Day 4

Difficulty: Difficult
Risks: Bloukrans River area, plenty rock hopping, Rock Climbing, some steep uphill’s and downhill’s. This day has it all
Highlights: Conquering the mighty Bloukrans,
River Crossing: Bloukrans River – 10 km mark
13.8 km excluding exploring and swimming which you probably won’t do much of today.
Day 4

All the excitement builds up to this day where stories of the Bloukrans have haunted many.
We were fortunate enough to have a high tide time of around 11am and with a 15 minute window period before and after this time to cross; we decided to start hiking around 4am. 6 hours should be adequate to get to the Bloukrans River from the hut, but we were not taking any chances and left 7 hours before.  It helped to pack up most items the night before.  We had the stoves and everything else ready for an early start. We even effectively optimised 12 early birds using the toilet at the same time; okay... this was not entirely possible :)
The first 4 kilometres or so are not that difficult, and is well marked with reflecting signs especially for those who walk this stretch at night.  A head lamp is a must; try not to bring along a conventional torch as you will find it tough to carry.  We kept a hastened pace going on this stretch with many shorter breaks as opposed to fewer longer breaks. The rain began just as we started this walk.

The stretch between the 4 km and 7km mark was challenging. There were plenty rock frontages which just seem to get harder as the walk progressed. The rain, albeit gentle was now in full force making the rocks slippery and somewhat dangerous. I took my time on this section careful enough not to injure myself.  Somewhere on this stretch we came across the bones of some mammal. Opinions ranged from a seal or dolphin to a whale or some prehistoric animal, clearly fatigue was settling in.
The remaining 3 kilometers leading to the Bloukrans seemed much gentler, and most of us were at the Bloukrans River just before 9 30 am. It took five and a half hours to get there at a hastened but comfortable pace with a good few short rest stops along the way. The weather was still dreary with rain continuing to taunt us.
 This was the moment we all had waited for over the last few days (and months): the mighty and magnificent "Bloukrans River"

In preparation, we had each tagged along survival bags; we placed many items into zip lock or dry bags; we bought along rope to help each other cross; we catered for separate shoes to wade the river and rocks; we had many discussions on who would swim across first and help the others; we read up many accounts on crossing this river; scenes of the group who got washed to sea while crossing this river a few months ago echoed in our minds. We were here now, this was it...

We were not yet even in the window period for low tide which was still about one and a half hours away, but the level of the water was only ankle deep. All the hype and hysteria was exaggerated in our case.  I actually felt cheated but relieved. 


Bloukrans at super low tide



Comparison view of Bloukrans at high tide



At the cliff before the descent to the river, there is an exit route in case your conditions are not as favourable as ours were. I understand that at high tide and during unusual rainfall which is common, the river should not be crossed and the exit route should be taken. Do not feel pressurised or ego driven not to consider the exit route if the conditions at the river are not ideal, your life is more important! There are many people who use the exit routes. The exit route goes approximately 2km towards the road where a ranger must be contacted, so make sure you have a cell phone. They will pick you up and drop you closer to the hut.


Bloukrans Warning


There are three recommended routes to cross the river. 

The “A” route is at the slipway on the extreme left closest to the beach. This is the easiest route, and also the route we used at our “super” low tide. 

The “B” route is between the slipway and the small cave. This route is to the right of the “A” route.  The “B” route is used in mid tide conditions and is followed by walking on the rocks leftwards which meets up with the “A” route. 

The “C” route is more difficult and used during high tide conditions.  This route is towards the large cave. You will have to walk leftwards on the rock and join up with the “B” route. The rope which goes high (almost vertically) upwards above the small cave area should not be used as this is the “D” route and is extremely dangerous. 

The area across the Bloukrans River is rocky, so do not attempt to do this barefoot. Also do not attempt to walk across the rocks balancing your backpack in a survival bag in your hands, rather remove from survival bag and carry it on your back for more stability. 

Recommended Route

Recommended Route



The water itself is usually ankle or knee deep for most of the way, but becomes fairly deep with unusually strong currents for the last few meters, or so we were told. The team that got swept to sea apparently attempted a crossing during low tide and at ankle/knee deep for most of the way. It was the strong undercurrent at the end, which they attributed due to heavy rainfall the night before that swept them to sea.  Even though we crossed ankle / knee deep, we felt a bit of the strong undercurrent for the last two meters or so.

Once across and safe, have some breakfast or lunch depending on the time you get there. We celebrated by pulling out the stoves and treating ourselves to instant cappuccino and whatever snacks we had, ranging from biltong to home-made trail mix.

The remaining 4 kilometres was no easy task commencing with a steep climb. The climb just after the crossing is probably the scariest of the trail. At points we were on a slippery rock ledge, one slip and we would have had some serious injury. When climbing these rocks, it may be wise to place your trekking poles away and use your hands to assist.  Once you peak it’s a fairly relaxed walk with beautiful flora all the way until you get to the cliff which summits the Andre Huts- a much anticipated sight. From here it’s a very steep descent or rather a slide on rock downwards to the hut.

Andre Huts are situated on a beautiful beach, with the two huts places unusually far apart at this camp. Some of the guys swam on the beach, but most of us were too exhausted, and just chilled around a warm fire. The rain played havoc on us today. Even though we had waterproof boots, the water seeped through from the top and soaked up the boots. We walked a large portion of the day with soaked boots, and clothes.  Generous amounts of Vaseline applied to the wet feet assisted with a blister free day. In hindsight we should have taken waterproof gaiters or waterproof trousers.
Prior to the hike, based on accounts of other hikers we anticipated the rangers bringing in some drinks and food on this night which could be pre ordered. This is no longer the case as confirmed by the rangers. Our own warm meal and fire that night was much appreciated. Indulge any excess food you might have, as there is no point in carrying the extra weight.  This night was filled with mixed emotions, happy to have almost completed it but sad that it was coming to an end.
My camera was unintentionally packed in the bag for most of the day, probably due to the fast pace and rainy weather. The day had some splendid views with shelly beaches, but clearly not explored that well enough. All in all, a challenging but rewarding day.

 
View of Andre Huts from the top

3 comments:

  1. We doing the otter trail in December, and heard terrible stories about the Bloukrans crossing. Find our information really great.

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  2. The high tide looks impossible to cross. Hope we make it at low tide

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    Replies
    1. Great comparison between low and high tide. I can see what the fuss is about. We definitely need to cross at low tide especially with the strong under-current

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