- Rebecca Marshall
The Otter Trail - Eastern Cape - South Africa - Part 1.
Where do I begin...
This was the most physically challenging trek I've done to date, I think possibly due to me being 5ft'4", having an 18kg back pack, it being 30+ degrees and the constant ascents and descents. However, I loved every minute of it and when we crossed the end, I just wanted to do it all over again. I can't describe what a special and epic trail this is, and if you get the opportunity to do it - then do it without hesitation!
The absolute beautiful thing about this trail is how raw it is. Only 12 people are allowed on the 44km trail at a time, making it unique and one of the most stunning in the world. This trail is widely regarded as one of the finest on our little planet and stretches from Storms River Mouth in the east to Nature's Valley in the west along the garden route coast.
Firstly I will introduce you to our super awesome crew who I've given appropriate 'code names' for privacy reasons.
The Sassy Pilot - Tall, smart, super fit and a freaking pilot. Could you get any cooler?
The Angelic One - An Olive skinned beauty, avid trail runner and as angelic as they come.
The Doctor - the man behind the magic. The organiser of the entire trip and my food buddy (thank you!)
The Water Boy - Sees water, he's in the water.
The Machine - carried a 26kg backpack like it was nothing, his humour kept me positive every day!
The Brit (Me) (I can't exactly pretend I wasn't on it) - The totally unprepared token Brit.
The Trooper - the need for speed, this guy beat us to camp every day without fail!
The Bombshell - All teams need a hot blonde. She also killed the trail at record pace.
Now let the Otter diaries begin...
Day -1- 4.8kms Start - Ngubu Hut
The excitement among the team was high. Their was a sense of anticipation in the air - as we were all chatting, joking and laughing - stuffing our faces with our last 'real food' as quickly as we could before beginning our journey. We were a group of eight, 4 guys, 4 girls all of varied levels of fitness, all from different backgrounds and walks of life. The one thing we all had in common - we loved South Africa, nature, the outdoors and adventure.
Prior to leaving, a ranger gave us a safety talk about the trail and we each got to weigh our bags before embarking on the fun to come. Everyone was in stitches as The Doctor and The Machine had backpacks weighing an astronomical 25kgs and 26kgs! The rest of the group had backpacks weighing 16- 18kgs which isn't as bad.
Day one is a fairly easy hike taking us only a few hours to reach Ngubu Hut through the dense coastal forrest and rocky shorelines. The temperature was warm, and the sky slightly overcast - within half an hour The Doctor saw a snake just off the side of the trail, which made me cautious on every step for the rest of that day (classic tourist behaviour).
In roughly an hour, we reached a beautiful waterfall that smashed down into a large rock pool. Instantly a bromance between The Doctor and The Water Boy began. Their shirts were off and they were in the water before I had finished asking if 'it is acceptable to swim in?'. We cooled down, swam around, captured some memories and got our gear back on and trooped on in the heat.
On arrival at the Ngubu huts the boys were busting beer caps off quicker than a automatic rifle, and the girls were scouting out which bed they wanted, suitably placing their backpacks on their chosen bunk. The bromance continued between the water boy and the doctor as they skipped off through the foliage and found 'their dream rock pool'...
They finished their first beers, and came back up to the hut to get their 2nd, encouraging us all to come to 'the best rock pool in the world' and hang out by the ocean.
We all wondered down, beer in hand, stumbling across rocks in our flip flops trying to get to this 'idyllic pool'. Quickly the ocean seemed to change and waves got stronger and stronger crashing into OUR pool. The doctors beer was crashed out his hand, but he managed to save it again and not let it float away. I was thrown against some rocks with the waves, but thankfully my ass took the hit and the Doctor saved me, one handed, (as the beer was in the other hand) from going under water.
During this commotion The Trooper slipped on a rock, fell awkwardly, and cut his foot open. Thankfully I had a first aid kit as well as a sewing kit, and The Doctor had to get his medical head on and politely accepted the challenge of 'patching it up' with a christmas cracker sewing kit. Unfortunately, the entire group - as well as The Trooper, maybe underestimated how deep you have to go when sewing a foot up, or how painful it would be with zero anaesthetic. The mission was aborted and The Troopers foot was taped up appropriately.
Day - 2 - 7.9kms - Ngubu to Scott Hut - The tough day.
When we woke this morning the air was heavy, humid and hot. Just walking up to the toilet from the hut broke a sticky sweat.
If you are going by kms, this day was not long - only a 7.9kms day, but oh my word - it felt like the longest, hardest day ever! The heat, the ascent, the weight of our packs, 4 / 5 hours felt like 10 hours. It was our biggest elevation day with ALOT of steep steps, I ran out of my snack rations within the first two hours so as the day drew on I began to get hangry.
As we carefully clambered up some stone steps, a super cute mummy and baby dassie poked their heads out between the rocks. I was excited at my first glimpse of south african nature on the trail. About two hours in we discovered a stunning narrow high cliff point we could all walk to for some incredible views. We took our back packs off and went up to chill, snack, talk smack and take some photos, before cracking on.
Up and up we went before then making our way down and down and reaching a river. Obviously the water boy and the doctor found this a great opportunity to have some competitive swimming so off they went.
The rest of us sat for a bit discussing The Troopers foot with him and others snacked whilst I looked on thinking of every food possible. I'm not sure the trooper appreciated the girls input to the conversation when we suggested putting tampons or sanitary towels in his shoes to absorb the blood.
At this moment I looked across at the sassy pilot, and realised we both were very much on the same wavelength in regards to humour. We both were wrestling with ourselves trying to control ever growing smirks that were developing on our faces over the silly, childish jokes. This was the moment I knew we would be great friends. The water boy found a good route across the river and helped all the ladies across the stepping stones. We were informed by some other trekkers that there is a beautiful beach after the river so we went their for a bit and then carried on to Scott Hut.
Scott hut was incredible, a beautiful beach, all to ourselves, with lots of different pretty inlets and offshoots you could walk around. I went on a little walk with The Sassy Pilot, following Otter tracks in the sand - attempting to find one. Sadly there were non to be seen and we wondered if we had actually been following baboon tracks all along...
A very confident spotted genet roamed around our camp here - ever hopeful we would feed it and it was stunning to watch. I had never seen a genet before and was completely captivated. During sunset I went to the beach and made some rock towers, then later found out some one else who has previously been here had made rock towers on another part of the beach!
It was a beautiful end to a hard days hiking.
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