Otter Trail, Tsitsikamma National Park, South Africa

Written October 4, 2011

We woke to clouds. No hurry to get out on the trail so instead we headed to the camp restaurant for a simple breakfast of fried eggs on toast with coffee, a bargain at $10 for two. On the walk back to the hut the sky darkens with rain looming just out to sea. Don sees this as a great opportunity to use the laundry facilities and I to work on editing pictures. By 11AM patches of blue appear and we hurry out to the trail.

The Otter Trail is one of South Africa’s premier hiking trails with the full five-day backpack trip booked-up a year in advance. You can hike the first three kilometers along the coast to the waterfall as a day hike. Park info describes the trail as difficult due to rocky sections requiring significant boulder hopping, but without much elevation change I would put it more at moderately difficult.

The weather remained changeable with abundant sunshine mixed with periods of dark clouds, wind and the occasional blast of rain. We huddled under a thick bank of trees or behind an outcropping of rocks until the squall passed. Poof, the sun returned and we continued down the coast to the waterfall.

The mix of colors truly stunning – blue water and sky, brilliant white waves, black, gray and orange rocks.

How can I describe the immense energy at this one little spot where the river tumbles into the sea? On one side a waterfall, overflowing with the recent rains, plummets into a small pool,

on the other, waves, pumped-up on the unsettled weather, crash on the rocks.

Through hikers need to hop over the river here to continue down the coast. The gap isn’t so wide but with the wind gusting, the volume of water rushing over the narrow opening and a pack on it’s a precarious leap.

On the way back to camp we decided to take the loop trail through the forest.  Bad, bad, bad idea! What a waste of fabulous coastline on a sunny afternoon. We missed the cutoff for the Blue Duiker Trail and ended up going all the way up hill to the park’s main gate. There they told us that the turn off for the Blue Duiker was covered in bushes. This park has only a handful of trails to maintain and they can’t keep the junction marked? We walked along the road back to camp. Ok, but not the magnificent views of the coastal trail. When the weather is good, stick to the coast!

Throughout the afternoon the weather continued to be unstable with long periods of sunshine followed by more rain. So we enjoyed some good quality internet time (ask the desk for the password) in the camp restaurant with a cup of hot cocoa.

By evening the rain had cleared enough that Don could grill. While the forest huts have a communal kitchen only one of the three hobs actually works and demand is high, making for a long wait at supper time.  Don wisely parboiled potatoes in the afternoon so he could finish them off on the grill along with onions and chicken thighs. A simple dinner in our cozy forest hut.

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