Go Take a Hike: Here Be Dragons

The Otter trail is considered by many to be the holy grail of hiking trails in South Africa. After completing the hike recently I have to agree. The trail winds through the rugged terrain of the Tsitsikamma Coastal and Marine Reserve and also includes some challenging river crossings. Many times when you are traversing the side of the coastal plateau to get past sheer cliff sections, you expect the map to contain the classical “here be dragons” annotation. The area feels remote and you do not see anybody else, with the occasional glimpse of the tips of the forestry plantations being the only sign of civilization. The purist may object to the poles used to stabilize some sections of the trail, wanting to keep it natural instead. I spend a lot of time at the sea and it is normally very sad to see the level of plastic pollution in many areas. The Tsitsikamma Reserve management and rangers should be commended for the excellent state of the park -  it is clean and virtually free of pollution.

Looking back along the Otter Trail (©2011 T van Zyl)

If you have been vegetating for a while and are unfit, then you would certainly agree with the rating of “Strenuous” by the guys from Walkopedia – yes, it is an actual site. If you do some training beforehand the trail can be done with reasonable effort, as the 58 and 59 years-olds with us on the trail can testify. The time available for each day is ample to complete the distance, with the possible exception of Day 4 which includes the potentially very dangerous Bloukrans River crossing.

The idea for the walk came from my brother-in-law, who sorted out the bookings and got the group together. He is turning 60 later this year and did very well on the walk – thanks in part to some “fire escape training” (running up and down a fire escape!).

View of Blue Bay (©2011 T v Zyl)

Lisa created some homework for me by canvassing for questions about the Otter trail and I received some really good ones. So here are some answers.

What was your average time per km – walking (From Slowvelder)? We walked in three pods and each pod had their own speed. The pod at the back was held back by a serious photographer with his digital SLR, who did not want to miss any photo opportunities (that was his excuse – but his packing methods may have had something to do with it as well). Towards the end of the trail they did speed up remarkably after his camera ran out of battery power. The fastest walking times were on Day 4 when I averaged 20 min/km, but on some days it was as slow as 35 min/km (excluding stopping times).

Did you have access to enough fresh drinking water (From Slowvelder)? On most days there were enough fresh running streams to top up your water bottle. The water is tea coloured due to the tannins leached from the fynbos and tree roots – but it is still perfectly drinkable. Some of the city slickers were a bit sceptical about this at first. On Day 4 most of the little rivers at the marked water points (on the map) were not flowing and besides the pond scum, it was also rich in tadpoles, crabs and insect larvae (yummy!). So we declined to drink from these rivers and were running low on water. The Bloukrans River was marked as a water point, but was very salty. That was the only day that water was an issue.

River Crossing (©2011 T van Zyl)

I would love to hear more about your river crossings – I have heard some scary tales before (From Slowvelder)? All but one of the river crossings was easy and fun as you cross them slightly upstream from the sea. They were at most just over a meter deep. The big mother of river crossings (that deserves the scary tale tag) is the Bloukrans river. Anybody that lives close to the sea is always watching the moon and its effect on the tides. On the day of the crossing it was in the middle of neap tide, so combined with a 4 meter swell the prospects were not good. We arrived at the Bloukrans on an outgoing tide and there was a rip current going out to the deep-sea. Low tide was 6 hours later and the predictions from Windguru and sea levels from SA Tides were not favourable. We decided to bail and took the escape route to the plateau above. The rangers took us around the Bloukrans river gorge and dropped us off to carry on to the next hut. On average one group a month takes the escape route at this point, it was not a proud moment but definitely a sensible one.

Scariest thing that happened (From Slowvelder)? That must have been the fierce bushpigs encountered on the second day. Dropping down over a ridge we descended down to a river. Suddenly we heard the typical sounds made by bushpigs. As we were well aware that an upset bushpig could be dangerous, we started making a huge racket to drive the pigs away. The pigs quieted down and we went down and crossed the river, when unexpectedly the pig noises were back. Upon further investigation we discovered a blowhole where the waves of the rising tide was pushing through, mimicking almost exactly the typical bushpig noises.

