Stairway to heaven

A year later than originally planned and two years after we made the booking (thanks COVID-19) we headed down to Storms River mouth to hike the Otter trail in April 2021, and boy was it worth the wait! The combination of incredible scenery, great facilities and excellent company put this trip up there with our top travel experiences worldwide. There are plenty of really excellent blog posts out there with great advice on the detail of how to approach the trail, so we’re not going to repeat all of that here. Instead, here are our top three Otter trail tips and a selection of photos. 

  1. Pack light

Although the hike is reasonably short (42km over 5 days) there are a LOT of stairs (7000 allegedly) and having a light pack makes a material difference to how tired and sore you feel. It’s worth putting effort into cutting out as much weight as possible and focus on taking the must-haves only, the nice-to-haves are not so nice after 100 flights of stairs. Even things that seem light on their own, add up quickly. There are lots of simple substitutes you can make – tuna sachets instead of tins, plastic cutlery instead of metal, wine in a bag instead of a bottle, decant toiletries into small bottles etc – and plenty of high tech lightweight hiking gear available if you’re able to invest a bit. Our packs started out at 12kg (including drinks and braai meat for night one and 2l of water).

2. Do some prep

You don’t need to be particularly fit for Otter but you will enjoy it more if you do a bit of training and get a few practice hikes in. Particularly important are walking your shoes in, getting your backpack properly set up and making sure that your cooking equipment works. It’s also a good idea to try out some of your meals in advance to get an idea of portion sizes and cooking practicalities.

3. Take it slow

There is no point marching at high speed, getting to the overnight huts at lunchtime and spending the afternoons exhausted and bored. Rather take your time, stop to admire the view, swim in the rock pools, chill on the beaches and enjoy the journey. Plus your legs will thank you.

Thanks to our fearless leader Barry and the rest of the crew for an epic adventure!

Here are some highlights:

4/1/21
Ready to start
4/1/21
So many stairs
4/1/21
Climb down… climb back up….
4/1/21
Fairy lights are our new favourite hiking gear
4/2/21
One of many boulder hops
4/2/21
The otter were here (we saw them really well from one of the overnight stops, no good pictures though)
4/2/21
Barry had a proposal planned for our original hike, so of course we had to recreate the moment
4/3/21
Stopping for a swim

4/3/214/3/21

4/3/21
Clean hair day

4/3/21

4/4/21
Some scrambling required
4/4/21
The infamous Bloukrans
4/4/21
Easter Sunday (thanks to Emma for carrying these for 4 days…)
4/4/21
No swimming required to cross the Bloukrans
4/4/21
View from a hut
4/5/21
Loo with a view
4/5/21
More overnight hut spectacularness

4/5/21

4/5/21
These had better be the last stairs…
4/5/21
A misty finish
4/5/21
Not the last stairs as it turned out
4/5/21
A well deserved beer at the Natures Valley restaurant
4/10/21
Gully sharks in the way down to Nature’s Valley
4/10/21
We had to climb up again a few days later to see the view of Natures Valley that we should have seen on the very misty final day

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