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Otter Trail

Knysna, Tsitsikamma, Wilderness
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Unread postby BunduBoi » Sat Oct 08, 2005 2:19 pm

lam wrote:
BunduBoi wrote:Do yourselves a favour and hike the Otter Trail ....
The Tsitsikamma coastline is absolutely breathtaking, and one of the best swims I've ever had was there...
The cabins are cosy, with running tap water.
Everyday one can explore the area around the overnight huts, it's amazing.
Take a snorkel along too, it's another world under the blue!

How strenuous was the hike? Actually, how strenuous did the most unfit person in your party find the hike? You couldn't have found it strenuous as you found energy for exploring, snorkeling .....

The otter Trail is considered a moderate hike in terms of dificulty. Each day differs. The shortest day will take you about 3 hours and is about 6 km, and the longest (which is the bloukrans day) is about 13 km and takes 8 hours going at a relaxed pace (that is if the tide at the bloukrans suits you, we had to get there in three hours - 10 km - as we had to wake up at four in the morning, so we did the whole thing in about 5)
always check the tide of the bloukrans as this orientates the days planning, dont try crossing it at high tide!
Quite a lot of the time you spend ascending and descending hills, this is quite prevalent on day 2. Basically the highlight activity of day 1 is boulder hopping, 2 climbing up and down, 3 swimming and crossing rivers on relativvely flat track, four for us was a scramble of course, and five is a hike on top of a fynbos rich mountain overlooking the sea all the way to Nature's Valley.
Each day is special and has its own events.
The trail hugs the coastline and 90% of the time the ocean is in perfect view, this including panaromic ones.
No hotel in the world will offer you the view that the huts on this trail give you - this is alone a reason to go on the Otter Trail.

P.S. the night before the trail starts, book yourself into Storm's River restcamp, so you can enjoy the day and start at the time you want the next one.
It is a beautiful camp with all huts overlooking the rugged coastline and swimming at the Storm's River mouth/beach is amazing! The cabins as well are beautifully maintained and have an amazing atmosphere.

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Unread postby lam » Sat Oct 08, 2005 2:37 pm

I have stayed at Storms River and day visited a couple of times. I have done most of the day walks including the walk as far as the waterfall, which is the first few kms of the Otter trail. The walks are absolutely stunning. I have always stayed at Natures Valley, which is at the end of the hike. Tsitsikamma is a very beautiful area.

I have never done a 5 day hike. I am a bit worried about putting a pack on my back, laden with 5 days worth of food and clothing, and then trudging up hills the size of Mount Everest. Not so much worried for myself as for my fellow hikers, as I can become a major nag when I am tired and footsore. SO doesn't deserve that.

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Otter Trail - General Information

Unread postby nickyre » Mon Dec 19, 2005 9:40 am

Otter Trail
Tsitsikamma National Park

General Information about the Otter Trail

Distances and Durations
The trail is 5 days and 4 nights. The following distances and durations are as follows:
Day 1 = 4.8 km (± 2 hours)
Day 2 = 7.9 km (± 4 hours)
Day 3 = 7.7 km (± 4 hours)
Day 4 = 13.8 km (± 6 hours)
Day 5 = 6.8 km (± 3 hours)
Total Distance = 42.5 km
Distances are indicated per kilometre for each day on the Otter Trail Map that is available on sale in the park.

There are numerous streams and springs throughout the length of the Otter Trail that are suitable for drinking purposes. However, it may be wise to use purification tablets especially if you are not used to this water and where streams/rivers pass through communities such as the Coldstream\Witels River (3.6 km mark of the 4th day) and the Lottering River (7.5 km mark of the 4th day). There are rainwater tanks at each overnight hut that may also be used. However, due to erratic rainfall patterns, the level of these tanks may be low from time to time.

Firewood is provided, however it is not covered from rain and therefore may be wet. Hikers are required to carry their share of wood from a woodpile, close by on the trail. However, it sometimes happens that there is a build-up of excess wood not used by previous hikers that is placed under the steps of the huts, which is usually dry.

Cooking facilities
Each hut has a braai place with a sturdy steel grid. Within each hut there is a table on which food can be prepared. Hikers need to provide their own gas stoves and pots for cooking.

Other Facilities
There are two huts and a single toilet at each overnight stop. Each of the two huts contains 6 beds with mattresses hikers must provide their own blankets/pillows/sleeping bags etc. Rubbish bins are provided at each of the overnight stops. Field rangers remove the rubbish regularly. There are benches present. Please only use biodegradable soaps on the trail.

