day 2 – Otter Trail, South Africa

Trip report by site editor Rick McCharles

day 0 | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | info page

Day 2 = 7.9km (± 4 hours) – Ngubu huts to Scott huts


Easy day. No rush.

I stopped often to read and contemplate.


At one conspicuous rocky outlier — the Skilderkrans Quartz Promontory — I left a Summit Stone.

summit stone

This place is remote.

Looking back.
looking back

Looking ahead.
looking ahead

You’d swear you were alone on a lonely coast.

Yet there are emergency escape routes all along the Otter marked E for Evacuation.

escape route

I caught up with the Marques family stopped for lunch and a swim.


Like so many similar coastal hikes, the water is stained with tannin.

water tannin

That’s not dangerous to drink. But it does have an interesting flavour. 🙂

At one time, the trail was much better signed for distance.

Otter KM signage

Many of those have gone missing over the years.

I’ve got this trip tagged jungle.


In many parts it’s impassable without following human or game trails. Dense fynbos is the natural shrubland or heathland vegetation unique to this part of the world.

This ocean is cold and choppy. That didn’t stop Scott.

swimming in ocean

The family had barbecue once again. I shared some of their chicken. And ate my usual meal — smashed potatoes.

mashed spuds

more of my photos from day 2

Sadly, I missed stopping at Bloubaai beach, the recommended lunch spot. I
a detour off the main trail.


on to day 3

day 1 – Otter Trail, South Africa

Trip report by site editor Rick McCharles

day 0 | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | info page

Day 1 = 4.8km (± 2 hours) – Storms River reception to Ngubu huts

No rush day 1.

I relaxed in the morning. And enjoyed 2 MORE restaurant meals at Storms River Mouth Restcamp, making the obligatory day hike to the Suspension Bridges.

You must register for the Otter at the Park entry gates, not down at the campground — as I had hoped. Carrying my hiking pack, I started rolling the rest of my luggage UP the steep hill to the Park office.

Not one vehicle stopped to offer me a lift. (Best not try to hitchhike in South Africa.)

I did spot a bushbuck crossing the highway. Then a large troop of baboons, the first I’d ever seen in the wild.


Happily the Registration folks let me store my excess luggage for the 4 nights I’d be on the Trail. …

reception building

Registration is quick and efficient. The safety video has been out of order some months, so was not required for me.

Each hiker is given a poor map with trail description, suggestions, bird list, etc. Most critical on that one page document is instruction on how to most safely cross the Lottering and Bloukrans rivers.

You are also given tide tables (essential) for the dates of travel.


Start of the Otter, you share the trail and coastline with (many) day hikers.

Requires some boulder hopping with heavy pack.

This trail, 50-years-old in 2013, is rugged but very well maintained. There’s plenty of help. Steps. Bridges. Even a few ropes.

You can’t get lost. Follow the clawless otter.

clawless otter

Water is plentiful.


You are advised to treat all water. I did. Many locals don’t bother.

It took no time at all to reach the first camp. I was pleased to meet Steven and Kimberley, Scott and Claire Marques from Zimbabwe.


Rod and Jess, holidaying from the States, were the other 2 hikers starting same day. They had seen this Puff Adder sunning on the rocks.

puff adder

Rod had grown up in this region. He’d never seen larger.

It’s not uncommon to see snakes on the Otter Trail. And throughout South Africa. For more information, ask at registration.

hut night 1

There are two huts, toilet and cold shower at all 4 camps, each mandatory stops. Each of the two huts has 6 bunk beds with firm mattresses. Hikers must provide their own blankets/pillows/sleeping bags etc.

Happily the Marques family got their own hut. Rod and Jess got their own hut. And I tented under the mesh, protected by a roof in the dining hut. Normally tenting is not allowed, but my set-up certainly did no damage to the environment.

tent night 1

Of 12 spots available, only 7 hikers arrived to start. Many folks book a year in advance. There are no refunds. And its not allowed to replace those who don’t arrive.

A permit for the Otter is the most difficult in South Africa. It’s a shame they haven’t modernized registration procedures to get more folks on to the adventure.

A few tent sites should be added to each camp, too.


The one thing that unites ALL South Africans is murdering and cooking up animals out of doors.

The word braai (plural braais) is Afrikaans for “barbecue” or “grill”. I carried in frozen chicken.

