Category Archives: Garden Route Hikes

Dolphin Trail – Day 3

Ana & Karen Dolphin Trail Aug 2013_0128

Day 3

 The day dawned almost cloudless and any threat of rain carried over from the previous day disappeared. Marius appeared immediately we had finished our breakfast and we plunged immediately into the forest through a gate on the edge of the expanse of lawn.Ana & Karen Dolphin Trail Aug 2013_0097

It did not take long to get down to sea level and the rocks below. Much of this day is spent close to the rocky shoreline with the walking varying from mostly rock hopping to sandy paths slightly higher up above the rock band. The rock formations are quite spectacular and the waves feel as if they are going to crash in to you at any moment as their energy is dissipated into the rock layers and pools behind. The blue of the sea Ana & Karen Dolphin Trail Aug 2013_0102contrasts dramatically with the green forest verge, which is only prevented from touching the waves in places, by grey-brown rock band. The layers of rocks are tilted and bent, hollowed out and shaped into wonderful formations, bearing testament to the power of the earth and sea over the millions of years.

We spotted many gulls, white breasted cormorant and black oystercatchers, out to sea however, the dolphins remained elusive. We stopped for a tea break on a flat expanse of rock, catch site of a pod passing by. We had to be satisfied with enjoying the bird life and the movement of the sea.Ana & Karen Dolphin Trail Aug 2013_0155

As lunch time approached we climbed up away from the shoreline on a steep zig-zag path that took us through a sparse forest and bushy landscape up in to the bigger trees at the top. The hunger pangs from the mornings exertion were starting to gnaw, when a table appeared, set among the trees and groaning with a variety of breads, pates, cold meats, salads, fruit, juice and coffee. It did not take much invitation to tuck in.

Black oystercatchersAfter lunch the path meanders through the thick coastal forest and one realizes that without a guide and a clear path, that is would be very easy to get lost in this ‘jungle’ of trees. Eventually we emerged in to the pine plantation surrounding the Fernery. The name is derived from the main industry of growing and harvesting ferns from the surrounding forest and the more exotic varieties grown in the green house. These are destined for the cut flower markets around the world. There we were greeted by the Dolphin Trail team and after admiring the bright red flowers of the coral trees, teeming with double collared sunbirds feasting on the nectar, we were shown to our rooms.Ana & Karen Dolphin Trail Aug 2013_0183 a

Set a little bit away from the plantation, the log cabins overlook a deep gorge that runs in to the sea close by. A stunning setting and a place where one could quite comfortably relax and spend a few days just enjoying the environment. There are a few short hiking paths and cycle routes around the Fernery, but we were all quite happy to settle for a cold beer and a hot shower and to relax until dinner time.

Ana & Karen Dolphin Trail Aug 2013_0131The dinner that evening was nothing short of excellent. A choice of succulent fillet steak or stuffed chicken breast, preceded by starters and followed by dessert, all beautifully presented and served by cheerful attentive staff. The wine list is extensive and not overpriced. A fitting end to a wonderful walk.

The next morning we had to leave early to catch a flight from George airport, having originally dropped out vehicle at the venue and taken hotel transport to the start. The usual package allows you to leave a Bruce Bryant - WT Oct 2013_0111vehicle at Storms River and be transported back to the start on a morning drive in a 4×4 vehicle, using the old Storms River Pass road, that preceded the building of the spectacular Storms Rive Bridge. These days this road can only be driven in a 4×4 vehicle – a treat for next time.

Leave a comment

Filed under Garden Route Hikes, Hiking, News, overnight trails, Slackpacker, Slackpacking Trails, Tours, Trekking South Africa, Western Cape Hiking Trails

Dolphin Trail – Day 2

Suspension bridge accross the mouth of Storms River

After a hearty breakfast we were met by Marius, our guide for the next two days, ready to start walking by 9am. Marius is based at the Fernery and proved to be a really knowledgeable and capable guide.
The route takes you out over the board walk to the suspension bridge over the Storms River Mouth. It is a busy path with both bungalow residents and day visitors to the Park walking to the bridge for the scenic view of the river mouth. Ana & Karen Dolphin Trail Aug 2013_0057The image of a flimsy, swinging suspension bridge is dispelled on first sight of this structure, which is an engineered, substantial link made of steel and wood, anchored in concrete. Nevertheless it is flexible and rhythm of the steps of anyone walking across the bridge can be felt.