It is important to be aware of the dates and the times of the high and low tides prior to hiking the Otter Trail. This is especially important when it comes to crossing the bigger rivers such as the Elandsbos and the Bloukrans Rivers.

The Bloukrans River Crossing
The Bloukrans River crossing is on the 4th day of the Otter Trail. It is approximately 10 km from Oakhurst Hut that takes about four and half hours (4.5) to reach. This river is best crossed during low tide. Once the river has been crossed it is approximately another 3.8 kilometers (two and a half hours) to the next overnight stop. It is wise to arrive well before low tide, so that enough time is available to plan your crossing. If you are unable to cross the river, you can take the escape route labelled E6. This escape route branches to the right of the trail just before the Otter Trail descends to the Bloukrans River Mouth. The escape route climbs steeply to the top of the plateau where it leads to the N2. To reach the N2, it will take approximately 2 hours.

Safety precautions
Safety items that can be included are the following:

Small First Aid kit
Survival Bag
Thermal blanket
Map of Trail
Cell phone

Cell phones and Reception
It is advisable that a cell phone is taken together with the following numbers:
Storms River Police - 10111
Park Headquarters - (042) 28 11 607
Cell phone reception is intermittent along the Otter Trail. Reception may be picked up when the trail reaches up onto the plateau or when the coastline juts out to sea. There is no reception at the overnight huts.

Emergency procedures
There are several escape routes that lead to the top of the plateau where there are access routes that lead to the N2. The escape routes are indicated as E 1 – 6 on the map. Cell phone reception may be reached here.

A fair degree of fitness is required as there are some steep sections, which together with a backpack can become tiring, especially after a few hours of hiking. One must be prepared to hike up to 13 kilometres a day, over rough terrain, steep ascents and descents and under any weather conditions.
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Unread postby nickyre » Tue Dec 20, 2005 12:21 pm

Otter Trail Food Requirements
Requirements are for 5 days and 4 nights (Only a guide)

v Instant breakfast cereal
v Sugar
v Coffee
v Tea
v Hot chocolate
v Powder milk
v Salt & Pepper
v Packet soup
v Instant pastas
v Smash
v Vegetable extract
v Cheese wedges
v Crackers
v Fruit bars
v Biscuits
v Rusks
v Glucose sweets
v Jam
v Chocolates
v Fresh meat or boerewors for first night
v Dishwashing liquid
v Dish cloth
(Try to use sachets for most of your dry consumables (coffee, sugar etc)

v Have every hiker carry *2 briquettes for the first night braai (*number dependent on how many is in the party)
v Pack cotton shirts and parachute-type fabric as it dries easier
v Pack a poncho for heavy rain
v Have a fitted rainproof cover for your backpack
v Pack all the contents of your backpack in resealable plastic bags
v Always have enough socks and underwear
v Pack a pair of waterproof sandals as it is useful for crossing rivers and at the hut
v Anti-diarrhoea and water purification tablets (for those with the sensitive stomachs, not often required)
v Sunblock and Mosquito spray or lotion (always a must have)
v Last but not least a camera

Go wild in the Garden Route

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Time of year

Unread postby Celeborn » Thu Dec 22, 2005 1:36 pm

Hi There,

Does anyone have any recommendations on the time of year one should aim for? Im looking at sometime in March 2007, but am definitely open to suggestions!

Kind Regards

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Unread postby lam » Thu Dec 22, 2005 3:47 pm

Hi Celebron :yaya:

I reckon March is a good time. Not too hot for hiking, but hot enough to swim.
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Unread postby BunduBoi » Wed Jan 04, 2006 10:02 pm

Hi celeborn
I did the trail in november and i think this is an optimal time, i don't recommend winter as it gets chilly, spring might be dicey as a lot of rain falls there, so november until february/march should be good.

(plus when you book look at the tide timetable, make sure the day you cross the bloukrans doesn't compel you to get up at ludicrous hours, though when we had to do it, we had the advantage of having the entire afternoon at that beautiful fourth hut...)

