Day 4 – Otter Trail, Tsitsikamma, South Africa

Oakhurst Camp

The wind howled most of the night, the waves crashing and a few bouts of rain. By morning it has calmed down some. We hurry to get dressed, make coffee and finish packing up. We tried to do as much as possible in the waning evening light of the previous day.

It’s full moon but with the low cloud cover only a light glow in the clouds give away this fact.

Oakhurst Camp to Andre Camp

We head out at 5:20 in order to be at Bloukrans River crossing near 10:08, low tide.

Past the viewpoint I explored the previous evening the trail dips back into the forest and stays there until nearly light, around 6AM. Eerie walking through the dark woods with a torch, but having 2 groups ahead of us it makes it less daunting.

Shortly after day break the trail is mostly on the coast with great views of the rocky shoreline. The waves are rocking from the turbulent weather, much higher than we’ve seen in recent days.

The kilometers are marked on this section of the trail. Between 5 and 6 the trail is quite rocky with several boulder scrambles, but otherwise changes in elevation are not so dramatic.

At about 7.5K you reach the top of a ridge where you can get cell coverage. From here the trail dips back into the forest and aside from the slippery roots is faster going until you reach the viewpoint over the mouth of the Bloukrans River.

Bloukrans River Crossing

With numerous photo ops and a stop or two but otherwise going at a steady pace we reach the river at 10:00AM. Everyone in our group reaches the river within a half hour of low tide, i.e., 10AM.

From the viewpoint we can see Carol and Simon sitting on the rocks watching the other groups cross. The water is only about shin to knee deep, but we still have to tackle the steep descent down to the river.

As we reach the river bed it starts to sprinkle. Crossing was not a problem with the deepest section just above my knees.

For the two coming behind us a strong wave came in, creating a surge that added nearly another foot or more and lasted for the entire set of waves. This should have been the exact low tide point. Everyone crossed safely. A few wanted to go back and cross in higher water to add a little drama to the experience.

The sprinkle turned into a heavier drizzle accompanied by an unwelcome wind as we set up the stove to make porridge before continuing up the rock face. It’s a good idea to rest and regain your strength here as there is still another 4K with a stiff climb near the end.

Past the stretch along the rocks, difficult if you’re not used to scrambling but not technical, the rocky beaches flatten out. The trail crosses a few such beaches interspersed with forested sections.

Then the trail turns inland for the longest climb of the day passing the k12 marker on the way to the top. Once at the top the trail dips and rises along a sandy track through fynbos, winding around to another section of spectacular rock faces.

The weather remains turbulent, spitting from time to time. At k13 we can’t believe we’re not there yet but soon the trail turns the corner and you can see down to the Andre camp at a rocky beach and the next morning’s trail climbing back up again. It’s a steep descent aided by a long section of stairs.

Andre Camp

Camp is set up like all the others – no shower though. Hut 2 has amazing sea views right in front of the porch. There is a metal gate across the doors to prevent monkeys from entering. The weather is clear for the moment but just as we finish lunch a squall comes in. The pattern repeats throughout the afternoon. Most of the hikers take a long nap. As the tide comes in you can hear the water filtering through the large round rocks line a giant rock tumbler.

Squalls continued to pass throughout the afternoon. Finally around 5PM the air started to clear and the wind died down.

Don and I have sundowners on a log on the beach, watching the enormous waves crashing on the rocks, maybe 20 feet, the largest we have seen yet. The South Afrikaners made a fire in the common area but then leave rather early so it’s just us and the Germans by the fire before dinner.

September 17, 2016

For links to all the posts on South Africa see the South Africa page.

For links to all the Otter Trail posts see the Otter Trail page.