us -
we could step over on rocks.

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After crossing the river, we rested in the shade before taking on the little hill to the huts.
It was there that I took my only pic of one of the Big Three of the Otter -
A Black Oystercatcher !! We were delighted - now to find that elusive otter !!!

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Afternoon nap...

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and a lovely sunset - that night we had another wonderful sighting of the comet.

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Last edited by Herman on Sat Aug 04, 2007 5:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject:
Unread postPosted: Thu Feb 01, 2007 8:24 pm 
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Location: Vanderbijlpark
Day Four was the longest - almost 14 kms, but it was easy going in the morning with a few breaks like this one at the Witels River...

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After an uneventful 10 km walk, we got to the famous Bloukrans River. One has to plan ahead for this one.
It can only be done at low tide and hikers often get up very early and cover the first 10 kms in the dark to cross it at dawn or sometimes cross it late in the afternoon and then do the last three kms in the dark ! The tidal gods were smiling at us and low tide slotted in perfectly at 14h30. We reached the river at about 13h00. We had lunch next to the river and became impatient. It was still about waist high in parts when we crossed, which meant that we couldn't get to the easy exit on the beach, but had to climb over the rather steep rocks on the far side. All went well except that I directed Chadwick over the rocks and didn't notice that he was wearing his hiking boots and not sandals. He stepped right into knee high water
with his boots - I don't think he was impressed !!

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An easy walk for about two thirds of the way - just the last bit was waist deep.

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The last three kms to the Andre huts became the most difficult of the entire hike. It shouldn't be the case, but it was another hot and humid day and I didn't have enough water ! It's on occasions like those that the fellowship of hikers make the hike something to remember! I asked Steven for some water and he gave me his last few drops ! As I reached the huts, Stèfan was making himself some "Game" - he gave me one look and handed it to me without even taking a sip himself !
I was finished , dehydrated, close to death even, but soon felt better. Thank you guys !!

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The Andre huts are in a lovely spot on the rocks with a beach nearby..

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Later that evening we all sat together to watch the sunset.
Steven, Chadwick, Stefan, Stèfan, Arlene and David.

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A wonderful, peaceful scene ..

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We stayed till long after dark - David lit some candles ..
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Last edited by Herman on Sat Aug 04, 2007 5:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject:
Unread postPosted: Sat Feb 03, 2007 12:11 am 
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Location: Vanderbijlpark
Dawn on Day Five - everyone was up early. The last day and we wanted the get to Natures Valley, or did we really want it to be over ? I think most of us were just thinking of those lovely cold beers at the restaurant !!
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A last cold shower in a shower with a view ....

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The usual steep climb from the huts. David and Stèfan took off in the wrong direction and went back to where we came from the previous day ! They realised their mistake and had to come all the way down and up again on our side - not an ideal start, but it was soon forgotten as we had our only sighting of an otter !! Far below in the surf, but clearly visible from time to time.
No picture - it was too far and quick to snap !!

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Watching the otter ...

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The last day is an easy three hour walk - mainly in he "fynbos" above the coastal forest.

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The end is in sight !! After five days one looks down at Natures Valley with mixed emotions.
It's over !! , but can't it go on for just a bit longer ??
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It did go on for quite a bit longer than we anticipated - our cars were at De Vasselot camp - another two kms !! We took our hiking boots off for the beach crossing and continued on the tar towards the camp, not knowing how far it was - I stopped to put my sandals on, but the others kept walking...

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We finally made it to the restaurant and the famous "boot tree". I was exhausted and decided right there that this would be my first and last hike, so my boots are now hanging in the tree too !!

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A happy smiling bunch !!
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David, Stefan, Steven and I stayed over in De Vasselot camp that night, where we did some last "bonding" around a fire with a bottle of the best ! ( P.S. - this hike won't be my last - it's now three days later as I'm writing this and I'm already dreaming of the next one !!! LOL )
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Last edited by Herman on Sun Feb 11, 2007 6:41 am, edited 1 time in total.

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