End of last year we hiked the Tsitsikamma Hiking Trail in South Africa. What an unforgettable experience and given the extraordinary times we live in now an outrageous thought that we were actually travelling for leisure so recently.
This hiking trail, which is situated in the southern Cape, is absolutely magnificent. You can choose if you want to hike a few days or hike the full trail of six days, a total of 64km, which we did. This might not sound that far, but I promise you there are a few mountains between the start and finish, so not for the faint-hearted. This hiking trail was South Africa’s first officially accredited hiking trail.
Things to know before you start this hike:
- Clean huts with beds and thin sponge mattresses are available at each stop.
- There is a kitchen area where you can cook your food and enjoy the stillness after a long day of hiking.
- Clean showers and toilets are available at every stop. The water is cold but you can heat it (at said kitchen) for a warm shower.
- Water is available, but take water purification tablets or drops.
Let me take you through the days:
Day 1 : De Vasselot to Kalander hut (3,4 km)
We were a group of eleven people hiking. Each had a backpack carrying between 12 and 17kg. We were lucky that we had young, fit and eager co-hikers who carried some extra food and drink, especially for our first evening. The first day was indeed a short hike.
Because we hiked the full six days, we parked at De Vasselot Camping site at Nature’s Valley and started our hike from there. It follows the eastern bank of the Groot River lagoon with the Kalander hut situated in the forest. The ocean and lagoon are just a short walk away for a quick swim.
Day 2 : Kalander Hut to Bloukrans hut (14.7 km)
The longest day of the hike, but the end is spectacular, so it is all worthwhile!
You immediately have a strenuous uphill hike to the top of the plateau. Here, there is a magnificent view of the ocean and then there is more uphill. A tough old climb, but luckily it was still early days, so we still had fresh legs (and food). The route then veers inland and winds towards the base of the Tsitsikamma mountains to the Bloukrans Hut.
The Bloukrans hut is situated in such a prime spot, the scenery is just glorious. You could actually easily stay here for a week or so. Mountain ranges as far as the eye can see. There is a waterfall situated just underneath the hut where some of our party went for a refreshing swim.
Day 3 : Bloukrans Hut to Keurbos Hut (13.4km)
Not such a strenuous climb, but the day was warm, so it wasn’t an easy walk. There are vast open fynbos sections and you cross many streams which helps to cool down a bit. Tsitsikamma is an old Khoisan word which means ‘place of many waters’. So, the abundance of rivers, streams and pools as well as river gorges makes the meaning of Tsitsikamma ring true.
When booking the hike, you have the option to have food transported to some of the huts. You also have the option of doing slackpacking, where your equipment is transported between overnight huts. In honour of doing a ‘proper’ hike we didn’t want to do the full slackpacking, but we did have meat and drinks delivered to Keurbos Hut on day 3. This was a wonderful treat and made the hike to that hut a bit easier knowing an ice-cold beer or that Savannah dry cider was waiting.
The beautiful fynbos, ferns and magnificent forest giants like the Outeniqua yellowwood, the stinkwood, the red and white alder and more, were all out to be admired while we were hiking.
Day 4 : Keurbos Hut to Heuningbos Hut (13.4 km)
This day was again a bit harder with more strenuous up- and down hills and rougher terrain. It helped that we started a little bit earlier and there were a few pools on the way to cool down.
Day 5 : Heuningbos Hut to Sleepkloof Hut (14.2 km)
According to the brochure this is the most strenuous of all the days. This has to do with the climbing of two saddles with each one gaining an altitude of at least 400 metres. Indeed it was a tough hiking day!
We were extremely lucky in that it was an overcast day, so we didn’t have to struggle with intense heat as well. Also the evidence of wildfires that raged in this area in 2018, was still very visible and walking through some parts was almost eerie and spooky. But incredible beautiful and all these magnificent watsonias showing their beauty.
Day 6 : Sleepkloof Hut to Paul Sauer Bridge (3.2 km)
This day had just started when it was suddenly all over. We were back in civilisation.
And a sober thought was that Covid-19 by then had already started in some countries….
Here is a YouTube video made by my daughter, Marieke Oggel, about our hike. Enjoy!