For most visitors the walk ends on the eastern bank of the river as there is a steep climb to a view point high on the cliff face above. Ana & Karen Dolphin Trail Aug 2013_0053For us on the Dolphin Trail, this is where it really begins and gives us a taste of the day to come. The path zig-zags up and from the viewing platform at the top you look down on the restaurant to the west, the river mouth and the waves below. Here we are met by a vehicle from the Fernery, with tea, coffee, juice and biscuits – ‘slackpacking’ at it’s best.

Ana & Karen Dolphin Trail Aug 2013_0061From here we leave all other visitors behind, as the trail becomes a private trail for hikers on the Dolphin Trail. The trail passes along the cliff face through stands of fynbos where proteas, ericas and restios abound together with deep orange chasmanthes and bright yellow aspalatus. Suddenly we are winding down through the forest towards the shoreline, passing milkwoods, yellowwood, candlewood trees and many other species. Marius identifies many of them and explains features, flowers and legends surrounding them. There is a bit of light rain around but not enough to impact on the enjoyment, as we find a good spot next to a gurgling stream for lunch.Ana & Karen Dolphin Trail Aug 2013_0073

We can see a glimpse of the path winding up the slope and disappearing high above us. It is not quite as daunting as it looks however and soon we are crossing a wooden bridge with open grass fields in front of us. This is a dairy production area and we have to cross the pastures and over a dam wall to reach Misty Mountain Resort. The boots are muddy but after stamping off the worst we are welcomed at the lodge with hot coffee and decadent looking chocolate cake.

Ana & Karen Dolphin Trail Aug 2013_0089The wooden chalets are set along a boardwalk with views over the big open lawn to the coastal forest fringe and the sea beyond. Rustic, relaxing and comfortable after a great days hiking. Later we gather for pre-dinner drinks and an evening meal that was 100% improvement on the previous night, with good presentation and cheerful and friendly service.

Leave a comment

Filed under Garden Route Hikes, overnight trails, Slackpacker, Slackpacking Trails, Trekking South Africa, Western Cape Hiking Trails

Dolphin Trail – Day 1 (arrival)

Ana & Karen Dolphin Trail Aug 2013_0006Day 1 (arrival)

Arrival at Storms River is required by six in the evening, where you will check in, followed by a trail briefing by SANParks personnel and then dinner in the restaurant. It is strongly recommended that you arrive a bit earlier to explore some of the shorter walks around the Park, possibly even the 3 ½ km Waterfall walk, which is the start of the Otter Trail. It is a rocky walk along the coastline, that will get you in to the feel of the rocky part of the terrain that you will be covering in the next few days. If you are saving your energy, you can just relax and enjoy the environment of the camp.Ana & Karen Dolphin Trail Aug 2013_0001

The restaurant complex doubles as reception area and has a superb setting with views of the waves crashing on to the rocks close by, the river mouth in the distance and the cliffs beyond. Our experience of the check in was good with the staff being friendly, enthusiastic and Bruce Bryant - WT Oct 2013_0091knowledgeable. Check in was followed by the evening meal, which made up in quantity what it lacked finesse. Service was also a bit chaotic and was probably not the best first impression of the catering for my overseas visitors. The conversation was good however and after quite a long drive and in preparation for a good days walking the next day, we retired to be fairly early – no TV, just a copy of Wild magazine next to the bed.Bruce Bryant - WT Oct 2013_0075

Leave a comment

Filed under Garden Route Hikes, overnight trails, Slackpacking Trails, Tours, Trekking South Africa

Dolphin Trail – Overview

Ana & Karen Dolphin Trail Aug 2013_0035

The Dolphin Trail

The Otter Trail is arguably the best known hiking trail in South Africa, with any South African who regards themselves as a hiking enthusiast having done it or planning to do it. It is however, a trail that requires a good level of fitness and hikers have to carry a full backpack for five days with food, equipment and clothing for the period.Ana & Karen Dolphin Trail Aug 2013_0060

For those that prefer the less strenuous option of ‘slackpacking’, but want to experience this pristine coastline, there is the three night Dolphin Trail. The hiking, although not quite as strenuous as the Otter, is still challenging, with some steep inclines, cliff paths and rock scrambling along the coastline. The real advantage is that you are only carrying a small day pack with your warm tops, rain gear, lunch and water; the accommodation is comfortable to luxurious, the food is provided and you can get your choice of drinks in the evening. In addition to that you get a very efficient and knowledgeable guide who is able to point out details about the flora, fauna and geology of the Ana & Karen Dolphin Trail Aug 2013_0101trail that you might otherwise miss.