One of the scary creatures encountered on the Otter Trail (©2011 T v Zyl)

Funniest thing that happened (From Slowvelder)? See the answer to the “Scariest thing that happened” question above. I must add that the photographer man also kept us amused. He poked his finger in the eye of conventional hiking wisdom and packed as though he took things directly out of his food cupboard (which I assume he actually did), without any thought of weight or packing strategy. His pack swallowed jars of peanut butter, honey, mayonnaise and tins of all sorts. He also unearthed a Christmas-size cookie box at some stage. Bearing in mind that he carried his digital SLR and assorted electronic toys in an additional bag in front of him (almost kangaroo style), you had to respect his tenacity in carrying all of this for the distance of the trail.

Walking through the indigenous forest (©2011 WMB)

I’d like to hear his packing tips (From Kathryn McCullough)? For the hike you need to realise that everything you take needs to be carried on your back. So you have a direct feedback-loop: if you packed too much, you will pay the penalty immediately. Starting with a good backpack you need to make a list. The only “what if” questions that need to be taken into account are “what if it rains?” and “what if it is cold?” and you need to pack (lightly) for those. “What if I start stinking?” is not a relevant “what if” question. Clothing needs to be good quality technical clothing, that is versatile, dries quickly and light weight. As with normal clothing, packing a couple of good pieces will give you a large number of different combinations or outfits. Thermal underwear makes a good sleepsuit, can be worn when it is really cold and is very light and rolls up into a small package. “What footwear do I need for a river crossing?” is also an important point. Advanced shoes like Salomon Tech Amphibians are perfect for the job, but outdoor sandals with webbing uppers also work well. “What do I eat?” becomes the most important question on a hike. So make sure you have good quality light-weight food available. Snacks and isotonic drinks are also important – take some extra snacks along for when you need a boost. The complete list of what I took is available, if anyone is interested.

Typical hiking trail hut (©2011 T v Zyl)

I’d like to know what animal encounters he had – along such a wild stretch of coastline, there’s bound to be some (From Reggie)? Besides the “bushpigs” mentioned before, we saw some bushbuck. The nicest one was an old ram whose coat was starting to turn black with age. At the last hut there was also a very tame young bushbuck that came to graze close to the huts. The most spectacular were the large pods of dolphins that came past us on the first three days. It was the wrong time for the humpback whales that frequent the area in winter and spring time.

And did they sleep in huts along the route, or did they have to take tents (From Reggie)? We slept in two identical wooden huts each night. Each hut sleeps six – on bunk beds with foam mattresses (not thick but comfortable enough). Each site also has a roofed braai/communal area, stocked with firewood. For ablution there is a loo with a sea view (one way mirror glass) and a very cold shower. No pots or pans are available and you need to carry your own white gold (toilet paper).

Interior of hiking trail hut (©2011 T v Zyl)

What were you most excited about the first morning (From Jolene)? I was keen to just get going and see what this trail with the tough reputation was going to throw at us. To see if my planning and packing was good and to see if my training would pay off. At the same time I was going to hike with my sister and her family and was looking forward to interacting with them on a relaxed basis – opposed to the pressure that family gatherings normally bring. It did work out very well and we had some good chats.

Did you run into any unusual animals (From Jolene)? Unfortunately not. See the funniest/scariest question/answers above. Lisa would have loved the large rain spiders that came out to play when we had some rain on the third morning. The scorpions would also have amused her. The spiders that spun their webs across the path every evening, were also a bit of a mission for the person walking in front in the mornings. This person had to clear the path of webs, without messing the spiders around too much.

Other hikers (From Jolene)? I assume this question is different from the previous one? :-) The trail is organized in such a way that you only see the 12 hikers that are with you on the trail, as you walk on further to the next hut every day. Since we booked the full compliment every day (12 persons) we did not see any other hikers until the final day, when at the last stretch we encounter some day hikers in the Natures Valley area.