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Unread postby BushBabe » Tue Apr 11, 2006 8:09 pm

We walked off the Otter on 8 April. What a lovely experience - beautiful! A few things to take note of: You must be FIT! The trail is not for sissies and there are loads of uphills and downhills - whichever you hate more of, they are there! Good shoes are essential and I am totally grateful for my Falke hiking socks - a winner! Rain gear is also a consideration - I had a cheapish poncho that was ripped in the wind - good quality is really important. We ate like kings are carried heavy for the first two days - steaks, good braais, but it was worth it!
We had a yuk crossing of the Bloukranz - bad weather that day, and the times of the tides were not great. 7 am or 7pm - we took a chance for mid afternoon tide. Made it across without getting totally wet, but was a little harrowing.
We had lovely sightings of Knysna loeries every day - these were great , but I am sure that someone hid all the Narina Trogons - do such birds really exist and are they to be seen on the Otter? We saw plenty evidence of otters, but none of the little creatures, but saw genets at both first and third huts - they take their chances for food! The baboons can also be troublesome - stole apples out of the fellow group's hut on night two.
I was concerned at the amount of erosion on the paths - I did the trail 12 years ago and it seemed tougher now because the sans has been worn away. Some effort to place root-fibres on the paths did help us a bit!
It will leave happy memories for sure!
The natural world is amazing - showing the hand of an awesome God.

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Unread postby Herman » Sun Jun 04, 2006 4:42 pm

I've never walked the Otter, but friends have just come back from an aborted attempt - the trail was closed due to flooding :( So winter means rain down there and you could even have a similar bad luck, but I'd say that's rare. In general, expect rain, so take protection and try to keep some extra dry clothing.

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Age restrictions on the Otter Trail?

Unread postby metayel » Tue Jul 18, 2006 5:53 pm

On this page ... /otter.php

the following statement is made:

Age allowed and Fitness

The age allowed is between 12 to 60 years.

Is this serious, or a typographical error? I lived in SA for a year and met many rugged individuals over the age of 60 who could hike much further and faster than I. Now I would like to come back and hike the Otter Trail but have read this age discrimination statement and am confused. Maybe I should invite the SA Parks board members to visit here and speak with the hikers over 60 who do the Appalachian Trail, 2,124 miles. These hikers include some South Africans over 60.

My hope is that this is a typo, but I do wonder if anyone has called attention to this. In the States a discriminatory statement like this would generate many lawsuits.


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Unread postby DinkyBird » Tue Jul 18, 2006 7:36 pm

Hi metayel,

As far as I understand it all SANParks trails have an age restriction of 60 years but I am going to ask Diannet to look at your post and follow up on it.

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Unread postby metayel » Tue Jul 18, 2006 10:16 pm

Thanks. Maybe this is a specific issue with the Otter Trail. Perhaps a waiver of liability would suffice for those of us who do not meet the age requirement.

But if it applies to all parks, and I've been in six or seven in SA, then the age restriction is a strange message to send by a country promoting its tourism industry.

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Unread postby metayel » Wed Jul 19, 2006 2:33 pm

Thanks for checking on this. I've looked online for other age restrictions on South African National Parks Trails, and it seems the Otter Trail is the only one with this limitation.

I suggest that the Otter Trail age restriction on the website be removed. It is understandable that you wish to protect those who do not understand the difficulty of the trail. However, anyone hiking the Otter will look into it before departing. I've done the first section to the waterfall and have hiked many other trails in SA, and know some of the physical challenges. I would not approach the Otter without preparation.

And for comparison, the highest elevation gain on the Otter is around 900 feet. On the Appalachian Trail right outside the town where I live the elevation gain is 3,200 feet. The Otter has a river to cross. The AT has several rivers to be crossed.

I believe the age restriction was put on the website by some caring individual who never gets out of the office. It is hard to believe a real hiker would impose such a limitation.

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Unread postby arks » Wed Jul 19, 2006 3:37 pm

diannet wrote:I've just been informed that the upper age limit on ALL trails is 65 years old...i'll look around the website and see where age limits are mentioned and change them accordingly...there will also I'm sure be further comment on this, as the person who can perhaps shed the most light on this is out of the office...

I think that this has recently been raised from the 60 years age limit. I also think that there are good reasons for setting an age limit as many older people have a tendency to overestimate their physical capabilities and that can lead to liability issues. I also think that I have read somewhere that SANParks will waive the age restriction if the hiker has a doctor's letter affirming that the hiker/trailist is capable of doing the hike/trail.
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Unread postby metayel » Wed Jul 19, 2006 4:08 pm

Just got this from the South African National Parks:

Dear Richard,

The age “restriction” is not enforced but just gives people an indication that it is not that “easy”. We have had much older people completing the trail and it is your own decision if you feel fit enough. The indications are that you are very active and that you are confident of your fitness.

If you want to do this lovely trail, you are welcome to join the rest of the group who will be hiking.

Kind regards,

(name deleted)

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