Hiking Storms River Mouth, Tsitsikama

After my first visit to the Tsitsikama about 6 years ago, I was taken by the beauty of the area and I promised myself that one day I would return for a longer period. Today, that promise was realised. The village in the Tsitsikama area that I chose to stay at is called Storm’s River. The people who live here are warm & inviting and it is evident that they really enjoy a good party, as noticed by the volume at which they sing and dance every night at the nearby Shebeen (local drinking tavern). Thankfully though, the noise does not continue into the early hours of the morning and I was still able to get some much-needed rest.

I woke early the next morning to make the most of the day ahead. With my backpack filled with water snacks, sunblock and my camera, I was ready to go. I headed out to Tsitsikama National Park, home of the Storms River Mouth and the famous Otter Trail. The Otter Trail is a 5-day hike through the Tsitsikama National reserve and, since I am more of a day hiker, the shorter day trip hikes through the reserve suited my needs. There are about 4 different day hikes that are available, but Fredrich, the host of the little B&B I was staying at, had suggested I do the Waterfall hike and so, with my map and kitted backpack in tow, I was off. The waterfall hike was only 3 km long and they stated that it would take 3 to 4 hours to complete. I would like to think of myself as being fairly fit, so I thought I would easily do it in 2 hours as I wanted to complete at least two of the four-day hikes that were on offer. I guess my arrogance was quickly dissolved three and a half hours later and I still found myself on the same route!

What I failed to calculate was the difficulty of the route, the breath-taking scenery and the need to just sit and meditate on all that you hear and see. My senses were going wild by all that I had to take in and I found myself getting lost in the magnificence that was around me, as it was a lot to process.

Along this challenging trail, I learned three major lessons: watch your step, have patience and always maintain your focus. The start of the route was fairly flat and easy, with the surrounding tress providing good shade cover. Mountain views greeted me to the right and the ocean on the left. The trail is well demarcated and it leads through the shrubs and trees to the winding pathway up and down the small hills at the foot of the mountain. After this warm-up section, the path leads into a clearing and this is where the trail starts to become interesting as it is known as the underwater part of the trail. Thankfully, you are not required to physically walk underwater, but it can be treacherous and a lack of concentration for just a moment, can lead to a disastrous injury. This part of the trail carries you over large boulders, smooth rocks and areas of loose pebbles. I was very concerned about slipping, even with my hiking shoes on. In some places the rocks and boulders are slightly wet from the spray of the ocean waves, as they break heavily against the rocks closer towards the shoreline. The secret to overcoming this part of the hike without sustaining injury, was to walk slowly and carefully. I made sure I tested each rock with one foot first, just to be sure it was stable to handle my body weight without shifting. With the larger boulders, I kept my body weight low to the ground and used my buttocks and hands for added stability and better balance. I really did not fancy spraining an ankle or slipping and cutting my legs and it is well worth that extra little precaution.

This section of the hike took a fair amount of time to complete and it started to become incredibly hot. The relentless sun beats down on you from above and the rising heat from the rocks below makes you feel like you are a Sunday roast chicken, cooking quickly. I stopped to try to take in the view and to snap a few photographs and the slight breeze did offer a little reprieve to the rising heat. At times though, it felt like I would not reach the end of this trail, as this rocky course seemed to stretch for kilometers ahead. I was starting to fatigue and I could feel that my sugar levels were starting to drop. I decided to stop and have something to eat at the next clearing ahead. As I climbed up and over the last set of large boulders, my reward greeted me with wide open arms. I had finally arrived at the Waterfall.

It was not a raging waterfall as I had expected, like the one I saw at Debengeni a few months back. Somehow though, I could not help but think that this waterfall was beautifully elegant with it’s gentle gracefulness as it trickled slowly down the uneven surface of the mountainside, to empty into a deep rock pool below. After much coaxing, I mustered up enough courage to venture slowly into the water. After a hot and heavy hike, the rather cold water was a refreshing and welcome relief. All of a sudden I forgot that I was hungry and found myself completely lost in this moment of sheer bliss and contentment. My timing on the hike was perfect, as I was left in peace to savour this moment of being completely one with the beauty of mother nature, all on my own. The water was so re-energising, that I felt like I had found the fountain of youth. While treading water and admiring all the natural beauty around me, I was captivated by how small we are in an unseemly big world. One thing is for certain though, I want to see and experience as much of it as I possibly can.

To be continued…

Written by:

Dr Charmaine Young

Chiropractor at Better Backs

~~Click Here to Read more from Dr Young in RSA~~

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