Sanparks keeps a supply of wood dry underneath the huts. In fact, they were delivering wood fresh each day when we were there.

Two mooching genets made an appearance at dusk. Seems they’ve been gifted — or stolen — grilled meat in the past.

Lightning quick at dusk, we couldn’t get photos. They were gorgeous, though, with both stripes and splotches.

Here’s what they look like.


Finishing the wine I’d carried in, it was an early night. Dark at 6:30pm, the Southern Cross and Milky Way were stunning.

We were all asleep by 8pm. The only sound the crash of huge waves.

ocean waves

more of my photos from day 1

on to day 2

Ciudad Perdida (Lost City) trek

Daniel has a blog all about his year spent in the town of Soledad, Barranquilla, Colombia.

One Adventure took him on a 5-day guided trek to one of the best walks in the world.

Ciudad Perdida (The Lost City) is like the Machu Picchu of Colombia: located deep in the Sierra Nevada it is an old city built by indigenous people where their Shaymans (religious leaders) lived with their wives and families. …

… Some of us bitched about the ones marching on ahead to the front, others bitched about those coming up too slowly behind- and everyone bitched about bloody Mosquitos. …

… The terrain ranged from the clay sandy trails, to riverside walks and treks into deep jungle. Colourful butterflies seemed to constantly encircle us, we spotted a (dead) snake, and lots of tropical birds.

After night 2 the novelty of sleeping in a hammock had disappeared, and the reality of an uncomfortable nights sleep in the cold was hard to deal with. The food was great- our chef Yorman made great meals and often surprised us with treats of chocolate bars and lollipops. Everyone’s dietary needs were taken into account …


They made it.

Lost City

related – our Lost City information page

Lost City trek, Colombia

Things have really improved at Colombia’s most legendary hike.

Check this detailed 5-day trip report.

The Tayrona people built La Ciudad Perdida over 1000 years ago. They called it Teyuna. The Spanish invasion pushed the natives high into the Sierra Nevada until they were so dispersed that their numbers dwindled and their cities were abandoned. The jungle reclaimed the Lost City…until tombraiders found gold there.

That’s on La Ciudad Perdida, the best starting point for organizing a trek.

Guides are still mandatory. It’s remote and still slightly dangerous territory, close to the border with Venezuela.

our Lost City information page

Batad rice terraces, Philippines – day 1

trip report by site editor Rick McCharles

You know you’re on an ADVENTURE when you find yourself in a dangerous vehicle, surrounded by Israelis. Israelis love ADVENTURE.

Here we are unloading at the Batad Saddle.

No road leads to the village. From here it’s a 40min trek.

Like most other visitors, I stayed at one of several “hotels” overlooking the town, the Hillside Inn.

I chose the Hillside based on a recommendation. But from what I heard from other visitors, they’re all about the same. Spartan. Clean. Cold showers with shared toilet. Dirt cheap. ($5/night). Electricity came to Batad in 2005 and the lights are bright enough for reading. Restaurants all have a blaring TV.

This is why we’re here — Batad is one of the best locations to hike the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras, UNESCO World Heritage listed in 1995.


For 2000 years rice farming on these steep slopes has been virtually unchanged.

Having arrived late afternoon, everyone took a quick look around, then settled down to enjoy the vista until dark.

Those are coffins, by the way.

… In a special kind of paradise like this, I’d expect to be elated and excited for the next day. Yet I was irked.

Every local man and boy pesters to “guide” you to the Tappiyh Waterfalls (PHOTO), an easy 40min walk. The standard program is to arise early, eat breakfast, do the Falls guided. And rush back to the only regularly scheduled transport out at 9am.

I disliked everything about the standard program. 😦

Compounding the annoyance of so many self-appointed guides is a fight between the “offical” guides of Batad and the “official” guides of another town, Banaue.

I resolved to hike independently, taking off in the opposite direction of everyone else.

… tomorrow I’ll post day 2 of my Batad rice terraces hike.

hiking Big Island, Brazil

Ramon Luiz da Cruz Inacio Quevedo writes to ask what we’ve got against Brazil?

We have a amazing hike, next to Rio de Janeiro / São Paulo. …


– Beaches almost wild on rain forest;
– It is not only hike: you do can just relax on beach when you want;
– If you fell tired, you can pause and relax some days on sand with a cold bear;
– You can stop your hike at any moment. If you want, there are small local boats in each place to hire and go to another place without hike;
– There are montains to view the sea and around, the major is pico do papagaio (means parrot summit);
– There is a lot kayaking and snorkeling;
– Birds, little monkeys, etc are common.


