What South Africa’s iconic hiking trail, the Otter Trail, promises without a doubt the Harkerville Hike delivers. Dramatic Garden Route scenery, photographic landscapes, vivid fynbos, adventurous coastline, secluded bays and tranquil forests paths. Coastal nature at it’s best!
By no means is this an easy hike. Especially when you get to the rocky sections which have bolted chains offering secure grips on the more precarious stages.
The trail starts at an overnight hut on the coastal plateau which meanders through pockets of pristine Afromontane Forest, even passing an experimental stand of Sequoia redwoods.
Breaking out of the forest to a view spot balanced between the fringe of fynbos and the precipitous cliff which plunges into the Indian Ocean, you grab a preview of the lichen lined coastal rocks over which the trail traverses eastwards.
Proceeding through the Fynbos the path drops over the ledge onto a rock strewn slope, an arching bay filled with aquamarine water encouraging the faint hearted downwards while resisting the assistance of gravity.
Further down the beach you encounter the first stage that determines if you are one of two types of outdoor personalities, either you do or don’t suffer from vertigo. Clutching to a chain while suspended above a gully thundering with crashing surf confirms whether the rest of the trail will be challenging or invigorating. It was at this point that I felt alive, this was a component of living on the coast that I had missed while strolling along swathes of pristine beaches sloping to undulating dunes.
The rest of the days walk, scramble, rock hugging and rock pool inspection lead us to the inevitable ascent which would take us to the overnight hut. To be honest, not everyone in the group was looking like this was a happy moment. With aching limbs and a change of cloths, encircling the braai pit and the sizzling aroma’s of wors and fresh fish infusing the fire smoke, attitudes altered and in a masochistic way, everyone expressed anticipation of the next day.
Day two starts with a short plateau amble through the fynbos before a dramatic descent to a stream flowing into the sea. Perched on a knife-edge exposure, it was tempting to drop my pack and dash off to explore the forested creek. Down on the beach temptation discarded our packs as three of us clambered over rocks to explore a cave.
The finishing walk through towering forest was undoubtedly a spectacular way for the trail to finish before ejecting you unexpectedly at the starting point. In all, this is a diverse trail offering an incredible exposure to the diversity of the Garden Route and some of the aspects of the Garden Route National Park managed by SANParks. But this is definitely not an outing for the faint hearted.