Here’s one for the bucket-list! Otter Trail 2016 done and dusted! It was a hike we prepared for for almost a year in advance, and it definitely did not disappoint! Last year when we got the call from our friend asking us if we wanted to do the Otter we jumped at the opportunity knowing how difficult it is to get a spot on this world renowned trail. A few hikes done prior to this one and some exercise and we were ready to go! Little did we know then that my wife will fall pregnant 3 months before the hike, but luckily we know what we were in for. Having done a few VERY tough hikes already, and taking a few extra precautions we were ready for one great adventure.
To anybody reading this wanting to still do the Otter, here’s some of the reading material we found that really helped us:
What to know before you start:
1.It’s not an easy hike and you need to prepare physically. Lunges and squats people. Lunges and squats.
2.The pace of you group will determine how much you love or hate each day. Most of the days are not very far to walk ranging from 5-10 kilometers. Allthough some stages are technical rock-hopping its very doable. You do not have to be a ultra marathon runner to do the Otter, but make no mistake, you will go up and down and up again and down again. A theme during our hike was “what goes up must come down again”. We had a great time because we took our time, we walked a slow but steady pace, waiting for each other. Our group made this possible. Taking in all the beauty the Otter had to offer. We were in no rush to get to our huts and this contributed greatly to our enjoyment of each day. We made it to the huts each day at around 16:00, no rush. The only day we were keeping an eye on our watches was day 4 where we had to get to the Bloukrans river at 13:00 for low tide.
3.Pack light and know how much you can handle. Walking with a heavy bag for 5 days will make this a very tough hike, but carrying those extra few luxuries like quick-mix custard, or a second day steak or two will go a long way in making this an ever greater experience.
4.Pack enough food. Sounds pretty obvious, but we didn’t pack nearly enough snacks for each day. We packed the same mount of food per day that we used on other hikes, but this time though we were hungry! I didnt calculate my wife eating for 2! Luckily I packed an Aero Press and Freshly ground Coffee beans so a barter system was quickly introduced. 1 Espresso Coffee for a pack of Cup’a Soup!
5.Get used to sharing 1 shower and 1 toilet among 12 people. The chase was on for using the shower first for some of us, while others waited till late in the evening. Each shower and toilet boasts some of the most spectacular ocean and mountain views you will ever see. The water is freezing so a couple of us relished at a mid-day swim in the sea during the heat of the day rather than an evening freezing cold shower. Nobody cares if you smell like Hugo Boss or Yesterdays river water.
6.Say a prayer to the weather God’s and hope for great weather. We were fortunate enough to have sunshine weather for all 5 days, bar the half a day of early morning rain and cloud cover until afternoon. Rainy weather can make the rocks and paths slippery, muddy and a nightmare to climb.
Distance: 4.8 km
Rating: Technical but Easy
The shortest and easiest of all the days. Day one takes you to the Ngubu Huts. But before you start you have to report at the park office to get your permits, maps, tide table and pay your conservation fee. We only started at 14:00 which meant we had one last proper lunch at the Storms river restaurant, and didn’t need to carry lunch for this day. About halfway to the huts there is a very nice waterfall with a pool to swim in. The water is freezing though! The huts all have a communal and individual area where you can sit and prepare your food. We had a proper braai this evening where most of us had steaks that we vacuum packed.
Distance: 7.9 km
Day 2 is tough. This day has the most ascends and descends. You make your way to the Scott huts. At the two kilometer mark you can leave your bags on the main path and take a quick detour to Skilderkrans. the views are spectacular!
The steps you take on the up and down hills are big/high making it difficult for some of the shorter people in our group. It’s not your average step height you would have walked at work, nope these are huge lunges you have to take up and down. Take care of those calves and knees. Needless to say it helped a lot to prepare for this hike by doing loads and loads and loads of squats and lunges at the gym.
The pace of the group played a big role here. If you have competitive chasers at the front the people at the back will quickly start to hate them. We took it slow and waited for everyone.
Be sure not to miss Bloubaai beach, hidden off the main path about 5 km from the start. We explored this beach and had lunch here. Leave your backpacks on the main path unless you are planning to eat as it’s a tough climb down (which means you have to come back up) and a walk over rocks to this spectacular beach. Definitely worth it! After peaking the highest climb of the day, there is a wooden lookout point where you can peek down and have a look at the beautiful Bloubaai beach.
Distance: 7.7 km
Day 3 is one of the most beautiful days of the entire hike. Day 3 has breathtaking coastline views and stunning fauna and flora that makes you glad you booked this trip, loads of small stream crossings and hidden pools. Enjoy this day as it is not that difficult but still has its ups and downs to make you remember you still have pretty sore calves and thighs. Make sure to get to the Lottering River close to low tide to make for a dry crossing. This river is very close to the Oakhurst huts.
We had our only bit or rain in the morning for the entire Otter.
Distance: 14 km
This day is the longest hike of the five days and will take you to the Andre huts. At the 10km mark you will cross the Bloukrans River so allow enough time to get there at low tide. We arrived early (had to start at 5:00AM) at the crossing and had some time to relax on the exposed sand banks and have a great view of the inner twists of the Bloukrans river.We all brought survival bags for our backpacks to help carry across the water but this was not needed.
The toughest part of the entire Otter was to follow after the crossing. Right before the end of the days massive 14km walk there is one last climb, the highest of them all. Be prepared.
Distance: 10 km
The last day, and what a bag of mixed emotions we had. You finish (what feels like the finish) atop the last mountain overlooking Nature’s valley below. Spectacular and it’s high fives all around. Then it’s a long walk on the beach, after a short while you follow the hikers sign back into the woods towards Natures Valley rest camp where your car awaits you, and this is the frustration. From the moment you leave the beach it is easily a 4 km walk .. so prepare yourself.
The best part of this journey was being able to do this with my wife, and close friends. It was one amazing adventure! Extremely proud of my wife having done this 3 months pregnant. Luckily all those preggy-yoga sessions paid off!