East Rand Hiking Club

Since day one was only 4.8kms long we decided to have our ‘last breakfast’ in a leisurely fashion at the restaurant at Storms River. Bacon and Eggs, cappuccinos WITH cream were the order of the day!

Eventually we sashayed up to the Park Office to do the required paperwork: permits and maps were to be issued and conservation fees were to be paid before the pre hike meeting. Alas our allotted park official had climbed out of bed on the wrong side and had started his work day brushing up Trudy the wrong way. He continued this time consuming trend and almost had his tires deflated (or his face rearranged) by subsequent hikers in the group that just wanted to pay their monies and be on their way. Eventually, after too much aggravation, we had our ‘before’ pics taken and we were on our way.

The first day is a mere 4.8kms. With full backpacks we warmed our muscles up – my muscles got a proper warm up with luxury items along for the ride: A couple of Windhoek draughts and steaks and salads etc. etc. At the beginning I felt that I couldn’t trust my legs – then realized that I was wearing my prescription sunglasses (far distance) which threw my focus out. Once the glasses were off the focus was on the views of the forests that we passed through with the help – of stairs. Yes stairs! Granted, the gradient was very steep down. I felt sorry for Trudy and Rachel, who were walking to the halfway point with us – they would be negotiating the very steep uphill to get back to Storms River.

Once the forest opened up we found ourselves on the rocky shore with a huge cavern in the rock. True to hiking tradition, some took the opportunity to explore whilst others chilled and caught their breath. The half-way point was a magnificent waterfall with an inviting pool to swim in. After relaxing here Trudy and Rachel took their leave to return to Storms River. The rest of the walk included views of water breaking on rocky shores and lush forests – tasters of beauty to follow.

When we arrived at Ngubu hut we were welcomed by well-maintained wooden huts, a loo with a view and an open air shower. What more could we ask for! As we settled in for the night we enjoyed our luxury items around our braai fire. That evening we drifted off to sleep with the soothing sounds of waves breaking against the shore and dreamt about the wonders to follow.

Day 2
Ngubu to Scott Huts – by Karen & Mike
I woke up in the early hours of the morning to the sound of rain. The weather predictions were correct…drat!! When it was time to get up, the rain had almost stopped and we were hoping not to have any more until the afternoon. Alas we were wrong.

After yesterday’s shorter, but not easy walk, this morning’s very steep hill reminded us why our backpacks should not be packed too heavy. Day 2 is quite a tough pull, mainly because the terrain is undulating throughout the entire day, the backpacks are still quite full and the wet ground didn’t help either.

After walking about 2 km, we left backpacks on the trail and went to go and look at and climb up, the solid quarts outcrop called Skilderkrans. The beauty of the area takes your breath away. Leaving Skilderkrans, Mike & I descended to the Kleinbos River, where we caught up with the rest of our group, some who were having a great time playing cricket. The Kleinbos looked quite deep, but crossing it was easy as it was shallow. From the Kleinbos River, we walked through forest areas towards Blue Bay. This was about another 2 km away and whilst we were walking there it started to rain. The plan was to swim at Blue Bay, but because of the rain we decided to push on to the hut.

From Blue bay there is another climb to an indigenous forest where we then walked until the path dipped down again. After walking for some time Scott Huts were suddenly in front of us.

Scott’s huts are in a lovely setting, with a lapa, where we made a fire in the braai area to try dry out clothes and boots.

Day 3 – 22nd February 2015 – Scott huts to Oakhurst huts
After a long, cool night as a result of rain in the afternoon and evening before, we were woken up very early before sparrow to a booming “Morning All” from Mike and with that everybody started shuffling and going about their routine of making breakfast and packing up.

We had a late start to the morning and got on our way just before 8 o’clock. Day 3 is characterized a little differently from the other days as we crossed three rivers namely the Geelhoutbos, Elandsbos and the Lottering. The Geelhoutbos River is a stone’s throw away from Scott huts where we did lots of boulder hopping and followed the scenic coastline with many ascends and descends until we reached the Elandsbos River.

The Elandsbos River is the colour of strong black coffee, like all the rivers along the trail. The brown colour is a result of the leeching of organic material which originates from the vegetation that the water passes through. We reached the Elandsbos River at low tide so we were able to wade through the river to the other side with ease. The trail continues along the shoreline with many grueling ascends and descends until we came to the escarpment on the cliff top. The cliff top is laced with beautiful fynbos which you walk through for about 4 kilometers. When we were at the point that we could see the Lottering River it was evident that we were really high up at the edge of the cliff and there was an exceptionally steep descent that would take us to the Lottering River.

