The Otter Trail is known for its dramatic scenery and unusual challenges, such as walking at night and fording rivers. Make sure you get the most from your trip by following these tips. By Dalene Ingham-Brown
Planning a trip is always easier when you manage to get advice from someone who has been there, but what’s truly golden is getting advice from someone who has been there recently!
To make sure that these tips for tackling the Otter Trail are all up to date, I chatted to nature lover Muazzam Rahim, who’s recently done the route and we compared notes. I’m now confident that our hiking and overland adventure experiences will definitely help you enjoy the Otter Trail in comfort.
Planning the adventure
Give yourself enough time to buy all the equipment you’ll need and book your trip well in advance. This will also buy you enough time to make sure all the other pre and post travel arrangements are organised and secured.
Something that’ll help you decide when to book your Otter Trail trip is the tide. On the fourth day of the hike you’ll be faced with the Bloukrans crossing and the lower the tide the better. Aim for going when there is a low tide time after 10 am – this’ll mean that you won’t have to do a lot of walking at night.
Gather the gang
Grab 11 friends and get them excited to go on the trail with you. It’s definitely an experience that you’ll want to share and it makes life a whole lot easier to organise communal items so that your backpack is lighter.
You’re going to want to pack the universe in that backpack of yours. I know you will! Don’t. No one but you is going to be carrying that bag on their back, so be kind to yourself. It’s a five-day hike and you don’t want to be slowed down by a heavy backpack.
Get yourself trekking poles. They’re brilliant for helping you with the upward and downward stretches, plus they prove extremely helpful at river crossings.
Wet wet wet
Expect to get wet. If it’s not rain, it’ll be a river that’ll do it to you, so make sure you pack all your water sensitive goodies in plastic bags. Heavy duty black bags work really well.
The right clothes
Pack quick drying, light, UV resistant clothes. Stay away from cotton clothing; they hold onto moisture and take ages to dry. Pack layered clothing; it’ll help you pack less. Also, make sure you’ve got a good raincoat with you – those thin rain ponchos are no good. You’ll find they tear far too easily.
Rope and pegs
Having a rope in your backpack is a good idea. You may need the rope to help you out of sticky situations, or simply as a washing line on laundry day. Pop a few pegs in your backpack too.
Avoiding the ouch
Blisters, blisters, blisters. Unfortunately they happen if you don’t go prepared. Avoid the discomfort and make sure you have a good pair of hiking socks, baby powder and Vaseline in that backpack of yours and use them regularly! Other neat tricks for keeping blisters away include wearing two pairs of socks and trying to air your feet during breaks. These work like a bomb.
All the small things
- We’re not all Bear Grylls. Take along candles or firelighters to help you start a fire.
- There is virtually nothing that duct tape and cable ties can’t fix. Pack some.
- Don’t forget your camera! You’ll want to try and capture the beauty that unravels before you.
- If snorkelling is your kind of thing, don’t forget to pack your goggles.
Preparing a detailed daily food menu is a good idea. Putting it in black and white will help you see if you’re lacking any nutrients and will also prevent you from buying food you won’t have time to eat.
Choosing the right food
When choosing the food you’re going to be taking with you, go for low GI and high carbohydrate foods. These will give you the energy you need for the day. Don’t pack foodstuffs that are high in simple sugars; they won’t get you very far. Pack protein-dinners; they’re great for recovery.
If you enjoy a good steak, take a few with for the braai. A good way to keep them fresh is to pre-freeze them and vacuum pack them individually and then stuff them in your sleeping bag so that they’re in a well-insulated area.
You can’t really prepare yourself for the overwhelming feeling of appreciation you’re going to get from experiencing the Otter Trail’s 42,5 kilometres of thriving, unspoiled natural beauty, but at least now you can feel confident that your backpack will be.