The Otter Trail is one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I can’t recommend it enough. Here’s my account and tips of the five days we hiked from Storms River to Nature’s Valley.
Otter Trail 2016 started with a BANG! We spent the Sunday evening at Wild Spirit Backpackers – just before we went to bed, everyone had a few butterflies in their stomach, not knowing what to expect…. but the lights went out. The silence was quickly broken by an “oh-oh… I forgot to pack my shoes!”. What a complete nightmare start for one of the girls. We woke up on Monday, left our cars at the backpackers and caught a taxi to the start of the Otter Trail in Storms River Mouth. A group of 12 people start the trail every day, and the 12 of us were amped to get going… Two of us got about a 2.5 – 3kg rock and sneaked it into one of our mates pack. We put it deep, and hoped he wouldn’t find it for a few days.
First tip if you’re thinking of doing it: Pack light, and if you think you’ve packed light, pack lighter! All the blogs and books I read suggested taking between 15-20% of your body weight. I had 30% (without a rock), and the first day was a nightmare. My pack was so heavy! You really don’t eat or drink as much as you think you will.
The first day is a gentle introduction to the trail: It’s a mere 4.8km hike, if you walk from start to the first rest camp, it would probably only take you about 2 hours, but another tip is to slow down… every day… take it slow – savour every moment, every view, every bird and every step. I can’t emphasise this enough! It is breathtakingly beautiful – so take it all in.
After about 3.5 kms, we reached the most sensational waterfall. We immediately dropped our packs, jumped into the FREEZING COLD water, swam around and then got out and made a warm cup of tea. We sat next to the waterfall for a couple of hours, made some lunch and drank more tea. Lunch varied amongst the group. The popular choice seemed to be tuna on crackers (packet tuna – tins are heavy), while others had 2 Minute Noodles, biltong or nuts.
We packed up our lunch, put our shoes back on a walked the remaining 25-30 minutes to the first rest camp, named Ngubu. There’s just three simple huts at every camp, two of them have a set of triple bunks and one is a bathroom. They do leave you with about 15-20 pieces of wood under your hut, which they accidently forgot to leave us on our first night. There’s no hot water or electricity, meaning absolutely everything you need to cook – must be carried. That really does add to the romance of the Otter Trail. When you get to your hut, if you want to look for something, you better get your head-torch out, if you want to eat, you better make fire or light up your gas cooker out.
As we would realise over the next few days, every rest camp has the best views! We looked at this and thought it was as good as it gets, but it just got better and better….
Day 1, apart from the really heavy rucksack, was a breeze. It was an easy hike and a short distance. So we decided the best thing to do was drink and eat loads that evening in order to shed weight!
We were lucky enough to have Kyle, owner of the Lotus Food Truck and The Mill and Press, with us on the trail. Having a chef on the team is a serious game-changer. We ate like absolute Kings and Queens. This evening we ate mielies, sweet potatoes, boerewors and THEE most delicious lamb chops I have ever eaten.
All in all, a fantastic start to the hike, but we all knew that Day 2 was rated as the hardest, so we nervously went off to bed.