We decided to stop here for lunch and were able to take in the breathtaking views of the sea, the river and the mountains before making our way down, down, down to the river. We were hoping to spot at least one Cape Clawless Otter but it alluded us. We arrived at Oakhurst huts in the early afternoon where we spent the rest of the day leisurely watching the huge waves crash against the rocks and drying our clothes out from the day before. We all went to bed really early in anticipation of a more challenging Day 4 which lay ahead………

Day 4 was special for me personally because it is the first time of my 4 Otter trails that I got to see the first 8 or so Km’s of the trail in the sunlight. Previous times we had to leave in the dark to do the 10 odd Km’s to Bloukrans to get there for low tide.

This time low tide was 12:40 so it was a lovely relatively easy trek to Bloukrans. I must say that the trail down to Bloukrans was appalling and probably the worst I’ve ever seen a trail on the Otter.

We did some exploring up river of Bloukrans as it was so low and it is a beautiful river. Baby fish aplenty in the little pools and streams all the way up river. (We didn’t find any bodies of unlucky bungee jump victims from upstream so the bungee cords must be in good nick) The previous time we had done the trail, we needed ropes, swimming gear, packs in floater bags and serious courage to get across… This time we strolled across with our packs on our backs. After last time it was almost a letdown that Bloukrans was so tame. Straight after the crossing, the trail is possibly the hardest and most technical. I had visions of the movie cliff hanger in my mind when we hit the trail after Bloukrans. Well Sylvester Stallone with a pack anyway.

The previous night we had spoken about the day and it was said that if Bloukrans crossing was easy then the day would be long but relatively easy and after Bloukrans the last 3 Km’s were a doddle to camp… Haha!

What we had forgotten was the toughest climb of the entire hike was after Bloukrans.
That certainly got my heart pumping… (Dad please put some stats on the climb)
The last camp is usually the best camp… Picturesque views, lovely lapa, fantastic views from the huts and the world’s best shower (open to the sea).

Not this time, the camp was overgrown affecting views. The shower had been changed and was now just awkward as the left hut could see straight into it and now you can’t see the sea. All together definitely not my favorite hut of the 2015 hike was a real pity for the guys who did the Otter for the first time.

We made the most of it though with the last night of our custard challenge and the customary Twinkie challenge results. I’m pleased to say that Tony and I learnt from the best and managed to beat our sensei Alex in the custard challenge. (Might have something to do with his apprentice Stacey) Plus David and I won the Twinkie challenge possibly because Alex had given his best Twinkies out the night before… (Twinkies are heavy so I can’t really blame him) The Twinkie challenge originated on the Fish where on the third night we had our Twinkie’s, Tony and mine looked like the makings of crimmle pap. The challenge continues…

As usual… Sunset, brandy and asleep by 8. All and all another tough day in Africa.

The Otter Trail – Day Five by Joy Dean
The morning of day five broke with a delightful cloud cover which, although not ideal for photography, made for a pleasantly cool hike. After a leisurely departure from Andre Hut we proceeded to cross the Klip River prepared for a staunch climb to the top immediately, only to be pleasantly surprised by the relative gentle ascent from sea level. The path led us through lovely shaded rain forest. However, we were soon faced with the serious climb to the top of the cliff up to the viewpoints. At this level we were in the fynbos zone and the flowering heather, proteas and restios was a delight.

From here the path meandered more or less along the 100m contour giving us spectacular views of the coast and waves breaking on the rocks below. I could not help pitying people in some parts of the world who do not have the pleasure of such a splendid coastline. At 3 and half kilometres we cross the Helpmekaar River, a source of water for those in need, and carried on, wandering at a leisurely pace along the mostly level path between 60 – 70 m above sea level.

As noon approached we became more and more fixated on the cold beers that awaited us in Nature’s Valley. However, it would be some time before we could slake our thirst. The powers that be have, in their wisdom, changed the end of the trail so that one now has to hike off the beach, back into the forest to go around the lagoon. It is an endless, boring stretch of road which leads to a river through which one has to wade before plodding on further to the camping site at Vasselot. As one emerges onto the tarred road there are no signs to guide one and you had to rely on instinct.

Eventually one reaches the camping site where you have to sign in. Disappointingly there is not even a kiosk. However Trudy appeared with some “rewards” for us in the form of chocolates and a six pack of beer which cheered us up a bit. Nevertheless, despite the unsatisfactory ending, it was a hike worth repeating in every other respect.

20th – 24th February 2015