The first night’s accommodation is at the chalets at the Storms River Mounth in the Tsitsikamma National Park. Not luxurious, but very clean and comfortable. This is followed by Misty Mountains on the second night and The Fernery on the third. Both of the later offer luxury guest house accommodation in a rural setting with views of the coastal edge of Tsitsikamma Forest and the ocean beyond. While the evening meal at the Storm River Mouth restaurant would not rate in the gourmet category, it is reasonable and is more than compensated for by the dining experience at the other two venues. The Fernery is particularly excellent in this regard.

Description of Day 1 to follow …..Ana & Karen Dolphin Trail Aug 2013_0120

Ana & Karen Dolphin Trail Sept 2013

Leave a comment

Filed under Garden Route Hikes, News, overnight trails, Slackpacker, Slackpacking Trails, Trekking South Africa, Western Cape Hiking Trails

Tsitsikamma National Park hiking

Wilderness Travel Day 6 April 2013_055Wilderness Travel Day 5 April 2013_005Wilderness Travel Day 5 April 2013_032Wilderness Travel Day 5 April 2013_034Wilderness Travel Day 5 April 2013_038Wilderness Travel Day 5 April 2013_041
Wilderness Travel Day 5 April 2013_048Wilderness Travel Day 6 April 2013_001Wilderness Travel Day 6 April 2013_002Wilderness Travel Day 6 April 2013_004Wilderness Travel Day 6 April 2013_006Wilderness Travel Day 6 April 2013_008
Wilderness Travel Day 6 April 2013_010Wilderness Travel Day 6 April 2013_013Wilderness Travel Day 6 April 2013_019Wilderness Travel Day 6 April 2013_021Wilderness Travel Day 6 April 2013_022Wilderness Travel Day 6 April 2013_023
Wilderness Travel Day 6 April 2013_025Wilderness Travel Day 6 April 2013_026Wilderness Travel Day 6 April 2013_028Wilderness Travel Day 6 April 2013_032Wilderness Travel Day 6 April 2013_063Wilderness Travel Day 6 April 2013_064

Tsitsikamma National Park, a set on Flickr.

A visit to the Tsitsikamma National Park is an essential part any Garden Route tour. It is the start of the iconic Otter Trail and the more luxury, slackpacking style alternative, the Dolphin Trail. With the Wilderness Travel group,we were staying at the Fernery, the final overnight stop on the Dolphin Trail. Starting with an easy walk, we took the opportunity to visit the 1000 year old yellowwood tree in the Tsitsikamma forest, before walking over the suspension bridge at the Storm River mouth. The next day we hiked to the waterfall on the Otter Trail. This is as far as you are allowed to walk if not part of an overnight group on this trail. It is not easy walking, with plenty of rock scrambling, boulder hopping and uneven ground. There are some sections of good path, but it cannot be rushed and takes a bit longer to do the 5 km there and back, than one would necessarilly anticipate. A ggod moring’s hike before we headed up to the Drakensberg the next day.

Leave a comment

Filed under Day Hikes, Day Trekking, Day Walks, Garden Route Hikes, Slackpacker, Slackpacking Trails, Tours, Trekking South Africa, Western Cape Hiking Trails

Walking the Oyster Catcher Trail

November 2011

Mossel Bay from Ana's Place

The Oyster Catcher Trail was probably the trail that first put the idea of ‘slackpacking’ on the hiking agenda.Readingabout it five or six years ago, was what first stimulated my interest in the idea of comfortable hiking. Amazingly, it has taken me this long to do it, but I was given to opportunity to join a group on the trail last Friday. In summary it lived up to and exceeded my expectations, with the only disappointment being the environmentally disastrous Pinnacle Point Golf Estate that has scarred a section of the coast line – more about that later.

Lighthouse at the Point

On Friday evening we gathered at the impressive Ana’s Guest House in Mossel Bay, for introductions and pre-trail briefing. This certainly set the bench mark for accommodation, with luxury appointments and a wonderful view over Mossel Bay from the second floor balcony. Tim, John, Hans & Ursula were already there, wine glasses in hand. Alex and Camilla, arrived shortly afterwards; having taken the long and scenic route fromCape Town, through Hermanus.