Who did you meet, where were they from (From Jolene)? I have posted the story of Peter the Nutter previously. This was obviously a very entertaining encounter. The only other people I met, were the new people in the group. Besides my sister and her family plus a family friend (the photographer), there was Chad and his family, and then a fishing friend of mine and his wife. Everybody, except me and the fishing friend and wife, comes from the inland city of Johannesburg. The coastal experience was especially enjoyed by them. Chad and his wife are fitness fanatics. The group was great and contributed a lot to the enjoyment of the hike.

View from one of the Otter Trail huts (©2011 T v Zyl)

What was the greatest challenge (From Jolene)? It was impossible for me to go to sleep with the rest of the group at about half past eight in the evenings. I am a night owl and stayed up later and went to sleep closer to my normal bedtime. For some of the group, the two long and steep climbs on Day 2 depleted some of their reserves.

Did you pack enough food – or did you miss Lisa’s non-dehydrated home cooking (From Jolene)? I certainly missed Lisa’s home cooked food!! Pasta and dehydrated potato is fine, but dried soya has never been my favourite. Fresh fruit and vegetables would have been nice but dried fruit and nuts made up for the starch and soya main courses. The braais (barbecues) on the first and last evenings were excellent. I certainly had enough food and my emergency rations were still available at the end of the trail.

Did you get voted off the island (From Lisa)?! As you know the game of Survivor is a game of social skill. While some physical ability is useful, it is not essential. As some of you know, my social skills are not that good and my alliance was small. I was definitely in danger of being blindsided and getting voted off. Fortunately I had an “immunity idol” (beers and chocolates)which I played at the end of the challenge on the last evening. So I managed to avoid the elimination vote.

Anything you took and wished you had left at home (From Lisa)? Not a single thing. There were two items that I did not use, a warm fleece jacket and a spare gas canister. But I was happy to carry them for some important “what if” scenarios.

Anything you didn’t take and wished you had (From Lisa)? I made a conscious decision not to take a camera, helped by input from Lisa (“no way is the camera going through dirt and rivers …”), mainly because of the size and weight and the prospect of river crossings. In hindsight I would have loved to have the camera along, there are so many amazing photo opportunities that it is sacrilege not to have a camera on this trail. Next time I will make sure that I have a good quality compact camera with me. Fortunately there were several excellent photographers along. I have used some photos made available by my fishing friend. Hopefully I can post some more from the rest of the group later.

Walking with trekking poles (©2011 T v Zyl)

What equipment worked out really well (From Lisa)? My new backpack (First Ascent Jupiter 65+10) worked really well, as you would expect from a modern backpack. The bag has many good features but the best feature is the comfort with which you can carry the load required for a 5 day hike. With the 65 +10 litres space, the bag has more enough room for the equipment required, without feeling bulky. This made it easier to navigate the narrow pathways and do the boulder hopping. The layout of the bag is excellent making it easy to organize equipment, food, water and clothes. The flight mode zipper meant easy access to stuff without having to unpack the bag at quick water/snack breaks. As always there was a bit of rain on the Otter Trail and the built-in rain cover deploys easily from the bottom section. I expected the removable toilet bag/lid section to be a gimmick but it works really well. The perfect addition to the bag was a pair of First Ascent Pathfinder-3 trekking poles. They made traversing the boulder sections much safer and the steeps hills much easier to cope with. The poles are highly recommended, but you have to take two, one is not even half as efficient. At first it feels and looks a bit funny, but once you are used to the poles, the benefits far outweigh the “skier on dry land” caricature.

Is it important to train beforehand and if so what training would you recommend (Bonus question from Willie)? To enjoy the Otter Trail you have to do some training beforehand. With the amount of time available to complete some sections an unfit person could certainly do the trail, but would not have much fun. Any cardiovascular exercises would be good to do. You would benefit from training where you walk with a pack on your back. We had some scary fit people with us on the trail, who train and run competitively in the Comrades Ultra Marathon (distance 89km), but who still needed time to adapt to walking with a backpack.

What were the highlights of the hike (Bonus question from Willie)? On a very basic level the hike forces you to live in the moment. You have to concentrate on where you are putting your feet next, and how you are going to cross rocks and scale the uphill sections. Consequently you forget about everything else, and any stress that you may have had just disappears.

