Scott to Oakhurst, 8 km, 5 hours
The entertainment continued the following morning. First, when Dehan channelled his (feminine) alter ego, sprouting angry Zulu while cleaning the surfaces left dirty by others the night before. Then, when our early group realised we hadn't warmed up properly that morning, and stopped to stretch on the far bank of the Geelhoutbos River, still visible from the huts. Stretching somehow turned into an impromptu ballet session, and Talitha just about choked on her toothbrush when she caught sight of me and three guys doing pliés and développés!
The trail hugged the coastline for most of the morning and it wasn’t long before we came to a much-anticipated landmark: Ship’s Prow Rock and its accompanying large rock pool. It was still quite early in the day so we debated whether to spend time there or not, but with 1x water baby (Clifford), 1x snorkeller (I’d decided to pack in my mask and snorkel for this pool, in particular) and a fairly quick group, it was a no-brainer. You have to enjoy the journey, right?
After playing a little, we changed back into our hiking gear, hung our wet things on the outside of our backpacks and continued along the coast.
We got to the Elandsbos River ahead of schedule and surveyed the scene. Since he was the tallest and a keen swimmer, Clifford crossed first, testing out the depth. The water was more or less knee-deep and the riverbed was sandy, so we opted for barefoot, backpacks on and crossed without incident.
The beach on the far side was huge and flat, and someone before us had set up cricket wickets – what a fantastic idea! I loved walking across the expanse barefoot, and it would have been great to spend more time there if the wind hadn’t been howling.
We stopped for a moment, intending to wait for our fellow hikers as agreed that morning, but realised we were far ahead and didn’t relish the thought of waiting in the wind for, say, an hour. Thankfully, Marno is a trail runner and we put that skill and fitness to good use by running a message back to the other half of the group before continuing on our way.
There were a lot of ups and downs on day three. The trail sometimes made its way along the rocky coast, and sometimes through the cliff-top forest. Here and there, the transitions were punctuated with grassy pockets where the air seemed to stand still, protected from the sea breeze by the topography. We didn’t linger in these spots. Although beautiful, they were humid and populated by horse flies!
After passing a doggie grave – Who wouldn’t want to be laid to rest in such a special place? – and the turn-off to an unexpected and uncharted escape route 5.5, we found ourselves looking down at Oakhurst Hut on the far side of the Lottering River. The only problem: It was high tide!
Our trusty scout again went ahead, this time discovering a deeper river and a rockier bed. We got out our survival bags for the first (but not last) time on trail and made our way through the near-waist-height water, floating our bags along as we went.
I’d made a rookie error, though, by packing my survival bag on the rocks… This must’ve resulted in a small tear, as I was faced with a wet backpack on the far side of the river. Hooray for the inner black bag system, though; it kept my clothes and sleeping bag dry. Unfortunately, Thapelo wasn’t quite as lucky…
It also happened to be the worst night to have wet belongings as it was our only unpleasant, cold and rainy night on trail AND we knew we would be facing Bloukrans the next day. Thank goodness for Clifford’s dry (no pun intended) sense of humour: ‘Die kinders het die finaal gemaak…’
While huddled together in the lapa, we discussed our strategy and timing for the next day. Tim had twisted his ankle during the day and there was some debate about whether he should continue or take an escape route out. After the Bloukrans River crossing, there is no turning back, so escape route 6 (just before Bloukrans) was the point of no return – and that was still 10 km of hiking away. The other option was to have Tim cross back over the Lottering River and head for escape route 5.5. It wasn’t an easy call, but Tim decided to opt for the take-an-anti-inflammatory-and-hope-for-the-best approach.
Our group elected not to subject any of its members to a horrible night in the tents. It would have been especially inhumane considering we needed to get up at the unearthly hour of 02:30, to start hiking by 04:00, to make it to Bloukrans by low tide (09:00).
After an early supper and a spontaneous duet of ‘Moon River’ by Dehan and I (brought on by discussions of river widths and moonlit hiking, no doubt), we all piled into the two wooden huts with wet gear strung up all over the place, and tried to get a good half-night’s sleep.
To catch up on Otter Trail Day 1, click here.
To catch up on Otter Trail Day 2, click here.
To move on to Otter Trail Day 4, click here.