Surfing rocks

Fred ‘Mr Oyster Catcher’ Orben quickly broke the ice, making sure all glasses were charged and asking each member of the party where they were

from: Tim –Ireland (& George), John –Wales, Hans & Ursula (Germany), Alex and Camilla –England & Australia and of course, myself from Cape Town. The briefing was informal and humorous and we were quickly given an overview of the programme for the next few days.

Restaurants with a view,the Point - Mossel Bay

Transport to dinner at the Kingfisher arrived promptly at seven. Informal, with a magnificent setting overlooking the beach, it did not take the group too long to feel as if we were old friends. The menu offered a good variety, with a leaning towards seafood (what else in this setting), but plenty for the carnivores.

After a good meal and a few shared bottles of wine, most of us, having driven up from Cape Town, were ready for the luxury of our duvets.

Day 1

Hans & Ursula - d'bistro for breakfast

The sun streamed through my window by about 5.30, but I still managed to doze for some time after that. The gathering time was 7.45, so there was plenty of time for a slow wake up. We were all downstairs in good time to meet Willie, our guide for the next few days. After a quick cup of tea, he gathered us together for the short walk to ‘d’bistro’, our breakfast venue. Breakfast was substantial, with selection of fruit salad, fruit juice and cereals, plus a delicious scrambled egg filled croissant with bacon and tomato – mmm. Clearly this was not going to be a trail on which we were likely to lose much weight.

Willie holding the star of the show

Orange star fish

After breakfast, we left the Bistro to begin the proper trail. We walked through town to the Point, close to where we had dinner the previous evening. The early young surfers seemed so close you could touch them, surfing straight towards to the rocky headland, but never seeming to be in any danger of surfing onto the rocks. Willie led us to the rock pools and within minutes he had located a huge orange starfish to show us. This together with the crabs, alicricals, sea urchins, etc …… that he found along the way, was start of a fascinating introduction to the rocky shores we would be walking along.

The first day's trail

This section is known as the St. Blaize Trail and is a popular day walk of about 15 km along the coast. Most of it is stunningly beautiful, but there is also plenty of evidence of the damage we humans are able to inflict on the natural environment.

The mangy dassies as Cape St Blaize, are a result of visitors to the area feeding them, because they seem “cute”.

The further away from this direct intervention, the fatter and

Trekking the coast is thirsty work - John & water bottle

healthier the dassies become.

As we move away from Mossel Baythe trail route along the cliff tops gave us spectacular and pristine views of the coastline and the rocky shore below. Willie stopped us occasionally to show us a plant with medicinal value or traditional use, to tell us a bit about the history of the Khoi people who occupied the area before

Willie - telling the hiking trail stories

discovery by European explorers or about the interaction between those early sailors and the local inhabitants.

The big shock of the day for me, was when an imposing fence barrier appeared in front of us as we came out of a short gully. The gate in the

fence was guarded by a uniformed security officer, sitting in a lonely wooden guardhouse.

The cliffs from the beach

Each of us had to sign in at this access point to plush Pinnacle Point Resort and Golf Estate. I had heard about this development and felt a bit of resentment at being forced to sign in to an area that for many years had free access to the public and which by rights should have be public land.

Pinnacle Point Golf Club above the historic caves.

Nothing could have prepared me for the aberration that followed. The bloated houses, designed to stand out in the environment to satisfy some owner’s or architect’s ego, the greens built to destroy beautiful cliff faces, the paved paths designed for electric golf carts to carry fat golfers so that they could hit golf balls into the rough of the valleys between the t’s and the greens. In the cliff faces below are caves and that provide evidence of human habitation dating back thousands of years. The contrast between the natural coastline and the obscene human creation highlights all that is bad in this kind of development and the way in which those developers ride roughshod over any environmental concerns and the rights of others.

Trekking past the historic Pinnacle Point Caves. Occupied over 150,000 years ago

After walking through the ostentatious club house, it was a relief to get away from the artificial greens and back on to a path through the natural environments finally exit past a security guard on the other side, very close to beach level. The negative energy dissipated as we walked the orange lichen covered rocks and on to Dana Bay. Ominous clouds were building on the horizon as a predicted cold front moved towards us. As we approached the small settlement where we would spend the night, Willie arranged for the guest house owners to collect us at the end of the path, for transport us to the overnight venue at Bokmakirie Guest House. Sure enough, Koos was there and with the wind picking up and temperature dropping quickly we were all happy to see the comfort of our overnight venue.

