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.
Day four is the day that everyone talks about after the trail finishes, because it’s the day you need to cross the Bloukrans River – which is the reason you pack your dry-bags, so when you swimming across the river, your stuff doesn’t get wet. We read up about the crossing and how currents can drag you a bit, but you always manage to get across.
The picture above is one I found on Google – just so you get an idea of how crazy the crossing is. You’ll understand why I posted this picture a little later.
Day four is 13.8 kms long and takes around 6 hours of hiking time. We woke up at Oakhurst rest camp at 4:30am, because we had worked out that low tide was at 09:20, and the crossing was approximately four and a half to five hours hike away. 04:30 is where you really get to know your hiking mates. Some are really chirpy, while others don’t utter a word for hours.
Hiking in the dark is scary and dangerous, there’s no other way of putting it. You don’t know what is around you, you’re never quite sure if it’s a stick or a snake that’s lying in the pathway and you don’t see the uneven terrain like you do during the day. This, coupled with the dew still on the sticks and rocks, meant that plenty of us looked like Bambi on ice for the first few hours… slipping everywhere.
We covered the first few kilometres surprisingly quickly, but it was probably down to the fact that there was nothing to stop and look at along the way. We all just had our heads down and pushed through.
Until now, we only saw the incredible sunsets. But this particular morning was New Moon, so around 6 – 6:30, we were treated to a beautiful sunrise and saw the moon rising too. It was sensational.
As the sun rose and it got warmer, you just start shedding layers of clothing and once again – you start appreciating the view, but at the same time, you are very conscience of the time and that you need to get to the Bloukrans by 09:20.
After a quick pit stop for refuelling of sweets and nuts, we realised that we were spot on for time. Low and behold, we arrived at the Bloukrans river crossing at 09:20. We made low tide to the absolute minute.
I must admit, the minute I saw that we could simply walk across the Bloukrans – my heart sank a bit. It just felt like a slight kop-out. We were all prepared for the crazy currents, the dry bags and the swimming, and then to walk across it, made me feel like I somewhat cheated the experience.
We took off our shoes and socks, walked across the river and sat on the other side, and for the first time that day, we relaxed. We had tea, rusks, eggs, oats or whatever we still had left for breakfast.
After breakfast, there was a real sense accomplishment. Even though you still have a four kilometre hike to do after the crossing, it’s hard not to think that you’ve completed the Otter Trail. Everyone build up to this Bloukrans moment and it was now completed.
It was lunch time when we finished the days hike and reached Andre rest camp, which was actually quite convenient. It was comforting to know that after a 14 kilometre hike, we were able to spend time relaxing in the ocean and soothing our muscles. We spent the afternoon playing backgammon, taking naps and sitting around the fire.
We spent the early evening setting up few bits of driftwood in a circle and creating a fire amongst the rocks and made a rip-roaring fire and star gazed for shooting-stars. With it being the last evening, everyone threw in all the booze they had, and we finished it all.
For dinner, we had beer bread as a starter which was such a treat, followed by spicy prawn noodles with dehydrated mushrooms and prawn paste. As usual… it was delicious!
The night ended off with someone bringing out some sparklers and us attempting to take a photo with us writing “OTTER” followed by a heart with the sparklers. Only one attempt came close, and one bloke decided to do a small “e” instead of a capital “E”, resulting in loads of mickey taking throughout the night. From this point on, the hike was known as The Ottor Trail to us.
Day four may have been the longest, but it was most certainly enjoyable. We knew day five was short and easy, and there was an ice cold beer waiting at the end of it.