Hey Fellow Hivers! I’ve been MIA for a week and it feels like an eternity since I last posted. But it’s felt like a pretty incredible sabbatical.
On two weeks notice I managed to pull together the gear I needed to join a 5-day hike in the Outeniqua Mountains which are on the Garden Route in the Western Cape of South Africa.
Our group of 16 road tripped up the coast to spend the night before the hike in a town called Wilderness at a pretty sweet Backpackers called Faerie Knowe. We sat around the fire eating pizza, laughing and dreaming of the hike ahead.
We were up before the sun to pack our last bits and pieces and jumped in the cars to drive an hour to Harkerville. I’ve driven past this very place for years and never knew that the Outeniqua Hike ended here. It’s the place our cars would stay for the next 5 days while we were transported by shuttle to the start about 90 kilometres away.
We were so pumped to get going unfortunately the shuttle was an hour late and eventually only started our hike at 11am from the Farlie drop off point.
Im at the far end in the Orange top
It was a 3 kilometre walk on a jeep track from Farleigh to the Platbos Hut where we got our first evidence of the 1 lone elephant that still roams the wild - giant piles of poop and huge footprints that damaged the grass on the side of the path.
It’s all quite awe inspiring and scary knowing that this grand old dame is out there listening to us walk and chat oblivious to her whereabouts.
We continued up the track until we got our first sign to turn onto a very scruffy single track straight into the dense forest. We very quickly encountered downed trees from the previous week’s storm and the condition of the path made it obvious that no one else had attempted this path in a while.
The trail of elephant dung seemed to lead us until it was replaced with buck poop. I can’t believe I’m talking about poop but it was just exciting to see it and know that these different animals were out there!
We stopped for our first snack break along the path to allow this behind us to catchup. Although we had only done about 5 kilometres, it had been a long time since breakfast and we all needed some water.
My favourite snack is droewors - it’s a dried and spiced sausage similar to jerky and most South Africans love the stuff!
The path started to take a downward direction as we found our first little stream. And what do you know? Ellie the elephant must have had the same idea because we found two more HUGE elephant footprints in the mud alongside the stream.
The path took us up from the stream into the open of the hilltop and back onto the dirt track in the warm sunshine. For winter, we have been spoilt with the most beautiful weather to warm us after the bitterly cold, clear night.
Helen climbs the branches of the tree blocking our path This track then took a steep dive down a muddy path blocked by downed trees. The hardest part of negotiating the branches became the huge pack on my back! I’m pretty agile but the bag kept on getting caught making it tricky.
The river, that our leader Maggie had spoken about, soon came into view through the trees. This was our first proper rover crossing and we were all very thankful that it hadn’t rained too much in the previous couple days. We all took off our socks and shoes just to be sure we would be dry because we will had a long long walk ahead of us.
But for the moment we decided to have a lunch break and a couple of us took a swim in the icy dark water of the pool below. Yup!!! I took the plunge. But I have to admit that I kept my hair dry. Ha! It was chilly in the shade and my fingers and toes were numb from the water.
After lunch we headed up the other side of the deep valley to join yet another jeep track. But I really enjoyed this one. I got into a conversation with Richard and Helen. They were using the Outeniqua Hike as training for the 12 day Drakensberg Hike in September. The Drakensberg are the highest mountain range in South Africa and some of the trickiest hiking around here.
Helen pulling ahead while Richard and I chatted
We talked about the hike and home and our kids and soon we were heading back down another hill into an even more beautiful part of the forest filled with fungi for all the #fungilovers out there.
You guys will have to tell me what these babies are!!
We were surrounded by ferns and yellow woods as we walked towards Jubilee creek.
At the creek the path cut left up along the far side of the river and we negotiated the slick muddy path for another 2 kilometres or so.
We took a few minutes to admire the big trees that must have been here for hundreds of years, luckily still standing. We had still only heard birds and seen evidence of animals, but hadn’t actually laid eyes on any yet.
Our final river crossing had a few loose rocks that made it interesting but not too difficult.
It was late afternoon by now and our (my) feet were getting tired. No so much sore from walking, as sore from carrying the weight of the backpack. I managed to keep my bag to 14 kilograms which means you can now guess my weight because you shouldn’t carry more than 20% of your body weight.
The final ascend was 4 kilometres of putting one foot in front of the other up the never ending hill with another new friend Karin just ahead of me. Maggie slept shouting that some sadist had planned this path just to torture us.
And just as the sun was setting we finally found the Millwood Hut!!!! Wooohoooooo!
The excitement quickly faded as we found out the hut had not been opened for us. We were tired, getting cold, hungry and couldn’t get into our hot for the night. Maggie called every number on the wall and on google to get some help but the best advice we got was to break in.
My friends son, Luke began testing windows. A few of them slip up a short way and then hit a wooden block. He slowly made his way around the building until he finally struck gold!!! The very last window took a little beating but it opened and Luke jumped in to open the slide bolt on the doors to let us in.
We picked out beds from the many bunks in the various rooms of the house and then headed back to the kitchen to build a fire to warm us all up. We filled up on various forms of noodles and hot tea before crashing into our bunks for a very, very, very cold night.
We had accomplished 22.3 kilometres with a late start, brilliant company and the best weather.
My hiking and trail running motto continues to be “Don’t fall down & don’t break anything!”
Day 1 was chunky and long, but day 2 was coming and it got technical (and long too). See you tomorrow for some more Outeniqua adventures.