Willie striding it out close to the waves - near the end of day 1

Koos and Ria proved to be fantastic hosts, greeting us with a selection of delicious snacks and hot beverages and ginger beer and making us feel welcome. We had a few hours to kill before dinner and I took the opportunity to soak the muscles in a bath before catching a short nap. The evening meal was equally delicious and between us we managed to finish off a few bottles of local Jakalsfontein wine.

Day 2

Not a good early morning outlook for hiking

Trekking across the beach as the rain lifted

The cold front that we had hoped to avoid set in and when I woke in the morning the outlook was bleak. Where there should have been a great view ofDanaBay, there was only mist and light rain. It was an ideal morning to curl up with a book and stay in bed. But we were here to walk and I dragged myself out of bed and down to breakfast, every now and then looking out the window for positive signs the weather would improve. Willie assured us that the walk to Boggamsbaa iwould only take about four hours, so we had time in hand. The rain did seem to be lifiting and after breakfast we made a group decision to wait until 10a.m. before deciding what to do.

Oyster catchers aren't concerned about rain

The alternative would have been to elect to be transported to Boggamsbaai and wait to see if the rain lifted. For me this would have been disappointing.

By 10a.m. the rain had lightened to an intermittent light drizzle and was looking positive.  After some initial indecision, we all decided to brave the elements. By the time we had packed up and summoned transport to take us to the start, it was about 10.45am. Close to the water’s edge the beach was firm and flat and we were able to set off at a brisk pace. Initially the rain held of but as we progressed it began to drizzle lightly again.

Brown rocks, green rock, the sea and the sky

Tim and John set a brisk pace and we had work to keep in touch, particularly as walking with Willie there was a great deal of interesting information about the habits of the Oyster Catcher. By watching them he was able to identify the range of their territory and where their nests were likely to be. It was almost as if the stretch of beach had been demarcated for them as each couple guarded a section, running up and down and shrieking at us as we approach and calming down as we passed. Willie found a nest to show me, a hollow in the sand concealed behind a natural sand bar, with two large, grey speckled eggs. Not wanting to agitate

Oyster Catcher eggs in the sand

them too much we photographed the eggs and left quickly.

Further along the beach we came across a leatherback turtle, stranded up on the sand. It was obviously injured and Wille lifted it carefully back in to the water. It was too far along the beach to be able to arrange further rescue. It seemed to revive a little in the water and moved off towards deeper water, for nature to take it’s course. Later on in the walk we came across a second stranded turtle. I was convinced that it was dead, but when Willie also lifted this one back to the water it seemed to raise it’s head in gratitude. It seemed to me less likely to survive than the first.

Willie to the turtle rescue

By this time the front runners of the group had almost disappeared in to the distant mist and we had to forego a visit to a prominent shell midden at Nautilaus Bay in order that they did not get too far ahead. The rain did seem to be lifting, but Willie was concerned that they would overshoot path up to Boggomsbaai. Eventually he decided to catch up with them, leaving me to enjoy a more leisurely pace and enjoy the beach walk. The rain stopped completely now, enabling me to enjoy the beach and allow time for my clothes to dry out before getting to the overnight accommodation.

Oyster Catcher on the sand

By the time I got in, the rest of the group had found their accommodation and settled in to dry out. Willie showed me to my cottage, where a fire was already burning in the fire place and a nice little bowl of snacks to supplement lunch. It was only just after 2p.m. and there was plenty of time to relax and enjoy the afternoon. After a leisurely bath to warm up, nice cup of tea and a few more logs on the fire to help the soaked boots dry out, I went out to join Fred for a beer.

Dinner at Boggomsbaai - Tim, Ursula, Hans, Alex and Camilla

Boots are made for warming - ready to hike tomorrow

There was still plenty of time before dinner, so I wandered around enjoying the abundant bird life of Boggomsbaai before dinner. Dinner was a very sociable affair around the table next to the huge fireplace at the Sunbird Centre. Clearly with the size of the logs on the fire Fred was expecting us to dine until the early hours of the morning. Nevertheless, after being entertained by Tim, with his typical Irish gift of the gab and the never ending banter between him and John, we retired at a reasonable hour to prepare ourselves for the longest walk of the trail the next day.