Rugged coastline on Otter Trail (©2011 T v Zyl)

The biggest highlight by far was the snorkelling experience late afternoon of the first day. A couple of days leading up to and including the first day of the hike, the south-easterly wind had been pumping. As any fisherman from this area knows this cools the sea down dramatically. This happens through a process of up-welling of cold water from the lower layers of the ocean. This cold water pushed the fish in the proximity of the first hut, into a shallow pool behind some rocks. When we dived into the water we discovered a dense mass of Musslecracker, Galjoen, Steenbras, Blacktail, Zebra Fish, Sea Mullet and other smaller fish species. These are some of the fish that we normally target when we go fishing. It was amazing to just observe them sheltering in the slightly warmer water of the bay.

Rockpool with all those amazing fish (©2011 Ian Bower)

And then a final highlight were the beers on the last evening of the hike…

Sunset on the last evening of the Otter Trail (©2011 T v Zyl)

The last stretch to the Natures Valley (©2011 T v Zyl)

Posts in the Go Take a Hike series (about hiking the Otter Trail) are:

Thank you to T v Zyl and I Bower for the use of their photographs.

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Categories: Guest Bloggers, Lifestyle/Travel, Nature/Environment, Random

Author:Willie

I am a forestry scientist living and working in the Southern Cape, South Africa.

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45 Comments on “Go Take a Hike: Here Be Dragons”

  1. February 4, 2011 at 2:31 pm #

    This was AWESOME, Willie. Thank you sooo much for answering all our questions, it was brilliant to hear first-hand from someone who’s survived The Otter. And the photos are just glorious – well done to the brave photographer who shlepped his DSLR across such rugged terrain.

    • Willie
      February 5, 2011 at 8:50 am #

      Thanks. I enjoyed the answer session and tried to include some useful information with the funny anecdotes. Once I have received more photographs from the other hikers, I will post some on Lisa’s Photoblog. The intrepid photographer sent me a sample of his pictures and the artistic quality is really good. Hope to get some more photos from him.

      • February 5, 2011 at 8:25 pm #

        Excellent! Looking forward to that!

  2. February 4, 2011 at 2:53 pm #

    what a beautiful place!!!

    • Willie
      February 5, 2011 at 8:50 am #

      It is indeed. I would have loved to spend more time on the trail. Five days is not enough.

  3. February 4, 2011 at 2:55 pm #

    Thank you for answering my questions! The pictures are stunning too. I have heard mixed stories on the bloukrans being salty or not depending if there is an incoming or outgoing tide – you think there is any validity in that?

    • Willie
      February 5, 2011 at 8:51 am #

      Pleasure! I will pass your compliments on to the photographers.
      Your inside information may be right. I suspect that the Bloukrans will only be fresh at the mouth area at spring low tide – an hour or so after “peak” low tide. At this stage the sea water should have drained out and been supplemented by the flow of fresh water.

  4. February 4, 2011 at 2:57 pm #

    oops – forgot something :)
    One thing you left behind that you wish you could have taken with you……….. you should have said “my wife” hehe

    • Willie
      February 5, 2011 at 8:52 am #

      OOOPS! – well spotted, I am in a little bit of trouble about this one. :-)

  5. February 4, 2011 at 2:58 pm #

    Wow what a great trip, and pictures. The only thing that I would have passed on was the snorkling.

    • Willie
      February 5, 2011 at 8:53 am #

      The trip was great and we were lucky to have mostly good weather along the way. The snorkelling was done in shoulder deep water with simple equipment. The amazing seascape that met us when snorkelling made the effort in carrying the equipment worthwhile. The toughest bit about the snorkelling was the icy cold water. Interesting was the effect that the swim in the cold water had on everybody’s muscles, very refreshing.

  6. bagnidilucca
    February 4, 2011 at 10:03 pm #

    What a beautiful place. Thank you for showing me.

    • Willie
      February 5, 2011 at 8:53 am #

      Pleasure! I am not sure that the pictures always do the trail justice. There are also some of the scenic sites like Skilderkrans that I have not covered yet. Maybe I will do that in another post.

  7. February 5, 2011 at 12:59 am #

    That post was absolutely amazing. The pictures stunning! Thanks!