– The biggest problem is the language: Knowledge some words in Portuguese may help.
– The weather is predictable some days forward but it’s possible one week later your sunniest beach vacations turns to a week wettest on mud.
– Watch out with snakes and spiders
– Camp on beach is forbidden, you must camp next a local house or camp site.
– Summer (dec-mar) is hotter, but there are more rain. Winter is drier and tiny cold, but with some luck maybe hot like summer.

Summit Post:

Ilha Grande ( Big Island ) is one of the Brazilian paradises.

The Island is covered almost 90% by original Atlantic Forest, one of the last places preserved. Majestic trails, mountains, wild beaches, the perfect place to feel the Nature. Today, Ilha Grande receive more than 8.000 visitors every month. 20 years ago, the number was 600 people per month. …

Mountainous topography with several peaks. … These areas are extensively vegetated and you can also find dense forests, headlands, steeps, plains, rivers and caverns.

It’s very easy to go to Ilha Grande!

… from Rio de Janeiro.

Barcas S/A is the official company to make traverses from the Island, two times, every day. The ticket costs US$ 3 and 8 ( weekends ). The ship will go to Abraão beach, the main village. All the trails start in this place. All the trailheads are very well marked with plates and maps. It’s very easy and pleasant to hike and walk by beautiful trails close to the Atlantic Ocean. …

Summit Post – Ilha Grande

I’m convinced. No doubt we’ll hear much about ILHA GRANDE in the lead up to the 2016 Olympics.

Amazon Waterfalls Association hike

Charles Motley sends news of a new trek to some of the highest waterfalls in the world. It’s in northern Peru and could be visited in conjunction with a visit to Machu Picchu north, the fortress of Kuelap.

Gocta Cataracts … Spanish: Catarata del Gocta) is a perennial waterfall with two drops located in Peru’s province of Chachapoyas in Amazonas, approximately 700 kilometres (430 mi) to the northeast of Lima. …

Although the waterfall had been well-known to locals for centuries (it is in full view of a nearby village), its existence was not made known to the world until after an expedition made in 2005 by a German, Stefan Ziemendorff, with a group of Peruvian explorers. …

On 13 March 2006, the Peruvian government announced to the press … that the area surrounding the falls would be developed as a tourist attraction … A small hotel was built 6-miles from the base of the waterfall, with all rooms having views of the waterfall. Tourists can now hike the trails by foot or horse to the misty base of the waterfall. The nearby town of Chachapoyas is located at an altitude of 2235 meters (7657 ft).

There are other waterfalls, one perhaps even higher.

Here’s a link to a guided adventure:

… a 2-day trek of about 10 km with a night half way along the trail. This is limited to no more than 12 people and one group starting daily.

Charles tells that there’s also a one day hike offered. The cost is only about $3. Visit this new attraction as soon as possible, as the north of Peru is bound to become increasingly popular in future.

About the Amazon Waterfalls Association.

Discover Dominica in a Minute

A new video promoting the Caribbean island of Dominica makes me even keener to get there for hiking.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube

Dominica (pronounced Dom-in-ee-ka) is a spectacular green island of rugged mountains, lush rainforests and rushing rivers in the Eastern Caribbean, lying south of Guadeloupe and north of Martinique.

For more information about Dominica please call 0800 0121 467 or visit

Lost City trek, Colombia

Best write-up ever. Very funny.

The Lost City is accessible via a challenging but picturesque five-day trek that can be organized in the nearby tourist towns of Santa Marta and Taganga.

Several companies operate tours to the ruins, including the highly-recommended Magic Tour and Turcol. (Incidentally, Edwin Rey, a guide for Turcol, was one of the people kidnapped by the ELN in 2003. He’s the one holding up the sign in the photo below. He’ll be happy to show you newspaper clippings about his improbable escape through the thick forest after only one day in captivity.) …

Your group could contain anywhere from six to twenty-two people; friends are easily made by all but the most awkward. …

Gadling – Ciudad Perdida: The spectacular five-day trek to Colombia’s Lost City

The Lost City is one of the best treks in South America. Check our besthike information page – Lost City.

Very inexpensive.

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