Day 3

The group ready to tackle the final day

Oyster Catcher on the mussel bank

The idea of walking 19km from Boggomsbaai to the Gouritz River Mouth was quite daunting after two fairly easy days. This particularly as the terrain looked quite a bit rougher. After the usual hearty breakfast, we set off through the streets of the sleepy seaside village and headed towards the beach. We had hardly left the Sandpiper Centre, when Willie was already finding a few interesting plants to identify and explain the uses – use this one for a tight chest and this one relieves indigestion and don’t touch this one it is poisonous.

Oyster catcher pair on the tide line

There is the usual variety of closed up holiday homes, some huge and ostentatious and others small and more typical of a cottage by the sea. There were a few that were occupied for by their retired owners, with beautifully kept gardens and features. After the previous day’s rain the air was crisp and clear and it was good to feel the sun. Almost immediately after reaching the beach, the oyster catchers were screeching at us, protecting their territory. There are more rock pools and features on this stretch and we spent quite a bit of time exploring these, with Willie helping us identify the various forms of sealife. We disturbed a seagull feasting on a pilchard, presumably caught close by, but determined not to let go of his breakfast.

Tasty pilchard

Vleesbaai is not far from Boggomsbaai and we soon came across the famous oyster beds of the area. Concession holders were searching for potentially harvestable oysters, with their long iron bars, probing and feeling, looking for good ones and pulling out ones that had not developed to make room for new growth. John and Tim questioned one of the ladies busy with her harvest until she gave them an oyster each to try.

Vleesbaai is reputedly the place where European explorers first came in to contact with  the local Khoe people. Bartholomew Diaz, the Portuguese explorer, looking for a sea route toIndiawas blown round theCapein a storm in 1488. Turning West after the storm abated he made landfall here and was able to barter for provisions and water, before his crew mutinied and forced him to return toPortugal, making landfall at theCapeon their way.

The village is a typical seaside resort, with both small cottages that have been in families for generations and quite a number of larger second

Protect the asset

homes that look as though they can accommodate the full extended families. The path runs along the seafront and along the boeardwalk on to a nice firm path slightly above the shoreline. Willie plant knowledge comes to the fore once more as he identifies various plants found on this route, including some used in the manufacture of poison for use on the arrow tips of the San people for hunting purposes. There are others that have medicinal use or

purely for their scent or insect repellent properties. Also along this path are a few interesting shell middens, clearly indicating human occupation of the area dating back a few thousand years.

The relaxed way to hike

The coastline now becomes a lot more rocky with the trail negotiating uneven terrain, past crevices and rock pools, clambering up short steep terrain and then descending back down, close to where the waves are breaking. Willie stops from time to time to pick a periwinkle out of a rock pool to show us how the trap door opens and shuts, or to identify an interesting marine growth on the rocks. We came across another Oyster Catcher egg lying in the sand, as the angry parents tried to distract us away from the nest. White breasted cormorants watched us from their vantage points on the rocks as we passed by. Occasionally we stopped, just to enjoy the sound of the sea and the might of the breaking waves.

Willie & John - caught by the tide

Trekking up from the beach

Running a bit short on time, instead of following the path all the way around the coast, we took a short cut on a steep path up the dunes, meeting the road just before Fransmanshoek. We descended on to the rocky peninsula with it’s small, white beach on the eastern side. No lunch packs were provided today, because down on the beach a table was set up with cold drinks, salad, a delicious pasta, fresh fruit and even coffee. What a welcome site. Boots and socks came off for a paddle in the sea, before tucking in to the meal.

Tim & John examining something interesting

Buffet on the beach - Fransmanshoek

Fransmanshoek is the site of the wreck of the French Man-O-War,

le Fortune, the story of which is featured in the small museum at the view site. After a quick look around we continued our walk.

Trekking up the sand dunes

Sutherlandia bush with seed pods

From here, there is an alternative of staying on the coast or returning along the road to the top of sand dunes on the western side of the peninsula. To walk along the top of these high dunes is one of the features of this trail, but trudging up from the beach is quite an effort. On Willie’s advice we decided to follow the road and were quite pleased that we did. The dunes are certainly impressive, apart from being unexpectedly different from any of the terrain we had walked up to

Trekking down to the beach

now, they give a stunning view of the coastline the end point of the trail in the distance. Walking along the wind blown ridges, with deep amphitheatres between them, one could have been in the middle of a dessert.   Parts are overgrown by alien stands acacias, but there are also an impressive number of the legendary Cancer bush (Sutherlandia). The occasional sound of chain saws in the distance provide evidence of efforts to clear the invasive species.

