Tsitsikamma National Park
Tsitsikamma National Park
The chain ladders that lead to the top of the escarpment on a six day hike through the Northern Drakensberg mountains (February 2017)
Pushing up with your legs is the key here, pulling with your arms takes the ladder off the wall
Arriving at our first camp below Sentinel Peak
Theft is still possible in the Drakensberg depending on who you ask (2017). I wanted the safety of the group and went with Alex Nail.
Distant view of our campsite, which was close to the top of Tugela Falls
Matthias and the Amphitheatre
Tugela Falls, second highest waterfall in the world (3,000ft+)
Alex showing us the polarizer trick, which brought out the colors of the rainbow in the waterfall.
Vertical rainbow on Tugela Falls
We had short distances to cover during the day, usually through open fields without a trail. We would wake up early every morning (4-5am) to climb a hill to watch sunrise.
The Basothos are the locals in the mountains. "The Basotho live in Lesotho and speak Sesotho" is how the rhyme goes. We were hiking in Lesotho here, the country that is surrounded by South Africa.
We had a local guide named Zee and a group of porters to help us. Sabine and my tentmate Matthias are also here staying warm by the fire.
Icidi Pass camp (#2)
Icidi Pass sunrise
On the third day we reached Fangs Pass, certainly one of highlights of the trek
Madonna and her worshipers
Fangs Pass camp (#3)
Alex woke us up when the milky way aligned with the pass
We kinda went back to sleep for an hour before climbing the hill in the dark for sunrise
David, Nathi and Jeffery
This Basotho called me over to take a picture so that he could look at himself on my camera
Thunderstorms were common in the afternoon and evening. Lightning is probably the most dangerous aspect of the hike as the poisonous snakes seen at lower elevations do not live on the top of the escarpment.
Hanging Valley camp (#4)
Sunrise on day five was a surprise as we hiked with our rain gear to reach a viewpoint
Matthias found his own mountain for sunrise, I joined him later on while he was still hard at work
The Mweni Cutback
Alex did some time lapse work here with his setup that he carried throughout the trek
Our group walking towards the Rockeries
The Rockeries camp (#5)
We had another beautiful sunrise before our descent down Rockeries Pass
It was a steep walk down the pass, two days are usually needed to climb up this way
The two day Harkerville Coast trail was my favorite of the ocean treks
A rugged coastline that must be hiked with at least two people for safety concerns I believe, twisting an ankle out here could mean no rescue for days. I hired a guide to meet the two person requirement
Chains, ladders and boulder hopping
The huts were empty, the reward for the extra effort
The Otter Trail starts at Storms River Camp, perhaps the most beautiful place on earth that can be reached by car
I took it slow the first day with little ground to cover to reach the first hut, having two meals at the restaurant and then going for a swim with the tourists at "The Waterfall"
Rock Hyrax or "Dassie", scientifically speaking they are closely related to the elephant
There are four huts on the Otter Trail with small distances to walk each day (27 miles one way). The huts are typically booked 12 months in advance
Gerrith and Cindy were early risers, I would go back to bed once they left
The trail was closed the week before I arrived from wildfires. The trail on day two was smoky and still burning. Most of the coastline was spared from the fire since there are such sharp drop-offs to the ocean
Smoky sunset near the Geelhoutbos
Genets lined the trees around the campfire at Scott Hut
Day three was the most scenic, my favorite stretch of the trail
Tannin gives the rivers a brown color and interesting flavor. While tannin is not thought to be harmful, some of the major rivers are polluted from towns upstream. They gave us a list of rivers to avoid at check-in (2018)
Close to twenty baboons on the coast
The hut locations are excellent and they are well supplied with firewood
Oakhurst huts from across the Lottering River
The sun returned on day four, which is planned around a low tide crossing of the Bloukrans River
Waiting for the tide to go down...
We needed to study the map as the water was high from a neap tide. The large group had done the Otter six times and had never seen the river more than knee/ankle deep
The sandbar goes all the way across when taking route C, the easiest route in high water with no swimming involved. I took route C to route D. Gerrith and Cindy followed my lead taking route C then swimming to route B. I wanted to avoid route A as the current was strong, but the others had no choice since they were not comfortable climbing.
The rock was solid on the climb up route D and fairly straightforward
The group of six were the last to cross
Which became progressively more interesting as they moved towards the "A gulley", the three ladies in the back could not swim
The leader pulling them into the gulley and out of the ocean current
Climbing out of the gulley
The weather was perfect on the late evening walk to the final hut
Sunset from the cliffs above Andre Hut
The Dolphin trail is the slackpacking route along the Tsitsikamma coast. The more expensive alternative to the popular Otter Trail, yet also easier to arrange on short notice if you are willing to shell out the cash
Baboons know their way around camp, all smiles when they find the perfect treat
The Dolphin Trail goes east from the Storms River Suspension Bridge, while the Otter Trail goes west
The Dolphin Trail has two days of hiking and three nights at lodges, the first hiking day is mostly through the forest on high ground. We saw snakes, monkeys and more baboons
Ruth found a porcupine quill
The lodge had a golf course, this elevated green made out of concreate gave me a good deal of trouble
The lodges would cook breakfast and dinner, the rooms were bigger than my apartment
I preferred the second day of hiking, the trail was along the coast
We found a perfect swimming hole. The Swiss girls were afraid of the ocean so I swam alone
Robberg Nature Preserve
The first half of the hike along the eastern side was hot with no wind and smelled bad from all the seals
Then the hike gets better when you turn the corner at "The Point"
"The Island" is the best spot near the end of the loop. There is a beach here where you can cool off.
The western side of South Africa was noticeably browner along the Garden Route Highway. Bush fires and shack fires in the city of Cape Town were happening from the high winds and dry conditions
The highway was shut down from a fire, they also cancelled the city cycling tour that weekend
I gave up on any plans of hiking in Cape Town due to the smog, but did visit Boulder Beach to see the African penguins.