    • Willie
      February 5, 2011 at 8:54 am #

      Thank you! The Otter is such an amazing place that it was easy to write about it. It was also nice to reflect on the experience while answering the questions.

  8. February 5, 2011 at 1:29 am #

    I LOVE the write up! Thank you for taking the time to answer all of those questions. I think my favorite is Lisa’s about getting voted off. ha! (I think I’d be like the photographer holding up the group, to be honest. Whenever I go on hikes now, my friends usually just leave me and I catch up later.)

    Certainly, from the pictures you found and posted, it looks like it would have been an amazing experience. I learned a couple of things: pack light and don’t walk in front (spiders!)

    I just thought of one more question after reading the bit about the bushpigs – did you have any weapons with you??

    • Willie
      February 5, 2011 at 8:59 am #

      Thanks. It was a pleasure and thank you for the questions. I assume you are an undercover Survivor fan? For a photographer it must take a lot of self-discipline to continue with the hike with the continued photo opportunities along the trail: the graphic coastline, colours of the rocks and indigenous forest sections could take up a lot of time. Of course Lisa would have spent most of her time trying to get pictures of the spiders.

      Weapons? I had my folding knife with me but I suppose that does not count. In my experience most of the animals that you would encounter in this area is more scared of humans than we are of them. They normally evade us before we even see them. The exception is a maybe a cornered animal or a puff adder (one of Africa’s deadliest snakes). Puff adders have cytotoxic venom and are thick lazy snakes that occasionally get stepped on. We did not encounter snakes of any kind on our hike but the puff adders do occur in the plantations above the coastal area.

  9. February 5, 2011 at 1:37 am #

    Stunning place/photos and a hike I’d love to be able to try someday. Thankyou!

    • Willie
      February 5, 2011 at 9:00 am #

      Pleasure! The hike obviously comes highly recommended and should be on everybody’s bucket list. Interesting that the majority of hikers on the Otter are now visitors from overseas. I wonder why that is?

  10. February 5, 2011 at 6:42 am #

    Could you please take some photos when you do encounter plastic pollution on land or in the ocean and please post them to our FB or Flickr sites to share with others and to help document?

    Thank you for your beautiful blog and photos.

    Dianna

    • Willie
      February 5, 2011 at 9:00 am #

      Thank you.

      I see you have a very interesting site. As a conservation minded fisherman (mostly do catch and release of especially the bigger fish) the proliferation of plastic along and in the sea has become a great worry. In our area most of the plastic is typically of the type that comes from commercial fishing boats.

  11. February 5, 2011 at 5:44 pm #

    Stunning. The photos, the stories and the advice all come together to make me want to run outside and find an adventure!

    • Willie
      February 6, 2011 at 8:42 am #

      Thanks. I am glad the post has inspired you to find your own adventure.

  12. February 6, 2011 at 8:45 am #

    I like the title of this post! And, of course, the content. I like how you approach these posts, and the information interwove, as it’s much better than reading stuffy brochures.

    So, here is something I want to know, if you don’t mind the belated questions:
    I didn’t see it in the photos so far, but I assume you did pack rope, or something, in case anyone needed rescuing?
    I’d also love to hear how you experienced the different sounds and smells as the terrain changed?

    PS>
    Have you done the Tsitsikamma trail? Would really like to hear about your experiences on, and advice for, that one.

    • Willie
      February 6, 2011 at 6:19 pm #

      Thanks. The various questions posed helped to focus on aspects that people are really interested in. The “then we did this, and then we did this” chronological journal of the Otter has been done extensively and a number of good reports are available on the Net.

      Rope for rescue? We had some ski-rope along to be used to pull our backpacks (in survival bags) along at the river crossings. This was not used as you may have gathered from the answers above. We did not have climbing ropes and harnesses along for rescue attempts. Besides being heavy, there are just so many different types of risk on the trail that the most sensible approach was to simply stay out of trouble. :-)

      Sounds & smells? The obvious changes are in the transitions from the sea trail sections, to the higher indigenous forest sections and then to the fynbos sections above that. The indigenous forests had the most bird sounds and the typical (and unusual) Knysna Loerie sound was heard quite often, but they unfortunately evaded us for any photo opportunities. The smells were also slightly different early in the morning when it was still cool, opposed to the high humidity at midday.