Not the three stooges

The little settlement of Kanon, the next landmark on the trail, looks quite a way away along the beach as we descend along the ridge of the tallest dune and back down to the beach to head for Kanon. The beach revealed some interesting rock formations, lots of jelly fish and a few colourful pieces of seaweed. Just before reaching Kanon, Willie showed us a large shell midden set well back from the beach. The number of mussels, limpets, periwinkels and abalone that needed to be eaten to make up these huge piles of shells is quite staggering.

Shell middens - probably thousands of years old

Kanon itself is a small resort with a campsite and bungalows. The canon retrieved from the wreck of le Fortune are on display and it is from these that it gets it’s name. Finally on the last leg of the trail, the path comes close to the coast. The most significant feature of this stretch, as we head towards theGouritzRivermouth, is the amount of flotsam and debris washed up on to the rocks and gullys. Logs from huge trees, roots, branches and all are piled up along the coast, evidence of the destruction caused by the Laingsberg floods, way back in 1981. What impacted was how long after the event, the results could still be seen so clearly. Willie spotted a seagull nest with eggs sitting in a rocky hollow, lined with small branches. The seagulls were disturbed by our presence and became quite aggressive, diving down close to my head as I stopped to photograph them.

Purple rocks - encrouching on the sand

The river mouth is a good deal wider than I expected and the small town on the other side larger than anticipated. The bird life became more abundant, both giant and pied kingfisher being spotted by various members of the group and a jackal buzzard souring overhead. The site of the motor boat that was to take us to the other side of the river was a welcome one, at the end of a long and interesting day. Transport waited to take us back to Boggomsbaai and a welcome beer.

It was a festive dinner that evening, starting withFred Orbanwelcoming us with fresh Vleesbaai oysters and some excellent sparkling wine. Willie presented us all with our certificates and there were special awards for Tim & Camilla. The trail will not only be remembered for it’s great scenery and fantastic trekking, but for the good company, good humour, laughter and friendship.

I retired for the night, happy and comfortable and a little sad to leave. I will certainly return to do the Hunter Gatherer Trail in the same area and

Ancient fish traps

perhaps to experience the slightly less luxury ‘Green’ version of the trail, where all the same facilities are provided, but with hikers doing their own catering.

Oyster Catcher Trail Nov 2011

Frank Dwyer

Leave a comment

Filed under Adventure, Garden Route Hikes, News, overnight trails, Slackpacker, Slackpacking Trails, Trekking South Africa, Western Cape Hiking Trails

Robberg Peninsula – Plettenberg Bay

Robberg Peninsula Sept 2011

It is quite a long time since I have walked around the Robberg Peninsula in Plettenberg Bay. When I last did it, probably ten years ago or more, I think I only did the shorter walk to the island. Prompted by the probability of doing a walk with a client in a month or two, I took the opportunity to do the full peninsula walk on my way back from aGarden RouteandAddoElephantParktour. I had forgotten what a spectacular place it was and what a great hike.

The management at the backpacker establishment where I was staying, assured me that it should take about two hours to hike the full route, unless I was very slow. Well, discovered I was very slow. Allow four hours, if you want to enjoy the environment, take photographs and not rush the experience. Two hours would be ok for a trail run.

It is not a difficult route and the path is well marked all the way. The path does run close to a steep drops into the sea for a considerable distance on the eastern side, so be aware if you don’t have a reasonable head for heights. On the western side, it is mostly at sea level and you would need to be careful at a spring high tide or in rough seas. In most places there are alternative routes that take you higher up if necessary.

One of the highlights of the walk was, first hearing and then seeing the hundreds of seals, after which the peninsula is named, swimming far below. Take binoculars, otherwise they look like little black dots. The barking is very clear and you can hear them, long before you see them.

There are three alternatives: the short route to the Gap (2,1km), Witsand (5,5km), which can be extended slightly to include the island and the Point (9,2km) around the whole peninsula. The scenery is on a par with anything in this beautiful country of ours and one of the many walks that a South African hiking enthusiast must experience. One of the features is the information boards that have been placed at strategic points, to explain the geology, the marine life, the bird life and the sea shore. A real gem, just inside the entrance to the park, is the archaeological cave site. This is really worth a visit if you have any interest in the past and the development of the people of the region.

Wonderful, wonderful walk and looking forward to doing it again with clients.

Leave a comment

Filed under Day Hikes, Garden Route Hikes, News, Outdoor, Western Cape Hiking Trails