Last year it was the Portuguese Camino. This year it was the De Hoop Whale Trail managed by CapeNature. 54 kilometers of hiking through Overberg nature. The Whale Trail has a goal for every day. A specific start and end. A final destination with only one route to go. The Whale Trail is challenging in that it takes you over mountains and gorges, up and down for two days. And on day three it relaxes. A bit of beach walking mixed with a little climbing. Amazing scenery. One thing’s for sure…this is one memorable walk through nature.
How to get there? From Hermanus we travelled via Hemel-en-Aarde to Caledon, turned right and headed to Napier. At the Napier Farm Stall a quick coffee was enough to get us to Bredasdorp where The Table Cafe was ready with carrot cake and more java. We needed to step on it to get to Potberg in time. The gates close at 6 and we made it in time for a meet and greet with the rest of the 12 person group who travelled mostly from Paarl but also from Nigeria and the northern part of South Africa. Then, braai time! Steak and Creation Pinot Noir 2013 was a good bedtime story.
The De Hoop Whale Trail is slack packing which meant our first job on the day the hike started was to organise the crates and cooler boxes. Just as well I had a great night’s sleep which was more than the downstairs contingent could say. Lots of snoring and restless legs on the ground floor. With all the packing done we only got going at 9:00. A few hours later we realised that this was way too late. A 611m climb went on and on and on. Views of the Breede River and Malgas was a distraction but a sighting of Cape Vultures was not exactly reassuring. 15km later we arrived at Cupidoskraal. Tired. Braai master Johan Coetsee made spatchcock chickens on the fire which was paired with Brenda’s guacamole and her garagiste Shiraz.
Next Time Tips: Start walking at 7!
We weren’t going to repeat the mistake of Day One and started walking an hour earlier. At 8 it was again up and up. Looking back was a much photographed landscape with lifting fog that stretched as far as Arniston. After the energetic climb we were following contours before descending to the Indian shoreline and the Noetsie cottage. The most welcoming site awaited when looking down at our destination with its lapa and braai space on the side. Johan made beef with chimichurri which was washed down with a 2016 Tamboerskloof Shiraz.
Next Time Tips: Proper backpack. Take an insulated water bottle to keep water cold. Don’t forget the insect repellent.
Again an earlier start. With a hint of rain we buckled up and climbed back onto the ridge. Every step felt closer to the seascape and the natural rock pools below. We covered the 7.8km fine and for the last 500m I took my New Balance shoes off and proceeded barefoot. An early arrival at Hamerkop had us playing a game of Charades before stepping out for another beach walk. The rain never far off. The menu for the night had us eating potatoes and chicken sosaties. A 2010 Hill&Dale Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz paired very well with this.
Next Time Tips: Test your trainers Frieda! New Balance almost got me off-balance when my sole came loose.
A short and moderate 10km walk to Vaalkrans, a traditional stone house on cliffs. This was not a day to get tired as the seascape provided entertainment with rock formations artistically spouting water at intervals. We stopped many times to enjoy the scenery of De Hoop and its marine reserve. I had a Devils Peak lager with biltong as a sundowner before sitting down to an Easter Friday table all with fairy lights and chocolate bunnies. This was our last night together and the lack of sleep was catching up with some.
Next Time Tip: Only pack enough bananas to eat for first 2 days. There’s nothing like a banana going bad. Oh, and boiled potatoes make a great snack. Remember the salt.
The last stretch from Vaalkrans to Koppie Alleen started at 8 in the morning. With our pick-up scheduled for 11:00 we had to move on the last 7kms left. Our first stop was at the Hippo Pools. I had to get in – clothes and all. This was totally worth it.
All too soon it was all over and time to say goodbye to new friends. Hopefully later this year there will be more. The Fish River Canyon.
Thank you to all my amazing fellow hikers for your company, wit, taste in wine, cooking skills, compasion and ability to take great photos. #cheers