      Tsitsikamma Trail? I do very few organised hikes and we normally hike to more remote areas for fishing purposes, where we just sleep on the beach. So I have not done the Tsitsikamma Trail yet. We are considering doing more hikes and I will post a report if we managed to make our debut on the Tsitsikamma trail.

  13. Franc Retief
    February 6, 2011 at 11:30 pm #

    Hi Willie & Lisa – What a great blog. I will send this URL to all to see what we experienced. We are the old folks that accompanied you that you referred to in your text. The combination of beautiful scenery, pleasant company, the family, the exercise, no cellphone reception, etc. makes this a truly memorable experience. We would love to do this again, but next time may not be so perfect! See our pics on http://www.flickr.com/photos/59141824@N02/

    • February 8, 2011 at 7:21 am #

      Thanks for your comments, and also for making your photos available online. It looks like it was an amazing experience! I wasn’t on the hike, and keep on looking at the photos. Nice to see your family looking well and happy.

  14. February 9, 2011 at 5:31 am #

    A brilliant post, Willie! And the photos are stunnings–don’t know that I’ve ever seen any place so breath-takingly beautiful. I have got to do that hike some day!

    Thanks for the packing tips, too! Can’t wait to hear more from you–good to know you weren’t voted off the island!

  15. May 26, 2011 at 6:41 pm #

    Hi

    Great post! I’d love to see your list of things that you carried with you. We are doing the trail in August/Sept.

    I don’t know whether I should carry my DSLR or a compact camera.

    • May 26, 2011 at 8:59 pm #

      Hi Sherissa!

      Thank you for visiting my blog and leaving a comment. I’m always happy when people find the posts informative. I am going to ask Willie to answer your questions.

      Lisa.

    • Willie
      May 27, 2011 at 12:34 pm #

      Hi, glad to give you my take on the camera option. There is no question that you need to take a camera along, there are simply just too many amazing photo opportunities in the ever changing landscape along the trail. The choice between a compact camera or DSLR is defined firstly by the weight that you are prepared to carry over the length of the trail, ease of use (compact easier to haul out constantly), battery life (no charging options along the trail) and protection against the elements (especially at the river crossings where at the Bloukrans river you need to pack the camera in an waterproof bag, also against rain along the route). If I was to do the trail again I would take along a good quality compact camera.

      Lisa will make the pack list available in a downloadable option. The file is in excel and contains filters that are set for hiking but also contains more packing options for other applications. We went in the summer, for your hike in August/September (higher rainfall, lower temperatures, higher water levels in rivers etc.) I would consider an extra set of warm clothes for wearing at the hut and drying the other set. I would exchange the light weight rain jacket for a heavier duty option and rain pants may also be another option. For food I would pack fresh food & meat for the first evening, day one it is a short walk. For every day I will also include an additional quick pasta snack for when you get to the hut. For the Bloukrans river crossing every person would need a length of ski-rope (not too thin to handle) that could be joined together to assist with the crossing.

      Have fun and enjoy, it is a brilliant hike! If possible please let us know what your experience was like and what improvements we can make to the planning file ?

      Link to Otter Trail planning file:

      http://db.tt/54ze6s1

      • June 1, 2011 at 8:44 am #

        Thank you for the advice and the excel file! appreciate it.

  16. June 1, 2011 at 2:07 am #

    Thank you -this is just so stunning and it’s unlikely I will ever get to Africa (but who knows!) I couldn’t help but think how the landscapes are so much like Australia, until I got to the bug. Your blog gives a wonderful sense of being there. Cheers Sue

    • Willie
      June 1, 2011 at 2:57 pm #

      Thank you for your comments. I have been fortunate enough to visit Australia and agree that there are a lot of similarities in landscape between the two countries. The people are also very similar. Africa and South Africa in particular is a brilliant place to visit and if you do, try to include a visit to the Southern Cape and even do the Otter Trail!

  17. July 30, 2011 at 2:49 pm #

    I think it looks even better second time around.

  18. September 19, 2011 at 3:44 pm #

    Wow!!! this is a great place and you took great pictures! When I looked at that grasshopper, then I thought “Well, this is Africa. Even grasshoppers look much more interesting and intriguing”.

    • September 19, 2011 at 6:03 pm #

      Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment! :-) Actually, I lot of our grasshoppers don’t look that interesting – are either all brown or all green. This one was fairly unusual.

  19. March 25, 2012 at 7:37 am #

    I was so happy to stumble onto your site and love your story about hiking the Otter Trail. I hiked it in the late 1980′s and since then I’ve hiked many places in the world but find that trail to still be one of the most memorable. The scenery is spectacular.
    I would love to be blogging friends .
    Find me at @AFRICAINSIDE.org http://africainside.org/about/
    would you mind if I use a few of your photos if I credit you?

    • March 26, 2012 at 5:15 am #

      Hi Lori! I’m happy that you stumbled onto my site and enjoyed what you read. It’s very interesting that you still remember the Otter Trail that vividly – it’s certainly a favourite amongst South African hikers.

      All these photographs were taken by family/friends who did the hike. You may use them if you credit the photographers. Could you please credit individual photographers plus this site? E.g. ©2011 T v Zyl / notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

      I had a look at your blog . . . Interesting to see how huge an impact Africa has made on you. I was born here, but certainly cannot imagine returning to Europe where all my family lives.

      Thanks for reading and leaving a comment! :-)

  20. Mike
    June 6, 2012 at 2:37 pm #

    Hi Willie

    Wow what a brilliant site.I must admit I have trawled the internet for useful info but this is by far the best.I am doing the otter at the end of August through beginning september this year and just wanted to find out from you if you know wether its the rainy season or not.Also if you could e-mail me what you took with you wuld be a great help.

    In terms of training we hike as a group at lest twice a month -doing distances of between7 and 15km as well as we are in the gym a couple of days a week.Do you feel this is enough training

    Many Thanks

    Mike

    • June 7, 2012 at 6:52 am #

      Hi Mike! Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment! ;-)

    • Willie
      June 7, 2012 at 6:56 am #

      Hi Mike – Thanks, I am glad you enjoyed the post. You are certainly fortunate to have the opportunity to do the Otter and I hope you enjoy the experience. See the response to Sherissa’s question above for the link to the planning file, the pack list is available as one of the tabs. [Link to Otter Trail planning file: http://db.tt/54ze6s1 - still see answer to Sherrisa's question for additional information. Lisa.]
      August and September falls within the rainy season so go well equipped for that, it is also cooler then. You may strike it lucky if you hike during the window between two cold fronts.
      Training is of course very relative, if the intensity levels of your gym sessions and hikes are at a decent level, then you should be fine. As indicated above – it is certainly beneficial to get used to walking (incorporate some hills on your walk) with a heavy bag on your back, I suggest you include that aspect in your training if it is not already the case.
      Have a super hike and please let us know how it went.

  21. nerina
    July 14, 2012 at 6:41 pm #

    Hi Willie. Great review on the otter, thank you. Another question, if I may… I have an american staying with me and he wanted to know whether he could take his own tent on the trail – do you know?

    • Willie
      July 15, 2012 at 6:03 am #

      Thanks Nerina, appreciate the nice comment. I am not sure what the exact circumstances are so here is the long version. To go on the trial you definitely need to have a booking, which you will either get by booking well ahead of or at short notice more likely through a cancellation. Maximum numbers allowed per day are 12. There are also enough beds at each overnight place for 12 persons. So, if you are booked it is theoretically be possible to take a tent along. The only reason why anybody would consider this option I imagine is if you do not want to share a hut with other hikers. Personally I would not recommend taking a tent along, the main consideration is that it would add unwanted weight and bulk to your pack. Packing up a wet tent every day is not fun. Also difficult to dry out stuff in a tent. The Tsitsikamma is really cold and wet at the moment, rather take extra bad-weather gear and food along and sleep in the hut. I am sure your friend will meet some nice people along the way :-)

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